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Table of Contents
Wednesday, April 7
A group of California state lawmakers are accusing trucking companies of misclassifying their drivers as independent contracts during the pandemic.
Labor union leaders and a trio of Latina Democrats say the misclassification means that drivers who carry cargo from ports haven’t been able to get paid sick time or unemployment. Sen. Maria Elena Durazo said that in some cases, companies even make workers pay unemployment insurance taxes — something which employers should pay.
“In addition to the systematic wage theft, the pandemic has unveiled how misclassification has left a largely immigrant workforce without a safety net,” Durazo said.
She and two other lawmakers are running separate bills to crack down on the trucking companies by increasing transparency over disputes and withholding clean transportation grants, rebates and incentives.
A lobbyist with the California Trucking Association said in a statement that the bills will only hurt California’s climate goals and worsen supply chain bottlenecks.
Health officials are taking mobile coronavirus vaccination units this week to the Nye County community of Pahrump and a northern Nevada tribal site in Carson City, according to the Associated Press.
In Las Vegas, a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site was opened Wednesday at Allegiant Stadium. The Southern Nevada Health District reported Tuesday it had more vaccination slots available than people booking appointments at its biggest shot sites, even though everyone 16 and older in the state is eligible to receive the vaccine.
On Tuesday, officials said that roughly 21% of the state population have been vaccinated.
The Sam & Bonnie Pannell Community Center in South Sacramento is entering its fifth week of community vaccination, with plans to provide 3,400 inoculations to eligible residents on April 9.
In collaboration with Sacramento County Public Health, the city of Sacramento, Councilmember Mai Vang, plus many groups, the clinic has focused on equitable vaccine distribution.
"Since day one, we have been focused on ensuring that Sacramento recovers equitably from the COVID-19 pandemic," Vang said. "This starts with ensuring that vaccine access, resources and education are delivered in languages spoken by our community, by people trusted by our community — and that they're provided right here in south Sacramento, where they're needed the most."
Residents who have priority for the April 9 vaccinations include: 95815, 95824, 95838, 95660, 95823, 95832, 95639, 95820, 95828, 95841, 95842 & 95821.
Please share! @SacCountyCA just confirmed that those living in the following zip codes in @TheCityofSac who are ages 16+ are eligible to be registered for the Pfizer vaccine (Moderna & Johnson and Johnson may only be administered to those 18+) pic.twitter.com/6ro5jHaTIc
— Councilmember Mai Vang (@CMMaiVang) April 6, 2021
Residents who qualify can contact the city of Sacramento Vaccine Text Hotline by texting "vaccine" to (916) 476-2225 to check eligibility and get put on a list for volunteers to schedule a vaccine appointment for Friday, April 9 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine can also be made by calling any of these community partners:
- Sacramento NAACP - (916) 750-5625
- South Sac Christian Center - (916) 681-6791
- Genesis Church - (916) 399-4936
- Rose Family Creative Empowerment Center - (916) 376-7916
- Antioch Progressive Church - (916) 385-8498
- La Familia Counseling Center (speaks Spanish, Arabic, and Hmong) - (916) 990-1311
- Tetteh Pediatric Health (speaks Spanish and Hmong) - (916) 224-8244
- Hmong Innovating Politics (speaks Hmong) - (916) 546-5254
- Hmong Youth & Parents United (speaks Hmong) - (916) 761-1840
- CPALSs (speaks Vietnamese) - (916) 891-9999
California is turning to a more straightforward, statewide approach as it prepares to lift most pandemic restrictions on businesses and workplaces by June 15, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Gavin Newsom had previously adopted a system that put each of the 58 counties into one of four color-coded tiers based on a slew of metrics on case rates and hospitalizations, leading to each county often being open at different restriction levels.
Now, that’s all going out the window as long as most Californians can access the vaccine and hospitalization rates remain low by the start of the summer. The news comes as California expects to have administered more than 30 million vaccine doses by the end of April and as case rates are low.
The government recently reported that more than half a million Americans have already taken advantage of the Biden administration’s special health insurance sign-up window that’s tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And according to the Associated Press, the government anticipates even more people will gain coverage in the coming months. Why? That’s because millions of people just became eligible for pumped-up taxpayer subsidies toward their premiums under President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief legislation.
With the number of uninsured Americans rising during the pandemic due to layoffs, Biden reopened the law’s health insurance markets as a backstop. Since then, the virus aid package also essentially delivered a health insurance price cut by making taxpayer subsidies more generous while allowing more people to qualify for financial assistance.
Tuesday, April 6
San Joaquin County has moved out of the purple tier for COVID-19 restrictions and into the less restrictive red tier.
El Dorado County is also moving into a less restrictive tier from red to orange.
