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Monday, September 13
The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief is pledging to rapidly evaluate COVID-19 vaccines for younger kids — as soon as the studies are in.
Dr. Peter Marks tells The Associated Press he is “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by the year’s end.
One company, Pfizer, is expected to turn over its study results by the end of September, and Marks said the FDA hopes to analyze the data in a matter of weeks.
He affirmed that the agency wouldn’t cut corners in the possible vaccine approval.
President Joe Biden’s administration is gearing up for another major clash between federal and state rules over its sweeping new vaccine requirements that have Republican governors threatening lawsuits, according to the Associated Press.
But while many details about the rules remain unknown, some experts say Biden appears to be on firm legal ground to issue the directive in the name of protecting employee safety.
Republicans swiftly denounced the mandate that could impact 100 million Americans as “government overreach” and vowed to sue. If they follow through, it would become another test of state power versus federal power over rules not meant to be enforced daily, but rather to have its intended effect by threat.
The United Nations chief has issued a dire warning that the world is moving in the wrong direction and faces “a pivotal moment.”
According to the Associated Press, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that continuing “business as usual” could lead to a breakdown of global order and a future of perpetual crises.
He says that the world is under “enormous stress” on almost every front and that the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call that highlighted the failure of nations to come together and take joint decisions to help all people in the face of a life-threatening global emergency.
Guterres also said that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deficiencies in the global financial system. During the pandemic, he noted that the 10 richest men in the world saw their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the COVID-19 pandemic began while 55% of the world’s population, or about 4 billion people, “are one step away from destitution, with no social protection whatsoever.”
To address the threats of social instability, the U.N. chief recommended a series of measures “to provide universal health coverage, education, housing, decent work and income protection for everyone, everywhere.”
Sunday, September 12
On Saturday afternoon, Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced on Twitter that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He said he received a positive test on Friday. The mayor, who turns 62 in October, is fully vaccinated.
“I am experiencing a fever and cold-like symptoms. I will be fine as I quarantine at home and refrain from public events until doctors tell me it’s safe for me to go out,” Steinberg said on Twitter. “Please everybody get vaccinated. The Delta variant is highly contagious, and if you’re not vaccinated there’s a much higher chance of serious illness or death. Please take good care, Sacramento.”
Saturday, September 11
Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those fully vaccinated, according to new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The studies, which were released Friday and analyzed data from 600,000 Americans between April 4 and July 17, also found that vaccinated people were nearly five times less likely to get infected and 10 times less likely to get so sick they ended up in the hospital.
However, the studies suggest that the effectiveness of the vaccines may have dropped as the delta variant became dominant.
Friday, September 10
The Los Angeles board of education has voted to require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend in-person classes in the nation’s second-largest school district.
The board’s Thursday vote makes LA by far the largest of a very small number of school districts with a vaccine requirement.
Nearby Culver City imposed a similar policy last month for its 7,000 students. For comparison, LA has more than 600,000 students.
Under the LA plan, students 12 and up who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities need to get both of the two shots by the end of October. Other students have until Dec. 19.
Symptoms that persist, recur, or begin a month or more after a COVID-19 infection can affect children and teens as well as adults, according to the Associated Press.
Estimates vary on how often these “long COVID” symptoms occur in kids. A recently published U.K. study found that about 4% had COVID-19 symptoms more than a month after getting infected.
Fatigue, headaches and loss of smell were among the most common complaints and most were gone by two months.
Coughing, chest pain and brain fog also have been seen in affected kids. Long COVID-19 can occur even when the initial infection was mild or had no symptoms.
Larger U.S. businesses won’t have to decide whether to require their employees to get COVID-19 vaccines — it’s now federal policy, although some important details remain to be worked out.
According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden announced sweeping new orders on Thursday requiring employers with more than 100 workers to mandate immunizations or offer weekly testing.
Large swaths of the private sector have already stepped in to mandate vaccinations for at least some of their employees. However, the U.S. is still struggling to curb the surging delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.
Thursday, September 9
California lawmakers have shelved bills aimed at requiring state workers to either be vaccinated or get tested weekly for coronavirus to keep their jobs, according to the Associated Press.
