Monday, December 20, 2021 | California Healthline

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California Braces For Onslaught Of Omicron Cases: With officials Sunday painting a grim picture of a winter in which the omicron variant spreads with devastating speed, California hospitals are trying to do what they can to prepare for the weeks and months ahead. The limiting factor for many hospitals will not be beds, but people to staff them, said Dr. Nancy Gin, regional medical director of quality for Kaiser Permanente Southern California. Read more from the Los Angeles Times. Scroll down for more coverage of the omicron variant.

Health Emergency Declared In S.F.’s Tenderloin Neighborhood: San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Friday declared a state of emergency in the beleaguered Tenderloin neighborhood, a move that will give the city authority to waive zoning and planning codes in an effort to address both a drug overdose crisis as well as violence and crime. Read more from KQED and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Below, check out the roundup of California Healthline’s coverage. For today’s national health news, read KHN’s Morning Briefing.


San Diego Union-Tribune:
UCSD Fears COVID-19 Surge Could Hit San Diego By New Year’s 


If our toilets are any indication, San Diego County may be in for a sharp spike in coronavirus cases soon. On Saturday, UC San Diego officials warned that samples from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, which processes flushed waste from two out of every three San Diegans, has the highest levels of the coronavirus that the university has seen since February. Both the Delta and Omicron variants of the virus are fueling this rise. (Wosen, 12/18)


AP:
Fauci Says Omicron Variant Is `Just Raging Around The World’


The COVID-19 omicron variant is “just raging around the world,” the White House’s top medical adviser said Sunday as President Joe Biden prepares to issue “a stark warning of what the winter will look like” for unvaccinated Americans. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the real problem” for the U.S. hospital system is that “we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated.” (Boak, 12/19)


CBS News:
Biden To Deliver Address On COVID Omicron Variant Tuesday 


President Biden plans to speak about the Omicron variant on Tuesday, a White House official confirmed to CBS News. Mr. Biden’s speech comes as the nation sees a spike in COVID-19 cases. “Building off his Winter Plan, the President will announce new steps the Administration is taking to help communities in need of assistance, while also issuing a stark warning of what the winter will look like for Americans that choose to remain unvaccinated,” the official said. (Ake and Reardon, 12/18)


The Hill:
NIH Director: Holiday Travel For Unvaccinated ‘Not A Great Idea’ 


National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins said on Sunday that holiday travel would not be advisable for unvaccinated people due to the quickly spreading omicron variant. Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Collins said that any travel should be done “very carefully.” “I think airplanes, now with required masking, probably being on an airplane is a fairly safe place to be. But think about how you’re going to get there and how you can make sure you’re safe along the way,” said Collins. (Choi, 12/19)


Sacramento Bee:
What To Know: COVID Omicron In California & Holiday Travel


It won’t just be people traveling for the holidays — the omicron variant might well be, too. COVID-19 cases have risen since Thanksgiving and the new variant is quickly spreading across the world. California detected its first case of omicron on Dec. 1, and since then the virus has been found in Los Angeles County, West Sacramento and San Diego. (Truong, 12/19)


Los Angeles Times:
Should I Change Holiday Plans Due To COVID-19 Surge, Omicron? 


With Omicron rapidly spreading and its implications unclear, how should people approach the coming holiday season? Should plans be altered? Some experts think it would be prudent to make some adjustments, although many health experts this year are also emphasizing the importance of seeing family and friends after many people spent the last winter holiday season following stay-at-home orders. (Lin II, 12/18)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Scientists Didn’t See Omicron Coming. And No One Knows What’s Next


In spring 2020, shortly after the pandemic began, many scientists predicted that the coronavirus would not evolve particularly fast. But those predictions have been upended time and again — and never more so than with omicron, a variant with an astonishing number of mutations that is rampaging through Europe and South Africa. In New York, cases are suddenly soaring to record levels as holiday parties and sports games are canceled, and California officials are bracing for a similar crisis in the coming weeks. (Ho, 12/19)