“California is making great progress in administering COVID-19 vaccine doses,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency. “We must continue to do our best to vaccinate Californians as safely and quickly as possible. Our vaccine equity focus remains the right thing to do and ensures we are having the greatest impact in reducing transmission, protecting our health care delivery system and saving lives.”
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. In the orange tier, that rises to 50% capacity for restaurants and movie theaters and 25% for gyms. Bars can also reopen outdoors with modifications in the orange tier.
On Tuesday California announced it had administered 4 million vaccine doses in hard-hit areas, measured by the state's Healthy Places Index. That triggered a loosening of the tier thresholds, allowing some counties to move into less-restrictive tiers faster.
The purple tier threshold will remain at greater than 10 cases per 100,000 residents. The red tier will narrow to 6-10 cases per 100,000, and the orange tier range will shift to 2-5.9 cases per 100,0000. The yellow tier will move to 2 cases per 100,000.
Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday announced a plan to fully reopen California’s economy if current coronavirus trends continue.
California has administered more than 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, and supply is still ramping up. Newsom says as long as that continues, and if hospitalizations remain low, the state’s color tier system for business restrictions can end.
“We’ll be moving past the dimmer switch, we’ll be getting rid of the blueprint as you know it today,” he said. “That’s on June 15 if we continue the good work.”
Masks and other health measures will still be required in public.
Last week, the state indicated that some businesses could begin requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to get in.
Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at UC San Francisco, says even with COVID-19 variants, this is good news.
“Most of the signals are positive and I think there’s a very good chance we’ll be in an excellent place and it will be appropriate to return not quite to normal, but to normal-ish,” he said.
Wachter says the vaccines have been remarkably effective at staving off the virus. His only advice for people looking to return to their favorite activities this summer is: “Get vaccinated.”
Every Californian over the age of 16 becomes vaccine eligible April 15.
Although nearly a fifth of U.S. states don’t require people to wear masks to protect themselves and others against COVID-19, many businesses are still requiring their employees and customers to be masked on their premises.
Business owners ranging from manufacturers to retailers to massage therapists want to protect their staff and their customers, and according to the Associated Press, the law is on their side.
Because businesses are private properties, owners can set the rules. Employers are also obligated under federal law and some state laws to provide a safe workplace for their employees, and that may include requiring everyone on their property to wear a mask.
California is planning to fully reopen without restrictions by June 15 if COVID-19 hospitalizations remain low, though Gov. Gavin Nesom said the state has no plans to relax its mask mandate.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada is encouraging people to shop on the state's health insurance exchange to determine if they can get cheaper coverage thanks to the new federal coronavirus relief law.
According to the Associated Press, the senator said that the relief law increases subsidies for 60,000 Nevada residents already receiving them to help pay for their health insurance on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. She says the new law also makes 40,000 others eligible for subsidies.
Anyone receiving unemployment benefits is eligible for free monthly premiums and can receive help with paying copays and deductibles. As of Monday, the state has allowed anyone 16 and older to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccinating most Americans is plenty tough — and it’s worse if you’re in prison.
According to data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press, people inside prisons are not free to seek out vaccines and, on the whole, lack access almost entirely. Fewer than 20% of people in state and federal prisons have been vaccinated. In some states, prisoners and advocates have resorted to lawsuits to get access to vaccines.
About 3 in 10 people in the prison system have tested positive, and 2,500 have died. Prisons across the country are often overcrowded, with limited access to health care and protective gear. Populations inside are also more likely to have preexisting medical conditions.
In some facilities, even basic supplies like soap and toilet paper have been scarce. Mask-wearing is inconsistently enforced among both residents and guards. Prison residents often spend time in communal spaces, and open floor plans do little to contain the virus. Entire dormitories have reported being sick with COVID-19 symptoms.
Some prisoners hesitate to report feeling sick out of fear they’ll be placed in solitary confinement without proper care. Others report waiting days for medical care, sometimes being turned away or provided only aspirin.
Monday, April 5
Many areas of the United States are starting to see an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, according to an NPR analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
The increases vary throughout the country. The Midwest has seen a 58% increase in new cases over the past 14 days, while the number of cases in the Northeast has climbed by 30%. Cases in the West rose by 5% and the South showed a slight decline.
In California, new cases have stayed steady over the past two weeks at around 2,700 per day. But that comes after weeks of declining case numbers following this winter's surge, where more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases were identified in the state each day. Hospitalized patients with COVID-19 continue to decline.
The Crocker Art Museum is reopening Thursday now that Sacramento County is in the less restrictive red tier in California's COVID-19 reopening system.
The museum first closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. It reopened briefly in mid-October for an exhibition of Wayne Thiebaud paintings before abruptly closing in November because of new pandemic shutdown orders.
