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.

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San Jose Calvary Chapel Continues Health Order Defiance With Indoor Christmas Services
SAN JOSE — In the face of an injunction and a contempt ruling from a judge, Christmas Eve services were still a go inside San Jose’s Calvary Chapel Thursday night, with people filing in – many maskless – to worship. “We can’t just forget about the constitution. People have first amendment rights,” said Mariah Gondeiro, Calvary Chapel’s attorney. “We shouldn’t just get to pick and choose when those rights are suspended and I think the Supreme Court has been very clear about it.” The church off Almaden Expressway has been having indoor services since August, in violation of the county’s health order. Even with COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County reaching new heights and stock of open ICU beds running low, the worship service will go on. A woman who only wished to be identified as Katy started attending Calvary Chapel during the pandemic and will be attending Christmas Eve services. “I go to this church. We haven’t had a single COVID case. I think God is allowing this. Psalm 91 – it is in the book,” she told KPIX 5. Read More

Christmas Eve Shoppers Hustle to Grab Gifts in San Francisco Union Square
SAN FRANCISCO — It was far less crowded in the stores surrounding San Francisco’s Union Square than it would be on a typical Christmas Eve. Still, plenty of last-minute shoppers showed up. They came for festive photos, for last minute gifts and to get out of the house. “It was busy, it was real busy,” said Tatianna Murry of San Francisco. “I had to wait in a long line.” In the end, Murray says she got what she came for — presents for her three daughters. “I like going outside and, during the whole pandemic, I’ve been in the house with them so it’s always a good experience to get some fresh air.” There were plenty of people doing just that in Union Square this Christmas Eve. Under the stay-at-home order, retail stores can operate at 20 percent capacity. Read More

Online or In-Person, Bay Area Christians Worship Together on Christmas Eve
OAKLAND — 2020 has changed how we celebrate the holidays but, Thursday night, people were still coming together to worship and celebrate on Christmas Eve. At Divine Mercy Oakland, a large parking lot was pressed into duty for a drive-in service. Most of the people were in their cars but some sat outside, socially distanced, on the lawn in front of the altar. For these Christians it was a night to come together. Father Matthew Murray, with Divine Mercy, delivered his homily to parishioners who sat in their cars.
“This time of pandemic and this time of fear and isolation and inability to see loved ones … it’s been a reminder to a lot of people how much, at the end of the day, we really do need someone to come and save us to show us ultimate the love of God and that’s why it’s so important for us to get together,” Father Murray said. In San Francisco, Grace Cathedral streamed its Christmas Eve service online. In the South Bay, San Jose’s Calvary Chapel continued to defy Santa Clara County orders and held a Christmas Eve service. The church has been holding indoor services since August. Calvary Chapel’s attorney said they will continue to appeal nearly $1 million in fines. Read More

CDC to Require Negative COVID-19 Test for All UK-to-US Travelers
WASHINGTON — Passengers arriving in the United States from the United Kingdom must test negative for COVID-19 before departure, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late Thursday night. Passengers will be required to have a negative PCR or antigen test within 72 hours of boarding their flight from the UK to the U.S. Passengers are also required to provide documentation of their laboratory results, either as a hard copy or electronic. Airlines are required to confirm the test results before the flight and passengers will not be permitted to board if they refuse a test or do not provide documentation. The order is in response to a new coronavirus variant that is said to have originated in the UK and is potentially more transmissible. Since the discovery of the variant, more than 40 countries have restricted travel from the UK and in some cases, also travel from other countries that have documented cases with the variant. Read More

SF Dancer Creates International Virtual Nutcracker After Local Performances Canceled
SAN FRANCISCO — Attending a live performance of the Nutcracker ballet is a Christmas tradition for many Bay Area families. After live performances were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, one San Francisco dancer created a way to keep them going virtually. Nathan Cottam is a dancer and choreographer in the Bay Area. When he found out his annual performance was set to be canceled he got creative. “I like to look at it as a period of intense opportunity for creativity,” Cottam said. “What comes out of the oven when you put 2020 and the Nutcracker together to me it was “The Nutshell” on film with people all over the world,” he said. And so The Nutshell was born. It’s an international, digital mashup of The Nutcracker set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic music interpreted by hundreds of dancers of all skill levels. “It was very very fun,” Olaimiade Olawale of the Leap of Dance Academy said. Read More

