Distance to emergency, urgent medical care shows a ‘health care need’


STOCKBRIDGE – Imagine this: You’re at home, your temperature spikes and you feel awful.

You know you should see a doctor, but the nearest urgent care or emergency room is more than 20 miles away. That’s only made worse if it’s raining or snowing and you need to navigate country roads.

For rural residents, the options are making that drive to an emergency department or calling an ambulance.

For Deborah Smith, a pastor at First Presbyterian Church Stockbridge, that’s a challenge many of her parishioners and members of her community face when it comes to seeking emergency care.

Without access to medical care closer to home, people wind up eschewing emergency or preventative care and just get sick or die, Smith said.

“I think there’s a health care need,” she said.

Despite the growth in Lansing’s medical infrastructure, residents living in Greater Lansing’s rural community face long distances and travel times to access emergency care. In Ingham County’s southeast corner, Stockbridge residents must travel an average of at least 35 miles or 39 minutes to reach an emergency room and more than 20 miles or 25 minutes for an urgent care center, according to a State Journal analysis.

Virginia Rezmierski, a retired University of Michigan professor and community volunteer, said rural areas are like an “orphan” when it comes to medical services yet Stockbridge and the surrounding townships are home to thousands of people.

“(Services) don’t extend to the rural tip,” she said.

More: Sparrow’s and McLaren’s combined $1 billion investments fuel Greater Lansing’s growth

Here’s how far and how long it could take to reach emergency departments from Ingham County’s rural southeast corner:

  • Dansville: An average of 28 minutes or 22 miles from a hospital emergency room. Roughly 10 minutes or 7 miles from the nearest urgent care.
  • Leslie: An average of 25 minutes or 24 miles for a hospital emergency room. Roughly 12 minutes or 9 miles from the nearest urgent care center.
  • Webberville: An average of 25 minutes or 22 miles from a hospital emergency room. Roughly 19 minutes or 13 miles from the nearest urgent care.
  • Williamston: An average of 23 minutes or 18 miles from the nearest hospital emergency room. Roughly 12 minutes or 8 miles from the nearest urgent care.

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said Ingham County’s most significant health disparities are in the urban core, where the population is lower income, older and include communities of color. That’s where Ingham County sees its worst health outcomes, she said.

“That’s not to diminish that they do have limited access to resources further out in the county,” Vail said.

The Stockbridge area, which includes towns in Livingston and Washtenaw counties, was recently listed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a medically underserved area. Three geographic areas around Lansing received that same designation in 1994.

More: Michigan got walloped by COVID. How it can better prepare for next time

Health care and community organizations have a mandate to serve everyone, not just urban populations, Rezmierski said. If groups can collaborate, it could be possible to fill service gaps, she said.

The Five Healthy Towns Foundation aims to start that coalition, building partnerships to address health and wellness needs for people in the Stockbridge area as well as those in the rural parts of Livingston and Washtenaw counties, Rezmierski said.

“We’re pretty excited about the possibilities,” she said.

Sustainability key to attract, retain providers

Stockbridge did have a health clinic, but it closed because so few people went there, Rezmierski said.

The primary barrier to attracting health clinics, grocery stores and transportation services is the isolation of the area, Smith said. Having those services available  contribute to a person’s overall wellness, she said.

“We are such a desert for so many different elements of health,” Smith said.

The demand for services exists around Stockbridge, Rezmierski said. A survey conducted by Five Healthy Towns found 57% of respondents would use a local health clinic if one was available and 86% would consider transferring service to a practice closer to home.

Rezmierski said many people need laboratory tests and annual examinations and would like to see those services nearby.

As a society, businesses and groups tend to focus on urban populations because it’s easier to make their profit margins, Smith said.

“They’ve got to stay viable,” she said.

Stockbridge mobilizing to fill area’s care gap

The coalition envisions a school-based federally qualified health center that can serve both residents and students. Rezmierski said services could include primary care services, laboratory services, preventative medicine and a hub for telehealth.

That process is in its early stages as the group is still putting together a proposal and seeking grant funding to move the project forward, Rezmierski said.

“This is a coming together of the grassroots of the community,” she said.

More: Developments to watch: Greater Lansing’s growing health care footprint

The success of a clinic, if one is created, relies on people feeling comfortable that it will offer quality, professional care that meets their needs, Rezmierski said.

Rezmierski said people in rural areas can be reluctant to access services. The lack of density and transportation makes it difficult for organizations or businesses to meet residents’ needs, she said.

“They need the services but they are hesitant to get involved,” she said. “There’s some real barriers that we need to overcome in the rural population.”

Contact reporter Craig Lyons at 517-377-1047 or calyons@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @craigalyons.



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You Could Save Thousands by Getting Medical Care in These 4 Countries


As borders open and tourism picks back up, it isn’t just sightseers who are getting back to traveling. Each year, thousands of U.S. travelers who have been let down by their own broken healthcare system head overseas in search of affordable medical care.

Medical tourism was a growing industry before COVID hit, with an estimated 780,000 people traveling for both elective and necessary medical procedures in 2019. While the number was understandably low in 2020, medical tourism is picking back up in 2021, and it’s projected that around 650,000 people will travel for medical care in 2021.

The key to making the most of medical tourism is to find a balance between affordable costs — the whole point is to avoid medical debt — and quality care. The countries on this list are popular destinations for U.S. medical tourists thanks to reputations for well-educated professionals and costs up to 80% lower than they’d typically be for the same procedures stateside.

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1. Mexico

Our neighbor to the south is one of the top destinations for U.S. medical tourists, especially those looking for affordable dental care. Dental implants, for example, tend to cost between $3,000 and $4,500 each in the U.S., while the same implants cost more than 60% less across the border.

Dentists in Mexico are highly trained, either at home or in U.S. dental schools, and clinics follow many of the same standards you’d find in the U.S. In fact, because cross-border medical tourism is so common, some towns near the border are highly dedicated to the industry.

2. Malaysia

Located in southeast Asia, Malaysia sees around 4.9 million medical tourists each year. Malaysia has a top-rated medical care system, with state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge technology.

Many tourists head to Malaysia for major procedures, including heart surgery and hip replacements, which can cost less than a quarter of what similar procedures would cost in the U.S. It also doesn’t hurt that the country is well known for its beautiful beaches, making it a lovely place to recover.

3. Thailand

Thailand is known as a place with a very affordable cost of living, and it’s a popular destination for expats and digital nomads for just that reason. But medical tourists are also drawn to Thailand’s affordability, where many procedures cost thousands less than you’d pay in the U.S.

Moreover, the low cost of living means staying there during your recovery won’t run up your credit cards, either. But while healthcare in Thailand is affordable, Thailand doesn’t skip out of quality of care. It has several world-renowned hospitals and is known for its advanced medical technology.

4. India

Medical tourism is a billion-dollar industry in India, but it’s not all about facelifts and Botox. India is a highly popular destination for affordable non-elective surgery, including cancer care, transplants, and cardiac bypass surgeries.

Procedural costs can be as low as 10% of the cost of comparable U.S. surgeries — without sacrificing quality. India is home to dozens of internationally recognized hospitals, and Indian surgeons are often educated abroad at some of the top medical schools in the world before returning home to practice.

Know the risks

Any medical procedure has its own risks, no matter where it’s performed. But traveling abroad can add extra layers of potential risk, or at least complication. The language and cultural differences, for instance, can make even a regular tourist visit more difficult, let alone a medical procedure.

You also need to consider travel risks. Many countries will require some type of visa, especially if you need to stay for several months. Be sure you’ll qualify for the appropriate travel visa before booking or paying for a medical procedure abroad.

Then there are the potential legal issues. Since you’re not in the U.S., our laws won’t apply. So, if something goes wrong to the point where you might have a solid malpractice case in the U.S., you could be entirely without legal recourse in another country.

There are also potential privacy problems to consider. The U.S. has its privacy issues, but what can — and can’t — be shared about your medical history is fairly well protected. The same may not be true in other countries. You may also have issues with getting your own records when you need them.

Consider all the costs

Although it’s easy to save money on the actual procedure, that won’t be your only cost when traveling abroad for medical purposes.

For one thing, you need to actually get there. Travel costs can be quite high depending on how far you’re traveling; expect to pay at least $1,000 or more for airfare alone when heading to Asia from the U.S. (Pro tip: Pick up an airline credit card and use points or miles to cover the cost of your flight.)

And then there’s the recovery time. For some procedures, you won’t get medical clearance to fly for several weeks after your surgery, which can mean a lot of extra costs for a long hospital or hotel stay.

Even with the extra costs, traveling for medical care can be an excellent way to save a lot of money versus paying inflated U.S. costs. And if you do your homework, you won’t need to sacrifice quality of care.



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New Travel Reimbursement System Available To Veterans And Beneficiaries | VA Hudson Valley Health Care


Montrose
, NY — New travel reimbursement system available to Veterans and beneficiaries

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October  23, 2020

 

Contact:       Cullen Lyons, VA Hudson Valley Public Affairs Officer

Phone:          914-737-4400 ext. 2255

Cell:              914-475-7633

Email:           Cullen.Lyons@va.gov

 

 

New travel reimbursement system available to Veterans and beneficiaries

 

Montrose NY — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced on October 22, 2020 that the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System will now use the new Beneficiary Travel Self-Service System (BTSSS) to reimburse eligible Veterans and beneficiaries for travel to and from VA medical appointments.

 

The new system will allow users to submit and track transportation reimbursement claims using a secure web-based portal on the Access VA, available 24/7, 365 days a year.

 

“Thanks to the important innovations and dedication to information technology, we are proud to say we have streamlined this process making it easier for users,” said Dawn Schaal, Medical Center Director. “The BTSSS replaces the need for older, manual tracking methods, bringing this process in line with many of our other web applications.”

 

BTSSS has many advantages, for example, it:

  • Reduces the need for completing hard copy claim submissions in-person at the facility by replacing and eliminating the previous kiosk method.
     
  • Provides an easy to use web-based application that allows you to enter your claim over the internet via AccessVA.
     
  • Ensures timely processing and payment of travel reimbursements and reduces manual intervention and improper claim payments through automated features
     
  • Authenticates the Veteran or Beneficiary by: 1.) VA PIV card; or 2.) A DS Logon Level 2 account.

 

BTSSS will be available at the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System beginning in October, 2020. As BTSSS goes live, the need for kiosk will be discontinued, however, in person and hard-copy claims submission will still be available. For information on eligibility, visit VA’s Travel Pay Reimbursement site.



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Should I Pay for Dental Care With a Credit Card?


The only thing worse than a root canal is getting the bill after it’s all over. With all that Novocain…

The only thing worse than a root canal is getting the bill after it’s all over. With all that Novocain in the dentist’s office, you’d think someone could develop a shot to numb the mental anguish that occurs when it’s time to pay up.

If you have dental insurance, that reduces some of the financial burden. But there are usually limits on expensive procedures like root canals and crowns.

I got a crown a few years ago, and the cost was $1,200. My insurance paid 50%, so my cost was $600. Thank goodness for insurance, but $600 is still a major expense that was unexpected.

Unfortunately, many Americans would have to pay the entire $1,200. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, at the end of 2018, around 66.7 million Americans had no dental coverage.

Here’s the deal: Whether you have insurance or not, going to the dentist isn’t cheap. So you need to learn about payment strategies, including credit cards, ahead of time. That way, you’ll choose the approach that’s optimal — and cheapest — for your situation.

[Read: Best Low-Interest Credit Cards.]

Should You Use a CareCredit Card?

You’ve probably seen signs at the dental receptionist’s desk that show what types of credit cards are accepted. Often, you’ll see a mention of CareCredit as an option to pay for dental care.

There are both short-term (six to 24 months) and long-term (two to five years) options. CareCredit advertises that you don’t pay interest if you pay off the balance within the promotional period.

I know this sounds good, but if you choose to use CareCredit, proceed with your eyes wide open. A CareCredit card is a deferred-interest product, but many consumers mistakenly believed that CareCredit is an interest-free credit card. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. It just means you need to understand how deferred interest works.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you use your CareCredit card to pay for a $3,000 dental bill. You qualified for a 24-month 0% annual percentage rate promotional period. You do your best to pay it off, but there’s still $1,000 left after two years.

With a regular credit card, you start paying interest on the remaining balance after the intro period ends. But with deferred interest, if you haven’t paid off the entire balance, you’re charged interest back to the purchase date. The current APR is 26.99%, so the deferred interest can add a lot to your debt. There are also long-term plans with lower APRs that you can consider.

Using CareCredit works best for those who know they can pay the balance in full during the interest-free period. If you can pull that off, this could be a good option for you.

How to Use a 0% Intro APR Credit Card for Dental Work

If you have good to excellent credit, you might qualify for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR on purchases. Unlike CareCredit, a regular credit card with an introductory period doesn’t make you pay deferred interest.

You get to pay down your balance without interest charges during the intro period, which generally ranges from 12 to 21 months. But you don’t have to worry about deferred interest if you still have a balance when the 0% APR ends. You’ll start paying interest at the regular purchase APR, but only on the remaining balance.

[Read: Best 0% APR Credit Cards.]

How to Pay for Dental Care with Bad Credit

If you have bad credit and you can’t qualify for a 0% APR credit card, don’t give up and swear off dentists until you win the lottery. It’s a tough situation, but you still have some dental financing options to consider.

