Wednesday, March 17

10:16 a.m.: Disneyland, Disney California Adventure reopening end of April

Disney will reopen its theme parks in California at the end of April after remaining closed for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

Disneyland announced Wednesday that both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will reopen on April 30 with limited capacity.

Under current state guidelines, only California residents can attend the parks. All visitors ages 3 and older will require a reservation. Events that draw large group gatherings, such as parades, will not resume immediately.

Around 10,000 people will go back to work once reopened. The parks in Southern California closed on March 14, 2020, due to the, at the time, still-nascent coronavirus pandemic.

10:15 a.m.: Family of formerly incarcerated person sues state corrections over his coronavirus-related death

The family of a 61-year-old Californian who was incarcerated in state prison when he contracted COVID-19 has died, and now his family is suing state corrections officials.

According to the Associated Press, the family blames a botched transfer of infected people to San Quentin State Prison, killing 28 plus a correctional officer last year.

His family’s attorneys said it’s the first such federal civil rights lawsuit stemming from officials’ decision to transfer 122 people from the California Institute for Men near Los Angeles to the prison north of San Francisco in late May.

A class-action lawsuit is pending in Marin County Superior Court on behalf of other COVID-infected people who are incarcerated at San Quentin, in what state officials have acknowledged was a disastrous transfer.

9:58 a.m.: State parks so popular during pandemic, parking lots are filled to capacity

While California state park officials are pleased that residents are getting outdoors during the pandemic, increased interest in trails, wildflowers and waterfalls doesn’t mean additional park resources.

While many of California’s 280 state parks have plenty of room for social distance, some have become too popular for parking lots, facilities and trails. One of those impacted parks? McArthur Burney Falls.

Located an hour north of Redding, its 129-foot waterfall and short hikes have made it popular for visits from across the state and beyond, according to the Northern Buttes District Superintendent Matt Teague.

“Expect delays if you go to the highly demanded parks where we’re seeing the increases in visitation that expect traffic,” Teague said. “Expect delays and, in some cases, like McArthur Burney Falls. There could be a chance where if you visit on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, that you may not be able to get into the park.”

While statewide numbers were not available and will be complicated by pandemic closures, in 2020 Burney Falls saw record day-use attendance. With just over 322,000 guests, visitation was up nearly 55% over 2019.

This year could shatter that record. In January, the park saw 12,500 guests, more than triple the average number of guests for that month.

Teague said park visitors should do their research and seek out less crowded parks or to try and visit during off-peak hours.

Tuesday, March 16

5:30 p.m.: Organization recorded nearly 4,000 hate incidents against Asian and Pacific Islanders over the past year

An organization tracking anti-Asian harassment and violence across the country says it recorded nearly 4,000 hate incidents against Asian and Pacific Islanders over the past year. 

The new data from Stop AAPI Hate includes reports of over 500 new incidents reported in just the first two months of this year. 

An analysis of the data showed the majority of incidents were verbal harassments, followed by shunning or avoidance. Physical assaults made up a little over 10% of reported experiences. 

It also found that women were more than twice as likely to report hate incidents than men, and showed incidents were most likely to take place in local businesses.

Earlier this month, Sacramento passed a resolution condemning the uptick in crimes against Asian Americans, including a recent incident at a Chinese-owned butcher shop in South Sacramento.

5:24 p.m.: Nearly 90% of Californians can now dine indoors, go to the gym

California health authorities approved more counties to reopen businesses thanks to low coronavirus case rates.

According to the Associated Press, around 87% of California’s nearly 40 million residents can enjoy a restaurant meal indoors, watch a movie at a theater and sweat it out inside a gym. Sacramento and San Diego counties join Los Angeles and Orange counties that were authorized to reopen on Sunday. 

San Jaoquin And Yuba counties were expected to move to the red tier, but did not meet the state’s case threshold to loosen restrictions.

The San Francisco Bay Area county of San Mateo can reopen even more, including bowling alleys, cardrooms, wineries and breweries at 25% capacity indoors. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to push for schools to resume in-class instruction. It’s been a year since California shut down businesses in response to the pandemic.

5:16 p.m.: Newest Nevada vaccine-eligible group can self-identify illnesses, health conditions

Nevada health officials say people age 55 and older can self-report to their pharmacists any underlying health conditions that make them eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, according to the Associated Press.

A state statistics official said on Tuesday that as eligibility broadened this week in the statewide coronavirus inoculation process, deaths from COVID-19 have fallen to an average of about four per day. 

That number peaked at 40 deaths per day in mid-January. Officials widened vaccination efforts to people with underlying conditions, disabilities and the unhoused at retail pharmacies, including those in supermarkets. 

This next phase is being called a step towards getting more shots in more arms statewide.

11:19 a.m.: Alcatraz reopens for indoor tours after yearlong closure

Alcatraz, the historic island prison off San Francisco, has opened up again for a limited number of indoor tours, according to the Associated Press.

Touring inside the infamous prison has been off-limits for more than a year due to the pandemic. Face masks and social distancing are still required on the island, which once housed Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

Access will be limited to visitors who sign up for the audio tour in advance. Officials say Alcatraz will host about 1,000 tourists a day instead of the usual 5,000. The popular tourist destination had already reopened for an outdoor-only experience in August.

10:55 a.m.: Indoor business capacity increases to 50% in Nevada as COVID-19 cases decline

As customer capacity increased to 50% at casinos, businesses and restaurants, Nevada health officials are beginning to give back to counties oversight of coronavirus prevention measures.

According to the Associated Press, the state’s COVID-19 Response Task Force has planned to meet with groups of county managers, emergency care, public health and elected officials on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday about the state handing over pandemic authority by May 1.

Taskforce chief Caleb Cage said the Nevada Hospital Association reported some of the lowest COVID-19 hospitalizations since the first known death from COVID-19 in Nevada was reported a year ago.

Monday, March 15

6:30 p.m.: Gov. Newsom launches campaign to defend himself from recall effort

Governor Gavin Newsom is launching a campaign to defend himself from a recall effort. It comes as opponents say they’ve collected more than enough signatures to force an election. 

For months, Newsom has refused to acknowledge the recall, saying he’s focused on the pandemic.

Now, he’s painting the recall as a partisan power grab driven by extremists and vowing to fight it.

California Democrats are closing ranks around Newsom while national Democratic figures including Senator Bernie Sanders and Georgia organizer Stacey Abrams have slammed the recall.

Newsom opponents say they’ve collected more than 2 million signatures to put a recall on the ballot. Their deadline is Wednesday — after that, county election officials have until the end of April to verify them.

3:32 p.m.: Many US prison guards skipping COVID-19 vaccinations

Corrections officers are refusing coronavirus vaccines at alarming rates, causing some public health experts to worry about the prospect of controlling the pandemic both inside and outside of prison.

According to the Associated Press and The Marshall Project, infection rates in these facilities are more than four times as high as in the general public. Prison staff helped accelerate outbreaks by refusing to wear masks, downplaying symptoms and haphazardly enforcing social distancing and hygiene protocols in confined, poorly ventilated spaces ripe for viral spread.

A Florida correctional officer polled his colleagues earlier this year in a private Facebook group about whether they’d take the vaccine if offered — more than half said, “Hell no.”

A California statewide survey showed that half of all correction employees will wait to be vaccinated.

At FCI Mendota, a medium-security federal prison near Fresno, officials closed off the main employee entrance in January, funneled employees through the visiting room, turned into a vaccination clinic and forced them on the spot to decide whether or not to get vaccinated. Employees that refused weren’t allowed to go to their posts without getting the vaccine or signing a declaration form.

The local corrections officers’ union president refused the vaccine, citing medical issues and that he doesn’t trust the prison officials’ motives.

Since employers cannot mandate that staff get vaccinated, when correctional officers refuse to be inoculated, it puts people who are incarcerated at risk. Often they have no way of protecting themselves from unmasked and unvaccinated officers. By December, 1 in 4 incarcerated people had contracted the virus, according to the joint work of The Marshall Project and the Associated Press.

