California coronavirus updates: BART reinstates a mask mandate for passengers

Note: As of May 1, we are no longer updating this page. Find the latest coronavirus updates on our new blog here.

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Latest Updates

BART reinstates a mask mandate for passengers

Concerns over COVID-19 are split by race, according to poll

FDA to convene and discuss COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5

Moderna wants to release first COVID-19 for children under 5 in the US

Some US campuses and universities are reinstating mask mandates

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Friday, April 29

10:18 a.m.: Concerns over COVID-19 are split by race, according to poll

Black and Hispanic Americans remain far more cautious in their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic than white Americans — that’s according to recent polls that reflect diverging preferences on how to deal with the pandemic as federal, state and local restrictions decline.

Sixty-three percent of Black Americans and 68% of Hispanic Americans say they are at least somewhat worried about themselves or a family member being infected with the virus, compared with 45% of white Americans, according to an April poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Experts say divided opinions among racial groups reflect the unequal impact of the pandemic on people of color and apathy among some white Americans.

Thursday, April 28

Wednesday, April 27

10:35 a.m.: Fauci says ‘pandemic phase’ is over, but COVID-19 is still here

Dr. Anthony Fauci has given an upbeat assessment of the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., saying that the country is actually now “out of the pandemic phase” on new infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

As reported by the Associated Press, Fauci says the pandemic appears to be making a transition to becoming an endemic disease — regularly occurring in certain areas.

On Tuesday, he told PBS NewsHour it’s still a pandemic for much of the world, so the threat is not over for the U.S.

In comments Wednesday to The Washington Post, Fauci seemed to clarify his remarks, saying that unlike the “full-blown explosive pandemic phase” of the winter omicron surge, he was describing an apparent transition towards COVDI-19 becoming endemic.

His comments come as health authorities wrestle with how to keep COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations manageable while learning how to live with a virus that is still mutating in unpredictable ways.

9:43 a.m.: CDC study shows 3 out of 4 kids in US have gotten COVID-19

Government researchers say three out of every four U.S. children have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.

Among Americans of all ages, more than half had signs of previous infection.

The figures come from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released on Tuesday. It looked in the blood of more than 200,000 Americans for virus-fighting antibodies made from infections, not vaccines.

They found that signs of past infection rose dramatically between December and February when the omicron variant surged.

CDC officials stressed that the previously infected should still get COVID-19 vaccines, however.

The report came out the same day that Pfizer sought permission to offer a booster dose to kids ages 5 to 11 — just like how people 12 and older can get a booster.

Tuesday, April 26

6:09 p.m.: Yolo County detects increase in COVID-19 transmission

Yolo County health officials say a more contagious strain of the omicron variant is starting to drive an increase in transmission of COVID-19.

Officials say the local test positivity rate has risen over the past week and that higher virus levels have been detected in wastewater in Davis, which can indicate community spread before formal testing.

“Data show that COVID-19 is spreading in Yolo County, especially in Davis,” Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said in a statement. “Yolo residents are encouraged to take additional precautions to guard against infection.” 

Sisson said she strongly recommends masking indoors and getting tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed, or attended a large gathering. She also encourages everyone eligible to get a booster shot. 

According to California Department of Public Health data, Yolo County’s test positivity rate and daily average case rate are still below the state average, though increasing in recent days.

Officials say the increase has been driven by the BA.2.12.1 subvariant of omicron. The new variant now makes up nearly half of cases on the UC Davis campus after first being detected in late March.  

Monday, April 25

9:34 a.m.: Overdoses drive spike in LA homeless deaths as health care services cut during the pandemic

A new report shows that nearly 2,000 homeless people died in Los Angeles County during the first year of the pandemic — an increase of 56% from the previous year — mainly due to drug overdoses.

According to the Associated Press, the findings released Friday in a report from the county’s Department of Public Health showed that despite initial fears, the virus itself was not the main culprit in deaths among California’s unhoused population.

But the pandemic did cut people off from mental health and substance abuse treatment after services were drastically reduced to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Department of Public Health reported 715 fatal overdoses among homeless people in the pandemic’s first year.

9:06 a.m.: While current COVID-19 shots still work, researchers are hunting for new ones

COVID-19 vaccines still offer strong protection against severe illness and death, but Moderna and Pfizer are testing combination shots as a possible new kind of booster.