City News Service:
3,512 More COVID Cases Reported As LA County’s Winter Spike Endures 


Los Angeles County reported 3,512 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, Dec. 19, and nine additional deaths associated with the virus — the third consecutive day with more than 3,000 new cases after months of lower totals. Despite the high number of cases, officials said Sunday’s number of cases and deaths likely reflect reporting delays over the weekend. The number of Los Angeles County residents hospitalized with COVID-19 increased by just one to 743 Sunday, with 180 of those patients in intensive care, the same as Saturday’s total. The county had 772 COVID patients on Thursday. (12/19)


Los Angeles Times:
COVID-19 Cases Continue To Rise In L.A. County As Californians Brace For Winter Surge 


Los Angeles County health officials reported 3,512 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, more than double the number of cases recorded just a few days before. That tally follows 3,730 new cases reported in L.A. County on Saturday — the highest single-day total in months — sparking concerns of another winter surge stoked by holiday festivities. Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in California as the Omicron variant spreads. (Newberry and Wigglesworth, 12/19)


Voice of San Diego:
The First Year Of COVID: Farm And Construction Workers Among Those Most Likely To Die 


As part of an ongoing series, Year One: COVID-19’s Death Toll, a team of reporters logged more than 4,000 death certificates – one for each COVID-related death during the first year of the pandemic. COVID-19 is far more deadly for elders, but more than 1,000 people who died were 65 or younger. Voice of San Diego categorized the professions of each of those working-age San Diegans, according to U.S. Census industry codes. The analysis reveals that COVID ripped through some working-class professions, even as white-collar professionals tended to be more isolated.  Agricultural workers were hit harder than any other group. Their share of the death toll was 612 percent higher their share of San Diego County’s workers. (Huntsberry, 12/16)


Southern California News Group:
Anti-Semitic COVID Flyers Found Near California Homes


Pasadena police are investigating after about 200 anti-Semitic flyers connecting COVID-19 to Jewish people were distributed to various parts of the city on Sunday morning, Dec. 19, authorities said. The flyers were thrown randomly on the street, sidewalks and driveways of homes along Mentor, Catalina, Wilson and Mar Vista avenues, as well as Washington Boulevard in the Bungalow Heaven neighborhood, city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. (Percy, 12/20)


The Bakersfield Californian:
Did California Get Its Money’s Worth From $1.7 Billion COVID Test Contract? 


A patient sample that wasn’t processed for more than 30 days. A test used without proper validation of its accuracy. Patient results changed without notification. Safety and disinfection procedures called into question. These are just a few of the myriad problems at the Valencia Branch Laboratory, a public-private COVID-19 testing lab operated by PerkinElmer that the California Department of Public Health hired in a no-bid, $1.7 billion annual contract. (Hwang and Ibarra, 12/19)


CalMatters:
Four California Universities Missed Out On As Much As $47 Million In Coronavirus Aid. Here’s Why


Four California public universities could have received $47 million more in coronavirus aid if they sought funds from a different federal agency, a recent state audit found. As a result, some students may have missed out on support services and equipment during what has been an unprecedented disruption in schooling worldwide. California colleges could apply to two pots of money — one supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the other by the U.S. Department of Education, called the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Of six University of California and Cal State University campuses audited, four used Department of Education funding for expenses where they should have asked FEMA for reimbursement, the audit said. (Mendoza, Zappelli and Ananthavel, 12/18)


Voice of OC:
OC Sheriff Staff Have Biggest Share Of COVID Worker’s Comp Claims Among County Workers


Orange County sheriff staff are getting hit with COVID-19 illnesses at a much higher rate than other large county departments, and are by far the largest share of pandemic-related worker’s compensation costs the county has paid so far, according to county data obtained through a records request by Voice of OC. Sheriff staff, who had the lowest self-reported vaccination rate – at 16% – among county employees as of the latest available data from August, are around 20% of the county government workforce. (Gerda, 12/16)


Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento At-Home COVID-19 Tests At CVS, Target And More


At-home tests or over-the-counter tests are available at several national retail stores including Target, CVS, Walgreens and Amazon. With California reinforcing its statewide mask mandate and talks of a winter COVID-19 surge, here’s what you need to know about where to get an at-home test in the Sacramento area, how to take the test, what your results mean and what to do in case of a test error, according to the CDC. (Taylor, 12/17)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Monoclonal Antibodies Can Save Lives. But Bay Area Sees Worryingly Few Takers


“Our chairs are empty,” Conti said. “My refrigerator is full of therapeutics, and there are patients that need them and just aren’t getting the message.” In November, Total Infusion gave monoclonal antibodies to fewer than 100 people — even though it has the capacity, staff and supply to double that. Meanwhile, more and more people across the Bay Area and state are testing positive for COVID in what looks to be a lead-up to a winter surge and are likely candidates for the treatment. (Ho, 12/18)


NBC News:
Trump White House Made ‘Deliberate Efforts’ To Undermine Covid Response, Report Says


The Trump administration engaged in “deliberate efforts” to undermine the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic for political purposes, a congressional report released Friday concludes. The report, prepared by the House select subcommittee investigating the nation’s Covid response, says the White House repeatedly overruled public health and testing guidance by the nation’s top infectious disease experts and silenced officials in order to promote then-President Donald Trump’s political agenda. (Shabad, 12/17)


Los Angeles Times:
What’s The Timeline For Kids Under 5 To Get A COVID Vaccine? 


Kids as young as 5 can now get vaccinated against COVID-19. But what’s the timeline for children under 5?On Friday, Pfizer-BioNTech announced data from its ongoing trial of children 2 to 4 indicates that the vaccine dosage used — 3 micrograms, or one-tenth of the adult dose — did not produce a potent immune response in that group after two shots. But the two-shot regimen did produce a response — comparable to the one seen in 16-to-25-year-olds — in infants between 6 months and 2 years old. Children 5 to 11 receive a 10-microgram dose, or one-third of the formulation for people 12 and older. (Roy, 12/17)


CNN:
Pfizer’s Child-Sized Vaccine Fails To Produce Expected Immunity In Younger Kids; Company Adds Third Dose To Trials 


It showed that two child-sized doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine were not producing the expected immunity in the 2- to 5-year-olds, although they were doing so for the babies up to age 2.So the company said it would “amend” the trial to add a third dose. “The study will now include evaluating a third dose of 3 micrograms at least two months after the second dose of the two-dose series to provide high levels of protection in this young age group,” it said. (Fox and Langmaid, 12/17)


San Diego Union-Tribune:
San Diego Scientists Study How Long COVID-19 Immunity Lasts 


Elizabeth Kostas’s initial search for a coronavirus vaccine was an odyssey. The Carmel Valley resident only secured a dose after 10 tries and countless hours spent refreshing, clicking and filling out online scheduling systems. But Kostas, 70, was thrilled to get her shot soon after last winter’s surge, and equally happy to get her booster months later — especially after a vaccinated family member got COVID-19. (Wosen, 12/18)


Bay Area News Group:
Oakland Could Require COVID-19 Vaccine To Dine Indoors


People dining inside restaurants in Oakland or visiting other indoor public gathering spaces such as gyms may have to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 if the City Council approves an emergency ordinance on Tuesday. The ordinance, proposed by Councilmember Dan Kalb, is similar to ones adopted several weeks ago by San Francisco and Contra Costa counties and the city of Berkeley. (Sciacca, 12/18)


Bay Area News Group:
Unmasked Parent Prompts Carmel Unified School District To Cancel Board Meeting


