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Stay-At-Home order in California canceled- L.A. County officials announce outdoor dining will be permitted

Newsom announced Monday that he was cancelling the stay-at-home order

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (File Photo)

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that he was cancelling the stay-at-home order that had been reimposed on residents of 51 of the state’s 58 counties last month as a state-wide shortage of ICU and hospital beds crippled California’s healthcare systems.

The shortages had occurred as a result of surging coronavirus COVID-19 cases during back to back holiday travel periods.

Newsom’s latest announcement comes as officials try to ramp up vaccinations and hospitalization rates show signs of improvement.

The California Department of Public Health said in a statement Monday that the four-week ICU capacity projected for Southern California, the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley are above 15% — the threshold that would have allowed them to exit the regional stay-at-home order.

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Health and Human Services secretary, said in a statement.

The Los Angeles County of Public Health announced Monday afternoon that it was going to align with the State Health Officer Order which was reopening key business sectors, including outdoor dining as of Friday.

With the lifting of the Regional Stay Home Order, the Los Angeles County Health Officer Order that was issued on Nov. 25 is now in effect until a new Health Officer Order is issued later this week to more fully align with the sector openings permitted in the purple tier. 

The following is allowed starting today with adherence to all of the sector specific directives to ensure distancing, wearing of face coverings, and infection control:

  • Private gatherings outdoors up to 3 households and up to a total of 15 people
    • Museums, zoos, aquariums outdoor operations at 50% occupancy
  • Cardrooms outdoor operations at 50% occupancy
    • Miniature golf, go karts, batting cages outdoor operations at 50% occupancy
  • Outdoor recreational activities are open
    • Hotels & motels for tourism and individual travel allowed
  • Fitness facilities open for outdoor operations
    • Personal care services open indoors at 25% capacity
  • Indoor mall, shopping center, lower-risk retail open at 25% indoor capacity; food courts and common areas closed

The following restrictions remain in effect until January 29:

  • Restaurants, wineries and breweries remain open for pick-up, delivery, and take-out only.
  • Non-essential businesses closed from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.

Public Health confirmed 43 new deaths and 6,642 new cases of COVID-19.  Today’s number of new cases and deaths reflect a reporting lag from over the weekend. To date, Public Health identified 1,079,396 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 15,303 deaths.

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

Testing results are available for nearly 5,400,000 county residents with 19% of people testing positive.  Monday’s daily test positivity rate is 11.9%. There are 6,486 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 25% of these people are in the ICU. 

Newsom and state legislative leaders have agreed to a proposal to extend through June protections against evictions for California tenants financially harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal ironed out with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and introduced in legislation made public today would also create a rent subsidy program using up to $2.6 billion in federal rental relief dollars.

“Today, we are announcing an agreement to extend the eviction moratorium in California through June 30, 2021 – protecting tenants and small landlords from losing their housing as the nation continues to confront the pandemic. We are also moving forward as quickly as possible to deploy California’s share of the latest federal stimulus bill – ensuring that up to $2.6 billion in renter aid is administered quickly, equitably and accountably,” Governor Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Atkins and Assembly Speaker Rendon said in a joint statement> 

“These critically needed federal funds, targeted to the most at-risk households with unpaid back rent, will help tenants stay afloat during and after this pandemic. Income-qualified tenants and their landlords can choose to receive direct rental assistance in exchange for forgiving prior rental debt.” 

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

With vaccine demand far outstripping supply and many shots being used for second doses this week, Los Angeles city and county community vaccination centers are fully booked until at least the weekend officials announced Monday, KTLA reported.

Sites run by the county are booked through Friday, but officials hope to add appointments on Saturday and Sunday, county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a briefing Monday afternoon.

The five city-run sites, including Dodger Stadium, are full through Saturday, and it’s unclear when more slots will open up.

“Once we know that we’ll have more doses, we’ll open up more appointments,” said Andrea Garcia, a press secretary for Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Those who register on the county’s website can get an alert when new appointments become available, Ferrer added.

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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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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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