The vaccines now available in the U.S. were made to fight the original version of the virus.

According to the Associated Press, variants are chipping away at some benefits, particularly their effectiveness against mild infection.

New vaccine versions are being tested as mixes between the original vaccine plus protection against the super-contagious omicron variant.

Other companies are pursuing nasal vaccines that might one day better prevent milder infections. The hunt for improvements comes amid concern that “booster fatigue” may dampen public confidence in the successful shots.

9:01 a.m.: Beijing to mass-test most city residents as COVID-19 cases increase

Beijing authorities have announced they will conduct mass testing of most of the city’s 21 million people as new COVID-19 outbreaks sparks worries among residents of a Shanghai-style lockdown.

According to the Associated Press, 70 cases have been found in the Chinese capital since the outbreak surfaced Friday.

Some residents are working from home and stocking up on food as a safeguard against the possibility that they could be confined to their homes, as has happened in multiple cities, including the financial hub of Shanghai.

Shanghai reported 51 deaths in the latest 24-hour period, topping 100 deaths from the ongoing outbreak.

The country’s borders remain largely closed as the economic impact from China’s hard-line response to the pandemic continues to grow.

Friday, April 22

9:17 a.m.: Masks no longer required in public spaces, including airlines and transit systems

Masks are not currently required in a growing number of public spaces, including many airlines and public transit systems.

This came soon after a judge struck down a federal mask mandate aimed at controlling COVID-19’s spread.

For immunocompromised people, the changes might lead to questioning whether it’s safe to travel.

UC-San Francisco Department of Medicine Chair Dr. Robert Wacther says in some cases, it may be okay to travel.

“If they are fully vaccinated, taken two boosters, four shots, and they’ve taken the monoclonal antibody that significantly decreases the risk of COVID for immuno-suppressed people, and they wear an N-95, I think it’s safe for them to fly,” he said.

Wachter said that for children between two and five years of age who can’t yet be vaccinated, wearing a mask on a plane is likely to be enough protection from contracting the virus.

9:04 a.m.: Philadelphia flips on masking mandate

Philadelphia health officials say they’re ending the city’s indoor mask mandate, abruptly reversing course just days after people in the city had to start wearing masks again amid a sharp increase in infections.

According to the Associated Press, the Board of Health voted Thursday to rescind the mandate. The Philadelphia health department released a statement announcing the change that cited “decreasing hospitalization and a leveling of case counts.”

The health department did not release data to back up its reversal on masking, saying more information would be provided Friday.

Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate but faced fierce blowback as well as a legal effort to get the mandate thrown out.

Thursday, April 21

9:52 a.m.: California to close its main COVID-19 testing lab soon

California will close its main COVID-19 testing lab next month.

The facility in Los Angeles County has faced scrutiny since it opened. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration hired global health care company PerkinElmer to run the lab after awarding a no-bid contract worth up to $1.7 billion.

In a letter obtained by CapRadio, the state told the company it would terminate the contract within 45 days.

The Newson administration declined an interview request.

In a statement, it said antigen tests and commercial labs offer more flexibility.

PerkinElmer also declined an interview request. In a statement, the company claimed the state terminated the contract based on the overall drop in cases and demand for testing.

State inspectors identified significant deficiencies shortly after the lab opened. During the omicron surge this past winter, it also struggled to meet its 48-hour turnaround commitment.

It’s unclear what will happen to the large facility that the state spent $25 million to build out.

9:35 a.m.: WHO says deaths fell globally, but only small drop in the Americas

The World Health Organization says that the number of reported new COVID-19 cases worldwide decreased by nearly a quarter last week — that means there’s been a decline in reported infections since the end of March.

The Geneva-based U.N. health agency said in a weekly report that nearly 5.59 million cases were reported between April 11 and 17, which is 24% fewer than in the previous week.

The number of newly reported deaths dropped 21% to 18,215. WHO said new cases declined in every region, though only by 2% in the Americas.

Health experts also said that “these trends should be interpreted with caution as several countries are progressively changing their COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected.”