3:28 p.m.: First case of UK COVID-19 variant identified in Reno, Nevada

The first case of the COVID-19 variant originally identified in the United Kingdom has been confirmed in northern Nevada. Health officials are trying to determine if the infection linked to a large gathering in Washoe County may have spread the variant to others.

The new case confirmed in Washoe County, which includes Reno and Sparks, involves a woman in her 30s, whose infection is linked to a gathering of more than 60 people from different states. Seventeen additional COVID-19 cases have also been connected to the same event.

Still, not all of those who tested positive are from Washoe County, and it’s not yet confirmed if all the positive cases are from the U.K. variant.

Health officials in Nevada reported an additional 222 COVID-19 cases and one more death on Sunday.

According to the Associated Press, the latest figures raised the state’s pandemic totals to 299,287 cases and 5,118 known deaths. Authorities say 161 of the new cases were reported in Clark County, which includes metro Las Vegas.

Officials believe the number of infections could be far higher than reported because many people have still not been tested, especially since the virus can make people asymptomatically ill.

10:15 a.m.: California expands vaccine eligibility to include health conditions like cancer, diabetes and obesity

Starting this Monday, Californians ages 16-64 with certain health conditions like cancer and obesity will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. But physicians say it’ll be challenging to immunize everyone on that list with the still limited supply.

Officials estimate these conditions cover a total of 4 to 6 million newly eligible people.

Emmy Gilbert / CapRadio

Experts say this change will vastly expand eligibility in California, particularly in communities of color.

UC Merced public health researcher Denise Payan said obesity rates are higher in Black and Brown communities, and the pandemic has likely made it worse.

“Access to healthy, fresh, healthy, nutritious food has really been disrupted,” Payan said. “So there are more people who are at risk and are missing out and don’t have access to healthy food.”

Some hospital systems say they don’t have enough vaccines to give to the newly eligible patients. Still, people with chronic health conditions can contact their doctors or their local public health departments to determine whether doses are available and to potentially make an appointment.

10:07 a.m.: Bay Area lawmakers call for changes to state vaccine distribution plan

A group of 20 Bay Area lawmakers is calling for changes to the state’s vaccine distribution plan, claiming that the current version leaves out vulnerable Californians in their districts.

The state recently announced it would direct more vaccines to underserved ZIP codes, but few are in the Bay Area. San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu argues that the current plan ignores smaller pockets of vulnerable people.

“We are experiencing tremendous inequality,” Chiu said. “Wealthy communities are in the same ZIP code as incredibly vulnerable communities, and this vaccination distribution formula doesn’t account for that reality.”

But Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that he still stands by the original plan.

“Forty percent of the disease — and what I mean by that is, hospitalizations and deaths — have been shouldered by those communities,” Ghaly said.

He’s also hopeful that an increase in vaccine supply from the federal government will address the Bay Area lawmakers’ concerns.

Sunday, March 14

2:27 p.m.: Placer County moves to red tier, effective Sunday

Placer County is one of 13 California counties that have moved Sunday to the red tier of California’s COVID-19 reopening framework, loosening some restrictions. 

Under the red tier, restaurants and movie theaters will be able to reopen indoors at 25% capacity, while gyms can reopen indoors at 10% capacity. Museums may also resume indoor operations at 25% capacity.

The counties became eligible to move from the purple tier (“widespread”) to the red tier (“substantial” spread) after the state hit its goal Friday of delivering 2 million COVID-19 doses to communities hit hardest by the pandemic, triggering new thresholds.

State health officials set the 2 million-dose goal last week when they announced California would tie reopening requirements to vaccine equity. 

The plan changed the threshold for counties to enter the red tier from seven cases per 100,000 residents to 10 cases once the 2 million doses were delivered.

More counties — including Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sutter and Yuba — could move to the red tier on Wednesday.

2:02 p.m.: California governor admits mistakes, says recall unjustified

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he has made mistakes in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But he insists the recall effort against him has more to do with politics than the public health crisis. 

Newsom made his most direct comments yet about the push to unseat him during an interview with KQED. He said his opponents are taking aim at his broader policy agenda, which tackles issues such as immigration and criminal justice reform. 

Newsom conceded that the state could have done a better job communicating to the public as virus restrictions changed. Recall organizers say they have collected enough signatures to force an election.

—Associated Press

Saturday, March 13

4:17 p.m.: LA County hospitalizations at lowest point in 4 months

Coronavirus hospitalizations in California’s most populous county have slipped below 1,000 for the first in four months.

The number of patients with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County hospitals hit 979, the lowest since Nov. 23.

There are 3,250 people hospitalized statewide, a drop of more than 85% since peaking around 22,000 in early January.

Case rates also remain low and much of the state is preparing for some restrictions to be lifted in the coming days.

State officials announced Friday that 13 counties would be eligible to open restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and museums at limited capacity on Sunday.

—Associated Press

Friday, March 12

3:22 p.m.: Sacramento County and city set to receive $420 million from federal aid package

Both the city and county of Sacramento are slated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars each from the federal COVID-19 relief funding after President Joe Biden signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

The money comes almost a year to the day that Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the state’s first stay-at-home order, triggering the tidal wave of shuttering businesses, closing schools, and other economic issues that left millions of residents unemployed.

The amount some U.S. residents have gotten from federal stimulus packages, including the ones signed by President Donald Trump in March 2020, has totaled up to $3,200 per person, split over three checks.

California is expected to receive $26 billion in aid, while local governments will get a combined $16.6 billion, depending on formulas that will take population and socio-economic issues into account.

In this round of federal funding, the city of Sacramento is expected to receive $121 million in assistance, while Sacramento County should receive roughly $300 million.

3:18 p.m.: California continues to lose jobs, but lifting restrictions may change that

California lost close to 70,000 jobs in January, but new numbers released Friday by the state’s Employment Development Department show that the unemployment rate declined slightly to 9%.

According to the Associated Press, that’s mainly because the state’s labor force continues to shrink as more people stop looking for work. The biggest losses were for restaurants and hotels that have been hit hardest by public health orders.

The numbers released on Friday were based on surveys taken the week of Jan. 12. The number of new COVID-19 cases has declined since then, and the state is starting to lift restrictions, possibly boosting job numbers.

3:04 p.m.: Biden is speeding up vaccine timeline, but governors say they need supplies

Governors across the country are applauding President Joe Biden’s declaration that all adults should be eligible for coronavirus vaccinations by May 1, but the goal will require a shift for states that have been methodical in how they roll out the shots.

According to the Associated Press, in states like Florida and Colorado, their governors both say they’ll meet Biden’s goal ahead of time, along with a handful of other state leaders — but this is contingent on a dramatic increase in supply.

California officials haven’t set a timeline for when the general public will be eligible for a shot and didn’t immediately say how Biden’s declaration would change plans in the nation’s most populous state. Instead, the state is prioritizing older adults, teachers and people in vulnerable neighborhoods.

While the state says it can vaccinate 3 million people per week, it is only receiving half that total each week.. Plans are to ramp up weekly shots to 4 million people, but so far are only available for certain groups like those 65 and older, educators, farmworkers, and emergency service workers.

Starting Monday, an estimated 4.4 million people with disabilities and certain health conditions will also become eligible.

11:28 a.m.: California public schools are on the path to reopening soon for in-person learning

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said COVID-shuttered California schools are still on a path to reopening next month.

“Two-hundred thousand educators in the state have received the vaccine — that’s significant,” Thurmond said.

This vaccination rate is considered a key number to begin the process of phasing children back to school.

“There’s probably about 300,000 teachers total in the state, but that number doesn’t include all school staff like classified staff, custodians … but the number of 200,000 was a key number that everyone was striving to get,” Thurmond said.

Many schools are now scrambling to meet the state’s reopening goal by April 1, while others plan to reopen by mid-April. The Legislature recently passed a plan with $2.6 billion in incentives for schools to reopen by April 1.

Thurmond said, by and large, students have struggled with distance learning, partly because teachers weren’t adequately trained for this teaching format, and many students also don’t have home computers.

Thurmond said he’s working on building a robust summer school program as state lawmakers appear certain to approve funding to hire more school staff.