One bill by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks would have required all workers to either receive the coronavirus vaccine or submit to weekly testing. Another bill by Assemblyman Evan Low sought to make sure state law protected businesses that chose to require their workers to be vaccinated.
Neither bill will advance this year. Wednesday, more than a thousand people gathered at the state Capitol to protest vaccine mandates. Organizers said they wanted to let lawmakers know they oppose the bills, which could return next year.
President Joe Biden is toughening COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers and contractors. He aims to boost vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizes the nation’s economic recovery.
Biden will sign a new executive order to require vaccination for executive branch employees and contractors who do business with the federal government, as reported by the Associated Press.
The step comes in advance of a speech Thursday afternoon outlining a six-pronged plan to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 vaccination.
A person familiar with the plan discussed details on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record.
The mu variant of the coronavirus was first identified in Colombia in January, and has since caused isolated outbreaks in South America, Europe and the U.S.
According to the Associated Press, last month, the World Health Organization listed it as a “variant of interest” because of concerns that it may make vaccines and treatments less effective, but evidence is needed.
So far, the mu variant doesn’t seem to be spreading quickly. Most countries remain concerned about the highly contagious delta variant — the dominant variant in almost all of the 174 countries where it’s been detected.
Wednesday, September 8
Butte County residents could see the return of an indoor mask mandate as local coronavirus cases continue to surge.
Public Health Director Danette York said the county’s health officer has the authority to issue mask mandates but said health officials have chosen to discuss the matter with the Board of Supervisors and health care providers before deciding.
“It may come. It may not, in the long run,” York said. “As of right now, though, we are following all state guidance.”
California health officials recommend universal mask use for public settings regardless of vaccination status. New numbers from the state show more than 100 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Butte County as of Monday. Those figures rival the surge last winter.
America’s summer of hope was supposed to get residents vaccinated against COVID-19 and save lives. Instead, hope has deflated as the delta variant is causing as many deaths as back in March 2021.
According to the Associated Press, the delta variant is filling hospitals and sickening an alarming number of children — so much so, that the total coronavirus-related deaths in some places has reached the highest levels since the start of the pandemic back in 2020.
School systems that reopened their classrooms are abruptly switching back to remote learning because of outbreaks. Legal disputes, threats and violence have erupted over mask and vaccine requirements.
The country’s death toll stands at more than 650,000, with one major forecast model projecting it will top 750,000 by Dec. 1.
The head of the World Health Organization is calling on rich countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year, expanding a call that has been largely ignored.
According to the Associated Press, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said he was “appalled” at comments by pharmaceutical manufacturers who said vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots and vaccines in countries in dire need of vaccinations but are facing shortages.
The WHO chief says, “I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”
The U.S. and other nations have already begun to administer booster shots for some vulnerable groups of residents.
Tuesday, September 7
Several unemployment benefits expired this week for thousands of Californians, including an additional $300-a-week in supplemental income and also benefits for gig workers.
Daniela Urban at the Center for Workers Rights in Sacramento says she’s been hearing from many people who are now panicked.
“Certainly the loss of the extra $300 a week of benefits, which there doesn’t seem to be any replacement for, impacts claimants’ day-to-day personal finances and will continue to make it a struggle for them to provide for their basic needs,” she said.
Unemployment numbers have improved for white and Asian American workers, according to Urban, but Black and Latino workers continue to see the highest rates of unemployment and will be disproportionately impacted.
But there is still time to help these workers, she says, especially as the pandemic continues and the Delta variant is surging.
“A lot depends on whether the state or government responds with additional support for workers who continue to be unemployed. This does not have to be the hard-stop end for unemployment benefits,” she said.
More than 50,000 people in Sacramento remain unemployed.
Nevada hospitals are seeing a severe shortage of nurses, and some northern Nevada hospitals are nearly out of staffed beds for patients.
According to the Associated Press, state and health officials recently said that Nevada is grappling with a nursing shortage like much of the country.
While the state already had a shortage of nurses even before the COVID-19 pandemic, each wave of the virus drove some to leave the profession altogether.