Crocker Art Museum Mort and Marcy Friedman Director and CEO Lial Jones said on CapRadio's Insight Monday that now is the right time to reopen.
"We're following CDC and state guidelines and Sacramento County has now entered the red tier so we're allowed to open to 25% capacity and we're happy to do so," Jones said.
Beginning this week, the Crocker will be open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advance ticket reservations are required and all visitors must wear face coverings. The museum will have four new showings, including an exhibition featuring the landscapes, shoreline and towns of the Netherlands. Jones said the Thiebaud exhibit will be back next year.
Health officials in Nevada expect a big first wave of people signing up for coronavirus vaccination appointments when age-based eligibility expands Monday to everyone 16 and older.
In Las Vegas, University Medical Center started accepting online signups Friday for appointments next week at its vaccination center at Encore Las Vegas, according to the Associated Press. The Southern Nevada Health District said sign ups start Saturday for appointments at sites including the Cashman Center and the Las Vegas Convention Center.
State vaccination chief Candice McDaniel said slots may go fast, but people should keep trying. In Reno, the Washoe County Health District reported that appointments were already full.
Volunteers in California are working to ensure that the thousands of farmworkers who toil in the fields every day receive coronavirus vaccinations.
According to the Associated Press, farmworkers are particularly vulnerable because they live in crowded housing and travel to farms in packed vehicles. Many cross the border from Mexico daily and are offered vaccinations as soon as they enter the United States.
California was the first state to make farmworkers eligible for vaccinations and is working to bring doses to workers. Officials say most farmworkers are eager to get the vaccine but may not be able to sign up online.
Saturday, April 3
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its website to say that "people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States."
However, the CDC continues to discourage nonessential travel.
Those who are fully vaccinated—which means two weeks after they received their last dose—will no longer need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it. They also do not need to self-quarantine upon return.
Less than a month ago, the CDC first released updated guidance about gatherings for fully vaccinated people.
Read more here.
Friday, April 2
As most California counties move into less restrictive tiers under the state’s reopening system, San Joaquin County is one of just three remaining in the most severe purple category.
Ginger Manss is chief nursing officer for Community Medical Centers, a network of health clinics serving low-income and uninsured patients in the Central Valley. She says there are two things holding San Joaquin County back.
“One is our testing rates — our positivity rates are just over where they need to be in order to move to the next tier,” she said. “The second one is our health equity, getting our vaccines to the people most in need.”
Health officials say people haven’t been seeking tests as often since the vaccine roll-out began.
When people aren’t getting tested after travel or potential exposures, they may be unknowingly spreading the virus to others.
County representatives say this is happening more in a handful of low-income ZIP codes. The county health department says they’ve added testing and vaccination sites in 10 of these areas where they’re seeing high case numbers. They hope this will slow the spread, and help them meet the state’s new vaccine distribution rules.
They’re hoping to change tiers later this month. In the meantime, they’re asking everyone to continue wearing masks and avoiding indoor gatherings.
A day after being inoculated with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Gavin Newsom was in San Diego Friday urging people eligible for COVID shots to get them.
"These vaccines are safe,” he said. “I took the vaccine 24 hours ago, honestly slept like a baby, feel great, no impacts whatsoever and I can't honestly ... I was trying to figure out, was it my left arm or my right arm? ... I can't even feel where the vaccine was administered."
With Easter two days away, Newsom also asked the public to stay vigilant in preventing the spread of COVID.
"Let's not run the 90-yard dash, let's not put down our guard, let's not drop these masks, let's continue to be mindful as we move into this very important holiday weekend," he said.
Meanwhile, the state public health department Thursday lifted a travel recommendation for Californians to stick close to home.
Latinos make up less than 40% of California's population but account for more than half of the state's COVID-19 cases.
Large immigrant and agricultural communities in counties like Merced have found their residents hit especially hard. Now, California is hoping that allocating 40% of doses to underserved communities can make an impact.
But to reach the people most in need, local clinics and residents are left to do much of the legwork. At Castle Family Health in Merced, workers are sending out organized social media campaigns to the community to answer their questions about the vaccine and correct misinformation. The health center has also been organizing large vaccination pop-ups in the county for teachers and other essential workers, along with outreach to local farms.
Other local clinics rely on what they call "promotoras" — people with deep connections in the Latino community who can broker connections between residents and the health care system.
While state officials acknowledge the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on Latinos and other communities of color, efforts towards vaccine equality over the past year have barely moved the needle.
The death rate for Latinos is 22% higher than the statewide average. While vaccines are allocated to neighborhoods and counties in need, supply still remains an issue.
The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a big part of the ramp-up and could help immunize transient populations, like migrant farmworkers.