10:30 a.m.: San Joaquin County sees notable drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations

For the first time in months, San Joaquin County hospitals have seen a significant drop in hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients and intensive care, signaling a major step forward for the county to potentially advance to the red tier.

On Dec. 22, hospitals in the county saw 1,212 cases in a single day. Now, the most recent one-day total was 96 cases. At one point, the county saw its ICU capacity jump to 175%.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by 12% just this week, signaling hope for the county. Emergency Medical Services Specialist Marissa Matta said the dropping ICU capacity brings the county closer to the state’s mandate.

“So, on Tuesday, March 9th, ICU capacity in San Joaquin County was at 95%, and this is the first time since November 18th of 2020 that the ICU capacity in our county was below 100%,” Matta said.

San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park said the county’s infection rate of 11 cases per 100,000 is still high, keeping the county in the purple tier. Park said despite this, there’s been meaningful progress in other areas.

“We actually have testing positivity rates in the orange this week,” Park said. “We are meeting a lower tier compared to our case rates. You can earn that red, you can move one, so we have the possibility of going red next week.”

Park also mentioned that the county’s vaccination efforts are making strides, with over 166,000 residents vaccinated so far.

10:18 a.m.: California State Insurance Commissioners calls for higher auto insurance reimbursements

During the pandemic some people drove less as schedules shifted from what they were before the pandemic, so State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara says he’s going to insist on auto insurance companies reimbursing California drivers for premium overcharges during the pandemic.

While insurance companies agreed to give money back as residents drove less and got into fewer accidents, Lara said customers only got a fraction of what they should have received.

“Injury and damage claims both fell by more than 40% from March to September compared to before the pandemic,” Lara said. “Over the same time, insurance company groups returned on average 9% of premiums when they should have refunded nearly double that amount.”

Lara also said only four of the top 10 insurance companies in the state continued to offer premium rebates to drivers after December of last year, despite the continued reduction in miles traveled, crashes and injuries.

Thursday, March 11

6:16 p.m: Breweries, wineries, distilleries get approval to reopen outdoors

Breweries, wineries and distilleries that don’t serve food can reopen outdoors in counties in the two most-restrictive tiers in California’s COVID-19 reopening system, according to new guidance released by state health officials Thursday.

Under the new rules, starting March 13 these businesses can serve customers outdoors until 8 p.m. with a 90-minute time limit per customer. Previously, breweries, wineries and distilleries were closed in the purple and red tiers.

In the orange tier, indoor capacity is limited to 100 people or 25%, whichever is fewer. In the yellow tier to 200 people or 50%.

Bars will remain closed in the purple and red tiers. In the orange tier, bars can reopen outdoors with modifications. In the yellow tier, indoor capacity is limited to 100 people or 25%.

3:41 p.m.: California grocery store workers now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines across state

The California Grocers Association, an industry trade association, said that grocery workers across the state and every county are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

While some counties have been quicker than others about getting vaccines to supermarket workers, CGA CEO Ron Fong said, “We wish there was a more unified system, but the reality is that it is not.”

According to Fong, in some areas of the state food workers got shots three or four weeks ago, but in Sacramento county these workers became eligible just this week.

Large grocery chains with pharmacies may be vaccinating in-house, while others are setting up appointments through hospital systems or directly with public health officials.

“We have advised workers to be proactive and not wait for the county to call you,” Fong said.

The CGA expects all their employees to have at least their first shot within the next 30 days.

3:32 p.m.: Will the coronavirus ever go away? Scientists say probably not.

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

Nobody knows for sure how the coronavirus will behave for the long term, but experts say it may be with us for decades or longer.

That doesn’t mean it will keep posing the same threat. According to the Associated Press, many scientists believe it’s likely the disease will eventually become a nuisance like the common cold. That would happen as people build up immunity over time, either through infection or vaccination.

This wouldn’t be a unique situation in virology — other viruses have followed a similar path. However, what could complicate the picture is if COVID-19 variants cause more severe disease or evade vaccines.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated what would increase immunity over time. The factors are infection or vaccination.

3:23 p.m.: Shasta County receives first shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Shasta County Public Health officials say that they’ve received their first shipment of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

The county now has 1,400 doses and plans to reserve them for residents facing barriers to get to vaccination clinics. County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom said the county has yet to use any of the doses as it finalizes its plan to distribute them to people who would benefit the most.

“Our strike teams would use them when we are trying to reach homebound individuals — people who might have the inability to find transportation or aren’t transportable — maybe in group homes or other kinds of residential facilities,” Ramstrom said. “We’ve talked about using it for mobile clinics once we are able to do that.

Shasta County expects to get its next shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the end of the month.

11:34 a.m.: North Sacramento clinic faces COVID-19 vaccine shortage

While state and county officials say they want to speed up the vaccination of underserved communities, one North Sacramento clinic that primarily serves people of color can’t seem to get enough doses.

Since the clinic opened to serve the Black, Brown and Asian residents living in North Sacramento, the Del Paso Vaccination Clinic at Grant High School has grown from 60 to 600 doses administered weekly.

Dr. Kawanna Carter has spearheaded the clinic, and said they’ve been expanding service to a community hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic. However, that growth has recently halted because their data wasn’t loaded properly by the supervising doctor securing the doses.

“In my opinion, the right approach would be to say ‘we’re not getting your data, how can we help you?’,” Carter said.

She says they built a demand for the vaccine from the ground up in a community that needs help by taking steps to tighten up the operation and find new ways to get shots directly allocated to the clinic.

“You know, we’ve given the information that is required, and hopefully, the next step is getting a direct supply of our own vaccine,” Carter said.

Sacramento County officials say that “underserved communities continue to be a priority,” so they’ve paired Del Paso Vaccination Clinic with another provider, WellSpace Health, to boost the clinic’s supply.

But with 2,500 people on the waitlist at the clinic, Dr. Carter said that the new partnership hasn’t resulted in a new batch of doses.

10:51 a.m.: Poll shows 1 in 5 Americans have lost someone to COVID-19

About 1 in 5 people in the United States say they have lost a relative or a close friend to the coronavirus, according to a recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Despite this, the public’s worry about the virus is dropping, even as some people still in mourning express their frustration at the continued struggle to stay safe. While the various coronavirus vaccines offer hope for ending the pandemic, about 1 in 3 Americans don’t intend to get one.

Those most reluctant against the shots? Younger adults, people without college degrees and Republicans.

10:23 a.m.: President Joe Biden signs $1.9 trillion stimulus package before speech to nation

President Joe Biden has signed the $1.9 trillion relief package, according to the Associated Press.

Biden says the package will help the U.S. defeat the coronavirus and nurse the economy back to health. He had been set to sign the American Rescue Plan on Friday, but the White House moved the signing up to Thursday afternoon, hours before the president plans to deliver his first prime-time address to the American public.

Today marks the first anniversary of the pandemic. Chief of Staff Ron Klain tweeted that the bill arrived at the White House late Wednesday, quicker than anticipated. Klain wrote, “We want to move as fast as possible.”

Wednesday, March 10

5:27 p.m.: Gov. Newsom says state will reach its goal to vaccinate 2 million in lower income communities 

Less than a week after announcing a new equity goal to vaccinate 2 million Californians in lower income communities, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state is just about there.

The state needs to administer around 100,000 vaccines in California’s hardest hit communities to reach its goal. It’s part of a larger plan to make vaccine distribution more equitable for communities that have seen the worst of the pandemic — both in terms of health and economics. While California has administered more than 10 million vaccines, only 18% have gone to residents in lower income communities.

Part of the equity goal includes loosening restrictions for counties to move into the less stringent red tier of the state’s reopening plan. About 80% of the state is still under the most-restrictive purple tier, but Newsom said that should change as soon as next week.

3:05 p.m.: Biden Administration’s nearly $2 trillion plan passes final hurdle

House lawmakers Wednesday gave final approval to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, sending the legislation to Biden’s desk for his signature, according to NPR. Biden plans to sign it this Friday.

The House vote split on partisan lines at 220-211, with no Republican support despite calls for bipartisan support from Democratic leaders. Only one Democrat, Rep. Jarden Golden, voted against the bill.