— Ask if the dental practice has payment plans for patients. If not, ask if it would create a custom payment plan for you. This might not work out, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. To help you negotiate, you can research local services and average costs via FairHealthConsumer.org.

— Look for cheaper care, such as at a dental school.

— Check out the resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for local, state and federal programs that can help with financing dental expenses.

— Ask family members if they can help out with a low-interest loan. If you go this route, put the agreement in writing so everyone knows the rules for repayment.

— Consider getting a personal loan, which will most likely be a cheaper dental financing option than using a credit card. With bad credit, you’re probably looking at an APR of more than 20% on your credit card. Plus, you’d be dealing with compound interest, so a credit card balance would grow very quickly.

If your best option turns out to be a personal loan, take time to shop for the best rates. With a personal loan, you’ll be making fixed monthly payments. As long as you pay on time, you’ll also be building your credit history.

While bad credit does limit your options, if you have the money and time to travel, medical tourism is another option to consider.

[Read: Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit.]

What Is Medical Tourism?

In the U.S., the average cost for a dental implant is $2,500. According to the Medical Tourism Association, you can get the same procedure in Mexico for $975.

As travel restrictions are being lifted, medical tourism is becoming a dental financing option. If you have an adventurous spirit and the funds to travel, medical tourism is a way to cut dental costs.

But before you decide to hop on a plane, you have to do careful research to make sure you choose the right country and provider for the type of dental work you need. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a section on medical tourism. It’s an excellent resource to learn about safety issues, vaccinations needed and guidance on pre-travel consultations with your doctor.

Bonus tip: If you’ve been using rewards credit cards, don’t forget to check your accounts and see whether it’s possible to pay for most of the trip with rewards. You might be able to finance your airfare and your hotel stay with miles or points you’ve earned.

More from U.S. News

Are Medical Expenses Tax-Deductible?

Medical Credit Cards: Should You Apply?

Your Guide to Plastic Surgery Financing

Should I Pay for Dental Care With a Credit Card? originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 06/30/21:



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California Coronavirus Updates: Some Californians Could See Lower Health Care Costs Under Federal Stimulus Provision


Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.

Latest Updates

Some Californians could see lower health care costs under federal stimulus provision

California may extend eviction protections past June

For California nurses, the COVID-19 pandemic changed their lives

US hitting encouraging milestones in COVID-19 vaccinations, fewer deaths

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Monday, June 21

5:27 p.m.: Some Californians could see lower health care costs under federal stimulus provision

Californians who buy health insurance through the state’s Covered California exchange could see their monthly payments go down this summer due to a provision in the most recent federal COVID-19 stimulus.

The American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package designed to help those who suffered economically during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensures that people who sign up through the exchange pay no more than 8.5% of their household income on their health insurance premiums.

In addition, Covered California is using new federal money to offer lower-cost plan options to anyone who received unemployment assistance during 2021. The exchange says monthly payments for that coverage could be as low as $1.

In previous years, some Covered California consumers saw increases in their monthly payments due to a dip in federal investment in state marketplaces. Health policy analysts feared that rising prices would drive people out of the exchange, though California has worked to combat that by creating a requirement that individuals carry insurance.

The premium reductions come in the form of an increased tax credit, according to a summary of the American Rescue Plan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The department estimates premiums will decrease on average by $50 per person per month and $85 per policy per month, and that four of five enrollees will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month after tax credits. An estimated 394,000 Californians will become newly eligible for tax credits through the plan, according to the department.

Around 139,000 people have signed up since April 12, bringing California’s total sign-ups to a record high of 1.6 million people, according to Covered California’s numbers. They estimate that at least 141,000 of their current enrollees received unemployment benefits this year and will now be eligible for lower premiums, and say they’re working to inform those people about their new options.

Millions of Californians lost jobs, and likely job-based health insurance, during the pandemic. Those interested in finding out if they’re eligible for less expensive coverage can visit Covered California’s website or call them at (800) 300-1506. The deadline for coverage that begins July 1 is June 30, but special enrollment is open for the rest of the year.

5:22 p.m.: California may extend eviction protections past June

Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers are negotiating whether to extend the state’s ban on evictions for unpaid rent.

According to the Associated Press, Federal and California eviction protections expire on June 30. Newsom has proposed using federal coronavirus aid to pay off all the unpaid rent that people owe.

However, it will take some time to distribute that money. Some tenant advocacy groups want the nation’s most populated state to extend eviction protections until the unemployment rate for low-wage workers reaches pre-pandemic levels. 

In opposition, the California Apartment Association says that landlords don’t want to wait longer because many haven’t received rent checks in more than a year.

11:37 a.m.: For California nurses, the COVID-19 pandemic changed their lives

In early 2020, when the coronavirus began making it difficult for many worldwide to breathe, hospitals became a central front against a disease, eventually killing nearly 4 million people and counting, according to the Associated Press.

At one hospital in Mission Viejo, a team of nurses and doctors were recruited for what became the Isolation Intensive Care Unit. The unit would come to be known as the “Tip of the Spear,” a military term used to describe a group doing dangerous works.

Many of the nurses who spend countless hours with patients, helping them back to health or helping them say goodbye to their families, got tattooed with spears, hash marks, and a heart.

Some speak of forming deep bonds and the joy in helping some deathly sick patients survive, but many cannot forget the horrific, heartbreaking, and traumatic experiences that are very much still with them, even as state cases have dropped.

With little knowledge of how to treat patients amid enormous personal risks, nurses leaped into the abyss, and many will never be the same.

Debbie Wooters, a Mission Viejo ICU nurse, vividly remembers a man who had just retired and made big plans with his wife. They had placed an offer on a house out of state, and they planned to travel.

“Instead of looking forward to a new beginning, we were FaceTiming his wife so he could say goodbye and thank her for the lifetime of memories,” Wooters said.

The ICU unit was isolating, not just for patients but for nurses as well. While keeping people alive was the main job, nurses also needed to comfort patients to keep them motivated or help them in their last moments.

“There were countless patients that we sat with, talked to, and touched, so they knew they weren’t alone dying,” she said. And then there were times they connected patients to families via their phones. “The cries and devastation heard,” she says, “was unbearable.”

To read more about this project, click here.

11:29 a.m.: US hitting encouraging milestones in COVID-19 vaccinations, fewer deaths

The U.S. is reaching a pair of encouraging milestones as the COVID-19 pandemic’s grip on the nation continues to loosen.

According to the Associated Press, COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have dipped below 300 a day for the time since the outbreak’s early days in March 2020.

Meanwhile, nearly 150 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, which according to NPR, is about 45.1% of the total U.S. population.

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer. Now, however, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that more Americans are dying every day from accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes or Alzheimer’s disease than COVID-19.

10:21 a.m.: Tokyo Olympics will allow fans to attend but under strict guidelines

A sharply limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics, according to the Associated Press.

The decision announced Monday comes as organizers try to save some of the spirit of the Games where even cheering has been banned. Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 fans, for each Olympic venue.

All fans must be Japanese residents after spectators from abroad were banned. Officials said that if coronavirus cases rise again, the rules could be changed, and fans could still be barred altogether.

The decision comes as opposition among Japanese residents with hosting the Games in July remains high, though opinions may be softening as new infections in Tokyo have begun to subside.

Sunday, June 20

11:15 a.m.: Nevada is distributing cash prizes to vaccinated residents 

Nevada is distributing $5 million in cash prizes to residents who have been vaccinated in an effort to get more people to get shots. Just don’t call it a lottery.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday his “Vax Nevada Days” initiative gives skeptics one more reason to get vaccinated. His announcement of what he called a raffle adds Nevada to join a growing list of other states offering incentives to revive flatlining vaccination numbers.

More than half Nevada’s residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine and almost 43% statewide have completed inoculations.

10:31 a.m.: Sacramento area jobless rate continues to go down 

The Sacramento area jobless rate continues to go down. Numbers out Friday show the unemployment rate in May was 6.3%—down from April’s 6.6%.

Cara Welch, of the state’s Employment Development Department, says unemployment peaked right after the pandemic hit in April of last year when the rate surged to 14.4%.

“The rate has trended downward since April 2020 and then there was an uptick in December and then it remained unchanged in January and then declines now February, March, April and now May,” she said.

Total wage and salary jobs increased by 4,300 between April and May.

Saturday, June 19

10:12 a.m.: California is offering residents a digital record of coronavirus vaccinations 

California has started offering residents a digital record of their coronavirus vaccinations they can use to access businesses or events that require proof they got the shot.

The state’s public health and technology departments said on Friday the new tool will allow Californians to access their record from the state’s immunization registry.

Governor Gavin Newsom insisted several times that the digital record is not a passport. It’ll contain the same information as paper cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It comes as California this week lifted many pandemic-related restrictions. Vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks in most places.

Friday, June 18

10:36 p.m.: Sacramento to allow outdoor dining areas into next year

The city of Sacramento voted to allow outdoor dining in parking lots and streets for another year, meaning that tables on sidewalks and street-side parklets could stick around for a while.

There are no longer capacity limits on restaurants in California, but the pandemic is not over. And the city of Sacramento wants to keep allowing restaurants to set up outdoor tables, tents, parklets and sidewalk cafes to curb the spread of the virus and any new variants. 

The city’s new plan is to temporarily extend parklets and outdoor dining in parking spaces until June of next year. A city report says 122 businesses are participating in the program. 

City staff also says it wants to create a permanent program for outdoor dining. And this means the large tents and street closures in Midtown districts like R Street and Lavender Heights could become permanent fixtures.

9:12 a.m.: Newsom announces Six Flags ticket giveaway to encourage vaccinations

Following California’s grand re-opening Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled this week a new vaccine initiative with free tickets to Six Flags Magic Mountain. 

Fifty-thousand Californians could win tickets to one of the four Six Flags magic mountain theme parks as part of Newsom’s “vax for the win” program. The governor hopes it could lead to an economic boost in the state’s tourism and entertainment sector.

“We took a sledgehammer to the entertainment industry in the last year because of the stay-at-home order, no one’s naive,” Newsom said.

Eligible ticket winners must get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from a healthcare provider participating in the vaccine initiative. As of now, only half of the state’s population have gotten their first dose.

6:05 a.m.: Sacramento, Yolo counties monitoring Delta variant

The Delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in both Sacramento and Yolo counties, public health officials say. 

This form of the virus is considered a “variant of concern” by the Centers for Disease Control and local public health agencies because it can spread more quickly than other strains. It was initially found in India. 

The CDC says, to date, existing vaccines work against the circulating variants of the virus, but that they’re “continuing to study” them. 

Sacramento County officials say they have identified a total of 20 cases of the Delta variant as of June 17, and that variant cases are more common among younger people. 

Although Jamie White, program manager at the Sacramento County Department of Public Health says the Delta variant is “something that we’re watching closely,” she also says it’s just one of several other variants that are going around locally.   

“We’re seeing more of the Epsilon and Alpha variants, which are also variants of concern,” White said. 

In Yolo County, 14 cases of the Delta variant have been found by the UC Davis Genome Center, which collected samples from UC Davis and Davis-area residents.  

Dr. Aimee Sisson, health officer for the county, wrote in a statement that the variant was first detected in April. The department says the COVID-19 positivity rate is very low in Davis; the testing initiative called Healthy Davis Together shows only nine COVID-19 cases over the past week.

Thursday, June 17

5:34 p.m.: Californians receiving unemployment benefits will once again need to prove they’re looking for work

Californians receiving unemployment benefits will once again have to swear they are actively looking for work in order to qualify. 

Beginning July 11, unemployment benefits will be contingent on filers certifying to the state Employment Development Department that they’ve made at least two attempts each week to find work. 

The federal law requiring unemployment recipients to certify they are applying and interviewing for jobs was waived in March of last year, when the pandemic and stay-at-home orders made it difficult to conduct normal job searches.   

Since then, the EDD has processed more than 20 million unemployment claims and paid out more than $128 billion in benefits, largely on the honor system.

4:06 p.m.: Some Black church leaders work to provide COVID-19 resources

Members of Black communities across the U.S. have disproportionately fallen sick or died from the coronavirus, so some church leaders are using their influence and trusted reputations to fight back. 

According to the Associated Press, aside from holding church services, they’re phoning people to encourage vaccinations and hosting testing clinics and pop-up vaccination events in church buildings.

Some groups want to extend their efforts beyond the fight again COVID-19 and provide health care services for other ailments. Choose Healthy Life, a national initiative involving Black clergy, United Way of New York City, and others, have been awarded a $9.9 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant to expand vaccinations and provide screening and other health services in churches.

4:01 p.m.: Can you mix and match COVID-19 vaccines? Experts say it’s safe, but more studies are needed.

Experts say mixing and matching different two-dose COVID-19 vaccines is likely safe and effective, but more data is needed to be sure, according to the Associated Press.

COVID-19 shots are all designed to stimulate your immune system to produce virus-fighting antibodies, though the way they do so varies. 

To check if mixing doses would be OK, scientists are testing combinations of various two-dose COVID-19 vaccines. Limited data so far suggests an AstraZeneca shot followed by a Pfizer shot is safe and effective, but it comes with an elevated likelihood of side effects.

Scientists think that may be because mixing and matching vaccines can sometimes produce a more robust immune response, which means a stronger side effect response.

3:53 p.m.: Number of unemployment claims rise again after a pandemic low

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since April despite widespread evidence that the economy and the job market are rebounding.

According to the Associated Press, jobless claims rose from 37,000 from the week before. However, as the job market has strengthened, the number of weekly applications for unemployment aid has fallen for most of the year. 

