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COVID-19 Daily; Newsom announces criteria for faster reopening

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NAPA, Calif. – Speaking from Mustards Grill on Highway 29 in Napa Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that working in collaboration with the California Department of Health, his administration is changing its criteria for counties that want to reopen faster than the rest of the state. The restructuring of the state’s announced phased reopening is dependent on several factors that the counties may use to self attest to their readiness the governor said.

This means that roughly 53 of California’s 58 counties can now move into the second of four stages toward reopening more quickly. The governor outlined the basic requirements that are heavily dependent on stable or down trending hospitalizations, minimum thresholds for cases per population count, and test positivity rate.

  • The stable hospitalizations over a 7-day average of daily percent change reflecting less than 5%; or no more than 20 hospitalizations on any single day over the past 14 days.
  • 14-day cumulative positive incidence of less than 25 per 100,000; or testing positivity over the past 7 days of less than 8%.

Newsom also outlined the Adequate Preparedness Planning for the counties: A significant level of preparedness with testing, contact tracing, PPE and hospital surge, and planning for long-term care facility disease outbreak prevention and containment.

This includes:

  • Testing capacity. Minimum daily testing capacity to test 1.5 per 1,000 residents
  • Testing availability for at least 75% of residents
  • Contact tracing
  • At least 15 staff per 100,000 county population trained and available for contact tracing
  • Hospital surge
  • Hospital capacity to accommodate a minimum surge of 35% of their baseline average daily census.
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) disease outbreak prevention and containment
  • Plans to prevent and mitigate infections in skilled nursing facilities

SNFs have more than a 14-day supply of PPE on hand for staff, with an established process for ongoing procurement.

The new criteria represent a move away from the previous determinations set by the Department of Health which among other rules mandated that counties have no COVID-19 deaths for 14 days to reopen more quickly.

Now we are broadening the pace to which people can enter into phase two and begin the process of making subsequent decisions to move more broadly into other sectors of our society,” Newsom said.

Now, counties that want to speed up their reopening can’t have more than a 5 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the last seven days on average. For smaller counties where a single new hospitalized patient could cause a significant percentage jump, they will have to show that they had fewer than 20 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on any day in the past 14 days.

While retail may open for curbside pickup statewide, restrictions on dining in at restaurants and other services are still in place statewide, however that could change as the counties self-certify and attest to compliance with the new standards. Newsom also added that in a few weeks In-store shopping and hair salons could reopen followed by professional sports which could begin in June without fans and the possible reopening of churches within that time period.

He added that the details on how and when they could reopen would come in the next week or so.

“Californians have done incredible work flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Newsom said. “As we seek an effective therapeutic or vaccine, we are moving into a new chapter in the fight against the disease- focusing on protecting public health by lowering the risk of transmission and aggressively moving to protect vulnerable communities.

Newsom noted that over the past 14 days there had statewide been a drop of 7.5% in the number of hospitalizations and a drop of 8.3% in ICU admissions along with 1.37 million tests administered but he cautioned that the efforts could be better.

Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said. “We’re going to start seeing a lot more activity, let’s just make sure we do it thoughtfully and very, very strategically.”

As of Monday, there had been 81,758 cases and 3,284 deaths in California. The United States has experienced 1,508,308 cases and 90,347 Americans have lost their lives from COVID-19 related issues.

In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) confirmed 18 new deaths and 477 new cases of COVID-19. To date, LACDPH has identified 38,451 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 1,839 deaths. The county has had more than half the state’s 3,300 reported deaths.

When asked by reporters about the governor’s newly revised criteria, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County Director of Public Health, said that she’d review the guidance and would consult with officials to determine its applicability to LA County. Ferrer added that she welcomed the changes and would review the new rules and apply to move forward when eligible even if they decide to take a slower approach.

On Monday the City of West Hollywood City announced via a media statement that Paul Arevalo, the city’s Manager and Director of Emergency Services, had issued a third Emergency Executive Order which continued the Emergency Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The order addresses a wide range of measures including face-covering requirements (effective Saturday, May 23, 2020), traffic easement, taxes and fees, construction noise, and neighborhood meetings.

