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Tuesday, June 8
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Saturday, June 5
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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