The weekly number of jobless claims generally reflects the pace of layoffs. With vaccinations up, more consumers are venturing out to spend their cash — on restaurant meals, airline fares, movie tickets, and store purchases — the economy seems to be rapidly recovering from the recession.

10:14 a.m.: US to spend more than $3 billion for COVID-19 antiviral pills

The U.S. is devoting more than $3 billion to advance the development of antiviral pills for COVID-19 and other dangerous viruses that could turn into pandemics.

According to the Associated Press, the pills would be used to minimize symptoms after infection. They are currently in development and could begin arriving by year’s end, pending the completion of clinical trials.

Fauci said the new program would invest in “accelerating things that are already in progress” for COVID-19 and would work to innovate new therapies for other viruses. Health experts, including Fauci, have called for simpler pill-based drugs that patients could take themselves. While some drugmakers are testing such medications, initial results aren’t expected for several more months.

Under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. poured more than $19 billion in rapidly developing multiple vaccines — but less than half that amount went toward developing new treatments.

That shortfall has become increasingly concerning as the vaccination campaign slows, and experts emphasize the need to manage the disease in millions of Americans who may never get inoculated.

9:56 a.m.: With COVID-19 deaths topping 600,000, some seek a 9/11-style commission

A push is underway on Capitol Hill and beyond for a full-blown investigation of the coronavirus outbreak by a national commission like the one that looked into 9/11.

According to the Associated Press, the proposal comes amid lingering questions over the government’s response to the crisis and origin of the virus that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.

A bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine would establish such a mission.

Given that most of the disaster unfolded on former President Donald Trump’s watch, many worry that politics will get in the way of any inquiry, as happened when Republicans came out against a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.

The inquiry could look at:

  • The origins of the virus
  • Early warnings and other communication with foreign governments
  • Coordination among federal, state and local agencies
  • The availability of medical supplies
  • Testing and public health surveillance
  • Vaccination development and distribution
  • The uneven effect on minorities
  • Government relief policies

“The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic is more than 200 times that of the 9/11 attacks — but Congress has yet to establish a similar blue-ribbon commission to investigate the vulnerabilities of our public health system and issue guidance for how we as a nation can better protect the American people from future pandemics,” Menendez and Collins wrote in a New York Times essay this week.

9:41 a.m.: Japan eases virus restrictions ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Japan has announced the easing of a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and six other areas as the country begins final preparations for the Olympics starting in just over a month, according to the Associated Press.

Since last March, the country has been struggling to slow a wave of infections propelled by more contagious variants, with new daily cases soaring above 7,000 at one point. Seriously ill patients also strained hospitals in Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas.

Daily cases have since subsided significantly, paving the way for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to downgrade the state of emergency when it expires on Sunday to less stringent measures.

They will last until July 11 — just 12 days before the start of the Games.

Wednesday, June 16

3:51 p.m.: Some Sacramento businesses to keep mask guidelines in place 

Ross Rojek says there’s good reason to keep the face-covering rule in his downtown Sacramento bookstore, even though California no longer requires it. 

He wants to protect the kids who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated.  

“We even have parents who bring their child out for their very first outing after birth to a bookstore,” said Rojek, who co-owns Capital Books on K Street.  

He says it’s easier to hang a sign telling customers to keep their masks on, rather than ask each individual if they’ve been inoculated against COVID-19 to determine if they can peruse in the store with their face uncovered.   

“I don’t know if we can trust everyone to be truthful on their vaccine status, and we also don’t want to become the vaccine card police,” he said. 

Rojek is not the only Sacramento business that’s keeping the face covering rule for the time being.

A coalition of Sacramento area museums also says it’s keeping the mask rule for all visitors to protect kids and vulnerable adults until there’s better herd immunity. 

“The vaccination rates still in Sacramento County aren’t quite where we’d like to see them,” says Amanda Meeker, executive director of the California Museum.

“We feel that it’s really best to really promote the safety of our visitors, we have a lot of families who come with kids and we have an onsite summer camp,” she said, adding that it will reassess its mask policy later this summer.  

The Crocker Art Museum, the Sacramento Children’s Museum, and several other local museums are also keeping the mask rule. 

Rojek says the store’s mask policy could change with pandemic developments; if the COVID-19 vaccination is authorized for six-year-olds, for example, or if the vaccination rate surpasses 85% in Sacramento County

“It’s one of those things where we’ll keep watching the news and adjust it.”

2:31 p.m.: Large study finds Novavax COVID-19 shots 90% effective

Vaccine maker Novavax says its shot is highly effective against COVID-19 and also protects against variants, according to the Associated Press.

On Monday, the Maryland-based company announced results from a large, late-stage study in the U.S. and Mexico that found its vaccine was about 90% effective. Preliminary data also showed it was safe.

Novavax previously released results from smaller studies in Britain and South Africa. Now, the company plans to get emergency use authorization in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere by the end of September.

The vaccine is made by growing harmless copies of the coronavirus spike protein in the laboratory.

2:19 p.m.: Vaccine efforts slog as new infectious variant starts to spread in US

As case numbers decline and states reopen, the potential final stage in the U.S. campaign to battle COVID-19 is turning into a slog.

According to the Associated Press, a worrisome variant is gaining a bigger foothold in the country. Even tactics like lotteries and offering other prizes are starting to fail at persuading more Americans to get vaccinated.

“The last half, the last mile, the last quarter-mile always requires more effort,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday.

One major concern is the highly contagious and potentially more severe “delta” variant of the coronavirus strain that originated in India. While health officials say our vaccines are effective against it, the fear is that it will lead to outbreaks in states with lower vaccination rates.

The delta variant has increased from 2.7% of all cases in May to 9.7% this month, the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

At the same time, states are convening focus groups to better understand who is declining to get vaccinated, why and how to convince them that getting the shot is the right thing to do.

“It’s a race between the vaccines going into people and the current or future variants,” said Kansas Health Secretary Dr. Lee Norman.

11:19 a.m.: California’s reopening is met with cheers, caution

California’s grand reopening after 15 months of coronavirus restrictions has been met with exuberance, but also caution, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the state ended its color-coded restriction system and allowed restaurants, gyms and other businesses to lift capacity limits and distancing rules. While many businesses are ending their mask requirements for fully vaccinated patrons, some are still planning to keep masks and plastic panels for at least a bit longer.

Gov. Gavin Newsom called the day a milestone and urged residents to “give people hugs.” However, there are still millions of unvaccinated residents, and COVID-19 is not yet eradicated.

Do you have questions about what guidelines and rules changed in the state yesterday? CapRadio has a breakdown of what’s changed and what hasn’t.

11:10 a.m.: Extra COVID-19 shots may help those with organ transplants

A small study offers a hint that an extra dose of COVID-19 vaccines just might give some organ transplant recipients a needed boost in protection, according to the Associated Press.

The vaccines offer strong protection to most people, but it’s not clear how well they work in transplant recipients and other people with weak immune systems.

Researchers tested 30 transplant patients who, on their own, sought a third dose. It didn’t help everybody — but a third of those who appeared to have no protection after two shots developed virus-fighting antibodies with the extra dose.

The research was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

9:29 a.m.: Some hospital workers pushing back against vaccine job requirements

While some employees at Houston Methodist Hospital are steadfast in their belief that their employer shouldn’t require them to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s a losing legal argument, according to the Associated Press.

A federal judge bluntly ruled over the weekend that if the hospital’s employees don’t want to get vaccinated, they can get a job elsewhere.

Legal experts say such vaccine requirements, particularly in a public health crisis, will probably continue to be upheld in court as long as employers provide reasonable exemptions, including for medical conditions or religious objections.

Other hospital systems around the country, including Washington D.C., Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, have tried to fight back but have also faced pushback.

The ruling in the closely watched legal case over how far health care institutions can go to protect patients and others against the coronavirus is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.. Still, it probably won’t be the end of the debate.

The Houston Methodist employees likened their situation to medical experiments performed on unwilling victims in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The judge called that comparison “reprehensible” and said claims made in the lawsuit that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous are false.

Houston Methodist’s decision in April made it the first major U.S. health care system to require COVID-19 shots for workers. Many hospitals around the country, including Houston Methodist, already require other types of vaccines, including for the flu.

Tuesday, June 15

5:25 p.m.: Newsom celebrates lifted restrictions, draws $1.5 million vaccine lottery winners

Gov. Gavin Newsom marked what he called California’s “full reopening” at Universal Studios Hollywood, backed by a busy entrance to the theme park and costumed movie characters including Transformers’ Optimus Prime, Trolls, and the yellow minions from “Despicable Me.”

“California is open again,” he said as music played and confetti burst from on-stage cannons. “California has turned the page. Let us all celebrate this remarkable milestone.”

Starting Tuesday, most businesses can welcome customers back at full capacity and fully vaccinated individuals can remove their masks in most public settings

The governor — who will face a recall election later this year — also used the backdrop to hold  the state’s big-money vaccine drawing.

Ten vaccinated Californians from Sacramento, Stanislaus, Los Angeles, Marin, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties will get $1.5 million each.

Republicans hoping to replace the governor in a recall election criticized California’s long standing pandemic restrictions, which they say have hurt businesses. 

“California’s reopening is too little, too late,” GOP candidate John Cox said in a statement. “The state is reopening weeks after other states, devastating Californians. Many small businesses will never reopen, millions are still unemployed, many students lost an entire year of school.” 

Newsom acknowledged the pandemic isn’t over, though he said with more than half of eligible Californians now fully vaccinated, he doesn’t foresee any reason to reimpose restrictions.

“We’re monitoring things in real time,” he said. “But at this moment, we’re confident on the basis of the vaccination rates that we’ve seen.”

4:01 p.m.: California offering chance at ‘dream vacations’ to push residents to get vaccinated

As California reopens today, the state has yet one more incentive for unvaccinated people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations — “dream vacations.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom made the offer on Monday after awarding $15 million in cash prizes to residents entered in the “Vax For The Win” campaign.

The effort is also intended to jump-start California’s travel and tourism industry. CEO and President of Visit California Caroline Beteta thinks this idea could get travel back on residents’ minds.

“In order for us to shorten the recovery curve and get this economy back on track, and create all these fabulous jobs in California, we also are trying to encourage Californians to choose California as a destination of choice,” Beteta said.

She says California tourism has been in virtual hibernation for more than a year because of stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions.

“Just in the last year, $1 billion of California tourism spending went to Mexico and over $10 billion went to western states and beyond. So by just people simply choosing California, they’re helping out their everyday fellow neighbors,” she said.

During the height of the pandemic, California lost nearly half the 1.2 million jobs in its hospitality and tourism industries. As a result, Gov. Newsom is proposing $95 million to help the state’s tourism economy.

3:49 p.m.: While state drops masking guidelines, masks are still required at airports

While vaccinated Californians are allowed to go maskless, airports have their own rule — keep your mask on if you’re traveling through an airport or flying.

“As far as the airport is concerned, unfortunately, nothing is really going to change for us on the 15th,” said Scott Johnston, a Public Information Officer with Sacramento International Airport.

Since the Transportation Security Administration is a federal body, they can enact masking regulations that may differ from state rules. TSA can also fine someone $250 for a first maskless offense and $1,500 for repeat offenses.

“Masks are still required here on airport property,” Johnston said. “The airlines are still requiring [them]. To get through TSA, you also have to have a mask. Basically, when you enter airport property, you’re required to wear a mask.”

3:31 p.m.: As COVID-19 infections slow down, vaccine-hesitant areas still at risk

New COVID-19 cases are declining across most of the country, even in some states with vaccine-hesitant populations. But almost all states bucking that trend have lower-than-average vaccination rates, according to the Associated Press.

Case totals nationally have declined in a week from a seven-day average of nearly 21,000 on May 29 to around 14,000 on Saturday. Experts said some states are seeing increased immunity because there were high rates of natural spread of the disease.

However, Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, is concerned that the natural immunity of those who have been exposed to the coronavirus may soon wane.

“Just because we’re lucky in June doesn’t mean we’ll continue to be lucky come the late fall and winter,” said Wen. “We could well have variants here that are more transmissible, more virulent, and those who do not have immunity or have waning immunity could be susceptible once again.”

10:16 a.m.: US COVID-19 death toll reaches 600,000, equal to yearly cancer death toll

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000, even as the vaccination drive has slashed daily cases and deaths to the point that it’s allowed the country to reemerge from the gloom, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The Associated Press reports that the number of lives lost is greater than the total population of Baltimore or Milwaukee and that it’s about equal to the number of Americans who died from cancer in 2019.

The milestone came the same day that California lifted most of its remaining restrictions and ushered in what’s been billed as its “Grand Opening” just in time for summer. Gone are state rules on social distancing and limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums, and other places. Even Disneyland is throwing open its gates to all tourists after allowing just California residents.

The most recent deaths are seen in some ways as especially tragic now that the vaccine has become available practically for the asking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50% of Americans have had at least one dose of vaccine, while over 40% are fully vaccinated.

But demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped off dramatically, leaving many places with a surplus of doses and casting doubt on whether the country will meet Biden’s target of having 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. The figure stands at just under 65%.

10:05 a.m.: White House to host July 4 ‘independence from virus’ celebration

President Joe Biden wants to imbue Independence Day with a new meaning this year by encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption.

