Monday, March 8

3:54 a.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.

9:45 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

5:32 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.

5:23 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.

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.

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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