Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
Monday, October 11
Drugmaker Merck asked U.S. regulators Monday to authorize its pill against COVID-19 in what would add an entirely new and easy-to-use weapon to the world’s arsenal against the pandemic.
If cleared by the Food and Drug Administration — a decision that could come in a matter of weeks — it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. All other FDA-backed treatments against the disease require an IV or injection.
An antiviral pill that people could take at home to reduce their symptoms and speed recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing the crushing caseload on U.S. hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health care systems. It would also bolster the two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.
The FDA will scrutinize company data on the safety and effectiveness of the drug, molnupiravir, before rendering a decision.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signed a slew of bills aimed at helping small businesses dig out of pandemic-induced financial holes. The bills include measures that allow to-go cocktails and expand outdoor dining.
Newsom says that legislation will help restaurants work around local rules that slowed down expansion before the pandemic.
“But now we’ve just broken past that mindset and now, you know, eat your heart out, Paris<” Newsom said. “You know, it’s like you go all across the state and you’re like, Why haven’t we done this … 30 years ago?”
The new legislation will let restaurants keep their outdoor seating spaces until 2024 or until a year after the pandemic emergency ends, whichever comes first.
Californians will also be able to continue to take their favorite cocktails to-go, which started as a way to help restaurants generate revenue during the early days of the pandemic. Senate Bill 389 keeps that provision in place for at least the next five years.
The cocktails must be sold with food and they have to come with a sealed cover or lid. Customers are limited to two alcoholic beverages per takeout meal…and must pick up the order in person.
8:29 a.m.: Nevada adds rapid test results to statewide
Nevada this week became one of the last states to include rapid antigen tests in its coronavirus tallies, according to the Associated Press.
Experts say the change could provide a fuller picture of the pandemic but also upend metrics used to gauge how the virus is spreading. Health officials say they weren’t added earlier because their limited resources and staff had focused on vaccines and contact tracing confirmed cases.
Nevada and Maryland were the last two holdouts that didn’t publicly report antigen tests in defiance of federal guidance. Worries about the supply of rapid tests and varied ways that states report them reflects the continued absence of a national testing strategy.
Sunday, October 10
The U.S. census tends to overcount people who identify as white and not Latino, while undercounting other racial and ethnic groups. That unevenness often means inequities when census data is used to redraw voting districts and inform research and planning.
The Post-Enumeration Survey was expected to be a month-long operation for gathering information on housing units starting in late October, but is now set to begin sometime in November and end in February.
“We adjusted the start date and operational length as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the schedule of the preceding census operations,” the bureau said of the change to the Post-Enumeration Survey, which does not involve college dorms, prisons or other group-living quarters and is not conducted in remote areas of Alaska.
Saturday, October 9
While most states reduced their spending last year, California went from a massive $54 billion deficit to an even more astounding $80 billion surplus this year — and that doesn’t even include billions more in pandemic aid from the federal government.
This new money has mostly gone towards strengthening the social safety net — rent relief, stimulus checks, health care for older, undocumented immigrants and free school lunches for every public school student across the state.
States that have diverse tax revenue streams, like California, have seen their budgets bounce back, says Lucy Dadayan, a tax policy expert with the Urban Institute.
Read more here.
Friday, October 8
Counties in the San Francisco Bay Area will start easing their requirements for people to wear masks inside many public spaces, according to the Associated Press.
A group of eight counties in the region said that the rules will be dropped when overall vaccination rates are above 80% and COVID-19 transmission rates and hospitalizations are low.
In San Francisco, where places like gyms and offices already require people to show proof of vaccination, some will be allowed to drop masks next week.
The Bay Area has the highest vaccination rates and lowest case rates in the nation. In August, counties had reinstated the indoor mask mandate as infections surged because of the highly contagious delta variant.
A new military investigation found the coronavirus pandemic curtailed training in 2020 and contributed to nine service members drowning off San Diego’s coast.