According to the Associated Press, the White House is expressing growing certainty that July Fourth will serve as a breakthrough moment in the nation’s recovery.

The White House says the National Mall in Washington will host the traditional fireworks ceremony. It’s encouraging other communities to hold festivities as well. Tuesday’s announcement comes even as the U.S. is set to cross the grim milestone of 600,000 deaths from the virus.

9:55 a.m.: Evidence suggests COVID-19 was in the US by Christmas 2019

A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and most extensive study to suggest that the new coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials.

According to the Associated Press, the analysis is not definitive, and some experts remain skeptical.

Still, federal health officials are increasingly accepting a timeline in which small numbers of COVID-19 infections may have occurred in the U.S. before the world ever became aware of a dangerous new virus erupting in China.

The study was published Tuesday online by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Monday, June 14

6:29 p.m: Newsom to sign executive order on whether vaccinated workers will have to wear masks

Governor Gavin Newsom says he will sign an executive order ending the question of whether vaccinated workers will have to wear masks.

“If they adopt the guidelines they published Friday, the answer is no and we’ll codify that with an executive order to make that clear on the 17th,” he said. 

A spokesperson for Newsom’s office says the Cal/OSHA draft order represents the latest science and guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control. Without the governor’s executive order, it would be 10 days before it could take effect.

11:19 a.m.: California shop owners pleading for customers as state reopens

While California is just a day away from reopening its economy, business owners who have struggled in the past year are still facing an uncertain future, according to the Associated Press.

Merchants and restaurateurs on Los Angeles’ oldest street say they’re hopeful that the reopening will bring a recovery, but they’re hurting.

Martha Medina, who owns the largest shop on Olvera Street, says she doesn’t expect to return to normal but to a “semi-normal” way of life. Medina’s shop selling Mexican folk art and clothing has cut back to being open five days instead of daily. The state is due to lift restrictions Tuesday after tamping down the virus.

11:16 a.m.: Flying rebounds as airports count 2 million travelers

The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since early March 2020.

According to the Associated Press, the Transportation Security Administration Announced Saturday that 2.03 million travelers were screened at airport security checkpoints on Friday.

Airline bookings have been picking up since around February, as more Americans were vaccinated against COVID-19 and — at least within the U.S. — travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines began to ease.

10:54 a.m.: As US COVID-19 death toll nears 600,000, racial gaps still glaring

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is approaching 600,000 with the virus taking advantage of inequalities across the county, according to the Associated Press.

Government health officials say Native Americans, Latinos, and Black people are two to three times more likely than white people to die of COVID-19. An Associated Press analysis finds that Latinos are dying at much younger ages than other groups.

The Watsonville family of Jerry Ramos, a Mexican American restaurant worker, watched as he succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 32. As he lay dying, he lamented about his 3-year-old daughter: “I have to be here to watch my princess grow up.”

Ramos didn’t live to see it. He died on Feb. 15, becoming one of the nearly 600,000 Americans who perished due to the virus. He is also another tragic example of the outbreak’s strikingly uneven and ever-shifting toll on the nation’s underserved racial and ethnic groups.

In the first wave of fatalities, in April 2020, Black people were hit the hardest, dying at rates higher than those of other ethnic or racial groups. The virus ran through the urban Northeast and hit heavily African American cities like Detroit and New Orleans.

Last summer, during a second surge, Hispanic people were hit the hardest, suffering an outsize share of deaths, driven by infections in Texas and Florida. By winter, during the third and most lethal stage, the virus had gripped the entire nation, and racial gaps in weekly death rates had narrowed so much that white people were the worst off, followed closely by Hispanic people.

Now, even as the outbreak ebbs and more people get vaccinated, a racial gap appears to be emerging again, with Black Americans dying at higher rates than other groups.

Sunday, June 13

1:38 p.m.: People might not need to wear masks in public places starting June 15—but where and when depends  

When California reopens on June 15, masks will still be required on public transportation, transportation hubs, indoors in K-12 schools and youth settings, healthcare settings, correctional facilities, detention centers and shelters. 

Masks will also still be required for unvaccinated people in indoor public settings and businesses.

And all workers will also continue to need to wear masks when working indoors or working outdoors when they are less than six feet from another person, and when required by the CDPH or their local health department. 

Read more here. 

Saturday, June 12

10:50 a.m.: Mondavi Center in Davis to reopen its doors in mid-October 

One of the Sacramento region’s premier music and arts venues is getting ready to welcome audiences back after closing because of COVID restrictions. The Mondavi Center in Davis will reopen its doors in mid-October.

Ticket sales for the 2021-22 season began this week. Don Roth, the Mondavi’s executive director, says this past Monday was their best first-day of ticket sales in about four years. 

“Clearly people are ready to be back and we’re ready to be back,” he said. “It’ll be 19 months by the time we open, since the last time we put on a show.” 

He says they’ve been busy getting the venue ready to reopen.

“Fortunately we have a fantastic filtration system that doesn’t recycle the air, you’re always getting fresh air,” he said. “And we had just put in this amazing Meyer sound system for amplified concerts and then we shut down, so it’ll be brand new when we open.”

Some of the artists featured in the upcoming season include Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet Folklórico de México, and jazz singer Veronica Swift.

Friday, June 11

5:48 p.m.: Newsom signs order to lift most COVID-19 restrictions on June 15

California Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted certain executive actions Friday tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they won’t go into effect until the economy reopens June 15. 

Newsom is ending the executive actions that imposed a stay-at-home order and the colored tier system for counties. That means no more purple, red, or orange distinctions, reopening the economies in all counties.

The governor is also lifting the guidance that discouraged non-essential travel. Masks will no longer be needed in most settings. CDC guidance will still require them on planes and public transportation.

Newsom’s emergency authority, however, will remain in effect, which gives him expanded powers as governor. Republican lawmakers have criticized the decision.

3:35 p.m.: Two Sacramento County residents picked in California vaccine lottery

Maybe it was because Sacramento Kings mascot Slamson brought luck when he pulled the winning numbers. Or perhaps it was just regular old serendipity. Either way, one Sacramento County resident is going to become $50,000 richer after their randomized number was chosen in the second round of California’s vaccine lottery.

With Gov. Gavin Newsom playing game show host yet again, the state pulled another 15 numbers on Friday of people who won $50,000 because they were vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The winners came from Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Fresno, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Kern, San Diego, Riverside, Orange and Monterey counties. The pool included 22 million vaccinated California residents.

Another person from Sacramento County also won $50,000 today after the state failed to connect with one of the 15 winners from the previous drawing. 

Officials have said they will try to reach the winners through multiple methods of communications, including email, text and phone calls.

The state will select 10 grand prize winners next Tuesday, who will each receive $1.5 million. California residents who get vaccinated before June 15 are automatically entered. Winners can choose to remain anonymous and still get their prize money.

3:33 p.m.: Newsom pledges consistent workplace mask guidelines

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’s confident his workplace regulators will soon fall in line with California’s plan to drop virtually all masking requirements for people vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

According to the Associated Press, Cal/OSHA is set to consider revising its conflicting rules Thursday, two days after the state eases its pandemic restrictions. Newsom said on Friday that he expects to make sure the worksite regulations take effect along with planned reopening.

Businesses have been baffled by the shifting rules over who needs to wear masks and where once the nation’s largest state fully reopens from the pandemic.

3:22 p.m.: California debates public health spending as virus danger recedes

California public health departments are asking for an unprecedented infusion of cash following the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal didn’t include ongoing annual funding for public health departments, however. Instead, the state Legislature included more than $400 million of annual funding for public health in its proposal. 

It’s just one of several areas Newsom and lawmakers must reconcile before approving a spending plan by June 30. Some public health departments said they were not prepared for the pandemic, and they’re asking for money to hire more people to have a broader coordinated response to the next public health crisis.

11:17 a.m.: US vaccine surplus growing larger as expiration dates draw closer

The U.S. is confronted with an ever-growing surplus of COVID-19 vaccines, looming expiration dates and stubbornly lagging demand at a time when the developing world is clamoring for doses to stem a rise in infections.

According to the Associated Press, million-dollar prizes, free beer and marijuana, raffled-off hunting rifles and countless other giveaways around the country have failed to significantly move the need on vaccine hesitancy, raising the specter of new outbreaks.

The stockpiles are becoming more daunting each week, with states halting new orders and giving millions of doses back to the federal government. The nation seems likely to fall short of President Joe Biden’s goal of dispensing at least one shot to 70% of the nation’s adults by July 4.

9:26 a.m.: Regulators releasing J&J doses, but many to be tossed

U.S. regulators are allowing the release of about 10 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine from a troubled Baltimore factor, according to the Associated Press.

But many other doses that originated there can’t be used and must be thrown out. The Food and Drug Administration announced that it had determined that two batches from the plant could be released. The plant, owned by Emergent BioSolutions, has been shuttered for weeks.

The agency wouldn’t specify why those batches can’t be used, but a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that it was due to possible contamination. The person wasn’t authorized to release details about the decision and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The FDA’s decision means that the two batches from the Bayview factory can be used in the U.S. or exported to other countries. These are also the first J&J vaccines from Bayview approved for use.

The agency said the vaccines are “critically needed,” given the current public health emergency. It also said it made the decision after reviewing records and the results of the manufacturer’s quality testing.

Thursday, June 10

3:51 p.m.: Cost of the Gov. Gavin Newsom recall election? An estimated $215 million.

It will cost California counties an estimated $215 million to stage an expected recall election that could oust Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office less than a year before the 2022 elections. 

According to the Associated Press, the preliminary projection from the state Finance Department comes about a month after a coalition of county officials urged the Legislature to provide funding to cover the recall election costs — warning that they could strain local budgets already weakened by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The figures were provided by counties that estimated what it would cost for everything from printing ballots to providing face masks and gloves for election workers. An election date has not been set.

3:41 p.m.: Ex-Ayran Brotherhood leader charged with pandemic-related unemployment fraud

A one-time top member of the notorious Aryan Brotherhood who claimed to have turned his life around after 45 years in prison is now charged with defrauding Northern Californians out of nearly $400,000 in unemployment benefits, according to the Associated Press.

The Sacramento Bee says Michael Thompson was arrested Monday in Lake County. He and a co-defendant are accused of bilking at least 16 people last year as the state Employment Development Department was distributing money to those whose jobs were affected by business closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prosecutors said that Thompson and his co-conspirator Eric Hutchins would convince the victims to provide information, allowing them to apply for unemployment money from the state in their names. They then inflated the victims’ income to receive the maximum amount. 

They defrauded mainly people who are homeless or transient people living off Social Security or disability payments by pretending to counsel them. California has said EDD payouts to fraudsters have cost the state about $11 billion.

10:53 a.m.: Regulators withdraw controversial mask regulation

California’s workplace regulators have withdrawn a controversial mask regulation, according to the Associated Press.

Their second such reversal in a week gives them time to consider a rule that more closely aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promise that the state will fully reopen from the pandemic on Tuesday. But some business leaders on Wednesday kept up their pressure on Newsom to override the board.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s rule would have allowed workers to forego masks only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That contrasts with the state’s broader plan to do away with virtually all masking requirements for vaccinated people.

10:38 a.m.: Why do some people get side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine? Experts say it’s your immune system working as planned.

Temporary side effects after COVID-19 vaccines are normal and a sign your immune system is revving up, according to the Associated Press.

Your immune system has two main parts, and the first kicks in as soon as the body detects a foreign intruder by promoting the inflammation that can cause chills, fatigue, and other common side effects.

But since everyone reacts differently, it doesn’t mean the shot didn’t work if you don’t feel anything within a day or two. The rapid-response step of your immune system tends to wane with age, one reason younger people report side effects more often than older adults. Also, some vaccines simply elicit more reactions than others.

“The day after getting these vaccines, I wouldn’t plan anything that was strenuous physical activity,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief, who experienced fatigue after his first dose.

The shots also set in motion the other part of your immune system, which will provide the real protection from the virus by producing antibodies.

People also occasionally have serious allergic reactions. That’s why you’re asked to stick around for about 15 minutes after getting any type of COVID-19 vaccine — to ensure any reaction can be promptly treated.

9:13 a.m.: Millions of Americans struggle to find friends they can trust

Millions of Americans are struggling through life with few people they can trust for personal and professional help. This disconnect raises a barrier to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic’s social, emotional, and economic fallout.

That’s according to a poll from The Impact Genome Project and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey finds 18% of U.S. adults, or about 46 million people, say they have just one person or nobody they can trust for help in their personal lives, such as emergency child care needs or a ride to the airport. And 28% say they have just one person or nobody they can trust to help draft a resume, connect to an employer or navigate workplace challenges.

The isolation is more acute among Black and Hispanic Americans. Thirty-eight percent of Black adults and 35% of Hispanic adults said they had only one or no trusted person to help navigate their work lives, compared with 26% of white adults. In their personal lives, 30% of Hispanic adults and 25% of Black adults said they have one or no trusted people, while 14% of white adults said the same.

Americans were more likely to report a decline than an increase in the number of people they could trust over the past year. Just 6% of Americans said their network of trusted people grew, compared with 16% who reported that it shrank.

While most Americans said the number of people they could trust stayed the same, nearly 3 in 10 said they asked for less support from family and friends because of COVID-19.

Wednesday, June 9

6:25 p.m.: California will align with CDC mask guidelines upon reopening June 15

California is reopening next Tuesday, and we finally have some additional clarity on what that means for mask use. 