The huge stimulus package will direct a new round of aid to Americans — as direct payments, extended unemployment benefits, expanded child tax credit, and more — almost a year after the pandemic first upended daily life in the U.S.

2:26 p.m.: Students of Sacramento-area community colleges can expect more online classes this fall

Even though coronavirus cases are declining as more people get vaccinated, it still looks like students at Sacramento-area community colleges will continue to take most classes online this fall.

Los Rios Community College District Associate Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Communications Gabe Ross says they’re planning to bring back more in-person classes this fall compared to this spring semester, but it’ll be substantially fewer than pre-pandemic levels because of the continued uncertainty.

“As long as there’s social distancing guidelines or requirements in place, it does hamper our ability to do on-ground instruction,” Ross said.

The school’s first priority is bringing back career-education programs.

“Things that are really dependent on facilities, right? Welding programs, auto-tech,” Ross said. “Programs that really lead to a lot of good jobs for our students but that there’s just no way to replicate in a digital or online environment.”

Schedules for the fall semester will be posted online next month, and classes are scheduled to start in late August.

2:09 p.m.: Does California have ‘one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates’ in the nation? Not exactly.

During Gov. Gavin Newsom’s State of the State address on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, he had a strong statement about California’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“California’s death rate has remained one of the lowest per capita in the nation: 134 deaths per 100,000, compared to 158 nationally, 153 in Texas,” he said during his state address.

However, that’s not exactly correct. The governor’s claim is an exaggeration. California does have a slightly better rate than the nation and somewhat better than Texas, but California’s rate is only middle of the pack.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state is 23rd lowest out of 50 states. Some individual counties such as Los Angeles and Imperial continue to have a much higher death rate than the nation’s average.

Newsom made more comments about California’s efforts to stem the virus.

“We were the first to launch mass-vaccination sites in partnership with FEMA,” he said.

This is correct. The Biden administration did partner with California to open the nation’s first two mass-vaccination sites in mid-February — one of which is located at the Oakland Coliseum, and the other at Cal State Los Angeles. A third planned FEMA site for the Central Valley has yet to open.

Newsom also said that the state has “the most robust vaccination program in the country.” When looking at raw numbers, California has administered 11 million doses, more than any other state and most countries.

However, when it comes down to vaccine rollout, California has been one of the slowest states, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracking website.

11:26 a.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom sees ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in State of the State speech

California Gov. Gavin Newsom struck an optimistic tone in his State of the State address on Tuesday night.

His speech primarily focused on the state’s pandemic response and the progress made since last March.

“It was a year ago, a year ago, that we made that incredibly difficult decision to issue that stay-at-home order to slow the spread,” Newsom said at his speech in Dodgers Stadium. “You know we agonized about it. We agonized about the sacrifices that it would require. But we made sure that science — not politics — drove our decisions.”

Newsom delivered the address at an empty Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, since it’s one of the state’s largest mass vaccination sites. In the speech, he hinted that California could return to a sense of normalcy soon.

“Today, the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter than ever,” he said.

The address lasted less than 30 minutes — significantly shorter than his previous speeches. He also touched on economic inequality, housing and education. While Newsom alluded to the mounting campaign to remove him from office, he never uttered the word “recall.”

10:29 a.m.: Clinic volunteers get their shot at a COVID-19 vaccine

As states ramp up inoculation efforts, volunteers are needed to do everything from direct traffic to check people in to keep the vaccination sites running smoothly.

And in return for their work? Often, they’re given a shot. According to the Associated Press, many people who don’t yet qualify for a vaccine have been volunteering in hopes of getting a dose they otherwise may not receive for months. Large vaccination clinics across the U.S. have been thousands trying to nab the limited numbers of volunteer shifts in hopes of getting a shot sooner.

California launched its own vaccine volunteer program last week, though state officials say a volunteer shift won’t guarantee a vaccine dose. Interested volunteers can sign up here.

That’s raised questions at a time when supplies are limited and Americans have struggled to get vaccinated even if they’re eligible, but medical ethicists say volunteers are a vital part of the public health effort.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Hasting Center Bioethicist Nancy Berlinger said that since volunteers interact with the public, there’s nothing wrong with them wanting protection. Clinic volunteers also go through training and other obligations.

“There would be easier ways to game the system,” Berlinger said. “If that was really your goal, this could take more work, I think, than some other routes I can think of.”

10:27 a.m.: COVID-19 vaccinations for agricultural workers tied up in many states

Many U.S. health centers that service agricultural workers across the nation receive COVID-19 vaccines directly from the federal government in a program created by the Biden administration.

However, according to the Associated Press, farmworkers are not yet in the priority groups authorized to receive the shots in some states. The federal vaccine came with a restriction: the health centers must follow state priorities, which troubles farmworkers and activists, including in California.

Farmworkers run an elevated risk of getting infected because of their work conditions. Purdue University estimates that 9,000 agricultural workers in the country have died of COVID-19, and nearly a half-million have been infected, with the highest numbers in Texas, California, Iowa, and others.

Tuesday, March 9

2:30 p.m.: Butte County moves to less restrictive coronavirus tier

Butte County has qualified to move from the most stringent purple tier to the less-restrictive red tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

Moving into the second-highest tier allows some businesses to reopen at a reduced capacity, and with the latest announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom, certain youth and adult recreation sports can resume with modification.

The tier change will happen at midnight this Wednesday. For a county to move down to the red tier, there should be a case rate of 4-7 per 100,000 residents with a 5-8% test positivity rate. According to a county press release, the case rate is 7.3 per 100,000 residents, with a 3.6% positive rate. Those limits will change to 10 cases per 100,000 after the state provides 4 million vaccine doses to areas hardest-hit by the virus, based on rules released last week tying reopening to vaccine equity.

While the county might be moving into a less restrictive tier, recently, it was detected that the more contagious coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K. was detected recently in Butte County.

Butte County residents interested in seeing what businesses can now reopen can check out the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Business owners can also get some industry guidance on the modifications and mitigation measures in place to stop the viral spread.

Residents interested in youth or adult sports can also go online to see the latest guidelines on what outdoor and indoor sports are allowed, along with what safety precautions will be in place.

2:11 p.m.: Meadowview residents can expect vaccine clinic pop-up this Friday

South Sacramento has been a COVID-19 hotspot since the start of the pandemic, and with disproportionate case rates, the neighborhoods within the area haven’t received equitable vaccine doses.

With the latest promise from Gov. Gavin Newsom about allocating 40% of available vaccine doses to underserved communities, a pop-up vaccine clinic is coming to Meadowview.

South Sacramento testing site coordinator Bobby Dalton Roy said he hopes the single-day clinic can become a long-term solution for the neighborhood.

“The best practice needs to be that resources and testing and the vaccine needs to be put in the zip codes or proximate to the zip codes where families are being impacted most severely by the pandemic,” Roy said.

Vaccinations will occur at the Pannell Center in Meadowview only this Friday — however, details are still forthcoming on how eligible residents can sign up.

1:57 p.m.: Nevada state university system will offer in-person classes in fall semester

The University of Nevada, Reno says it will offer primarily in-person classes and student services when the fall semester starts in August, according to the Associated Press.

The announcement came Monday after the university said enrollment dropped below 20,000 this semester and most classes have been offered remotely because of the pandemic. University President Brian Sandoval said the university also expects to host more students in residence halls and dining hall, continue student activities, expand support services, allow fans at athletic events, and hold live performances.

UNLV spokesperson Tony Allen said the Las Vegas campus is also planning to offer most of its classes in-person while also providing on-campus facilities and services.

10:24 a.m.: Santa Clara County won’t join Blue Shield’s vaccination plan

Santa Clara County will not participate in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to have Blue Shield control COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the state, according to the Associated Press.

The Mercury News reports that County Executive Jeff Smith said late Monday that the county will not sign the health insurance giant’s contract because it would not improve speed or efficiency.

The state is in the process of switching over to a vaccine appointment and delivery system administered by Blue Shield, but skepticism has surfaced among the state’s 58 counties. Just one county is on board with the public-private partnership — Kern County.

However, Blue Shield says 41 health centers, 28 hospitals, four large medical groups, three pharmacies, and three tribal clinics have already signed on.