As the Carmel Unified School District prepared to open its last regular board meeting of the year for public session Wednesday night, a refusal to wear a mask by one member of the in-person crowd prompted the district to involve law enforcement, and ultimately cancel the meeting altogether. “This is happening all across our country right now, and now it seems it’s happening right in our backyard,” said Ted Knight, Carmel Unified superintendent. “Our education system is the bedrock of our democracy, but situations like this have me worried about our future.” (Kenny, 12/20)


AP:
Troops Find Religious Exemption For Vaccines Unattainable 


More than 12,000 military service members refusing the COVID-19 vaccine are seeking religious exemptions, and so far they are having zero success. That total lack of approvals is creating new tensions within the military, even as the vast majority of the armed forces have gotten vaccinated. The services, urgently trying to keep the coronavirus pandemic in check by getting troops vaccinated, are now besieged with exemption requests they are unlikely to approve. Meanwhile, troops claiming religious reasons for avoiding the shots are perplexed because exemptions are theoretically available, yet seem impossible to obtain. (Baldor, 12/19)


The New York Times:
C.D.C. Says Unvaccinated Students Exposed To Virus Can ‘Test And Stay’ 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that unvaccinated students exposed to the coronavirus can remain in school, as long as they are tested for the virus twice in the week after and both tests come back negative. The new guidance, known as the “test-to-stay” protocol, could ease the burden on children who have been expected to stay home if a close contact tested positive for the virus, and on parents who have had to scramble to retrieve them from school or find day care. It also aims to minimize disruptions to learning as two highly contagious variants of the virus spread across the country, causing some school closures and threatening to upend the strategies that federal and state officials adopted to return to in-person classes in the fall. (Weiland and Anthes, 12/17)


ABC News:
Major Sports And Entertainment Events Canceled, Rescheduled Due To Rising COVID-19 Cases 


With a rise in COVID-19 cases across the nation alongside spread of the new omicron variant, several major events this week have been rescheduled or canceled. … The NBA announced Sunday it has postponed five upcoming games “because of players and staff members entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols.” … The NFL on Friday rescheduled three games, including moving Saturday’s contest between the Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Raiders to Monday at 5 p.m. ET. (Agarwal, 12/19)


Daily News:
UCLA Men’s And Women’s Basketball Teams Stalled By COVID-19 Protocols 


The basketball teams at UCLA won’t be returning to the court any time soon. The men’s basketball team had its Wednesday nonconference game against Cal Poly canceled Saturday due to the COVID-19 protocols within the Bruins’ program. It’s the third consecutive game canceled for the fourth-ranked Bruins after games with Alabama State on Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion and North Carolina on Saturday in Las Vegas were recently called off. (Fattal, 12/18)


Bay Area News Group:
Andrew Wiggins In NBA COVID Protocols, Joins Warriors’ Jordan Poole


Andrew Wiggins has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will miss Monday’s game against the Kings. He joins Jordan Poole on the Warriors’ list of players who will miss games due to the league’s protocols. Poole is isolating in Boston after he entered the protocols Friday. It is not clear if Wiggins returned to the Bay Area prior to landing in the protocols, or if he is stuck in Toronto. (Nowels, 12/19)


Los Angeles Times:
Lakers, With Coach Frank Vogel On COVID List, Lose To Bulls 


Lakers coach Frank Vogel wasn’t on the sideline, another one of his players entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and one of team’s biggest stars had on a bulky knee brace visible through his sweats. And all things considered, there was good news to be celebrated Sunday. That news just didn’t include a win. (Woike, 12/19)


Los Angeles Times:
Manchin Says He Cannot Support Biden’s Social Spending Plan 


Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III appeared to pull the plug on the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda, saying Sunday that he cannot support the House-passed version of his party’s massive social spending package, prompting a sharp rejoinder from the White House and sending delicate negotiations into a spiral of bitter accusations. “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t,” Manchin of West Virginia said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a no on this legislation.” (Stokols, 12/19)