After a full month of dueling guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s health department, California will align with the CDC on June 15.

“Fully vaccinated people can resume everyday activities without wearing a mask except in a few limited settings that are required by federal and now state rules,” said Chief Health Officer Doctor Mark Ghaly. “Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks in indoor public settings.”

The “limited settings” requiring masks regardless of vaccination status include healthcare and correctional facilities, public transportation, homeless and emergency shelters, cooling centers and indoors at schools.

Around 15% of California’s population is children under 12, who are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, workplace guidance will continue to be provided by Cal/OSHA. The agency is meeting to discuss those rules Wednesday night.

3:30 p.m.: Nevada man accused of stealing blank vaccine cards in Los Angeles County

Prosecutors say a Nevada man has been charged with stealing more than 500 blank vaccine cards from a COVID-19 vaccination center in Los Angeles County.

According to the Associated Press, the 45-year-old Las Vegas resident was a contract worker at the Pomona Fairplex site when the theft occurred in April. He now faces one felony count of grand theft, and it’s not immediately known if the Las Vegas resident has an attorney.

“Selling fraudulent and stolen vaccine cards is illegal, immoral and puts the public at risk of exposure to a deadly virus,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.

Prosecutors estimate the stolen cards may be worth about $15 per card if illegally sold. The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 25.

3:27 p.m.: The US is investigating COVID-19 origins

Once dismissed by most public health experts and government officials, the hypothesis that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab is now receiving scrutiny under a new U.S. investigation.

According to the Associated Press, experts say a 90-day review ordered by President Joe Biden will push American intelligence agencies to collect more information and review what they already have.

Former State Department officials under former President Donald Trump have publically pushed for the investigation.

However, many scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, still say they believe the virus most likely occurred in nature and jumped from animals to humans.

3:18 p.m.: Pandemic may have exacerbated obesity, other risk factors

Health officials have warned since early on in the pandemic that obesity and related conditions such as diabetes were risk factors for severe COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.

It was another reminder of the health issues that often come with obesity and how difficult sustained weight loss can be. Even faced with such risks, it’s not clear how many people were motivated to get healthier during the pandemic.

Some benefited from having greater control over what they ate and more time to exercise, while others moved less and ate more. The changes underscore how a person’s environment can affect their health and weight, experts say.

11:37 a.m.: California Republican lawmakers are wondering when Gov. Gavin Newsom will end state of emergency

Three Republican lawmakers are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to explain his decision to keep a COVID-19 emergency declaration in place past June 15. That’s the date many of California’s pandemic restrictions are set to end, despite Newsom saying the state of emergency would continue.

Among the GOP lawmakers wanting answers is Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin. Kiley has previously sued the governor for overstepping executive authorities during the pandemic.

Newsom won an appeal, but Kiley said he would take it to the California Supreme Court later this month.

“‘State of emergency’ is a legal term that says there is A, conditions of extreme peril, and B, that these conditions are of such a magnitude that they’re beyond the ability of any local jurisdiction to control,” Kiley said.

California has the second-lowest coronavirus transmission rate in the nation, according to the CDC.

11:26 a.m.: US to buy 500 million Pfizer vaccines to distribute globally

The U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to share through the COVAX alliance for donation to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year.

According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden was set to make the announcement Thursday in a speech before the start of the Group of Seven summit. The news was confirmed to the Associated Press by a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on a condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s announcement.

The person says 200 million doses would be shared this year, with the balance to be donated in the first half of 2022.

11:06 p.m.: US deaths for heart disease, diabetes rose during COVID-19 pandemic

The U.S. saw tragically remarkable increases in the death rates for heart disease, diabetes and other common killers last year, according to the Associated Press.

Experts believe the main reason may be that many people who suffered dangerous symptoms made the lethal mistake of staying away from the hospital for fear of catching the coronavirus.

The death rates — posted online this week by federal health authorities — add to the growing body of evidence that the number of lives lost directly or indirectly to the coronavirus in the U.S. is far greater than the officially reported COVID-19 death toll of nearly 600,000 in 2020-21.

For months now, researchers have known that 2020 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, primarily because of COVID-19. But the data released this week showed the biggest increases in the death rates for heart disease and diabetes in at least 20 years.

“I would probably use the word ‘alarming,’” said Dr. Tannaz Moin, a diabetes expert at UCLA, said of the trends.

Tuesday, June 8

3:10 p.m.: California’s low-income essential workers are feeling unheard in state reopening

While California may be set to reopen in a week, many of the state’s low-income essential workers feel concerned about their safety.

Even though restaurants, grocery stores and other essential low-wage workers have worked through the pandemic, regardless of the state’s reopening status, many are now concerned about the confusing reopening guidelines.

Across the state, broad reopening guidelines are causing anxiety — especially as only about half of the state’s population is currently vaccinated.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Northern California President Jacques Loveall says that many grocery store workers his organization represents are concerned about the shifting mask mandates.

“Our members are seeing hundreds of people a day where most people don’t see anywhere near that number of people,” Loveall said. “So the possibility for exposure are still there, so they are concerned and I think legitimately concerned.”

Loveall says about 70% of grocery store workers in the union have been vaccinated. While shoppers can go maskless in most cases after June 15, many employees will still have to cover their faces while at work.

2:26 p.m.: US unlikely to reach Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal

For months, President Joe Biden has laid out goal after goal for taming the coronavirus pandemic and then exceeded his own benchmarks.

Now, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. is on pace to fall short of Biden’s aim to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4. As of June 7, only 51.6% of the nation’s population had received at least one vaccine dose. The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest.

However, it’s increasingly likely that the population will still miss the president’s vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S.

2:15 p.m.: Sacramento County man tied to pandemic-related unemployment fraud arrested again

Prosecutors say what started as a gun bust has led investigators to uncover $600,000 in pandemic-related fraud from California’s unemployment agency, according to the Associated Press.

Adrian Sykes was arrested on Monday for the second time in the case, this time in Las Vegas. He was initially arrested in February after Sacramento County prosecutors say a traffic stop and search of his house found six guns and six unemployment agency debit cards.

Prosecutors allege Sykes and his girlfriend filed 35 fraudulent claims and obtained more than $600,000 using personal identifying information from victims nationwide. Sacramento County prosecutors say they don’t know if either has an attorney.

10:21 a.m.: Pfizer to start vaccine testing in children under 12

Pfizer says it’s expanding testing of its COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12, according to the Associated Press.

After a first-step study in a small number of children 5- to 11-year-old to test different doses, Pfizer is ready to enroll about 4,500 young volunteers at more than 90 sites in the U.S., Finland, Poland, and Spain.

The vaccine made by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is already authorized for emergency use in anyone 12 and older in the U.S. and the European Union.

Enrollment of 5- to 11-year-olds began this week. Those youngsters will receive two vaccine doses of 10 micrograms each — a third of the teen and adult dose — or dummy shots. Enrollment of children as young as 6 months will start in a few weeks using an even lower dose, 3 micrograms per shot.

9:52 a.m.: Coronavirus pandemic prolonged foster care stays for children

An Associated Press analysis shows that thousands of families’ reunifications have been delayed nationwide as the pandemic snarls the foster care system.

Courts have delayed cases, gone virtual or temporarily shut down, leading to a backlog. Services such as visitation, therapy and drug testing that parents need to get their kids back also have been limited.

The AP found at least 8,700 fewer reunifications during the first nine months of the pandemic, compared with the same period the year before. Adoptions slowed to a trickle. Overall, tens of thousands fewer children left foster care compared with 2019.

Monday, June 7

5:43 p.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom unlikely to lift worker mask restriction

California Gov. Gavin Newsom appears disinclined to insert himself into the regulatory process for workplaces.

According to the Associated Press, Newsom spoke on Friday after Cal/OSHA, the  state safety board, upset business groups by approving new rules a day earlier. They require all workers to wear masks unless every employee around them is vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The rules run counter to Newsom’s plan to fully reopen California in less than two weeks and allow vaccinated people to skip face coverings in nearly all situations. Critics hadn’t decided if they will push Newsom to override the worksite rules adopted by Cal/OSHA.

5:35 p.m.: Las Vegas to hold first convention since pandemic hit

Las Vegas is hosting its first big trade show since the start of the pandemic this week, according to the Associated Press.

The four-day World of Concrete trade show is set to begin Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which recently completed a new $1 billion exhibition hall. Some are embracing it as a sign of a reopening state.

Observers like U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that people will be eying the trade show as a test run for resuming large conventions and meetings.

The World of Concrete typically has 60,000 masonry professionals in attendance. Dow says having even half of the attendance in 2019 would be a success.

5:24 p.m.: Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated? Scientists say most fully vaccinated people can skip testing.

U.S. health officials say people who are fully vaccinated can skip routine COVID-19 testing, with some exceptions, according to the Associated Press.

Because the approved vaccines are so effective at blocking COVID-19, vaccinated people face little risk of getting sick or spreading the virus. As a result, U.S. officials recently updated their guidance to recommend against routine screening in most cases, including workplace settings.

An exception is if you develop COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue. Health care workers and people in prisons and homeless shelters should also continue to follow testing guidelines specific to those places.

12:11 p.m.: When do COVID-19 vaccine doses expire? About six months, depending on storage.

How soon vaccines expire is a critical question as the Biden administration prepares to send tens of millions of unused COVID-19 doses abroad to help curb the pandemic.

According to the Associated Press, many drugs and vaccines can last for years if stored properly, but all can eventually lose their effectiveness, much like how food can degrade in a pantry. Like many perishable items, COVID-19 vaccines remain stable longer at lower temperatures.

In recent days, some state officials have said that some unused doses may expire by the end of the month, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that looming expiration dates were a factor as the administration works to get doses sent out as quickly as possible.

However, expiration dates for vaccines are determined based on data the manufacturer submits to regulators proving how long the shots stay at the right strength, said former Food and Drug Administration vaccine chief Norman Baylor.

It’s called a “potency assay,” and it can vary by vaccine. Some vaccines, such as tetanus shots, typically last two years if properly stored.

The vaccines authorized in the U.S., made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, can last for up to about six months from the time of manufacture, depending on how they’re stored.

11:50 a.m.: Jails emptied last year due to the pandemic. Advocates are now asking if we should be going back to cramped jails.

In the middle of last year, the number of people in U.S. jails was at its lowest point in more than two decades.

According to the Associated Press, a new report published by the Vera Institute of Justice collected population numbers from about half of the nation’s 3,300 jails to make national estimates. The report was then shared with The Marshall Project and the Associated Press.

The number of people incarcerated in county jails across the country declined by roughly one-quarter, or 185,000, as counties aggressively worked to release people held on low-level charges, dramatically reduced arrest rates and suspended court operations to halt the spread of COVID-19.

But in many places, the decrease didn’t last too long. From mid-2020 to March 2021, the number of people in jails waiting for trial or serving short sentences for minor offenses climbed back up again by more than 70,000, reaching nearly 650,000.

“Reducing the incarcerated population across the country is possible,” said Jacob Kang-Brown, a Vera Institute of Justice Senior Research Associate and author of the report. “We saw decreases in big cities, small cities, rural counties, but the increase we see is troubling.”

The pandemic underscored what reform advocates have been saying for years — cramped and filthy jails are the wrong place for most people who have been arrested. The pandemic forced a rapid departure from the status quo and became something of a proof of concept for alternatives to incarceration.

“The pandemic has given prosecutors the chance to implement practices that have been discussed and floated for years now,” said Alisa Heydari, a former Manhattan prosecutor who is deputy director for the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Sunday, June 6

11:55 a.m.: New kind of COVID-19 vaccine could be available this summer

A “protein subunit vaccine,” likely from the biotech company Novavax, could be available as soon as this summer. It works differentially from the current batch of vaccines and doesn’t require refrigeration. 

It contains the spike protein itself (no need to make it) as well as an adjuvant that enhances the immune system’s response—making the vaccine even more protective.

The technology has been well understood. There are already vaccines made this way for hepatitis B and pertussis.

Read more here. 

Saturday, June 5

1:55 p.m.: Sacramento sees some of the country’s biggest construction job growth 

Sacramento is seeing some of the country’s biggest construction job growth.

“Construction was deemed essential throughout the pandemic,” said Peter Tateishi, head of the Associated General Contractors of California. “It didn’t really slow down, it continued to push forward.”

A new study by the group finds  the Sacramento area added nearly 6,000 new construction jobs from February to April. That puts Sacramento among the top five cities in the country for construction employment. A lot of those jobs are in office and commercial construction downtown.

“Throughout 2020 you also saw a number of people moving out of other areas of California, including the Bay Area, into the Sacramento market,” Tateishi said. “So we’ve seen a lot of investment into the residential side of construction.”

The report finds Sacramento’s overall construction employment is at nearly 76,000  jobs—the highest level since 2005. 

Friday, June 4

3:50 p.m.: California’s population decline may be affected by the pandemic, report shows

For the first time in California history, the state’s population is going down.

Researchers from the Public Policy Institute of California say it’s a combination of a few factors:

  • Fewer people are moving into the state.
  • More people are moving away.
  • Birth rates have dropped.

During the pandemic, birth rates did go down, but the PPIC thinks it may also be just part of a longer-term trend.

Women in their twenties are having fewer children, largely because they’ve been living with their parents for longer, due in part to high housing costs.

The PPIC’s new report found that between 2007 and 2020, birth rates in California fell faster than birth rates nationwide, which also fell.