According to the Associated Press, the findings released Wednesday were from the latest investigation into the sinking of an amphibious assault vehicle on July 30, 2020.
It was one of the Marine Corps’ deadliest training accidents in recent years. A previous investigation by the maritime branch found the sinking off San Clemente Island was caused by inadequate training, shabby maintenance of the 35-year-old amphibious assault vehicles, and poor judgment by commanders. The latest probe looked at the troops’ readiness.
With a second pandemic winter approaching, there are promising signs that the worst of the delta surge has run its course, but the short-staffed and backlogged American hospitals are still a cause of concern.
As reported by NPR, many hospitals are staring down a tough stretch of cold months with the threat of a potentially bad flu season combined with an influx of patients trying to catch up on delayed care and a depleted workforce that’s had little time to regroup from the latest surge of COVID-19 infections.
“It’s like a perfect storm, right? High volume, high acuity and low staff,” says emergency physician Dr. Gregg Miller, the chief medical officer for health care staffing group Vituity. “Winters are already tough for hospitals and emergency departments.”
And while some of the leading COVID-19 modeling suggests the U.S. will be spared another major COVID-19 onslaught during the holiday season, recent history has shown hospitals that nothing is predictable with this virus.
Thursday, October 7
Health care giant Kaiser Permanente has put about 1% out of 216,000 total employees nationwide — around 2,220 people — on unpaid leave for refusing all coronavirus vaccines.
According to the Associated Press, the company says the employees have until Dec. 1 to get vaccinated, and those who choose not will be terminated.
The company said that since announcing the requirement on Aug. 2, the vaccination rate among employees has gone from 78% to 92%. The mandates have proven to be successful, with many companies and employers seeing high compliance rates.
Kaiser did not disclose how many exemptions it has approved for religious and medical reasons.
September was the third-deadliest COVID-19 month in Washoe County since the pandemic began, as reported by the Associated Press.
But Nevada state health officials have said that coronavirus trends are continuing to improve in Reno-Sparks, Las Vegas, and across most of the state after a summer surge in cases and hospitalizations began to plateau late last month.
The 14-day average for new daily cases statewide fell to 620 on Wednesday, the lowest it’s been since mid-July.
The 14-day average for the positivity rate statewide dropped to 8.5% on Tuesday. It was nearly double that much in August and hovered above 10% during most of September. Now, it’s 6.7% in Clark County and 13.5% in Washoe county.
Pfizer is asking the U.S. government to allow the use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, according to the Associated Press.
If regulators agree, shots could be arriving within a matter of weeks. The pharma giant has already announced that a lower dose of its vaccine worked and appeared safe in a study of young children.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech officially filed its application with the Food and Drug Administration. FDA advisers are scheduled to debate the evidence later this month. Until now, the vaccine was available only for children as young as 12.
The AP reports that many parents and pediatricians have been clamoring for protection for younger kids.
Wednesday, October 6
A new study by UC Davis researchers shows no significant difference in the amount of virus shed by vaccinated and unvaccinated people who develop COVID-19.
The study appears to confirm what other research has found — that while vaccines are still effective at preventing illness, vaccinated people can still infect others.
“Vaccines still protect you from getting sick,” said David Coil, a researcher on the project. “This doesn’t say anything about that. It’s just that the people who do get sick, they still have similar viral loads to people who weren’t vaccinated.”
The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, also shows asymptomatic people shed similar amounts of virus to those with symptoms.
“Public health recommendations need to not give people a free pass because they’ve been vaccinated or just because they’re asymptomatic,” Coil said.
In high-risk areas, people should still consider continuing mask usage and giving crowds and others enough space.
A fall trip to Yosemite has become a little easier to arrange, as reservations are no longer required to visit the national park.
For months, the National Park Service has required reservations even to drive into Yosemite or to make a day trip. The goal of the reservation system was to reduce the number of visitors due to COVID-19 safety protocols but also to avoid overwhelming the reduced staff and services.