The Hill:
White House Says Manchin Went Back On His Word 


White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) opposition to President Biden’s social spending package was “a breach of his commitments,” calling his reversal on the bill “inexplicable.” “Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances,” Psaki said in a statement on Sunday shortly after Manchin told Fox’s Bret Baier that he was a “no” on the legislation. (Gangitano, 12/19)


NBC News:
Democrats Plot Next Steps After Manchin Knifes Biden’s Build Back Better Act


Democrats, stunned and angry at Sen. Joe Manchin’s move Sunday to knife the Build Back Better Act, are grappling with whether President Joe Biden’s signature legislation can be salvaged in a smaller form. Based on remarks by Manchin, D-W.Va., some lawmakers see a glimmer of hope that the roughly $2 trillion bill could still be restructured to meet his demands, albeit with painful sacrifices. Put another way: The patient may not have a heartbeat, but they believe it can still be resuscitated. (Kapur, 12/20)


Politico:
How 14 Policies Could Survive — Or Die — After Manchin’s ‘No’ 


Here‘s where Manchin stands on individual pieces of the president’s plan: What’s in it: Expanded Medicare benefits to include dental, vision and hearing. That coverage would be phased in over most of the next decade. Manchin’s take: Manchin objected to adding new benefits, warning the entitlement program is headed toward insolvency in its present form. He eventually acceded to a pared-back plan to cover just hearing, but then said that even those benefits may be a problem — citing concerns about the program’s cash flow. (Scholtes, Bustillo and Choi, 12/19)


The Bakersfield Californian:
Adventist Health Is Offering Mobile Care Program 


Adventist Health Kern County is offering its mobile health program next week in December at the following times and locations. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday next week, as well as on Dec. 27-28, the mobile health care program will be at 105 Wiley St. in McFarland; on Wednesday, it will be ​​at 901 Nectarine Court in Arvin. (12/17)


San Diego Union-Tribune:
UCSD Breaks Ground On $3 Billion, 15-Year Rebuild Of Hillcrest Campus 


UC San Diego reaffirmed its commitment to serving patients in central and southern parts of the city Friday, breaking ground on what officials say will be a $3 billion investment rebuilding its existing medical campus in Hillcrest. It is estimated to take 15 years to complete the transformation, which starts with building a 250,000-square-foot outpatient building and 1,800-spot parking garage on a parcel just east of UC San Diego Medical Center. (Sisson, 12/17)


Modesto Bee:
Rep. Josh Harder Visits Stanislaus School Health Center 


Rep. Josh Harder toured a school-based health center in Modesto on Thursday to talk about funding and learn about the center’s needs. Modesto City Schools’ Hanshaw Middle School is one of five school-based health centers in Stanislaus run by Golden Valley Health Centers, a healthcare provider in the Central Valley. The center provides medical, dental, behavioral and mental healthcare to students and families at Hanshaw and feeder elementary schools, said Yamilet Valladolid, GVHC’s director of government and community affairs. (Isaacman, 12/17)


The Bakersfield Californian:
Bakersfield Doctor With Repeat Offenses Surrenders License To Practice 


A local mother said Friday her deceased pregnant daughter was denied justice when the Medical Board of California decided to forgo an administrative hearing for a Bakersfield doctor accused of negligence in her death and agreed to let him surrender his license. “It was so disappointing,” said Tracy Dominguez, the mother of 23-year-old Demi Dominguez. “I was upset and hurt.” Arthur M. Park, an OB-GYN, was scheduled to appear before an administrative judge in early January for a hearing about his license in the case about Demi Dominguez. However, according to a filing by the Medical Board of California, Park approved surrendering his license Dec. 3 so that he could never practice as a physician and surgeon in California. The agreement becomes effective Dec. 30. (Desai, 12/17)


The New York Times:
A Popular Test Claims To Boost I.V.F. Success. The Science Is Unclear. 