The report’s authors say in the past, drips in the birth rate have been countered by people immigrating into the state, but that’s not the case anymore.

3:33 p.m.: Gov. Newsom announces first batch of winners for $50,000 vaccine prize

California Gov. Gavin Newsom took a turn as gameshow host as the state drew the first 15 winners of $50,000 prizes for getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.

According to the Associated Press, Newsom and two others drew the winners from a lottery machine on Friday. It’s the first in a series of drawings, culminating in 10 grand prizes of $1.5 million each on June 15. That’s the day when the state expects to drop almost all coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

The state plans to award over $116 million in cash prizes and gift cards, all in an effort to get more Californians vaccinated.

The drawings are based on unique numeric identifiers that connect to the names of the winners. Each ball represents a $50,000 check that individuals can receive after they’ve gotten their second shot, but there are some stipulations.

The state will contact winners and give them 96 hours to claim their prizes. Friday’s winners came from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Alameda, San Luis Obispo and Mendocino counties.

3:24 p.m.: California won’t lift state of emergency on June 15

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he will not lift the coronavirus state of emergency on June 15, according to the Associated Press.

But he still intends to lift most mask and other restrictions on that date. Newsom said Friday he will keep in place the emergency order that gives him broad authority to issue, alter or suspend state laws and regulations.

Newsom said he is not taking the summer months off from the threat posed by the coronavirus. Republicans in the state Senate have tried repeatedly to pass a concurrent resolution to end the state of emergency, but Democrats in the majority have blocked their efforts.

9:54 a.m.: California workers could soon skip masks if all in a room are vaccinated

California employees will soon be able to skip masks in the workplace, but only if every employee in the room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

According to the Associated Press, the revised rules adopted Thursday night by a sharply divided California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board are expected to go into effect June 15. That’s the same day the state more broadly loosens requirements in social settings to match recent federal recommendations.

Members made clear that the regulations are only temporary while they consider further easing pandemic rules. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says he’s hopeful the board will follow the science and further amend its rules.

9:45 a.m: Experts say COVID-19 pandemic slowed battle against HIV/AIDS

Some researchers believe COVID-19 has derailed the fight against HIV and set back a U.S. campaign to decimate the AIDS epidemic by 2030, according to the Associated Press.

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the first report that brought AIDS to the public. The battle against HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — had been going well until recently. Two years ago, U.S. officials set goals to all but eliminate new HIV cases in about a decade.

But now, experts believe the U.S. may see its first increase in infections in years. They blame less testing and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Internationally, recent strides could also be undone for similar reasons.

9:26 a.m.: US employers add 559K jobs, still struggles to find workers

U.S. employers added a modest 559,000 jobs in May, an improvement from April’s sluggish gain.

However, according to the Associated Press, there’s still evidence that many companies are struggling to find enough workers even as the economy rapidly recovers from the pandemic recession.

Last month’s job gain was about April’s revised total of 278,000. The unemployment rate fell to 5.8% from 6.1%. The rebound speed from the pandemic recession has caught employers off guard and touched off a scramble to hire.

The reopening of the economy, fueled by substantial federal aid and rising vaccinations, has released pent-up demand among consumers to dine out, travel, shop, attend public events, and visit friends and relatives.

Thursday, June 3

3:48 p.m.: California gives ok to continue sales of to-go liquor

There’s one pandemic change that Californians are sure to toast: the to-go cocktail.

According to the Associated Press, Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will allow restaurants to continue selling takeout alcohol and keep expanded outdoor dining through the end of the year.

Restaurants turned to takeout and outdoor seating during the last year as coronavirus restrictions limited indoor service. The state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control relaxed regulations to allow them to keep selling alcohol, which can be a big moneymaker.

The state is set to drop all capacity limits on businesses, indoor and outdoor, on June 15.

3:39 p.m.: Traffic deaths rose during pandemic

The government’s highway safety agency says U.S. traffic deaths rose 7% last year, according to the Associated Press.

That’s the most considerable increase in 13 years, even after people drove fewer miles due to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blamed the increase on drivers taking more risks on sparsely traveled roads by speeding, failing to wear seat belts, or driving while impaired with drugs or alcohol

On Thursday, the agency released preliminary numbers showing that 38,680 people died in traffic crashes last year. The increase came even though the number of miles traveled by vehicle fell 13% from 2019.

10:31 a.m.: Cal/OSHA to vote for mask and social distancing guidelines today

The California agency in charge of workplace health and safety will vote Thursday on whether to ease face masks and social distancing guidelines in certain workplaces.

The proposal drafted by Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board says employers who don’t work with the public can ease restrictions if they receive documentation that all employees have been vaccinated.

Stanford University infectious diseases expert Dr. Erin Mordacai thinks the proposal is a reasonable idea.

“We have pretty good evidence at this point that the vaccines do a really good job at protecting against infection, which means both that the vaccinated person is unlikely to get infected and get sick, but they’re also unlikely to infect and transmit to others,” Mordecai said.

The proposal also says public workplaces like restaurants will likely continue requiring California employees to mask up even after the state reopening on June 15.

10:16 a.m.: As Sacramento County moves to orange tier, the parks department plans events

This week, Sacramento County moved into the less-restrictive orange tier of the state’s reopening plan, and this means more people could be headed outdoors, ramping up structured-recreational opportunities.

Sacramento’s Youth, Parks, and Community Enrichment Director Mario Lara says the city is prepared to serve people that are ready to reengage with activities.

“So we’re planning a host of summer activities both indoors and outdoors at our community centers, as well as some outdoor summer camp activities,” Lara said. “And we’re anticipating that folks will want to be outdoors within our parks, neighborhood parks and community parks.”

While some activities were eliminated because of COVID-19, the open spaces offered by the city’s parks department remained a sanctuary for many during the pandemic.

10:08 a.m.: US will boost vaccine-sharing around the world

The White House says the U.S. will share more COVID-19 vaccines with the world, including directing 75% of excess doses through the UN-backed COVAX global program.

According to the Associated Press, the White House has previously stated its intent to share 80 million vaccine doses with the world by the end of June. The administration says 25% of doses will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.

The long-awaited vaccine-sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped significantly. More than 63% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose, and global inequities in supply have also become more glaring.

Wednesday, June 2

5:28 p.m.: EDD continuing to answer fewer and fewer calls 

California’s embattled Employment Development Department is taking more heat after a San Francisco Chronicle report revealed that the Employment Development Department answered fewer callers every week of May than in March. 

This news comes despite promises of new hires and better practices. California Rep. Josh Harder says it’s unacceptable.

“We’ve heard again and again from folks at EDD over the last few months, all the work that they’ve done to get new systems, to hire new people, and what we’ve seen today is — it’s not working,” Harder said.

He points out that part of the problem rests with the federal government, which has promised $2 billion in assistance to agencies like the EDD. However, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has not yet committed to a timeline for releasing those funds.

5:18 p.m.: COVID-19 shot may not need yearly booster shots

The world’s leading COVID-19 vaccines may offer lasting protection that diminishes the need for frequent booster shots, according to the Associated Press.

Scientists are finding clues in how the body remembers viruses, but they say more research is needed, especially since viral mutations are still a wild card.

Pfizer and Moderna have fueled booster questions by estimating that people might need yearly shots, just like the flu vaccine. 

The companies plan to have some candidates ready this fall, but companies won’t decide when boosters get used. That’s up to health authorities in each country. Some experts say boosters may be needed only every few years.

10:01 a.m.: Tokyo Olympics still ‘a go’ despite coronavirus concerns

Will the Tokyo Olympics open despite rising opposition related to the pandemic? The answer is almost certainly “yes.”

According to the Associated Press, that “yes” is largely tied to billions of dollars at stake for the International Olympic Committee.

The Switzerland-based IOC controls the terms of the games in a contract with Japanese organizers, and only it has the right to cancel the games.

Japan has spent at least $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics and will want to save face and have the Tokyo Games open on July 23. Medical authorities in Japan have largely opposed the Olympics, but financial and political considerations have overshadowed concerns.

9:41 a.m.: Sacramento, San Joaquin counties move into orange tier before June 15 reopening

Sacramento and San Joaquin counties are finally moving to the orange tier of California’s color-coded reopening system, allowing some businesses to loosen restrictions just two weeks before the state fully reopens and removes most COVID-19 restrictions.

Sacramento has been in the red tier since March 16, while San Joaquin has been since April 6. Nevada and Solano counties are also moving down from red to orange. No counties are left in the most restrictive purple tier.

In the less-restrictive orange tier, restaurants and movie theaters can increase indoor capacity to 50%, and gyms rise to 25%. Bars can also reopen outdoors with modifications. There are also capacity restriction modifications for indoor and outdoor events if all attendees are vaccinated or have a recent negative COVID-19 test.

All of these changes will take effect immediately in Sacramento County, according to an updated public health order.

9:22 a.m.: Free beer and more for the US’s ‘vaccine sprint’

Free beer is the latest White House-backed incentive to persuade Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden is expected to announce a “month of action” on Wednesday to get more shots into arms before the July 4 holiday.

Biden is updating the nation on his plans to get 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day. That’s key to his goal of reopening the country by this summer. The latest hop-infused incentive to get vaccinated, provided by Anheuser-Busch, builds on others like cash giveaways, sports tickets and paid leave to keep up the pace of Americans getting shots.

Tuesday, June 1

3:52 p.m.: ‘Zoom Boom’ continues, even as some head back into offices

Zoom is still booming, raising prospects that the video conferencing service will be able to sustain its pandemic-fueled momentum.

According to the Associated Press, the San Jose-headquartered corporation has seen some signs for optimism in its latest quarterly earnings report. Zoom’s stock had slumped recently as the easing pandemic lessens the need for virtual meetings, but the stock still rose 3% in extended trading after the quarterly numbers came out.

Both Zoom’s revenue and profit for the February-April quarter surpassed analyst projections. However, on the downside, Zoom added its lowest number of large-business subscribers since before the start of the pandemic.

3:38 p.m.: Mobile clinics to vaccinate people in small towns in Nevada, other states

Doctors and nurses are staffing mobile clinics throughout the U.S. to ensure people in tiny towns and rural areas can get vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.

In states such as Nevada, Arizona, Kentucky and others, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has dispatched the mobile units to places that lack pharmacies, clinics and other vaccination sites.

In Nevada, volunteer doctors and nurses have teamed up with the National Guard to deliver thousands of shots to communities that state officials say couldn’t offer vaccinations any other way.

In a town located on Fallon Paiute-Shoshone land and 60 miles east of Reno, the state has set up FEMA mobile vaccination units to ensure residents in 28 locations across the state can get inoculated.

This is just one of Nevada health officials’ many tactics to counter waning interest in vaccinations. A Las Vegas strip club has even set up a pop-up vaccination site.

However, state health officials acknowledge they’re unlikely to hit their initial goal of vaccinating 75% of the population believed necessary to reach herd immunity.

3:26 p.m.: Japan’s vaccine push ahead of Olympics may be too late

It’s sinking in that Japan’s scramble to catch up on a frustratingly slow vaccination drive less than two months before the Summer Olympics start may be too little, too late, according to the Associated Press.

Instead, an expert warns that the Olympics risks becoming an incubator for a “Tokyo variant,” as tens of thousands of athletes, officials, sponsors, and journalists descend on and potentially mix with a largely unvaccinated Japanese population.

With infections in Tokyo and other heavily populated areas at high levels and hospitals already under strain, experts are worried about the very little slack left in the system.

Even if the country succeeds in meeting its goal of fully vaccinating older adults by the end of July, much of the population would not be inoculated. Plus, some experts believe even that goal is overly optimistic.

12:25 p.m.: California travel to campgrounds, beaches, surge

Many Californians found themselves heading to campgrounds, beaches and restaurants over the latest holiday weekend.

According to the Associated Press, as the state prepares to shed some of its coronavirus rules, Southern California beaches have been busy with families barbecuing and children playing in the sand and surf.

Many business owners say they’ve been scrambling to hire workers to keep up with the customer demand since virus cases have fallen, and vaccinations have risen. The surge in travel and recreation comes as California prepares to relax social distancing and masking rules on June 15 if coronavirus cases remain low.

Newly reported infections in the state have fallen below 1,000 some days. The positivity rate has also been 1%.

12:19 p.m.: US figures out how to fairly share vaccine overstock globally

It’s been five weeks since the Biden administration announced plans to share millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world by the end of June, according to the Associated Press.

Nations around the globe are still waiting with growing impatience to learn where the vaccines will go. President Joe Biden must decide what share of doses goes where and how many of those shares should be reserved for U.S. partners.

So far, it looks like the administration will provide the bulk of the doses to COVAX, the U.N.-backed global vaccine sharing program. The administration is also considering reserving about a fourth of the doses for the U.S. to dispense directly to individual nations of its choice.

12:06 p.m.: Nursing homes across country still struggling with COVID-19 infection rates

Nursing homes in the U.S. are still reporting scattered COVID-19 outbreaks and COVID-associated deaths, albeit at much smaller rates than during the height of the pandemic.

According to the Associated Press, due to the outbreaks and deaths, many facilities are following federal and state recommendations to pause visitors, causing disappointment and frustration among family members who hoped to visit their families again once fully vaccinated.

Most often, staff are the ones who get infected. Outbreaks have also been linked to new, unvaccinated nursing home residents.

Federal data show there were 472 nursing home deaths in the first two weeks of May, down from 10,675 in the first two weeks of January 2021.

Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here.