Another Las Vegas casino operator says it will offer on-site coronavirus vaccinations to hospitality workers, according to the Associated Press.
Station Casinos said that it will host clinics starting on Tuesday at six of its properties in Las Vegas and suburban Henderson. American Medical Response will administer COVID-19 vaccines by appointment for workers and family members.
Station joins MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, the Cosmopolitan and Wynn Resorts with programs to inoculate employees on-site. Nevada state health officials reported 350 additional COVID-19 cases on Thursday, pushing the total number of state cases past 304,000 since March 2020. Including seven new deaths brings the death total to 5,256.
Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can enjoy again, according to the Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on Friday to announce that fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting a COVID-19 test or going into quarantine. The agency previously cautioned against unnecessary travel, even for vaccinated people.
According to the CDC, nearly 100 million people in the U.S. — about 30% of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, a person is only considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose.
Fully vaccinated people should still wear a mask and socially distance when traveling. For international travel, vaccinated people should still get a COVID-19 test before flying to the U.S. and be tested soon after returning. Travelers do not need to quarantine.
It should be noted that traveling could potentially introduce virus variants, and due to differences in vaccine coverage around the world, the CDC still urges caution on overseas travel.
Unvaccinated people are still advised to avoid any unnecessary travel.
Thursday, April 1
California has updated its coronavirus travel advisory to remove the recommendation that Californians not travel more than 120 miles from home.
The state still advises that postponing travel and staying home are the best ways to protect yourself and others from the virus.
The update to the travel advisory comes the same day the state opened vaccine eligibility to all those 50 and older.
The state has issued the following guidance for travelers:
- All travelers arriving in or returning to California from other states or countries should follow CDC travel guidance.
- All travelers should get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before travel.
- All travelers who test positive or develop symptoms of COVID-19 should isolate and follow public health recommendations.
To date, more than 18.4 million vaccine doses have been administered in California.
The state auditor released a report Thursday that found the California Department of Public Health’s pandemic spending has had mixed results.
The department has exceeded its testing expectations — doubling its target goal at the end of last year.
But it struggled in other areas. The state and its local counterparts have less than half the number of contact tracers it originally planned to hire.
And oversight of spending by local health departments has been lacking. The auditor found the state failed to collect progress reports from all counties and didn’t conduct proper evaluations of its data systems.
The Department of Public Health says it will revise its plan for hiring contact tracers and will work with counties to ensure they file necessary updates.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has received his dose of the one-shot Johnson-and-Johnson COVID vaccine. He got it Thursday, the same day people 50 and older in California became eligible for inoculations.
"Today's an important day obviously with the opportunity now for people my age that have been waiting," said Newsom, who is 53.
Afterward, Newsom urged Californians to remain vigilant in wearing masks and social distancing.
"The disease is not taking Easter weekend off. This disease is not taking spring break off. This disease remains as deadly as it's ever been," he said.
California has administered more than 18 million doses so far and 6.7 million people are fully vaccinated. The Democratic governor likely will face a recall election stemming partly from his handling of the pandemic.
Elk Grove Unified School District is welcoming back middle and high school students to in-person instruction on Thursday.
Students have the option of coming back to campus two days a week while wearing masks and sitting six feet apart. EGUSD Spokesperson Xanthi Soriano said some elementary school students have already been back in classrooms for the past couple of weeks and are following safety guidelines.
“On campus, we’re still maintaining six feet apart, starting or effective April 13, we will be changing that to reconfigure desks to three feet apart, with few exceptions,” Soriano said.
Soon older students will also be able to return for four days-a-week in-person instruction with desks spaced three feet apart, as per federal health guidelines.
“We’re going to see another wave of students being able to access the resources that we have at our schools,” Soriano said. “It will be just a great opportunity for them to have access to a routine and all of the school sites, including nutrition.”
While the district has had to deal with COVID-19 exposures since reopening, Soriano said the school is prepared to control transmission through quarantine and contact tracing.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
Experts are still studying how good COVID-19 vaccines are at preventing people from spreading the virus, but they believe the risk is low, according to the Associated Press.
The current vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from getting seriously sick with the coronavirus but even vaccinated people could get asymptomatically infected and spread it to others.
Given the uncertainty, experts say fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks, social distance in public, and when visiting unvaccinated and high-risk friends and family.
The Biden administration is unveiling a coalition of community, religious and celebrity partners to promote COVID-19 shots as it seeks to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
According to the Associated Press, the Department of Health and Human Services' new "We Can Do This" campaign features television and social media ads.
The campaign relies on a community corps of public health, athletic, faith, and other groups to spread the word about the three approved coronavirus vaccines' safety and efficacy.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy met Thursday with more than 275 inaugural community corps members to kick off the effort.
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