10:13 a.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom will deliver State of the State address tonight

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to deliver his State of the State address from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press.

The stadium has been transformed into one of the country’s largest coronavirus vaccination sites. A Newsom spokesperson said the stadium was chosen for the speech because it embodies California’s spirit of service.

According to CapRadio’s Politics Reporter Nicole Nixon, Dodger Stadium has another meaningful reason behind the choice. When it’s packed with fans, the stadium seats 56,000 — nearly the same number of Californians who have died from COVID-19.

Newsom’s third State of the State is scheduled for today at 6 p.m. It comes as the Democratic governor faces a likely recall election later this year, fueled by anger over his handling of the pandemic. On Monday, Newsom said he plans to use the speech to highlight the quiet heroes of the pandemic.

9:48 a.m.: Nevada governor bets on safety as states reopen

One year into the pandemic, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is still attempting to strike the right balance between keeping the state’s tourism industry afloat while also containing the coronavirus’ spread.

According to the Associated Press, Sisolak said in an interview with the news agency that he plans to use Nevada’s safety protocols as a selling point to bring back tourists, conventions and trade shows back to Las Vegas.

About one in 10 state residents, including the governor, have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic last year. More than 5,000 people have died, 63% of whom have been 70 or older.

Sisolak hopes vaccines will prevent future loss, contain the virus and bolster the economy back to pre-pandemic levels.

Monday, March 8

3:54 p.m.: Two COVID-19 vaccination clinics will open in Sacramento this week

At least two new COVID-19 vaccination sites will open this week in Sacramento, targeting some of the city’s hardest-hit communities.

Latino residents in California have borne the brunt of the pandemic. While they’ve had higher COVID-19 case and death rates compared to others, Latinos haven’t received a proportionate amount of vaccine doses.

A clinic is opening later this week in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood — a community that’s changed demographically in recent years but still has a cluster of Black and Latino residents who have lacked access to the vaccine.

The Consulate General of Mexico is also taking appointments for all eligible Mexican nationals in its 24-county jurisdiction, regardless of immigration or health insurance status. The new clinics open as California begins to push for more equitable vaccine distribution.

Both locations are open by appointment and are only for people 65 and over, educators, or childcare workers. For appointments at the Consulate General of Mexico, interested parties can call (916) 329-3502. Those interested in the Oak Park clinic can call (916) 349-6980.

3:47 p.m.: Young students in San Francisco may return to school April 12

San Francisco school officials plan to reopen classrooms for some of the youngest students starting April 12, under a tentative deal reached with the teachers union, according to the Associated Press.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the agreement was announced late Friday after months of debate over how and when kids would return to in-person instruction as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations decline statewide.

The students that might return to in-person school are primarily preschool through fifth grade. It’s still unclear how many of the district’s 52,000 students will return before the term ends June 2. The school board still needs to vote on the deal.

3:33 p.m.: CDC says fully vaccinated people can meet in-person without masks

The CDC has issued new guidance for vaccinated people, basically giving them the thumbs-up to resume some pre-pandemic activities and relax precautions that have been in place.

Specifically fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or social distancing. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have gotten their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

Vaccinated people can also gather, unmasked, with people from another household who are not yet fully vaccinated, as long as the unvaccinated household is at a low risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

However, experts still stress that vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask when in public, avoid crowds, and continue other precautions around unvaccinated people who are at a high risk of severe illness or death.

The CDC said this is a “first step” to returning to everyday activities. There’s evidence showing that fully vaccinated people are less likely to become infected and “potentially” less likely to spread the virus to others.

12:12 p.m.: COVID-19 variant first identified in UK found in Butte County

Butte County Public Health has detected a case of the more contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

Case investigation and contact tracing efforts are underway for the variant also known as B117. The infected patient is an adult.

While the strain was first detected in the U.K., it has spread to over 200 counties in the United States. As of March 4, 250 cases of this mutation have been reported in California.

“Detection of a variant that spreads more easily is a reminder that even though case rates are declining in Butte County, we must maintain our vigilance and continue using protective measures again [the] coronavirus until most of the population has immunity,” Butte County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Bernstein said. “We cannot let our guard down.”

There’s no indication that the available vaccines or treatments are less effective against this mutation, but there is evidence that the disease may be more severe when infected. County health officials recommend that residents continue to practice wearing masks, social distancing and practicing good hygiene.

11:58 a.m.: American River Parkway annual membership grows due to pandemic

While COVID-19 has decimated some businesses and shuttered most public venues, outdoor spaces like the American River Parkway are enjoying a pandemic boom.

Guests can walk or bike through 29 miles along the American River and it often attracts people of all ages, from older adults walking their dogs, cyclists zipping down the trail to people looking to get their steps in for the day.

American River Parkway Foundation Executive Director Dianna Poggetto said that in 2020 the association sold 2,000 more annual passes than they did in 2019 — more than a 16% increase.

“The Parkway has been, as I say, the only game in town,” Poggetto said, “The Parkway itself, the American River Parkway, can not close down.”

During the pandemic’s early days, the parkway may have seemed too crowded for some residents, but Poggetto said she hopes the increased use continues.

“It’s for people to come out,” she said. “It’s for that mental health break.”

11:52 a.m.: More Sacramento-area residents are interested in starting new businesses

A Sacramento-area business support center said it’s seen an uptick in the number of residents interested in starting new businesses.

Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce President Amanda Blackwood noted that they’ve helped local business owners navigate loan applications to stay afloat during most of the pandemic. Now, the phone calls are getting more optimistic.

“There is a shift, to ‘I see a light at the end of the tunnel, and now I’m going to start strategically planning for that,’ instead of being in a state of basic stabilization and triage,” Blackwood said.

She attributed some of this to more COVID-19 vaccinations and said people are asking for advice on how to start consulting businesses like marketing or accounting. Business owners and entrepreneurs can get advice from the Chamber’s Capital Region Small Business Development Center for free.

Saturday, March 6

3:30 p.m.: California counties don’t want Blue Shield’s vaccine program

Counties across California are increasingly asking to opt out of the state’s centralized vaccination program run by Blue Shield. 

The Los Angeles Times reports that none of the state’s 58 counties have signed contracts with the insurance giant even as California moves ahead plans to bring 10 counties under Blue Shield oversight beginning this week. 

The state is in the process of switching over to a vaccine appointment and delivery system run by Blue Shield, intended to ensure doses are distributed equitably and reach low-income communities. 

But some county leaders call the system too bureaucratic and don’t want Blue Shield’s oversight.

—Associated Press

3:20 p.m.: Senate passes $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package

The Senate approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan on Saturday, according to NPR.

The package secures new aid for American families, workers and businesses, including $1,400 direct payments, an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits and an increase to the child tax credit.

Individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 would receive the full direct payments of $1,400 per person. But those payments would phase out for individuals and couples who make more than $80,000 and $160,000, respectively.

Read more here.

Friday, March 5

4:48 p.m.: Gov. Newsom signs bill incentivizing schools to reopen

One day after passing the state Legislature, Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday morning signed into law a bill motivating more California schools to reopen classrooms for in-person instruction.

“Let’s just get this thing signed and let’s get these $6.6 billion … we didn’t wait for the federal government, we’re moving forward,” Newsom said.

The new law sets aside $2 billion the state will distribute among schools districts if they offer in-person instruction by the end of this month. Sacramento-area Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty was at Friday’s virtual bill signing ceremony. 

“I’m counting on my school district to step up and do what’s right,” McCarty said. “We know we have some challenges, like in others across the state who aren’t quite there yet, but it’s right to do what’s right for our kids.”

The new law also includes more than $4 billion to pay for things like tutoring and summer school to address learning loss. Some Republicans are critical of the plan saying it’s too weak and would be better if it forced districts to reopen.  

3:19 p.m.: California will soon reopen outdoor stadiums, theme parks at limited capacity

Californians may soon be able to return to outdoor ballparks, stadiums and theme parks as soon as next month under new guidelines announced Friday by state health officials.

Starting April 1, the new rules would allow outdoor sports and live performances to resume and amusement parks to reopen. They will all have limitations based on the county’s tier, and all attendees must be masked.

