CBS San Francisco Staff Report

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With a surge in coronavirus cases, the information you need to know is coming fast and furious. Here’s a roundup of the COVID stories we’ve published over the last 24 hours.

COVID Becomes 3rd Leading Cause Of Death In Santa Clara County; ‘Do Not Gather’ Officials Beg
SANTA CLARA — Since tech worker Patricia Dowd died of coronavirus in early February, COVID has taken a grim toll in Santa Clara County, growing into the third leading cause of death this year in Silicon Valley, health officials announced Wednesday. Dowd was a 57-year-old senior manager for a Silicon Valley semiconductor firm when she became sick with flu-like symptoms in late January and passed away on Feb. 6th. She is considered to be among the first deaths from the virus in the United States. Since her death, COVID has claimed 631 lives in the county including nine new fatalities reported on Wednesday. With a detectable air of desperation, county officials Wednesday made the very same plea they made just before Thanksgiving – to stay home and avoid any holiday gatherings. The case explosion that since followed continues to push county hospitals to the limit. “Tragically, these are 632 families who are grieving this holiday season,” said Cindy Chavez, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. Read More

Oakland Community Leaders Urging Fruitvale Residents To Resist Holiday Gatherings
OAKLAND — A coalition of non-profit and independent companies in Oakland, pooling their resources to combat COVID-19 through a neighborhood campaign called “Resilient Fruitvale,” are facing one of their most difficult challenges yet as the virus surges: Advising people not to gather in large groups this holiday season. “We as Latinos, as immigrants, we value family, we value community, but we really urge you to stay home,” said Karely Ordaz, executive director of the Unity Council, which includes La Clinica, the Native American Health Center and more than a dozen other Oakland community organizations. The focus on Fruitvale comes as Alameda County officials have identified residents in the area as having a disproportionate percentage of COVID-19 cases. “Oakland and particularly this area in East Oakland has seen about 40% of the infection rates in the county – in the entire county,” Ordaz said. “And we know that the people that live here are immigrants or low income people of color, part of the extension workforce who are really struggling to get by.” Read More

Stimulus For Struggling Bay Area Families, Businesses Could Be Delayed After Trump Blasts $600 Checks
BERKELEY — Congressional leaders are trying to figure out their next move after President Donald Trump threatened to veto the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, saying $600 stimulus checks should be increased to $2,000. For struggling Bay Area businesses and families, even a small delay in approving aid could be a big deal. After a long year full of ups and downs, Revival Bar and Kitchen in Berkeley is busy again preparing holiday meals to go. Owner and Chef Amy Murray says she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for aid by the federal government in the early days of the pandemic. “We got the first PPP loan which we were so grateful for, it saved us,” Murray told KPIX 5. “Without it, we would have not survived.” The COVID relief bill would offer another round of PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans to small businesses, in addition to the much-needed stimulus check. But as of Wednesday, that has all hit a road block. Read More

California Poised To Top 2 Million Virus Cases 6 Weeks After Reaching 1 Million Mark
SAN FRANCISCO — California’s Christmas Eve was marked by pleas to stay home for the holidays and an awful milestone as it was poised to become the first state to top 2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Johns Hopkins University was expected to report Thursday that the state reached the mark, barely six weeks since hitting 1 million cases. California’s infection rate — in terms of number of cases per 100,000 people — is lower than the U.S. average but its 40 million residents means it outpaces other states in sheer numbers. More than 23,000 Californians have died since the pandemic began. The state has seen its number of cases climb exponentially in recent weeks, followed by soaring rates of hospitalizations and deaths that have overwhelmed intensive care units and prompted hospitals to put emergency room patients in tents and treat others in offices and auditoriums. Pleas to avoid social gatherings for the holidays rang with special desperation in Southern California. Los Angeles County is leading the surge, accounting for one-third of the COVID-19 cases in the state and nearly 40% of deaths. Read More

‘Dr. Anthony Fauci Day’ Declared In Lafayette Thursday As Renowned Physician Marks 80th Birthday
LAFAYETTE — Friday may be Christmas Day, but in Lafayette, Thursday has taken on a new significance, at least this year, beyond being the Night Before Christmas. Thursday has been proclaimed “Dr. Anthony Fauci Day” in this Central Contra Costa city. It’s an honor Lafayette City Councilman Cameron Burks bestowed personally-but-virtually during a seven-minute video chat Tuesday with Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the national face of the fight against the novel coronavirus. Thursday is also Fauci’s 80th birthday. “We’d be honored to do that for you,” Burks told Fauci. The doctor responded humbly, with a smile, “Thank you, I appreciate that, and I will accept that honor, thank you.” Lafayette will mail a proclamation to Fauci’s home. Burks told Fauci he is proud of Lafayette residents’ near-universal adherence to the basics of COVID-19 prevention (face coverings, social distancing, washing hands, avoiding crowds and social gatherings). Read More

San Francisco Chinatown’s Far East Cafe In Danger Of Closing After 100 Years
SAN FRANCISCO — Already hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, a landmark restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown could close its doors after a century. Bars on windows, metal gates rolled down, lanterns barely swaying in the still – a walk down Grant Avenue is unsettling these days for the average person. For business owners, it’s terrifying. “Little did I know nine months ago, that I would see Chinatown as a ghost town. And it really scared me to death,” said Eva Lee of the Chinese Merchants Association. Among the potential casualties of the pandemic in Chinatown is the Far East Cafe on 631 Grant. The landmark restaurant opened its doors in 1920. Owner Bill Lee is trying to hang on without outdoor dining and no banquets, only takeout and meals he makes for seniors in conjunction with SF New Deal. Lee said he needs to make around $5,000 a day in takeout to survive. Read More