Highlights of the Emergency Executive Order include:

Effective on Saturday, May 23, 2020 —

  • All persons, including essential workers, must wear face coverings, such as scarves (dense fabric without holes), bandanas, neck gaiters, or similar coverings of any other material that reduces transmission of germs anytime they are out in public. N95 or medical-grade masks should be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders. Face coverings are not required for young children under age two, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance. Children between two- and eight-years-old should only wear face coverings with adult supervision. This Order provides consistency with the cities of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica, which have implemented the same requirements.

Effective Immediately —

  • The annual rent stabilization fee ($144/dwelling unit charged for all units covered by the rent increase limit in the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, also known as the Annual General Adjustment or AGA) will remain due and payable on July 1, 2020; however, any corresponding late fee for late payments are waived if the fee is paid by October 15, 2020;
  • Due to the closure of City facilities, and the inability to safely open the City’s cooling centers for seniors, the City will deliver fans to senior citizens who request fans during high-heat days that the cooling center would have regularly been open to the public;
  • Construction noise is prohibited between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., unless authorized through an extended hours permit. This provision does not apply to the City’s construction projects deemed by the City Council on April 6, 2020 to be an essential function of the City;
  • The annual Parking Credits payments to the city, due in July (for the period of July 2020 to July 2021), is deferred this year and not due until September 2020. The twelve-month fee will be prorated and businesses will only pay for nine months of parking credits;
  • Upon written request to the City Manager each month and throughout the period of declared local emergency, remittance of monthly Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) from a hotel to the City may be deferred for a period not to exceed 30 days;
  • For businesses that alter business operations in response to COVID-19 and require a temporary use permit to accomplish those changes in operations, the Temporary Use Permit fee is waived for temporary uses exercised during the period of the declared local emergency; 
  • Neighborhood meetings required for certain development projects under the WHMC or conditions of project approval may be conducted as follows:
    • In lieu of in-person neighborhood meetings, the developer may provide a video presentation of the project and accept written comments and questions for a period of time following transmittal of the video presentation. Comments/questions may be responded to by email communication or posting on the City’s website. The link to the video will be provided in the notice of neighborhood meeting; and
    • In lieu of in-person neighborhood construction meetings that take place before construction begins, the developer may conduct those meetings virtually using services such as Zoom, which allow for virtual presentation of construction mitigation details and plan and allow for participant questions and comments.
  • Assessments for the businesses included as part of the West Hollywood Design Improvement District are deferred from August 1, 2020 until December 1, 2020, and any late fees and/or penalties are waived; and
  • The following streets will be temporarily closed to through traffic for a ‘Slow Streets’ program, creating space for residents to be outside while practicing safe social distancing. This list may be modified through future executive orders in response to feedback from the City’s Transportation Commission, City Council, City staff, and local residents. Notices shall be provided to the dwelling units on the closed street segments before the closure. Residents will continue to have regular street access to their dwelling units and residents must adhere to physical distancing and the use of facial coverings:
    • Sherwood Drive between Huntley Drive and West Knoll Drive (three blocks);
    • Hancock Avenue between Holloway Drive and West Knoll Drive (one block);
    • Gardner Street between Romaine Street and Willoughby Avenue (one block);
    • Lexington Avenue between Gardner Street and Vista Street (one block); and,
    • Cynthia Street between Wetherly Drive and Hilldale Avenue (two blocks).

The City of West Hollywood is continuing to respond to needs as issues arise from this unprecedented pandemic,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “As some restrictions are gradually changing at the state and county level, it is vital, now more than ever, that we all do our part to help protect ourselves.

In West Hollywood, we will protect one another by requiring we wear face coverings every time we leave the house. They call this a ‘novel coronavirus’ because it is new, something we haven’t seen before.

Some people may be asymptomatic and may be unaware that they can spread the virus to others. There is no vaccine and there are few treatment options for people who get very sick from COVID-19. We’re all learning how to fight this disease and we know that prevention is the best medicine. Let’s listen to our medical experts and abide by wearing face coverings when we’re in public. When we look out for one another, we are truly stronger together, WeHo.”

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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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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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