For counties in the purple tier, sports and performances will be limited to 100 people. Attendees must have a reservation and be from the surrounding region. That increases to 20% capacity for the red tier, 33% in the orange tier, and 67% in the yellow tier. Even in the less-restrictive tiers, attendees are restricted to in-state visitors.

Amusement parks will function under different capacity limits. They can reopen once a county reaches the red tier, but only at a 15% capacity. That increases to 25% in the orange tier and 35% in the yellow. Only in-state visitors are allowed.

Though the state’s travel advisory is still in place, encouraging people to stay within 120 miles of their homes, it is a rule that state health officials admit will be tricky to enforce.

2:50 p.m.: Study shows masks save lives, outdoor dining increases COVID-19 cases, deaths

A new national study adds strong evidence that mask mandates can slow the spread of the coronavirus and that allowing dining at restaurants can increase cases and deaths, according to the Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study on Friday. It looked at the counties placed under state-issued mask mandates and at counties that allowed restaurant dining — both indoors and outdoors seating. The agency’s director said the study shows decreases in cases and deaths when people wear masks.

Inversely, it found increases in cases and deaths when in-person restaurant dining is allowed. The study was released just as some states are rescinding mask mandates and restaurant limits.

The research also builds on smaller CDC studies, including one that found that people in 10 states who became infected in July were more likely to have dined at a restaurant. Another found that mask mandates in 10 states were associated with reductions in hospitalizations.

Reopening restaurant dining was not followed by a considerable increase in cases and deaths in the first 40 days after restrictions were lifted. However, soon after, there would be increases of about 1 percentage point in the growth rate of cases, and later 2 to 3 percentage points in the growth rate of deaths.

10:28 a.m.: Parents of color feel unheard with the speed of school reopenings

After nearly a year of distancing learning, school districts around California are working on plans to salvage the school year and bring students back into classrooms. In recent months, groups of parents across the state — many of them middle-to upper-class white parents — have demanded schools to reopen sooner.

However, research shows that most parents of color still have reservations. The coronavirus has ravaged communities of color around the state — nearly half of California’s 52,225 deaths are Latinos or Latinas.

This leaves some parents feeling like their voices haven’t been heard when it comes to school reopenings, drowned out by the louder voices of white and wealthier parents. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, white Americans are more likely to support a quick return to classrooms, while the majority of Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans say teachers should be vaccinated first.

The survey showed that 80% of Black respondents said schools should wait until teachers who want to be vaccinated can be, while only 51% of white respondents said the same. The divide also exists among economic lines. By a two-to-one margin, lower-income people would prefer teachers to be vaccinated, while middle- and upper-income Americans are more closely divided.

8:47 a.m.: Some teacher vaccinations go untracked in race to mass inoculate

As the U.S. prioritizes teachers nationwide for coronavirus vaccines, states and many districts are not keeping track of how many school employees have received the shots.

According to the Associated Press, while vaccines are not required for educators to return to school buildings, the absence of data complicates efforts to address parents’ concerns about health risk levels. Some teachers unions are also calling for widespread vaccination as a school reopening condition.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in California, lets teachers register for vaccine appointments offered by the school system through an app designed with Microsoft. But district spokesperson Shannon Huber said the district is not tracking who has gotten vaccinated.

A reopening date for Los Angeles schools is still undetermined and depends in part on all school staff being offered vaccines, a demand of the district’s teachers union.

8:40 a.m.: US economy adds nearly 380,000 jobs

U.S. employers added a surprisingly robust 379,000 jobs last month, a sign that the economy may be strengthening as virus cases drop, vaccinations ramp up, and Americans spend more.

According to the Associated Press, the February gain marked a pickup from the 166,000 jobs added in January and a loss of 306,000 in December — yet it represents just a fraction of the 10 million jobs that were lost to the pandemic.

The unemployment rate fell 6.2%, the Labor Department said Friday in its monthly jobs report. About 4 million people who have lost jobs have stopped looking for work, so they’re not classified as unemployed. According to Oxford Economics, if they were included, along with a separate group that’s misclassified as working, the unemployment rate would actually be 9.3%.

Still, economists are increasingly optimistic that hiring will speed up, and Americans will once again travel, shop, go to the movies, and more.

Thursday, March 4

6:47 p.m.: State lawmakers approve $2 billion incentive for schools to reopen

State lawmakers signed off on a $2 billion plan to incentivize more schools to reopen classrooms. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the measure. 

The bill offers grants to school districts that bring high-needs and younger students back to class this spring. And the sooner they do it, the more money they get. 

It doesn’t force districts to open, though, and many Republicans argued that it should.  

The measure also includes more than $4 billion to pay for things like tutoring and summer school to address learning loss.

It’s unclear how much the incentive package will factor into districts’ reopening plans. Schools won’t turn down the money. But thanks to declining coronavirus infections, many districts that remained closed through the fall were already finalizing agreements with their teachers unions before Newsom announced the deal earlier this week. 

4:15 p.m.: Indoor youth sports can resume in California

Indoor sports in California can resume after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by two high-school athletes, according to the Associated Press.

The settlement means indoor youth sports can return in counties where there are 14 or fewer new coronavirus cases for every 100,000 people. Athletes and coaches would be tested before a competition in most cases.

Details of the settlement agreement were confirmed by attorneys who represented the students in the lawsuit. California public health officials did not confirm the settlement, but Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state would issue new guidance soon.

3:52 p.m.: When will nursing homes reopen to visitors? State officials won’t say

As California works through vaccinating hundreds of thousands of long-term care residents and workers, family members are now pressing administrators and state health officials to finally reopen nursing homes for indoor visits.

Nearly 465,000 residents and staff of nursing homes, assisted living centers, and board and care homes have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. New coronavirus cases in the state’s skilled nursing facilities plummeted from 725 on Dec. to just 16 on Feb. 27, after vaccinations started. That’s a 98% decline in case rates.

Despite this, federal and state officials haven’t figured out how to move past the current guidelines that essentially ban in-room visits unless a resident is close to death. Most of the state’s nursing homes won’t open up for visitation until state public health officials give the OK, but the state public health agency is waiting for their O.K. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2:19 p.m.: Unemployment goes up despite drop in COVID-19 infections

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits edged higher last week to 745,000, a sign that many employers continue to cut jobs despite a drop in confirmed viral infections and evidence that the overall economy is improving.

According to the Associated Press, a Thursday report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims rose by 9,000 from the previous week. Though the pace of layoffs has eased since the year began, they remain high by historical standards.

Before the virus flattened the U.S. economy a year ago, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any week, even during the Great Recession. All told, 4.3 million Americans are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits.

10:29 a.m.: California to tie county reopenings to vaccination equity rate

California will start dedicating 40% of all COVID-19 vaccine doses to the hardest-hit communities — a move administration officials say aims to stem the harm in those neighborhoods while also targeting the communities that have the fastest viral spread.

The state will send the vaccines to neighborhoods in the bottom 25% of its Healthy Places Index, which assesses Census tracts based on measures related to health and socio-economic conditions. Many of these areas are in more impoverished neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the Central Valley.

As more Californians get their COVID-19 shots, officials say they will tie loosening restrictions to vaccination equity goals in these communities. For example, when 2 million residents in those neighborhoods are vaccinated, the state will loosen requirements for its color-tier system. The threshold for entering the red tier will move from seven cases per 100,000 to 10 cases.

9:46 a.m.: When can kids get COVID-19 vaccines? A study on teens has already started.

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

When children can get any of the COVID-19 vaccines will depend on their age, but some teenagers could start rolling up their sleeves before long.

According to the Associated Press, the Pfizer vaccine is already cleared for use starting at age 16, meaning some high schoolers could get their shots whenever they become eligible in their area. Pfizer and Moderna expect to release study data on children ages 12 and older over the summer.

Plans to start studies in children 11 and younger will begin later this year. Moderna’s vaccine is currently only cleared for use for people 18 and older.

9:45 a.m.: Vaccine appointments bypass some older adults

Thousands of older Americans are spending hours online or enlisting their grandchildren’s help to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine, and they are the fortunate ones.