Wednesday, April 20

9:48 a.m.: New AP-NORC poll shows majority of Americans want masking on planes, trains and public transportation

A new poll finds that a majority of Americans continue to support mask requirements for people traveling on airplanes and other shared transportation.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 56% of Americans favor requiring people on planes, trains and public transportation to wear masks — that compares with 24% opposed and 20% who say they’re neither in favor nor opposed.

Interviews for the poll were conducted before a federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down the national mask mandate on airplanes and mass transit.

Airlines and airports immediately scrapped their requirements that passengers wear face coverings to protect against the coronavirus, including the Sacramento International Airport and SacRT.

9:34 a.m.: Justice Department won’t appeal mask mandate ruling until CDC says it’s needed

The Justice Department says it will not appeal a federal district judge’s ruling that ended the nation’s federal mask mandate on public transit unless the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes the requirement is still necessary.

On Monday, a judge in Florida ended the sweeping mandate, which required face coverings on planes and trains and in transit hubs, as reported by the Associated Press.

Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said Tuesday that officials believe the federal mask order was “a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health.”

The CDC continues to assess public health conditions, and if the agency determines a mandate is necessary, the Justice Department will file an appeal.

Tuesday, April 19

10:37 a.m.: Airlines drop mask mandates after federal judge’s ruling

U.S. airlines are lifting mask mandates after a federal judge in Florida ruled against the Biden administration’s mandatory mask mandate for travelers on planes and other public forms of transportation.

Monday’s ruling quickly reshaped U.S. air travel, as a cascade of carriers from Delta and United to Southwest and American said masks are now optional for travelers aboard their aircraft.

The massive shift means many airline employees no longer have to wear masks — and won’t have to enforce the rule on passengers. But airlines also warn that travelers should still bring a mask on their trip to conform with the rules where they land, particularly for international flights.

As of Tuesday morning, Delta, United, Southwest, American and Alaska Airlines have made masks optional for passengers. Read more about what airlines are requiring from NPR.

— Jonathan Franklin, Bill Chappell, NPR

8:42 a.m.: Moderna announces step toward updating COVID shots for fall

Moderna hopes to offer updated COVID-19 boosters in the fall that combine the original vaccine with protection against the latest variant. Now it’s reporting a hint that such an approach might work, according to the Associated Press. 

Before omicron struck, Moderna began testing a shot combining the original vaccine with protection against an earlier variant named beta. The company says people given that test combo shot developed more antibodies capable of fighting newer variants — including omicron — than today’s regular booster. 

Studies are underway to see if a combination shot that adds omicron-specific protection works better.

6:43 a.m.: Trucker convoy rolls into Sacramento, protesting California COVID-19 bills

Earlier this year, truckers in Canada banded together to protest vaccine mandates. The so-called People’s Convoy is doing the same in the U.S., including a stop at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Monday.

Over 100 people gathered to protest several California COVID-19 bills about testing, vaccine requirements and preventing misinformation.

John Barbee has traveled with the convoy for weeks. He says the protests aren’t about being anti-vax or anti-mask, they’re about being pro-choice. 

“I just thought it was time to get on with life,” he said of the pandemic. “The People’s Convoy is primarily about medical freedom. We’re not anti-mask, we’re not anti-vaccine, we’re pro-choice. Personally, I’ve been vaccinated. I don’t care if anyone else has been or hasn’t been.”

One of the bills they’re protesting was withdrawn last week. It would have required K-12 students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend public school.

The group is returning Tuesday to protest outside the Capitol building for two more days.

Monday, April 18

9:43 a.m.: States scale back assistance increased during COVID-19 pandemic even as prices soar

Month by month, more of the roughly 40 million Americans who get help buying groceries through the federal food stamp programs are seeing their benefits plunge.

The reductions come even as the nation struggles with the biggest increase in food costs in decades.

As reported by the Associated Press, the payments to low-income individuals and families are dropping as governors end COVID-19 disaster declarations and opt-out of a still-ongoing federal program that made their states eligible for dramatic increases in SNAP benefits.

The increased benefits were in response to surging unemployment after the COVID-19 pandemic swept over the country. The result is that depending on the politics of a state, people find themselves eligible for significantly different levels of help buying food.

9:16 a.m.: Shanghai reports first deaths from latest COVID-19 outbreak

Officials say three people have died from COVID-19 in Shanghai, in the first reported deaths in the latest outbreak in China’s most populous and wealthiest city.