COVID Pandemic Magnifies Economic Divide During Holidays
WALNUT CREEK — With stores trying to salvage part of the shopping season with year-end sales, the coronavirus pandemic continues to expose the disparities between those who can spend – and give a boost to the economy – and those who simply can’t. It’s a holiday season unlike any other with looming worries about the economy in 2021. Retailers at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek Wednesday were trying to salvage part of the shopping season with year-end sales. “I was hoping the stimulus would happen sooner. That would have helped retail. People are holding back a little bit,” said Christine Sampo of Brighton Collectibles. Behind the transactions, lines of shoppers, and cars waiting for parking, California’s economy is anything but humming. “Everything is back to normal for me but a lot of people have lost their jobs or they’re out,” said Lafayette resident Dan Pizza, who was shopping with his daughter. Read More

Bay Area Families Safely Visit Santa Amid Pandemic
WOODSIDE — While visiting Santa had a new twist this holiday season due to the pandemic, the tradition endured for many Bay Area families. At Filoli Garden in Woodside, Santa Claus was masked, distanced, and outdoors, so children like Zoe Ying have to speak up. When asked what she asked Santa for, Zoe said, “A watch and a fairy.” Visits to Santa look and sound different this year. “At least every visit I get at least one child, maybe out of ten, who says they want to an end to the COVID virus,” said Santa told KPIX 5. James and Caitlin Rozzi say seeing the big guy is exactly what their sons C.J. and Jack needed. “I want a dog named Rocket,” said 3-year-old Jack. “A scooter that trails smoke behind it,” added 5-year-old C.J. Read More

Golden Gate Bridge District Layoffs On Hold Pending COVID Stimulus Bill
SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors voted unanimously Wednesday to reverse the planned layoffs of nearly 150 employees, effective upon a federal COVID-19-related stimulus bill becoming law. The board voted in November to eliminate 145 filled staff positions and 59 vacant ones, with the layoffs taking effect in early January. The layoffs were prompted by a drop in transit use and loss of revenue for the district during the pandemic. Directors said at the November meeting that staff reductions would help the district cut costs without raising toll prices. The future of the stimulus bill is not certain. The House and Senate late Monday passed the bipartisan bill, which includes about $14 billion for transit agencies across the country. But President Donald Trump threatened Tuesday evening to veto the bill, calling it a “disgrace” and requesting larger checks for Americans. Directors, for the most part, said they are optimistic Trump will sign the bill, and if not, that Congress will override his veto. Read More

Haney Proposes Recovery Fund for Live Entertainment in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney introduced legislation Tuesday that creates a recovery fund for the city’s struggling music and entertainment venues, many of which have closed since the state COVID-19 lockdown back in March. According to Haney, the San Francisco Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund is desperately needed as many of the businesses are facing permanent closure as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. “What this pandemic has done to our economy and our way of life has been nothing short of a nightmare, and for our city’s venues, there has been no reprieve. They were the first to close and will likely be among the last to reopen,” Haney said in a statement. “Some places were able to get PPP loans at the beginning of the pandemic, but for most of these venues, that money was gone in a month of two. Venues have been shut down for almost a year now. People are going into huge amounts of debt, many of these folks are afraid they will never be able to financially recover from this, let alone keep their venues open. We have got to do something, and we’ve got to do it now,” said San Francisco Small Business Commission President Sharky Laguna. Read More

New Video Shows COVID-19 Patients Lined Up In California Hospital Hallways As Surge Continues
LOS ANGELES — New video released Tuesday from inside the Kaiser Permanente’s Downey and Fontana medical centers in Southern California shows the stark reality of the latest COVID-19 surge and the impact it’s having on hospitals. The video shows patients lined up in beds in hallways and even more waiting outside while hooked up to oxygen tanks under tents. “I’m seeing people die alone,” a healthcare worker says in the video. “I’m seeing nurses exhausted, missing their families.” The video, released by doctors from across the state during a virtual roundtable on the pandemic, aims to encourage people to stop the spread of COVID-19 by staying home when possible. Read More

State Obtains Vaccines For Stockton Prison Medical Facility
STOCKTON — Inmates and staff at a Stockton prison facility for convicts with special medical needs received COVID-19 vaccinations, which will be some of the first administered in the state, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Times found that 65 inmates and employees of California Health Care Facility, Stockton, volunteered to receive the vaccine Tuesday, said Steve Crouch, director of public employees for the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents maintenance and systems employees. The employees who received vaccinations are in high-risk positions dealing with potentially infected inmates, Crouch told the Times. Read More

Beleaguered Health Care Officials Beg Californians ‘Don’t Share Your Air’
SACRAMENTO — With staffs stretched to the breaking point and hospital rooms continuing to fill up as COVID cases continue to soar, state health care providers were begging Californians to pull back on their holiday gathering and travel plans. If they don’t, the crush will get overwhelming. The providers are asking Californians to please “don’t share your air” “We simply will not be able to keep up if the COVID surge continues to increase,” Kaiser Permanente chairman and CEO Greg Adams said. “We’re at or near capacity everywhere.” California’s health care system is in the throes of a coronavirus crisis stemming from ill-advised Thanksgiving gatherings, forcing top executives from the state’s largest hospital systems to put out a desperate call for residents to avoid a Christmas repeat. Read More