According to the Associated Press, an untold number of older people across the country are getting left behind in the desperate dash for shots because they are too frail, overwhelmed, isolated or poor to navigate a system that favors healthier individuals with more resources.

The urgency of reaching this vulnerable population is growing as more and more Americans in other age groups slowly become eligible. Nonprofits, churches and health care outreach workers are scrambling to reach the forgotten older people who are falling through the cracks before the nation’s focus moves on and the competition for vaccines stiffens.

Wednesday, March 3

5:53 p.m.: San Joaquin County allows outdoor sports to open up 

San Joaquin County’s COVID-19 case rate of 11.6 fell to below 14 cases per 100,000 residents, allowing football and a few other outdoor sports to return. 

The guidance from the California Department of Public Health applies to all youth programs, including school-based, club, and recreational programs in the county.

Compliance includes that face coverings be worn when not participating in the activity. Coaches, support staff and observers must wear face coverings to be worn at all times. There must also be informed consent and testing when adjusted case rates are between 7-14 per 100,000.

5:37 p.m.: LA County could loosen virus restrictions later this month

Health officials say Los Angeles County could move into the next phase of reopening with fewer restrictions as early as next week, though any actual lifting of coronavirus-related constraints would not happen immediately. 

With 10 million residents, the county has recorded more than 1.9 million COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. It is currently in the most restrictive purple tier of California’s reopening system because of widespread transmission. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says she expects the county to move into the less-restrictive tier as early as next week. 

The tiers are based on test positivity and adjusted case rate figures. Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’d like to add vaccination rates.

5:32 p.m.: Vaccine access rapidly expands across the country

Cities and states are rapidly expanding access to vaccines as the nation races to head off a resurgence in coronavirus infections and reopen schools and businesses battered by the pandemic. 

The efforts come as the federal government ramps up shipments, with President Joe Biden saying the U.S. should have enough shots for all adults by the end of May. It also comes as more states are lifting restrictions like mask-wearing and reopening businesses despite warnings from health officials that it’s too risky. 

Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other states say teachers will get the first doses of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Detroit is starting to vaccinate factory workers. And some states are vaccinating anyone 55 or older.

5:25 p.m.: Federal stimulus bill shrinks check eligibility 

President Joe Biden and Democrats have agreed to tighten eligibility limits for stimulus checks, according to the Associated Press.

This is a concession to party moderates, and it comes as leaders prepare to move their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate. Simultaneously, the White House and top Democrats are standing by progressives and say the Senate package will retain the $400 weekly emergency unemployment benefits included in the House-passed pandemic legislation.

The moves reflect a balancing act facing Biden and Democratic leaders as they try squeezing the massive relief bill through the evenly divided Senate, where they need the support of every single Democratic senator to pass basic bills.

5:23 p.m.: Las Vegas Sands sells Venetian casino due to pandemic changes

Las Vegas Sands is selling the iconic Venetian casino resort and its Sands Expo and Convention center for $6.25 billion, withdrawing from gambling operations on the Las Vegas Strip after the changing nature of the casino business there, and just about everywhere else.

The name of the Venetian, the expo center as well as the Palazzo, the Sand’s luxury casino and resort that’s part of the same complex, will remain, along with the company’s headquarters, according to the Associated Press.

Despite this, the company led by Sheldon Adelson until his death this year will effectively cease U.S. operations. Under Adelson, the company’s focus turned to Asia years ago, where revenue eventually outpaced even the operations on the Last Vegas Strip.

5:20 p.m.: Nonprofits in financial trouble due to pandemic

More than one-third of U.S. nonprofits are in jeopardy of closing within two years because of the financial harm inflicted by the pandemic. 

According to the Associated Press, a soon-to-be-released study by the philanthropy research group Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy underscores the perils for nonprofits and charities whose financial needs have escalated over the past year. 

Even with the excess of donations that many nonprofits and charities received from individuals and foundations, it’s still not enough to stay solvent. The researchers analyzed how roughly 300,000 nonprofits would fare under 20 scenarios of varying severity. 

The worst-case scenario led to the closings of 38% of nonprofits. Even the scenarios seen as more realistic resulted in closures well into double-digit percentages.

Arts and entertainment nonprofits are the most at danger. The most vulnerable nonprofits may try to reduce costs this year by narrowing their focus or by furloughing workers. Some nonprofits may have to turn to mergers to bolster their finances, but several would still vanish even if those particular nonprofits survive.

11:59 a.m.: Sacramento County expanding COVID-19 drive-thru access at McClellan Park

Sacramento County officials are expanding access to a drive-thru COVID-19 mass vaccination center at McClellan Park.

“We were able to open it last week,” County spokesperson Janna Hayes said. “The first, we limited access to only 65-plus residents. This week, we opened the opportunity to educators and childcare providers as well.”

The site operated by test manufacturing company Curative is open Monday through Friday. Hayes said that the county hopes to vaccinate around 350 people each day.

Older adults and educators working in Sacramento County will now have access to a mass vaccination site, allowing people with an appointment to get vaccinated with the Pfizer shot without leaving their car.

“You get your shot sitting in your car, then you go sit in a 15-minute observation waiting area to make sure you don’t have any immediate adverse reaction to the vaccine,” Hayes said.

Residents interested in the McClellan Park vaccinations, can sign up online here.

11:56 a.m.: California vaccinations most often going to rich over at-risk

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says a commitment to equity drives his administration’s centralized approach to vaccinating residents.

But community health centers say they’ve watched as initial shipments of the coronavirus vaccine went to larger hospitals, leaving their high-risk patients to wait, according to the Associated Press.

Community health centers in California care for more than 7 million mostly low-income people whom Newsom and others say they want to reach. The centers are often in areas with higher concentrations of poverty and fewer providers who accept Medicaid.

Dr. Efrain Talamantes is the chief operating officer for AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. He says his patients and staff are often an afterthought despite the emphasis on equity from the state.

11:47 a.m.: Nevada to let some sports games, sports competitions to resume

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has reclassified lacrosse from a full-contact to a minimal-contact sport in Nevada’s coronavirus playbook, according to the Associated Press.

This follows other moves to let indoor and outdoor game practices and competitions to resume with social distancing and other requirements. On Tuesday, the governor said he followed medical advisors in also classifying ice hockey as a full-contact sport and field hockey as a minimal-contact sport.

Sisolak signed new guidelines to let tournaments begin March 15 for Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association sports that get approval for a COVID-19 safety plan. Close-contact club sports and private leagues remain prohibited — including rugby, basketball, boxing, dance and cheer, and martial arts.

Tuesday, March 2

6:05 p.m.: Steep decline in child-abuse related ER visits and hospitalizations during the pandemic 

Natural disasters typically result in an uptick in child abuse, but a new study published today suggests this pandemic appears to be an exception.

Instead of going up, over the first few months of the pandemic, UCSF researchers found a steep decline in the number of ER visits and hospital admissions.

The decline started in mid-March — around the time most states issued shelter-in-place orders — according to the study, which tracked child abuse at 52 children’s hospitals nationwide.

Lead researcher Dr. Suni Kaiser says it doesn’t appear to be underreporting. She says  government interventions may be having a positive impact.

“Some of the policies like the CARES act and protection of eviction that were in place pretty early in the pandemic perhaps shielded families from some of the stresses that we’ve seen in prior events,” Kaiser said.

Another possible explanation: parents working from home meant fewer caregivers were home alone with small children. 

4:11 p.m.: El Dorado County moves to red tier

El Dorado County will soon be able to restart indoor dining and other businesses at reduced capacity after moving to the less restrictive red tier in California’s COVID-19 reopening system Tuesday, according to state health officials.

With the move, restaurants and movie theaters will be able to reopen indoors at 25% capacity, while gyms can reopen indoors at 10% capacity. Museums may also resume indoor operations at 25% capacity.

Bars and breweries must remain closed, while wineries will still be limited to outdoor service.

In addition to El Dorado, moving to the red tier Tuesday are Lassen, Modoc, Napa, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo and Santa Clara counties. Sacramento health officials say the county could potentially move to the red tier in mid to late March. Yolo County joined the red tier last month.