According to the Associated Press, a City Health Commission inspector says all three were elderly, had underlying diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and were not vaccinated against the coronavirus.

However, there’s been some confusion over the total death count. The BBC reports that dozens of older adult patients at a hospital in Shanghai have died after contracting the coronavirus, but official government figures claim no deaths in the city have been caused by the disease since 2020.

Reporters say they have access to official documents that suggest at least 27 patients from a single hospital, who weren’t vaccinated, have died from what it called “underlying health problems.”

Most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents are being confined to their homes for a third week as China continues to employ a “zero-tolerance” approach to eliminate the virus.

Friday, April 15

Thursday, April 14

5:56 p.m.: California Department of Public Health holding off on vaccine requirement for schoolchildren

The California Department of Public Health is holding off on requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for schoolchildren until at least July 2023. The Federal Drug Administration still hasn’t granted full authorization for the shot for children under 16. 

Meanwhile, a bill that would have required the shot for students has also been shelved. 

Pediatrician and Democratic State Senator Dr. Richard Pan says a big factor in lagging child vaccination rates is access. He notes that not all doctors keep the COVID-19 vaccine on hand.

“Getting vaccines to kids is not that simple,” Pan said. “So you have to have storage, you have to get the vaccine, you have to make sure they’re maintained appropriately.”

Pan says access should be a priority before the state adds the shot to the list of vaccines already required to attend public or private schools.

9:47 a.m.: US unemployment claims rise but remain at historically low level

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits in the U.S. ticked up last week but remained at a historically low level, reflecting a robust labor market with near record-high job openings and few layoffs.

Jobless claims rose by 18,000 to 185,000 this week, the Labor Department said, after nearly touching the lowest level since 1968 the previous week.

According to the Associated Press, the four-week average of claims, which levels out week-to-week ups and downs, edged up from 170,000 to 172,000.

Two years after the coronavirus pandemic sent the economy into a brief but devastating recession, American workers are enjoying extraordinary job security.

Weekly applications for unemployment aid, a proxy for layoffs, have remained consistently below their pre-pandemic level of 225,000.

9:14 a.m.: Homeschooling rates continue to climb despite schools reopening

The coronavirus pandemic ushered in what may be the most rapid rise in homeschooling the U.S. has ever seen. Now, even with schools back open and vaccines available, many homeschooling families are sticking with it.

Data obtained by the Associated Press found homeschooling numbers this year dipped from last year’s all-time high, but are still significantly above pre-pandemic levels.

Families may have turned to homeschooling as an alternative to hastily assembled remote learning plans.

Black families make up many of the homeschool converts. The proportion of Black families homeschooling their children increased by five times, from 3.3% to 16.1%, from spring 2020 to the fall, while the proportion about doubled across other groups.

One mother who spoke to the AP said she converted her dining room into a classroom and rearranged her work schedule to take over her children’s education, adding lessons on financial literacy, Black history and Caribbean history important to her heritage.

Many families say they’re keeping up with homeschooling for many reasons, including continuing COVID-19 health concerns, disagreements with school policies and a desire to keep what has worked for their children.

Wednesday, April 13

9:32 a.m.: Will everyone need a second booster shot? Researchers are still trying to figure that out.

Many Americans haven’t gotten an initial COVID-19 booster, even though a second one is authorized for some. 

Others not in the original pool of people eligible for a second booster are waiting to see if they can get one as well. 

According to NPR, an FDA advisory committee met Wednesday to discuss what’s next in the country’s booster strategy.

Dr. Anthony Fauci tells NPR the path forward is paved with uncertainties about whether more variants will arise, how long booster production lasts and what kind of funding will be available for research.

Researchers are also looking to see what the future of the pandemic holds, with public health officials hoping to get early glimpses of it by monitoring wastewater treatment plans.

9:18 a.m.: 2021 was the deadliest year in US history due to COVID-19 and overdose deaths

Federal data confirms that 2021 was the deadliest year in U.S. history. 

New research is offering more insights into how it got that bad. As reported by the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly updated its provisional death statistics, showing there were more than 3.46 million deaths last year. 