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Apathy at Work? In Two Minutes, Get Your Team to Care Again (Tip #1) | LawVision


Admit it. After over a year of being kept in a holding pattern due to the pandemic – with restrictions on travel, a limited menu of activity options, unknowns about health, job insecurity, and difficulty knowing where to focus our energy at any given time (and this list goes on) – some are finding it challenging to feel engaged with their work today. To exacerbate the distractions, the world is about to come back to life with a burst of long-awaited activity. Vaccinations are rolling out, people are going out, and we can see faces again. Flights are full, Summer is near, and now all you want to do is have some fun!

Usually, I genuinely enjoy staying on top of legal industry news, but now even I am feeling a tinge of burnout. I have lost interest in reading the usual articles pushing contract management, legal innovation, and so on. Add to the mix all the online industry events, and content is crazy-abundant and often redundant across so many channels, yet audience time and attention are scarce.

We are all selling something. (I am selling a better law firm operating model and work culture. What about you?) I believe many of us should reevaluate how we attempt to reach our audiences if we want them to listen. Having your content stand out from a sea of information has never been more important. As an employer, your law firm must create content that effectively reaches and re-engages your employees.

Tip #1: Create Content with Clear Benefits

Create content with clear value propositions (i.e., why reading this is worth your time) spelled out in the title. Your content should include tangible takeaways for readers.

Suggested format: here’s the issue, here’s how long it will take us to address it, and here’s what you will take away.

Example: “Apathy at Work? In Two Minutes, Get Your Team to Care Again (Tip #1)”

The apathy many are feeling today is to be expected after what we’ve all just gone through. Now, it’s time to come back. I want to help those who need a lift to care again and to re-engage. Stay tuned for more tips.

Originally published on PinHawk’s Legal Administrator Daily – May 24, 2021



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Local car care expert weighs in on tips to conserve fuel


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Fuel shortages across the East Coast and here in the Commonwealth caused by a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline have left drivers worried about their next fill-up.

“The last 24 hours have been intense around Hampton Roads,” said Holly Dalby, the Public Information Officer for AAA of Tidewater. “We need to remember it’s not a shortage but a distribution problem.”

Instead of panicking, Sharon McElrath, owner of Mr. Transmission in Newport News, says to think about conserving what you have. Her first tip: Don’t speed.

“The engine will burn gas more efficiently if you go the speed limit,” McElrath said. “The faster you go, the more gas you will use.”

Next, she says make sure you are pumped up. Under-inflated tires reduce fuel economy and are also dangerous.

Next, have your O2 sensors checked.

“Your O2 sensors calibrate the amount of fuel that is going to the engine, and they should be changed around every 60,000 to 90,000 miles,” she said.

McElrath says it’s a good idea to have your engine and transmission checked.

“You want to make sure it is shifting correctly at the right times, and that can save one to five miles per gallon,” she said. “Make sure your engine is properly tuned up; make sure all your spark plugs are working; no misfires in your engine, and change your oil on regular basis.”

Another tip: Travel light. Added weight in the car creates drag on the engine and consumes extra gas, so remove unnecessary items from the trunk.

McElrath also said don’t be afraid to run your A/C, especially on the highway.

Related: How to report gas price gouging if you see it

“If you have windows open or sunroof open, that air does not make your car aerodynamic,” she said.

Lastly, avoid idling. It uses a lot of fuel, more than restarting the engine.





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The Latest: UK increases aid to India’s health care system


LONDON — Britain rushed to increase aid for India’s teetering health care system on Sunday, promising more ventilators and expert advice as doctors grapple with a surge in coronavirus infections that is killing thousands of people a day.

The U.K. government said it will send an additional 1,000 ventilators to India. In addition, England’s National Health Service, which has battled one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe, is creating an advisory group to share its expertise with Indian authorities.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans a video meeting with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on Tuesday to discuss further cooperation between the two countries, the U.K. government said in statement.

India recorded 392,488 new infections, down from a high of more than 400,000 in the previous 24 hours. It also reported 3,689 deaths, raising overall virus fatalities to 215,542. Experts believe both figures are undercounts.

The new round of government aid comes in addition to the 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators and three oxygen generation units the U.K. said it was sending to India last week.

Private fundraising efforts are also taking place throughout Britain, where 1.4 million people have Indian roots.

———

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

India’s leader weakened by coronavirus crisis as nation sets record for daily cases

U.S. public transit hopes to win back riders after crushing year

Puerto Rico staggers under latest surge of the virus

— ‘London to Delhi’ stationary biking raises cash for India’s virus crisis

— Virus, technology, unrest make stressful year for U.S. teachers

———

Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

———

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s national body to control coronavirus decided Sunday to temporarily restrict the country’s borders to people coming in from Afghanistan and Iran.

Inbound pedestrian movement from those two countries will halt at midnight May 4 until May 20 with the exception of Pakistani citizens in Afghanistan and Iran who want to return home and extreme medical emergency cases.

The development comes after Pakistan reported another 113 deaths and 4,414 new cases amid the third wave of the virus, taking the country’s death tally to 18,070.

Authorities said the decision aimed to limit the spread of new COVID-19 variants. It said border terminals with both the countries will remain open seven days a week with increased health staff and there will be no restrictions on outbound passengers or cargo movement.

———

NEW DELHI — Preliminary voting trends released by India’s electoral body on Sunday indicate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party failed to make gains in four recent state elections, a sign his political strength may be slipping as the country struggles to contain an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases.

Health experts say the massive electoral rallies and marches held as voters cast their ballots in March and April are partly to blame for the subsequent spike in COVID-19 infections.

Public anger for allowing the elections to go forward despite the risk has been directed at both Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the independent Election Commission. The commission will release the final voting results later Sunday.

Following the disappointing results, Modi stands weakened but faces no threats to staying on as prime minister until his term ends in 2024.

———

WASHINGTON — A top White House adviser to President Joe Biden is suggesting that he still wears a mask outdoors because it has become a “matter of habit.”

Anita Dunn told CNN’s “State of the Union” that she still wore her mask outdoors after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people like herself and the president don’t need to, especially if they’re outside alone and away from other people.

Said Dunn: “I myself found that I was still wearing my mask outdoors this week because it has become such a matter of habit.”

Biden wore a mask outside several times last week as he approached the microphone for speeches.

The CDC recently said fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they’re in a big crowd of strangers.

———

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico seemed to be sprinting toward herd immunity this spring before people began letting their guard down against COVID-19 and new variants started spreading across the U.S. territory.

Now, a spike in cases and hospitalizations has put medical experts at odds with the government, which is struggling to protect people’s health while also trying to prevent an economic implosion on an island battered by hurricanes, earthquakes and a prolonged financial crisis.

“The difficulty here is how do you find a Solomonic decision … to give people the opportunity to work and be responsible and also maintain health as a priority,” said Ramón Leal, former president of Puerto Rico’s Restaurant Association. “These are hard conversations.”

It’s a delicate balance for an island that imposed a lockdown and mask mandates ahead of any U.S. state and has some of the strictest entry requirements of any American jurisdiction.

Overall, the land of 3.3 million people has reported more than 115,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,000 deaths.

———

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania will ease coronavirus-control measures in the capital of Bucharest beginning Monday, after its COVID-19 infection rate dropped below three per 1,000 residents for three straight days.

This will allow restaurants, cafes, cinemas and performance halls to reopen inside to 30% capacity after they were forced in late March to close indoor spaces to help curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infections. A 10 p.m. curfew will remain in place.

Bucharest prefect Alin Stoica said if the COVID-19 infection rate drops below 1.5 per 1,000 residents some venues could ramp up capacity to 50%, and that up to 300 people could be allowed at outdoor events. Authorities will review the epidemiological situation on May 13.

Since the pandemic started, Romania — a country of more than 19 million — has recorded more than 1 million infections and 28,282 deaths.

———

WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden urges more federal spending for public transportation, transit agencies decimated by COVID-19 are trying to figure out how to win back passengers scared away by the pandemic.

It’s made more urgent by the climate change crisis. Biden has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by the end of the decade. That aggressive target will require Americans to ditch gas-guzzling cars for electric vehicles or embrace mass transit.

“We have a huge opportunity here to provide fast, safe, reliable, clean transportation in this country, and transit is part of the infrastructure,” Biden said at an event to promote rail and public transportation.

With fewer transportation alternatives, lower-income people are more reliant on public transportation for commuting and their daily lives.

———

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan banned Shiite mourning processions on the martyrdom day of the fourth caliph of Islam due to the high risk of spreading coronavirus and asked aviation authorities to cut inbound international flights to 20% to avoid new virus variants.

The developments came after health authorities reported the presence of U.K., Brazilian and South African variants in patients who recently tested positive.

Authorities will allow congregations of Shiite mourners to gather on Ali Day on Tuesday if they follow social distancing rules and wear masks.

An increase in infections prompted authorities to lock down in most parts of its capital Lahore for the second day, as well as weekend lockdowns in the future.

———

NEW DELHI — India has opened vaccinations to all adults in hopes of taming a monstrous spike in COVID-19 infections.

The world’s largest maker of vaccines is still short of critical supplies — the result of lagging manufacturing and raw material shortages. Those factors delayed the rollout in several states.

Only a fraction of India’s population likely can afford the prices charged by private hospitals for the shot. That means states and the federal government will be in charge of immunizing 900 million Indian adults.

India set another global record Saturday with 401,993 daily cases, taking its tally to more than 19.1 million. There were 3,523 confirmed deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 211,853, according to the Health Ministry.

———

BEIJING — Chinese tourists are expected to make a total of 18.3 million railway passenger trips on the first day of China’s international labor day holiday.

That’s according to an estimate by China’s state railway group. The start to the five-day holiday on Saturday included tourists rushing to travel domestically now that the coronavirus has been brought under control in China.

May Day is offering the first long break for Chinese tourists since the start of the year. A domestic outbreak of the coronavirus before the Lunar New Year holidays in February cancelled travel plans for many after the government advised people to refrain from traveling.

Border closures and travel restrictions mean tourists are traveling domestically. China in recent weeks reported almost no cases of locally transmitted infections.

———

BRUSSELS — Police have detained 132 people who took part in an illegal party in a Brussels park to protest COVID-19 restrictions, authorities said Sunday.

About 15 people, including protesters and police, were injured in clashes, police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said.

About 2,000 revelers and protesters had massed in the park Saturday for the second time in a month, and police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse them, clashing for hours.

The government and police had warned people for a week to stay away from the party to no avail. Clashes erupted after big crowds started gathering late in the afternoon.

Belgium still has strict rules banning major gatherings and insists on people wearing face masks in large crowds.

———

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis led a special prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday evening to invoke the end of the pandemic.

Francis, wearing white robes, sat in a chair and fingered the beads of a rosary, while about 200 people, including young children, sat spaced apart according to coronavirus safety protocols and recited the prayers aloud.

The pope prayed that “this hard trial end and that a horizon of hope and peace return.”

Every day, for the rest of the month, various Catholic sanctuaries in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary will take turns holding a similar rosary service. The initiative ends on May 31, when Francis will lead the rosary recitation in the Vatican Gardens.

———

LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas has increased its casino capacity and more pandemic-weary tourists are arriving at the entertainment city.

Casino capacity on the Strip increased to 80% and person-to-person distancing drops to 3 feet on Saturday. The boom began in mid-March when casino occupancy went from 35% to 50% under state health guidelines.

Among the first arrivals were people ages 60 and older who were recently vaccinated. Analysts said pent-up demand, available hotel rooms and $1,400 pandemic recovery checks have contributed to the rush.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority tallied more than 2.2 million visitors in March. The figure was down 40% from March 2019. Casinos closed from mid-March to early June last year, helping to drive the Nevada jobless rate in April above 30% — the highest in any state. The current state rate is 8.1%.

———

GENEVA — The World Health Organization has given the go-ahead for emergency use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The mRNA vaccine from the U.S. manufacturer joins vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson in receiving the WHO’s emergency use listing. Similar approvals for China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines are expected in the coming days and weeks, WHO has said.

The greenlight for Moderna’s vaccine, announced late Friday, took many months because of delays WHO faced in getting data from the manufacturer.

Many countries without their own advanced medical regulatory and assessment offices rely on the WHO listing to decide whether to use vaccines. U.N. children’s agency UNICEF also uses the listing to deploy vaccines in an emergency like the pandemic.

The announcement isn’t likely to have an immediate impact on supplies of Moderna’s vaccine for the developing world. The company struck supply agreements with many rich countries, which have already received millions of doses.



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22 Types, Air Plant Care, Planter Ideas


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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… plant? Yup, an air plant. These little warm-weather lovers have swept across Pinterest and the home decor industry with their tendril-like leaves, fun colors, and easy planting (like, ridiculously easy planting).

There are over 100 common types of air plants that range in size and color, and one (or 10) of them might be perfect for your home.

Get ready for the 411 on some of the most popular (and attractive) kinds of air plants. Our air plant rundown can help you decide on a variety that fits your climate, skill level, and interest.

Air plants belong to the genus Tillandsia, a group of epiphytes. Yeah, don’t feel bad if you don’t know what epiphytes are. That just means they don’t grow in dirt. Instead, they grow on other plants.

They’re native to Central and South America, Mexico, and the Southern U.S., where they hang out in the shaded branches of trees and other plants. In their native habitat, they absorb moisture from the air.