3:09 p.m.: City of San Francisco leaders cheer over reopening

An upbeat Mayor London Breed said San Francisco will reopen indoor dining, movie theaters, and gyms with reduced capacity starting Wednesday, as more counties in California open up for business, according to the Associated Press.

Much of California’s population remains in the most restrictive reopening phase, with Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties still limited to outdoor dining. San Francisco’s mayor urged residents to wear their masks while enjoying the city.

Her Tuesday announcement came as Gov. Gavin Newsom continued to press educators to return to the classroom as more vaccines are administ

12:49 p.m.: Texas lifts mask mandate

Texas is lifting a COVID-19 mask mandate that was imposed last summer but has only been lightly enforced.

According to the Associated Press, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s Tuesday announcement makes Texas the largest state to do away with a face-covering order. The new rule takes effect on March 10.

The decision comes as governors across the U.S. have eased coronavirus restrictions, despite warnings from health experts that the outbreak is far from over.

Texas has seen a sharp plunge in cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. More than 42,000 people have died from the virus in Texas, which translates to 148 deaths per 100,000, placing Texas 25th among the 50 states.

10:01 a.m.: San Francisco plans to reopen indoor dining, gyms, soon

San Francisco is poised to allow indoor dining, movie teachers and gyms with reduced capacity, as the most recent coronavirus surge continues to decline.

According to the Associated Press, it’s expected that the county will join several other counties on Tuesday in moving to the less restrictive red tier — down from their current level, the purple tier. More of California’s economy is opening back up for business throughout the state as more residents are vaccinated.

Several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area issued a strict-stay-at-home order nearly a year ago, in advance of a statewide shutdown. Public health officials in the Bay Area, for the most part, have been more cautious than peers in Southern California and other states about reopening the economy.

9:47 a.m.: Asian Americans reflect on anti-Asian attacks a year into pandemic

Asian Americans have faced a dangerous climate since the coronavirus entered the U.S. a year ago, according to the Associated Press.

Instances of verbal harassment and physical assaults have occurred from coast to coast. Now, just over a year and thousands of incidents later, some of the earliest victims find moving forward has been difficult, or, at best, bittersweet.

A recent wave of attacks on older Asian Americans has reignited attention and fueled worries that hostilities have only worsened. They include the death last month of an 84-year-old San Francisco man. More than 3,000 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center, since March 2020.

9:45 a.m.: COVID-19-based fear fuels attacks on health care workers globally

A recent report by the Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, has identified more than 1,000 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and facilities last year.

According to the Associated Press, the report says about 400 of those attacks were linked to the coronavirus, underscoring the dangers surrounding health care workers at a time when they’re needed most. Researchers saw the most attacks last spring and summer as the virus swept across the globe.

Many attacks may have gone undetected because they’re never reported to the police or media. In the U.S., researchers counted about a dozen threats to health care workers just last year. Several incidents involved the injury or arrest of street medics during Black Lives Matter protests.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospital employees in the U.S. are nearly six times as likely as the average worker to be a victim of an intentional injury. Last month, a Minnesota medical assistant was killed during a clinic shooting by a former patient unhappy with his treatment.

Monday, March 1

5:30 p.m.: Tax filers facing unemployment fraud should request corrected forms, says IRS

With six weeks to go until tax day, many people are looking at the forms and discovering someone else got unemployment benefits using their identity and they owe federal taxes on that income.

The form that would show that is called a 1099-G. IRS spokesman David Tucker says you should get in touch with the state right away and request a corrected 1099-G. And don’t worry if you don’t get it before the April 15 tax deadline. 

“If for some reason they’re finding challenges in terms of being able to receive that corrected form on a timely basis, what they should do is still file an accurate federal tax return and report only the income that they actually received,” Tucker said. 

The state will automatically update the IRS with a corrected form, but you should keep an eye for your copy of that form when it arrives. Tucker says it, like all tax documents, should be kept for at least seven years.

3:25 p.m.: California reaches deal to get children back to in-person learning

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders struck a deal on Monday to encourage schools to reopen for California’s youngest students by April.

Lawmakers hope the $2 billion plan will incentivize districts to reopen classrooms for students in transitional kindergarten through second grade by March 31. Vulnerable students like homeless, disabled, foster youth, English language learners, those without internet access, and disengaged students must all return to school — regardless of grade level — for the school to receive funding.

Once a county moves into the red tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening system, counties will have to bring students through sixth grade back to classes to receive money. Districts that have already reopened can access the $2 billion to continue operating safely.

3:05 p.m.: Nevada expecting shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Nevada expects to get 24,000 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week, but state officials have not yet detailed whether the single-shot vaccine will be targeted for use in any particular community.

According to the Associated Press, some health officials around the U.S. have deliberated prioritizing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in mobile clinics or for homeless shelters or other communities where it can be harder to ensure someone returns weeks later for a second shot.

Nevada health officials said they are waiting for more guidance from a federal advisory group. The state has seen reports of new cases and hospitalizations drop since mid-January.

2:57 p.m.: San Diego Comic-Con virtual this year again due to pandemic

While the San Diego Comic-Con will remain virtual for the July event, organizers are planning for a smaller-scale gathering later this year, according to the Associated Press.

Comic-Con announced Monday that the annual pop-culture confab will be virtual again for a second-straight year, running on July 23-25.

The in-person experience was canceled again due to coronavirus-related cautions around large gatherings. Organizers said postponements and other challenges caused by the pandemic left them with limited financial resources.

As a result, the virtual convention in July was reduced from four to three days. The smaller in-person event in the works will be in San Diego in November.

12:16 p.m.: California’s MyTurn vaccine appointment website may not be accessible to those without broadband

California’s vaccine appointment system is built around a website called MyTurn, but it may not be accessible for some Californians without broadband — especially seniors.

Public Policy Institute of California research associate Joe Hayes says that lack of proper access to the internet could lead to Californians not getting signed for their vaccination.

“Statewide, 20% of seniors don’t have access to broadband at home,” Hayes said. “By demographics, for instance, access we found is lower among Latino seniors. And in rural areas, it’s 30% that lack access to broadband at home.”

Hayes said that the state might be able to use the recently allocated federal funding to bridge the digital divide among its seniors. California is also offering a telephone hotline for appointments — in multiple languages — to help reach Californians without internet access at (833) 422-4255.

Correction: A previous version of this post had an incorrect phone number. It has been corrected.

12:09 p.m.: States continue to open despite WHO saying it is ‘unrealistic’ COVID-19 will end soon

With the U.S. vaccination drive picking up speed and a third formula on the way, states are eager to reopen for business, despite warnings from health experts that the outbreak is far from over.

According to the Associated Press, experts have also said that moving too quickly to reopen could prolong the pandemic’s misery. The push to reopen comes as nearly 20% of the nation’s adults have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 10% fully inoculated. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urgently warning state officials and ordinary Americans not to let their guard down.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergency chief, says that it’s “premature” and “unrealistic” to think that the pandemic might be stopped by the end of the year. However, he said that the recent arrival of effective vaccines could dramatically reduce hospitalizations and death.

Ryan said that the world’s focus right now should be to keep the COVID-19 transmission as low as possible. WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “regrettable” that younger and healthier people in rich countries are being vaccinated before at-risk health workers in the developing world. He warned against complacency, noting a recent increase in cases.

11:50 a.m.: Sacramento Regional Transit offers free rides to vaccine appointments

Starting on Monday, if you have a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, you can get a free ride on Sacramento Regional Transit buses and light rail trains.

The transit agency is offering free rides for people getting their coronavirus shots for the next three months, but SacRT Director of Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations Jessica Gonzalez said that the program might be extended past the end of May if there’s a need.

“To ride for free, customers just need to show their COVID-19 vaccine appointment confirmation,” Gonzalez said. The proof could be something like an email, a text, or even a vaccine card.

“So you can either print that out or show that right there on your smartphone, and that will serve as valid fare on the date of your appointment,” Gonzalez said.

Riders are required to wear a mask or face covering before boarding. SacRT isn’t the only transit agency offering free rides in the area — Yolobus will be implementing a similar plan. Their free rides will last through June.

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