That ends up being about 80,000 more than 2020’s record tally. Experts say COVID-19 was the major reason.

However, a new study released on Tuesday shows an unprecedented spike in adolescent drug overdose deaths also played a role. Researchers also believe U.S. life expectancy dropped another five or six months in 2021 — putting it back where it was 20 years ago.

9:09 a.m.: The US will likely reach 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the next few weeks

Soon, likely in the next few weeks, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus will surpass 1 million, according to the Associated Press. 

Through wave after wave, the virus has compiled a merciless chronology of loss — one by one by one. If losing one person leaves such a lasting void, consider all that’s been lost with the deaths of 1 million.

The pandemic has left an estimated 194,000 children in the U.S. without one or both of their parents. It has deprived communities of leaders, teachers and caregivers.

Here’s a look at how the deaths of loved ones due to COVID-19 have affected families across the country.

Tuesday, April 12

9:24 a.m.: Here’s what we know about ‘stealth omicron’

Since “stealth omicron” was first identified in November 2021, BA.2 has been spreading around the globe, driving surges in parts of Asia and Europe.

It’s also now the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S. and in more than five dozen other countries.

According to the Associated Press, it was given the “stealth” nickname because it looks like the earlier delta variant on certain PCR tests. The original omicron, by contrast, is easy to differentiate from delta because of a genetic quirk.

In rare cases, early research indicates BA.2 could infect people even if they’ve already had an omicron infection. However, COVID-19 vaccines appear to be just as effective with this strain as they were with previous variants.

Health officials are tracking other variants, including XE — a combination of BA.2 and the original omicron. It’s not yet a variant of concern or interest.

8:26 a.m.: Shanghai discharged over 11,000 recovered COVID-19 patients two weeks into lockdown

Shanghai has discharged over 11,000 recovered COVID-19 patients and health authorities emphasize that they must be allowed to return home despite the lockdown that has severely restricted movement in China’s largest city.

According to the Associated Press, the director of the Shanghai Health Commission says their families must not worry about them or discriminate against them.

Shanghai has been under lockdown since March 28, and authorities said that the strict measures would be lifted in areas with no new cases in the last 14 days following another round of mass testing.

The U.S. has advised its citizens to reconsider travel to China due to “arbitrary enforcement” of local laws and COVID-19 restrictions.

U.S. officials cited a risk of parents and children being separated. China protested the notice.

Monday, April 11

9:02 a.m.: Vulnerable Shanghai residents pay the highest price for China’s COVID-19 policy

A series of deaths at a hospital for elderly patients in Shanghai underscores the dangerous consequences of China’s pursuit of a zero-COVID approach amid an escalating outbreak in the city of 26 million people.

According to the Associated Press, relatives say multiple patients have died at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care hospital.

They say their loved ones weren’t properly cared for after caretakers infected with the virus were taken away to be quarantined, in adherence to the strict pandemic regulations, depleting the hospitals of staff.

Family members have taken to social media to plead for help and answers and are demanding to see surveillance video after getting little to no information about their loved ones from the hospital.

Friday, April 8

8:01 a.m.: Germany may have to go back to requiring face masks after COVID-19 vaccine requirements fail to pass

Germany’s health minister says the country may need to bring back a requirement for wearing face masks in public this autumn after lawmakers rejected a proposed coronavirus vaccine mandate.

According to the Associated Press, Karl Lauterbach, the country’s health minister, acknowledged that the Bundestag’s vote on Thursday against requiring COVID-19 vaccination for people 60 and over was a personal setback for him.

The bill was a watered-down compromise after some government lawmakers rejected a vaccine mandate for all adults.

Germany recently ended the requirement for mask-wearing in many indoor settings, though they are still compulsory on public transportation. Lauterbach also urged people to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling to visit relatives during the Easter holidays.

Thursday, April 7

8:24 p.m.: Sacramento City Schools will no longer require masks indoors April 18

The Sacramento City Unified School District will no longer require masks indoors starting April 18, the district announced Thursday night.

California dropped its statewide school mask mandate March 11, but SCUSD announced it would wait until Sacramento County was in the CDC’s “low” COVID-19 community transmission for four consecutive weeks. The county met that requirement this week.

Schools will be out for spring break after Friday, coming back April 18, when the new rules will take effect.