Their dislike of dirt lets your creativity run wild. Honestly, you don’t have to put them in anything. They can sit on a windowsill (though not in direct sunlight), hang out in a corner, or peak out of a candlestick. No water. No dirt. Oh, the possibilities.

And while they’re not foolproof (er… plant-killer proof), some of these plants stay green with very little effort no matter the color of your thumb.

Sky plant (T. ionantha)

  • Mature height: 5 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9b–11b
  • Key feature: violet and yellow flowers

The sky plant, aka blushing bride, has green/silvery leaves except in late fall and early winter when it blooms with striking violet and yellow flowers. This little guy needs daily misting in the blooming season.

Fuego (T. ionatha fuego)

  • Mature height: 4–5 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 11–12
  • Key feature: bright red leaves

The fuego’s leaves start out a standard green/silvery-green color except when it’s time to bloom. The leaves turn a bright red, fading back to green at the center. This plant needs to completely dry in between waterings to prevent mold or fungal growth. (Ew.)

Maxima sky plant (T. ionantha maxima)

  • Mature height: 4–5 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 9
  • Key feature: color-changing leaves

The maxima’s silvery-green leaves turn a light peach color when given a little extra light. Temperatures between 50°F (10°C) to 90°F (32°C) keep the maxima happy.

Druid sky plant (T. ionantha druid)

  • Mature height: 5 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9b–11b
  • Key feature: white flowers

The druid sky plant has the ionantha’s rosette silver-green leaves, but this plant produces white flowers in the late fall and early winter. The tips of the center-most leaves turn a peachy yellow come blooming season.

Pink quill plant (T. cyanea)

  • Mature height: 10 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 11 and higher
  • Key feature: pink flower

The pink quill plant is one of the few Tillandsias to grow with (or without) soil. (Every family has a rebel. 🤷) The name comes from the pink, quill-shaped flower that develops after the plant reaches maturity.

Black tip (T. stricta)

  • Mature height: 2–4 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 9
  • Key feature: dark purple “black” leaf tips

There’s a whole lot of Tillandsia stricta varieties. The black tip is one of the more exotic, known for its deep purple leaves that almost look black at the tips. One of the hardy varieties, it develops “pups” or offshoots that can either be removed to start a new plant or left in place to create a unique plant bunch.

Mad pupper (T. aeranthos bergeri)

  • Mature height: 10 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9–11
  • Key feature: grows pups throughout its life

Most Tillandsia only produce pups once in their lifetime, but not the mad pupper. It creates a mad amount of pups throughout its entire life, giving you a chance to start new plants or let the pups stay on the mother plant for a wilder look.

Snowball (T. tectorum)

  • Mature height: 3–4 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 10
  • Key feature: fuzzy, white leaves

The snowball looks, well, like a snowball. The spindly white, fuzzy leaves grow in a round shape. This hardy Tillandsia doesn’t need quite as much water as other air plants, so it works well for those who might forget to water once in a while. *clears throat and raises hand*

Kolbii (T. scaposa kolbii)

  • Mature height: 2–5 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9–11
  • Key feature: bright green leaves

This cute little plant’s bright green leaves almost look like Easter grass. It develops a fountain shape as it grows and reaches maturity.

King of Tillandsias (T. xerographica)

  • Mature height: up 3 feet high and 3 feet wide
  • Hardiness zones: 9–11
  • Key feature: grows a 6- to 15-inch flower

The king gets its name from the sheer size of the mature plant. It can reach up to 3 feet in all directions. Make plenty of room for this one and plan on a tall flower, too.

Brachycaulos (T. brachycaulos)

  • Mature height: 6 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9–11
  • Key feature: red tipped leaves

Brachycaulos’s gentle green leaves droop below the plant, curling back toward the center. Plus, the leaves get a stunning red tip as the plant matures.

Shirley Temple (T. streptophylla)

  • Mature height: 12–15 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 11a
  • Key feature: tightly curled leaves

Shirley Temple’s signature ringlets meet their match with the streptophylla. It has (relatively) broad, tightly curled leaves that weave themselves into a bundle of green.

Bulbous air plant (T. bulbosa)

  • Mature height: 5–7 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9–11
  • Key feature: bright red or yellow blooms

The bulbous air plant’s tentacle-like leaves curl in, creating a tube-like appearance. They snake their way into the air and eventually develop bright red or yellow blooms when they’re fully mature.

Peach (T. capitata)

  • Mature height: 5–8 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 10
  • Key feature: peach colored leaves

The peach gets its name, you guessed it, from the pinkish peach color that develops on the leaves as they mature. There are many varieties of the capitata, but the peach is one of the most popular.

Cacticola (T. cacticola)

  • Mature height: 6 inches tall, up to 18 inches wide
  • Hardiness zone: 9–11
  • Key feature: white or lavender flowers

The cacticola is a rare air plant only found in the high mountains of Peru. It doesn’t get too tall, but it has a wide base. When it’s mature, it’ll start to bloom white or lavender flowers.

Bailey’s ball moss (T. Baileya)

  • Mature height: 11–13 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 10
  • Key feature: mauve to pink flowers

Bailey’s ball moss doesn’t look much like a ball. Like at all. BUT it has tubular leaves and develops mauve to pinkish flowers when it matures.

Circinata (T. Circinata)

  • Mature height: 6–8 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 10a
  • Key feature: pink and purple flowers

This perfectly coiffed air plant features leaves that all point in the same direction. When it reaches maturity, it produces bright pink and purple flowers.

Fuzzywuzzy (T. pruinosa)

  • Mature height: 5 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 9a
  • Key feature: hair-like growths

The name fuzzywuzzy kind of says it all. This unique Tillandsia has tentacle-like leaves with hair-like growths. It’s small even when fully grown but def makes an impact with its unusual leaves.

Houston cotton candy (T. stricta x T. recurvifolia)

  • Mature height: 5–6 inches
  • Hardiness zone: 10
  • Key feature: blush to rose-pink flower

What happens when you cross a stricta with a recurvifolia? You get cotton candy. This Tillandsia hybrid features the many leaves of the stricta with a hint of silvery green from the recurvifolia. Together, they create pretty blush to rose-colored flowers.

Didisticha (T. didisticha)

  • Mature height: 12 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9–11
  • Key feature: pink stock with white flowers

The didisticha gets big for a Tillandsia, reaching nearly 12 inches when fully grown. The silvery leaves eventually welcome a pinkish stalk that produces white flowers.

Argentea (T. fuchsii var. gracilis)

  • Mature height: 5–6 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9–11
  • Key feature: thread-like leaves with red and purple flowers

The spindly leaves of the fuchsii gracilis create a spider-like appearance. This little guy needs plenty of water because of its thin leaves.

Gardneri (T. gardneri)

  • Mature height: 4–12 inches
  • Hardiness zones: 9–11
  • Key feature: pale gray leaves

The gardneri has thicker, tapered leaves. It can tolerate cooler, less humid temperatures than some air plants, but it still needs regular misting.

Air plants are pretty easy to grow. But you do have to think about your home environment. They’re native to warm, humid climates. That means they want your house to feel (somewhat) like a rain forest. Here’s what to think about when choosing one:

  • Hardiness zone. Your hardiness zone makes more of a difference if you want to grow air plants outside. Generally speaking, they thrive outdoors in zones 9 to 11. But some are pickier than others, so check before you buy.
  • Humidity. Air plants like humidity (we’re talking tropical humidity levels), and they absorb moisture through their leaves. But even in a dry climate, they can happily grow as long as you mist them often enough. Consider that the drier your climate, the more maintenance the air plant will require. A cheap thermometer can help you keep an eye on your indoor humidity levels if you don’t already have access to that info.
  • Temperature. Air plants prefer temperatures between 50°F (10°C) to 90°F (32°C), so be careful if you order them by mail in the winter. You may need to request special heat preservative packaging, so they don’t freeze on the way to your house.
  • Light exposure. These little guys grow in the canopy of large trees, so they prefer bright but indirect sunlight. A few varieties don’t mind more shade, but sometimes light exposure will affect their leaf colors.

Listen up, plant killers. You, too, can keep air plants alive. You just need to know how to care for them.

1. Don’t water them with a watering pot

Air plants don’t take water through their roots like other plants. They absorb moisture through their leaves. Depending on your climate and the time of year, you should submerge the plant in water for 15 to 30 minutes once a week.

Let the plant dry completely before returning it to a planter. No one wants a moldy plant. The air plant may need a mist of water every other day or so to stay green and happy. Remember — in dry climates, they’ll need extra misting.

2. They do not like the cold

The cold is no bueno for these heat lovers. Anything less than 45°F (7°F), and you could find shriveled plant corpses. Dead plants are sad, so keep them indoors and warm if it gets cold outside.

3. Skip the direct sunlight

They may love heat, but air plant leaves get crispier than Colonel Sander’s special recipe in direct sunlight. The key: bright but indirect light. Try placing them in a room with southern or eastern facing windows.

Air plants are perfect for quirky, unexpected displays. An empty boot, bucket, or watering can in the garden can make a beautiful house for an air plant. Indoors, grab a cute bowl, jar, or candle holder for a lively surprise.

However, air plant popularity has led to some fun, ready-to-buy options like the 46 & Spruce Air Plant Frame to mix and match air plants with pictures and other decorative pieces.

Jump aboard the macrame train with air plant hanging tassels, or make a macrame holder yourself. You could add a little classic bling with simple gold holders, or go eclectic with a sleek ceramic holder in a fun shape. So many options, so many air plants, so go get 1 or 2… or 22.

Common air plants are easy to care for, though their care is a little outside the norm. Here are the deets to remember:

  • Place them in bright but indirect light.
  • Keep them in temps between 50°F (10°C) to 90°F (32°C).
  • Keep ’em misted.
  • Soak your air plants once a week for 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Make sure they’re dry within 4 hours.
  • Check the plant’s hardiness zone if you want to keep it outside.
  • Different types kinds of air plants may have different light, humidity, or watering requirements.



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5 ways to consciously care for the environment this spring


As the days get longer, British Columbians are tidying their spaces and tossing out their garbage. But spring cleaning and seasonal activities, like renovations and gardening, shouldn’t come at a cost to the environment.

As we start tackling our spring to-do list, we each have a role to play in being mindful of how we dispose of certain items like leftover paint and household hazardous waste products including gasoline, camping fuel, BBQ lighter fluid, paint thinner and stripper, and other flammable liquids.

If you have any of these unwanted products lying around after your spring clean or much-needed home renovation, it’s important to be aware that they can’t just be tossed away. Rather, they’re meant to be recycled and can be dropped off for free at hundreds of Product Care Recycling locations across the province.

By doing so responsibly, we’re keeping these products out of our waterways and landfills, protecting wildlife, and reducing our impact on the planet.

Recycling unused paint from recent home renos

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With brighter days comes the motivation to tackle the projects we’ve been putting off. Whether this involves painting your living room or giving your kitchen a makeover, you’re probably going to have leftover paint afterwards. Instead of having half-empty containers take up valuable storage space, you can recycle them safely.

Fun fact: Since 1994, Product Care has recovered more than 56 million litres of paint in BC through its paint recycling program.

Reviving pre-loved furniture

Thrifting furniture is incredibly underrated. Plus, you can easily revive a wooden chair or table found at a local vintage store with some varnish or paint. If you have any leftover latex or oil-based paint primers, coatings, or aerosols after your completed furniture restoration projects, they can be easily recycled via Product Care.

Product Care also accepts products like paint and furniture strippers through its household hazardous waste program. Pro tip: Product Care only accepts paint and household hazardous waste products in original containers, with intact labels and sealed lids.

Once it’s dropped off at a recycling location, good-quality paint is processed and packaged for resale as recycled paint, and lower-quality paint is mixed into concrete, used as an energy source, or sent to a secure landfill. The plastic and metal from containers are also recycled.

Ridding of pesticides cautiously after your garden’s glow-up

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If you’re planning to transform your outdoor space with lush greenery, vegetables, and flowers this summer, it may require a little dedication and planning.  The same goes for keeping your plants and gardens healthy and thriving — which, for some, involves using pesticides.

At the end of the season, it’s good to know you can drop off certain excess gardening pesticides (for free!) at your nearest Product Care location for safe disposal.

Properly disposing of containers after backyard BBQs

Barbecuing is something many of us look forward to over the spring and summer. To get your BBQ fired up on sunny days, you’ll probably need lighter fluid. And if you find yourself with leftover containers of this fluid after channelling your inner BBQ master, all you have to do is dispose of them with Product Care. 

Safely discarding fuel after dining in the wild

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Since international travel plans are on hold right now, local getaways to the great outdoors will be popular again this summer. If you’re going camping in the backcountry (or maybe just your backyard) or getting the family together for a country camping adventure, you’re going to need camping fuel for cooking up meals. And if you like to go all-out with your snack game, you may even want to get some fondue fuel.

Don’t leave these household hazardous waste products in your garage or storage area after your trip, simply bring them to a free drop-off location where they will be safely managed by Product Care.


Before you visit a Product Care location, brush up on the list of accepted paint and household hazardous waste products and use this recycling locator tool to find your nearest drop-off location and confirm which products they accept.

Pro tip: Product Care also recycles lighting products and smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.

The three R’s (reducing, reusing, and recycling) are still the name of the game, all these years later. Follow the tips above to avoid throwing things into our landfills and reduce your carbon footprint. Visit the Product Care website to learn more or find your nearest location.

This content was created by Hive Labs in partnership with a sponsor



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