Dr. Chris Lake with the Nevada Hospital Association says a few concurrent events compound the issue:
- The number of unvaccinated people ending up in the hospital needing treatment
- Wildfire evacuees from another northern Nevada hospital are being moved around due to overcrowding
The resurgence of COVID-19 this summer and the national debate over vaccine requirements have created a fraught situation for U.S. first responders, who are dying in larger numbers but pushing back against mandates.
It’s a stark contrast from the beginning of the vaccine rollout when first responders were prioritized for shots.
According to the Associated Press, the mandates affect tens of thousands of police officers, firefighters, and others on the front lines across the country, many of whom are spurning the vaccine. Despite implementing consequences that range from weekly testing to suspension or termination, COVID-19 deaths are the leading cause of U.S. law enforcement line-of-duty deaths.
No national statistics show the vaccination rate for America’s entire population of first responders, but individual police and fire departments across the country report figures far below the national rate of 74% of adults who have had at least one dose.
COVID-19 booster shots may be coming for at least some Americans, but there’s still important science to be worked out over who really needs them and when.
According to the Associated Press, the Biden administration’s initial plan was to offer Pfizer or Moderna boosters starting Sept. 20.
While real-world data shows the vaccines used in the U.S. remain strongly protective against severe disease and death, their ability to prevent milder infection is dropping for reasons that are not fully understood.
Scientific advisers will publicly debate Pfizer’s evidence on Sept. 17. Officials say regulators want more data about Moderna’s boosters as well.
Monday, September 6
Children are making up a higher percentage of COVID-19 cases in Sacramento County, though health officials say some of the transmission is happening in the community and not just within schools.
Children are accounting for around 20% of new cases, Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said Thursday, compared to around 16% since the start of the pandemic.
“As schools open, we are seeing an increase in cases among children,” Kasirye said. “Most of them are mild and do not require hospitalizations, but still we are seeing an increase.”
Health officials said many cases being detected in schools were of children who caught COVID-19 at home or in the community, not of direct transmission in schools. Kasirye said the county has a team working with schools to identify cases, and encouraged everyone to continue wearing masks in school settings.
Kasirye said the county’s COVID-19 cases appear to be plateauing, despite the release of data from a backlog of cases from the Kaiser Permanente health system. Still, she said the county was nearing hospital capacity, though no patients have yet had to be transferred outside the county.
Saturday, September 4
Hospitals in the San Joaquin Valley are close to running out of beds in their intensive care units, triggering new rules from state health officials.
The region — which includes Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties — has less than 10% of its staffed adult ICU beds available for three consecutive days, according to the state Department of Public Health.
For the next week, hospitals with ICU beds available in the region are required to accept certain transfer patients, and other hospitals in the state can be required to accept transfers from the San Joaquin Valley. Health officials will reevaluate the order on Sept. 9.
While COVID-19 case counts in the state have slowed recently, rates of hospitalizations and deaths have continued to increase over the past two weeks. As of Saturday, 8,221 Californians were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 29% of all hospital patients in the San Joaquin Valley have tested positive.
Friday, September 3
10:55 a.m.: Nevada hospitals facing severe nursing shortages
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a nurse staffing crisis that is forcing many U.S. hospitals to pay top dollar to get the help they need to handle the crush of patients this summer, according to the Associated Press.
The problem, health leaders say, is twofold: nurses are quitting or retiring, exhausted or demoralized by the crisis. Many are leaving for lucrative temporary jobs with traveling nurse agencies that pay $5,000 or more a week.
Nevada hospitals are seeing a severe shortage of nurses as the northern part of the state’s hospitals are nearly out of staffed beds for patients.
Despite much of the country hitting critical nurse shortages, Nevada had a shortage before the pandemic even hit. Each wave of COVID-19 ended up driving some nurses to leave the profession entirely.
Dr. Chris Lake with the Nevada Hospital Association said the issue has been compounded by the unyielding number of unvaccinated people that end up in the hospital. Northern Nevada hospitals have also had to contend with evacuations due to the wildfires that have pushed patients off into other already-crowded hospitals.