The district said Thursday that it will still be “strongly recommending masking,” and will provide take-home COVID-19 tests for students before spring break.

“Sacramento City Unified will continue to purchase and provide masks so that we can continue to support those who choose to continue masking,” SuperintendentJorge A. Aguilar said in a press release.

SCUSD is one of the last districts in the state to require masks indoors. The Los Angeles Unified School District ended its mask requirement March 23, and the Davis Unified School District will drop its rules April 11.

District officials said they would reinstate a mask mandate if Sacramento County moves back into a “high” transmission level or if state or local health rules change to require masks again. It would consider a change if the county moves into the “medium: transmission level. 

10:03 a.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19, as reported by the Associated Press.

That’s a day after the 82-year-old Democratic leader appeared unmasked at a White House event with President Joe Biden.

Pelosi received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic, her spokesperson, Drew Hammill, said in a tweet. He said she had tested negative earlier in the week.

“The Speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted and thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” Hammill said.

He said she will “quarantine consistent with CDC guidance.” A congressional trip to Asia was postponed.

9:58 a.m.: Napa naturopathic doctor pleads guilty to selling fake COVID-19 treatments, vaccine cards

Federal prosecutors say a naturopathic doctor in Napa has pleaded guilty to selling fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and hundreds of fraudulent vaccination cards that made it seem like customers received Moderna vaccines.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Justice says Juli A. Mazi pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco to wire fraud and false statements related to health care matters.

The department says it was the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19.

Federal prosecutors say the 41-year-old provided the fake cards to a least 200 people.

She’s scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Wednesday, April 6

10:19 a.m.: US Rep. Adam Schiff tested positive for COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff says he has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.

The California Democrat made the announcement Tuesday evening in a tweet that says he’s feeling fine and will quarantine.

The 61-year-old Schiff says he’s been vaccinated and boosted and urged everyone to do the same.

Several other political figures have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, CIA Director William Burns and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, received his fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine last week.

9:49 a.m.: US health experts are discussing booster shots for fall and beyond

Vaccine experts are meeting to discuss the U.S. strategy for future COVID-19 booster campaigns.

Key questions include how often the vaccines should be updated against new viral strains and who should get them.

As reported by the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration advisors won’t make any binding decisions during Wednesday’s virtual meeting. However, their advice could shape the government’s approach to vaccinations later this year and beyond.

FDA regulators cautioned that waning vaccine effectiveness, new viral mutations and colder weather could lead to surges in the fall and winter. The FDA’s vaccine chief says it’s important to begin discussing the process for updating vaccines as soon as possible.

9:39 a.m.: WHO says COVID deaths and cases are dropping globally

The World Health Organization reports that the number of coronavirus cases reported globally has dropped for a second consecutive week, according to the Associated Press.

In its latest pandemic report, WHO said 9 million cases were reported last week, a 16% weekly decline. Even when accounting for the 26,000 new deaths from COVID-19 last week, cases are still in decline.

The U.N. health agency said confirmed coronavirus infections were down in all regions of the world. However, it warned that the reported numbers carry considerable uncertainty because many countries have stopped widespread testing for the coronavirus.

WHO says it is tracking an omicron variant that recombines two versions — BA.1 and BA.2 — which was first detected in Britain in January.

Tuesday, April 5

10:17 a.m.: SCUSD Teachers strike ended and students are back in class

Teachers and other workers returned to schools in Sacramento following weekend negotiations that resolved a strike over better pay and more staffing that lasted nearly two weeks.

The Sacramento City Unified School District announced Sunday that it reached tentative agreements with the Sacramento City Teachers Association, and SEIU Local 1021, which represents classified staff without teaching credentials. .

Students were back in class this Monday. The strike at one of the districts in California’s capital began on March 23, affecting 43,000 students and 76 schools.

The teachers association tweeted that the deal will help address a severe staffing crisis. News of the settlement comes as Sacramento reels from a weekend mass shooting in a nightclub district that killed six people and wounded 12 others.

9:11 a.m.: Shanghai city officials says latest COVID-19 outbreak is ‘extremely grim’

A city official says the COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest city, Shanghai, remains “extremely grim” amid an ongoing lockdown confining 26 million people to their homes.