Now, the NPS has lifted the requirement. Entrance fees of $35 per vehicle can be paid online or at any park entrance station. Admission is good for seven consecutive days.
Masking wearing is required everywhere in the park, regardless of vaccination status. As it was in the “before times,” campsite or lodge reservations are still highly recommended — if you can get one.
Los Angeles leaders are poised to enact one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates — a sweeping measure that would require shots for everyone entering a bar, restaurant, nail salon, gym or even a Lakers basketball game.
The City Council is scheduled to consider the proposal, and most members have said they support it as a way of preventing further COVID-19 surges.
Critics say the measure raises concerns about enforcement and will sow confusion because a similar but less-sweeping vaccination mandate is scheduled to take effect next month in LA County as a whole and only applies to bars, breweries and nightclubs.
Tuesday, October 5
Nevada health officials are now counting results from rapid antigen tests in the coronavirus data that they present to the public instead of only counting the traditional molecular tests processed in the laboratories, according to the Associated Press.
The state updated its health response dashboard on Monday and added more than 600,000 tests to its count. Before Monday, only Nevada and Maryland did not publicly display probable case data from rapid tests in their online tallies.
Nevada health officials say the change will give them a more comprehensive picture of the pandemic as the rapid tests become increasingly common in the United States.
Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has asked U.S regulators to allow booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine as the U.S. government moves toward shoring up protection in more vaccinated Americans.
According to the Associated Press, J&J said it filed data with the Food and Drug Administration on giving a booster dose between two to six months after vaccination.
The U.S. government last month authorized booster doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in vulnerable groups. A panel of FDA advisers meets next week to consider boosters for both J&J and Moderna vaccines. It’s part of an all-out effort by the Biden administration to boost protection amid the delta variant and potential waning of vaccine strength.
A year and a half in, and the pandemic is still agonizing families.
As reported by the Associated Press, the pandemic adds weight to the exhaustion of worrying about exposure to COVID-19 itself and the stress of policies at schools and daycares where children spend most of their time.
The spread of the more infectious delta variant, particularly among people who refuse vaccinations, has caused a big increase in infections in children. But there’s also COVID-19 exposures and illnesses — and even minor colds — at schools and daycares that mean children get sent home, forcing parents to scramble for child care.
For many parents, deciding what’s OK for children to do and what isn’t can feel fraught.
Monday, October 4
11:09 a.m.: Nevada will require COVID-19 vaccines for employees at all public universities and colleges
Employees at all public universities and colleges in Nevada are required to get their COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 1 or face potential termination.
According to the Associated Press, all new hires also will have to prove their vaccination status under the new policy. Meanwhile, coronavirus case trends are improving in urban areas but have worsened in most rural parts of the state, where vaccination rates are the lowest.
The 14-day moving average for newly confirmed cases has fallen to 321 per 100,000 residents in Clark County, including Las Vegas.
That compares to 1,704 in all counties outside Carson City, Clark and Washoe counties, including Reno-Sparks.
11:01 a.m.: Doctors and front-line health care workers are exhausted of COVID-19 denial and misinformation
Front-line medical workers are growing weary of COVID-19 denial and misinformation in treating unvaccinated patients during the delta-driven surge, according to the Associated Press.
Some doctors report being constantly asked to prescribe an unproven parasite drug, and patients sometimes lash out when they’re told no.
The AP reports that some doctors are hearing patients telling them that microchips are embedded in DNA mutating vaccines, that the vaccines are killing people and not COVID-19, and much more.
One doctor found themselves resorting to showing patients a list of Twinkies ingredients, reminding those who are skeptical about the makeup of vaccines, are also consuming everyday products that have a lot of safe additives that they may not understand.
Such misinformation has been a significant driver of vaccine hesitancy that has contributed to the deadly delta surge and lifted the COVID-19 death toll past 700,000.