The sharp shock of the coronavirus recession pushed Social Security a year closer to insolvency but left Medicare’s exhaustion date unchanged, according to the Associated Press.
It’s a counterintuitive assessment that deepens the uncertainty around the nation’s bedrock retirement programs. Social Security’s massive trust fund will be unable to pay full benefits in 2034 instead of last year’s estimated exhaustion date of 2035.
The depletion date for Medicare’s trust fund for inpatient care remained unchanged from last year, estimated in 2026. The full impact of the coronavirus pandemic will take several more years to play out.
Health investigators across the U.S. are finding it nearly impossible to keep up with the deluge of new COVID-19 infections, according to the Associated Press.
The tidal wave of infections is hampering the contact tracing efforts that were once seen as a pillar in the nation’s pandemic response.
States are hiring new staff and seeking volunteers to bolster the ranks of contact tracers that have been completely overwhelmed by surging coronavirus cases.
Some health departments have just a few dozen investigators to respond to thousands of cases each day. Some states trimmed their tracing teams when virus numbers dropped — now they’re scrambling to train new investigators.
Others have triaged their teams to focus on the most vulnerable, such as cases involving schools.
Thursday, September 2
A Los Angeles couple who were convicted of helping steal $18 million in COVID-19 relief funds are on the lam after cutting off their ankle monitors, according to the Associated Press.
The FBI announced that Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian are considered fugitives. The couple was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in June and were potentially facing decades in prison.
The couple, Ayvazyan’s brother and a Glendale man, were convicted in June of submitting phony loan applications for federal business relief funds.
Prosecutors said they actually spent the money to buy expensive homes, gold coins, diamonds, jewelry and other luxuries.
More companies are requiring COVID-19 vaccines and taking actions to motivate employees into getting their shots. So much so that many may fire workers who don’t comply or charge them more for their health insurance, according to the Associated Press.
Employers also might limit business travel or perks like access to the company gym only to the vaccinated. Many businesses also have been offering cash, gift cards, and other incentives to workers who get shots.
But since Pfizer’s vaccine recently got full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, more employers have started taking a harder stance on vaccination.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 340,000, a pandemic low, another sign that the job market is steadily rebounding from the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, jobless claims dropped by 14,000. Vaccinations for COVID-19 have supported the job market by encouraging businesses to reopen or expand hours for consumers to return to restaurants, bars and shops.
In response, employers across the country have been boosting hiring to meet a surge in consumer demand. Still, a resurgence of cases tied to the highly contagious delta variant has clouded the economic outlook.
Wednesday, September 1
More than 80% of the people eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in California have received at least one dose, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the news yesterday at an Oakland vaccine clinic. He said California is now among the top 10 states in vaccination rates, despite California having by far the largest population of any state in the U.S.
Newsom said vaccinations have increased steadily in recent weeks after orders requiring state workers and teachers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
Newsom faces a recall election on Sept. 14. His Republican opponents oppose his vaccine orders.
A growing number of school board members across the U.S. are resigning or questioning their willingness to serve. Many have pointed to the reality that meetings have devolved into shouting contests over contentious issues like masking and vaccinations in schools.
According to the Associated Press, board members are largely unpaid volunteers, often former educators and parents who step forward to shape school policy and choose a superintendent.
School districts in Nevada, Wisconsin, and elsewhere have seen multiple departures in recent weeks, some saying they fear for their safety. Board members say the charged political climate that has seeped from the national stage into their meetings has made a difficult job even more challenging.
Black farmers and farmers of color are battling in the courts to save a $4 billion debt relief program approved by Congress, according to the Associated Press.
Congress approved this debt relief for 16,000 farmers of color in March as a part of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. The funding was intended to remedy past discrimination in U.S. Department of Agriculture loan programs.
White farmers have sued, arguing that the relief is discriminatory. The USDA’s history of discrimination is so pervasive that many Black farmers call the government agency “the last plantation.” They’re now fighting with the USDA to defend the debt relief program.
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California Coronavirus Updates: Top FDA Official Hopeful That Younger Children Can Get COVID-19 Vaccine By The End Of The Year