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Coronavirus

California declares Coronavirus emergency

Move allows state to access federal funds

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Officials in California stepped up their response to the Coronavirus threat after a 71 year-old patient died Wednesday, less than two weeks after disembarking at the Port of San Francisco from a cruise ship where he was likely exposed, the first death in the state from the virus.

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency ordering all government agencies to commence wider emergency preparations for an accelerated outbreak of cases.

“The state of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus,” Newsom said in a public statement released to the media Wednesday afternoon. “This emergency proclamation will help the state further prepare our communities and our health care system in the event it spreads more broadly.”

Newsom’s proclamation builds on work already underway by the California Department of Public Health, California’s Health and Human Services Agency, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and other agencies as part of the state’s response to the outbreak a spokesperson told the Los Angeles Blade.

As more municipalities and state agencies respond to the public health threat posed by the viral outbreak, California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a price-gouging alert, cautioning businesses and individuals that inflated prices for goods and services during the declared State of Emergency was illegal and would be vigorously prosecuted.

“Communities throughout our state are working to prevent and treat this public health threat,” Becerra said via a statement released by his office Wednesday evening “Californians shouldn’t have to worry about being cheated while dealing with the effects of coronavirus. Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on medical supplies, food, gas, and other essential supplies,” he added, “I encourage anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, to immediately file a complaint through my office’s website, call (800) 952-5225, or contact their local police department or sheriff’s office.”

In Los Angeles County with its significant homeless population at risk in particular, both the City and County declared a local state of emergency to accelerate resources and prevent the spread of the virus.

“While the coronavirus is mainly affecting travel and tourism, it is imperative we have a lens focused on the potential to imperil those experiencing homelessness,” said Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell who serves as Chair of the City’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee. “I want to ensure we have the necessary hygiene stations and resources available from our local and federal partners to address this rapidly moving urgent public health crisis. We must take precautions —and secure the necessary resources— for our most vulnerable population as well as for those who are working with them.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in a press briefing Thursday followed by a media statement outlined his administration’s response to the outbreak.

“There is a lot of fear spreading about coronavirus — also known as COVID-19 — and I want to make sure you hear directly from me about what actions our City is taking to protect our families and residents, and what precautions you should take to stay healthy. […]

I have signed a declaration of local emergency for the City of Los Angeles. While there are only a few known COVID-19 cases in the region, the declaration helps us access state and federal funding to strengthen and support our efforts to prepare our region and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Simply put: we will do everything in our power, leave no stone unturned, and no resource untapped to preserve Angelenos’ safety and well-being.” Garcetti said.

Local efforts included other jurisdictions in the LA Metroplex including the Westside cities of Beverly Hills, Culver City, Malibu, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood.

The Trump administration’s response to the outbreak has been heavily criticized, notably after the president appeared to downplay the significance of the threat posed by the virus as expressed by health officials.

“During expansive remarks on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program, the president continued to break with public health officials’ direr messaging regarding the international crisis and forcefully contradicted the WHO, which earlier in the week pegged the global mortality rate for the coronavirus at 3.4 percent,” Politico reported.

“Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, and this is just my hunch, and — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. Because a lot people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor,” Trump said then added;

“You never hear about those people. So you can’t put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu and — or virus. So you just can’t do that,” he continued. “So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work but they get better.”

The administration has also come under fire for failing to address concerns over the availability of testing kits, and whether or not all Americans including those with no insurance would be covered for testing.

“When it comes to Americans’ concerns about the affordability of a future coronavirus vaccine and the testing for and treatment of the virus, President Trump and his administration have failed miserably,” Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse told the Los Angeles Blade in an email Thursday. “President Trump refuses to commit to both an affordable vaccine and affordable care for the uninsured, the number of whom has increased by millions as a result of his policies.

Health Care providers around California are urging the public to take steps to protect themselves including,

Take precautions: If you are sick, stay home. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Cover your cough or sneeze. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Get a flu shot to prevent the flu, which has similar symptoms to COVID-19. If you have recently traveled in an area with COVID-19 infections and are showing symptoms, monitor your health and seek guidance from a medical professional. Currently, the CDC and DPH are not recommending personal face masks be used by people who do not have prolonged exposure to individuals identified as at risk.

Plan ahead: Living in earthquake country, we know the importance of personal preparedness on any given day. Have extra food, water, medical supplies, and emergency kits in your homes and offices. Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors to develop emergency plans.

Stay informed: Stick with official sources for accurate and up-to-date information, including CDC.gov,

For Los Angeles Metroplex residents:

PublicHealth.LACounty.gov, and LAMayor.org/Coronavirus. Sign up for NotifyLA, our city’s emergency notification system, at NotifyLA.org.

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Coronavirus

CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels

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Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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Coronavirus

White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”

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President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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Coronavirus

COVID-19 Cases increase by nearly 10 times in one month

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Graphic courtesy of UCLA/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

LOS ANGELES – A total of 31,576 new COVID-19 cases were documented on Monday — up ten times the number of cases reported on Dec. 17, 2021, when there were 3,360 new cases recorded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday.

There are  4,564 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, nearly 6 times the number from one month ago when 772 people were hospitalized. The daily positivity rate is 16.5%, more than 8 times the 2% daily positivity rate on December 17th.

Just one week ago, the county surpassed 2 million total COVID-19 cases, with the figure reaching 2,289,045 cases as of Monday.

“On this national holiday where we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we remember his deep commitment to health equity.  As Reverend King memorably said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,’ ” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Tragically, we have seen this play out in real life and very clearly over the past two years with the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color. From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation,” she added.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a statement released last week.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.

There are also 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 31,576 new positive cases.

The public health department also noted that while the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, the number of them admitted to L.A. County hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month, with the largest increase among children younger than 5 years old.

The increase mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The county also saw its highest coronavirus death rate in nearly 10 months over this past week, with an average of 40 COVID-19 deaths a day.

“From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation. As we continue to implement strategies – enforcing worker protections through our Health Officer Orders, providing resources needed by many to survive the impact of the pandemic, funding community-based organizations in hard hit areas to serve as trusted public health messengers, and increasing vaccination access in under-sourced neighborhoods – we also need to come together to address the impact that racism, historical disinvestment, and social marginalization have on COVID-19 outcomes,” Ferrer said.

“While these conditions predate the pandemic, without deliberate collective actions to address the root causes of health inequities, we are unlikely to close the gaps we have documented for 2 long years,” she added.

California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases after its fastest accumulation of reported infections in the history of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The unprecedented count, recorded in California’s databases late Monday, comes one week after the state tallied its 6 millionth coronavirus case.

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