10:25 a.m.: Las Vegas sees protests against state coronavirus vaccine and mask mandates
A weekend protest of coronavirus vaccine and mask mandates drew several hundred people to the Las Vegas Strip, where marchers with signs and t-shirts declaring “freedom of choice” snaked around sidewalks and into some resorts.
According to the Associated Press, police did not immediately report any citations, arrests, damage or injuries during the Sunday evening demonstration against Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.
Sisolak last month ordered mandatory vaccination for state workers, including those working with at-risk populations in state-operated detention and health care facilities.
State university regents last week said employees at all public universities and colleges in Nevada must COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 1 or face the loss of their jobs.
Sunday, October 3
1:16 p.m.: The U.S. hits 700,000 COVID deaths
In 3 ½ months, the U.S. went from 600,000 to 700,000 COVID deaths—driven by the delta variant’s spread through unvaccinated Americans.
An estimated 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, even though vaccines have been available to all eligible Americans for nearly six months and the shots overwhelmingly protect against hospitalizations and death.
Saturday, October 2
California’s COVID-era eviction moratorium expired at midnight Thursday, meaning Californians behind on their rent are now in danger of being kicked out of their homes.
“It turns out that about one out of every seven renters are currently behind in rent,” said Hans Johnson a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, which examined Census Bureau surveys. “Meaning that they are not paid up through the current month. And that amounts to over one million renters in California.”
Half of those people say they believe it’s likely they’ll be evicted, which could add up to half a million people to California’s unhoused population, at least temporarily. 68% of those surveyed are at least two months behind on rent. More than a quarter are five months or more behind.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development is offering assistance, as is the City of Sacramento. Qualified renters who apply for assistance are automatically protected from eviction through March of next year, and landlords must apply on their tenants’ behalf before beginning eviction proceedings.
Friday, October 1
Enloe Medical Center in Chico said it’s experiencing another coronavirus surge, according to the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Marcia Nelson.
She said the hospital’s first COVID-19 surge began after the 2020 Fourth of July holiday weekend. The second was after Thanksgiving and lasted through the Christmas holiday. This latest surge started about two months ago, coinciding with the rise of the delta variant.
“That means we’ve had more admissions — more people on ventilators — than we’ve had over the several months prior,” Nelson said.
The hospital said it was caring for 83 patients with COVID-19, with 20 of them in intensive care. Nelson said this is the most COVID-19 patients they’ve had in the ICU since the start of the pandemic.
She’s concerned about Chico residents who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 since she said they end up spending more time hospitalized than vaccinated patients.
“If you are unvaccinated, your length of stay will be about a half to a full day longer than somebody who is unvaccinated,” she said. “So, people who are unvaccinated are sicker when they come into the hospital.”
Nelson said most of their COVID-19 patients are not fully vaccinated.
Nevada state regulators say casinos continued to ride a hot streak in August, recording more than $1 billion in house winnings for the sixth straight month as gambling statewide returns to pre-pandemic levels.
According to the Associated Press, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported Thursday that casinos statewide said they’re taking in almost $1.2 billion in August, following a record nearly $1.4 billion in July.
Overall, casino winnings were up 22% compared with August 2019. The solid winnings tally came despite the restoration of indoor mask mandates for vaccinated and unvaccinated people due to the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant.
The report shows the state reaped $74 million in revenues based on the August monthly winnings.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck says its experimental COVID-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected with the coronavirus.
According to the Associated Press, this could potentially be a leap forward in the global fight against the pandemic. The company said it will soon ask health officials in the U.S. and around the world to authorize the pill’s use.
A decision from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could come within weeks after that. If cleared, the drug would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. All COVID-19 therapies now authorized in the U.S. require IV or injection.
The results have not been peer-reviewed by outside experts. An independent group of medical advisers monitoring the trial recommended stopping it early because the interim results were so strong.