According to the Associated Press, China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from around the country to aid the city, including 2,000 from the military, and is mass testing residents. Some have been locked down for weeks.

Most of eastern Shanghai, which was supposed to reopen last Friday, remains locked down along with the city’s western half.

Concern is growing about the potential economic impact on China’s financial capital, also a major shipping and manufacturing center.

The city recorded another 13,354 cases on Monday, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.

Monday, April 4

1:57 p.m.: Grand jury finds Sacramento County Board undercut public health response during pandemic 

A scathing report from the Sacramento County Grand Jury issued Monday afternoon accuses the County Board of Supervisors of ignoring Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye’s request for assistance in COVID pandemic response for five months.

The grand jury found that “the Board’s apathy during the most significant public health emergency in over a century, one that impacted every resident of Sacramento County, delayed needed OPH program funding and undercut public health order enforcement.”

The grand jury found that the Officer of Public Health’s COVID response activities should have been the Board of Supervisors’ top priority and recommends that the County Board of Supervisors, the County Executive and the County Office of Public Health jointly develop a public health emergency response plan.

9:43 a.m.: Biden administration gives green light for another COVID-19 booster for people 50 and older

The Biden administration has given the go-ahead for another COVID-19 vaccine booster for people aged 50 and older and certain people who are immunocompromised.

As reported by NPR, they can now get another Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech booster at least four months after their last dose.

But just because you can get an additional booster, does that mean you need to?

Health officials argue that protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccine booster shots wanes over time. And they are concerned about people considered to be at highest risk of getting severe COVID.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t make it clear how urgently people should be lining up for second boosters. The agency says these groups are “eligible” for the shots, but stopped short of saying if they should get them.

Some infectious disease experts say not everyone in this age group needs another booster shot now.

9:33 a.m.: COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US have dropped to their lowest levels

COVID-19 hospitalization numbers have plunged to their lowest levels since the summer of 2020, offering a much-needed break for health care workers and patients alike following the omicron surge.

According to the Associated Press, the number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus has fallen more than 90% in more than two months, and some hospitals are going days without a single COVID-19 patient in the ICU for the first time since early 2020.

The freed-up beds are expected to help U.S. hospitals retain exhausted staff, treat non-COVID-19 patients more quickly and cut down on inflated costs.

More family members can visit loved ones, and doctors hope to see a correction to the slide in pediatric visits, yearly checkups and cancer screenings.

“We should all be smiling that the number of people sitting in the hospital right now with COVID, and people in intensive care units with COVID, are at this low point,” said University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi.

But, he said, the nation “paid a steep price to get to this stage. … A lot of people got sick and a lot of people died.”

Friday, April 1

10:13 a.m.: Trimmed down $10 billion congressional COVID-19 deal is moving forward

Federal lawmakers have moved to the brink of clinching a scaled-back bipartisan compromise to provide a fresh $10 billion to combat COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press, that could set up final congressional approval next week. The price tag was down from an earlier $15.6 billion agreement between the two parties that collapsed weeks ago after House Democrats rejected cutting unused pandemic aid to states to help pay for it.

President Joe Biden previously requested $22.5 billion in early March. With leaders hoping to move the package through congress quickly, the lowered cost seemed to reflect both parties’ calculations that agreeing soon to additional savings would be too hard.

The effort, which would finance steps like vaccines, treatments and tests, comes as Biden and other Democrats have warned the government is running out of money to counter the pandemic. At the same time, the more transmissible omicron variant, BA.2, has been spreading quickly in the U.S. and abroad.

9:41 a.m.: Easing coronavirus protections could hurt Medicaid recipients and cause significant disruptions to the system, experts say

When the stated end of the COVID-19 pandemic comes, it could create major disruptions for U.S. health care, the Associated Press reports.

Experts say the cumbersome health care system has been made more generous, flexible and up-to-date technologically through a raft of emergency measures.

Winding down those temporary policies could start as early as the summer if the Biden administration ends a federal public health emergency that’s been in effect for over two years.

A change like this would force an estimated 15 million Medicaid recipients to find new sources of coverage and require congressional action to preserve broad telehealth access for Medicare enrollees. 

It also would scramble COVID-19 rules and payment policies for hospitals, doctors, insurers and patients.

Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here

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