For patients undergoing in vitro fertilization, there is a common test to help determine the best time to transfer the embryo for a successful pregnancy. But new research has patients and doctors questioning whether the test — one of a growing number of expensive “add-ons” for I.V.F. patients — is effective for first-time patients. The test, called an endometrial receptivity analysis, takes a biopsy of the interior lining of the uterus. Then a lab analyzes the tissue for more than 200 genes to predict the best time to place the embryo in the uterus, according to the test’s manufacturer, Igenomix. (Klein, 12/18)


Los Angeles Times:
For Newsom, Childhood Struggle To Read Shaped His Life And Career 


In front of the cameras, Newsom’s propensity for rattling off numbers and facts can feed into the public image of a self-assured and all-too-polished politician. But it’s also a byproduct of insecurities over learning issues that seeped into his consciousness at an early age. “I’m in a sort of perpetual place of trying to overcompensate, trying to prove something to myself,” Newsom said. Dyslexia affects 20% of the population and can be experienced differently from person to person, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. (Luna and Willon, 12/18)


Berkeleyside:
Berkeley’s Golden Bear Hotel Could Become Permanent Affordable Housing


Berkeley and Bay Area Community Services will apply for state funding to turn the Golden Bear Hotel in Northwest Berkeley into permanent supportive housing through the state Homekey program that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, following City Council approval Tuesday. If the state grants the funding, it would be Berkeley’s first project of the kind, with 44 units of long-term housing, deed-restricted for 55 years as “Golden Bear Inn.” The city will reserve $8.4 million for the program and request an additional $15 million from the state, which will go directly to BACS and Memar Properties to buy the building. (Yelimeli, 12/15)


Bay Area News Group:
Goodness Village Tiny Homes The First Step To Restoring Lives, Dignity


As he recently told a story of how missteps, mistreatment and misery led to him becoming homeless, Nacho was surrounded by others at Livermore’s Goodness Village with similar tales. The shared stories by those assembled in a cramped communal room were cathartic. Their stories were also bound together by a palpable sense that better days really are here. They’ve each found an actual permanent home to rent in this new “tiny house” community consisting of 28 small houses built on unused Crosswinds Church property. Once Nacho arrived last month, Goodness Village, a 501c3 nonprofit, reached its full capacity, with its residents ranging from ages 27-76. (Becker, 12/19)


Reveal:
Handcuffed And Unhoused


Reveal looked at six major cities up and down the West Coast and found that people living on the streets are consistently more likely to be arrested than their neighbors who live in houses. At the same time, places such as Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles are now grappling with a major court decision. In 2019, the Supreme Court let a ruling stand that says it’s cruel and unusual punishment to arrest people who are sleeping or camping in public places if there is no shelter for them to stay. In Portland, the city is trying to build more shelters, but there is pushback from residents who don’t want a shelter in their neighborhood. People are growing frustrated, and they want the problem to go away. Reporter Melissa Lewis tells the story of these intersecting parts after spending months talking to unhoused people who go to weekly dinners at a neighborhood park.  (12/18)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Doctor Turns His Photos Of S.F. Homeless Residents Into Huge Street-Facing Exhibit


On his walk home from work, Dr. Eduardo Peña Dolhun passes people living on the sidewalk along Polk Street and Broadway. He’d made that walk hundreds of time before one evening on a whim he stopped at a man resting on the sidewalk and said, “Hello sir, I’m a community doctor, are you homeless?” That one-minute conversation ended with Dolhun shooting an iPhone video clip and a still image with the camera he always carried. He never again saw that man, an HIV-positive U.S. Air Force vet named Reginald. But he’d like to, if only to inform Reginald that his portrait, smiling in a Giants cap, is now a 10-foot tall picture hanging on an exterior wall of the former High School of Commerce across from SFJAZZ on the corner of Franklin and Fell streets. (Whiting, 12/19)

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