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‘We’re At A Breaking Point;’ COVID Ambulance Diversons Becoming Common In Santa Clara County
SAN JOSE — There is more evidence of the growing strain on hospitals in Santa Clara County as multiple hospitals intermittently divert ambulance calls because of capacity concerns. On Thursday, one ambulance after another arrived at El Camino Hospital, not to hurry patients in for care, but to ferry handfuls of them out to other facilities. In the words of an El Camino spokesman, Wednesday was a “very busy day” here. It was so busy that the hospital was put on diversion for a period of time on Wednesday. In a statement, Santa Clara County told KPIX that, on Wednesday, “We are seeing emergency rooms unable to accept inbound patients arriving via ambulance at many hospitals throughout the county, requiring diversion of ambulances to other hospitals.” “I’m saddened and sorry,” said Janet Coffman, a professor of health policy at UCSF. “But I’m not surprised that even hospitals like El Camino, which aren’t major trauma centers or places like San Francisco General or Valley Medical Center, have to go on diversion from time to time or on weekends. We’re at a breaking point.” Read More

Despite Pandemic, See’s Candy Prepares to Celebrate a Sweet Century
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — A popular Bay Area-based candy company had to close temporarily for only the second time in its 99-year history because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now it’s finding its new sweet spot. When the 200-pound Santa figure takes his annual spot atop See’s Candies in South San Francisco, it lifts the spirits of neighbors like Michele Egan. “It’s just a sign the holidays are here,” said Egan as she stopped by to watch Santa hoisted to the roof via crane. And the 99-year-old company hopes its confections will spread some cheer this challenging year.  “It was very hard because that’s unchartered waters,” said CEO Pat Egan, no relation to customer Michele Egan. Egan explained the COVID-19 lockdown closed all 240-plus stores nationwide for months. From its San Francisco corporate headquarters, the company pulled off a pandemic pivot on a single guiding principle. “If it doesn’t keep our people safe, if it doesn’t take care of our customers, and if we can’t live with the decision, we’re not going to do it,” Egan said. Read More

Restaurants’ Lawsuit Against Contra Costa County on Hold
MARTINEZ — A lawsuit against Contra Costa County over its early adoption of a health order banning outdoor dining at restaurants is on hold since a state order went into full effect, making the county’s earlier restrictions a moot point, an attorney for the plaintiff restaurants said Thursday.The civil suit against Contra Costa County, filed Dec. 11 by four restaurants whose owners opposed the county’s early adoption of the COVID-19-related dining restrictions, is now scheduled to return to court sometime in April, said Joseph Tully, an attorney representing the restaurants. The restaurateurs’ lawsuit has been rendered moot at this point, Tully said, because the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect Dec. 16, triggered by the availability of intensive care unit beds in the Bay Area going below 15% The hope with restrictions, health officials have said, is to relieve crowded hospital emergency rooms to the extent possible. Read More

Stimulus Check Latest: $2,000 Relief Payments Blocked By House Republicans
WASHINGTON — Despite a Democratic-approved demand by President Trump for Congress to provide direct checks of $2,000 to Americans, Republicans on Thursday blocked such an effort by shooting down the updated coronavirus relief bill. “Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support. If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Thursday morning. “On Monday, I will bring the House back to session where we will hold a recorded vote on our stand-alone bill to increase economic impact payments to $2,000.” Mr. Trump traveled to his Mar-a-Lago golf club in Florida on Wednesday evening, where he is expected to remain through the Christmas holiday. Pelosi said that she hoped Mr. Trump would sign the current relief bill passed by Congress this week to avert a government shutdown and provide badly needed support to suffering Americans. Read More

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — As a year ravaged by social unrest, wildfires and COVID draws to an end, San Francisco Bay Area religious leaders, choral directors and the faithful have taken to social media to deliver a message of hope during this stay-at-home holiday season. Around 140 people from more than 65 churches in 25 cities across the Bay Area came together to lift their hearts and voices virtually. “I think in this time, we’ve been forced into such isolation,” said Linzy Westman, Peninsula Bible Church Worship Director. “We’re in the middle of this pandemic and everyone says to be alone, to stay at home, keep your mask on, and social distance and that’s all good. It’s keeping us safe which is awesome, but I think what we realized is we can safely come together to make a difference in our world.” “There are still ways to do that and ways to combine our creative spirits and come together to offer up a message of hope.” Organizers hope the classic Christmas songs lift spirits and bring some joy during this pandemic. Read More

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San Leandro Provides Food Baskets, Cash Gifts To Needy Families
SAN LEANDRO — The 49th annual Holiday Basket Program offered by a San Leandro non-profit reached some 1,000 low-income families and seniors with turkey and other food for a holiday meal, and a $50 gift card each for 1,525 children. The distribution of these baskets over the past three days by the social services organization Davis Street allowed for COVID-19 safety measures. For an extra surprise this year, an anonymous donor provided a gift large enough to include $100 cash in each of the baskets. “This unexpected gift made a world of difference to Davis Street’s families and helped alleviate the stress this holiday season has brought to many of them due to the pandemic,” the organization said in an announcement. For some recipients, the cash meant they could buy presents for their children, for others it helped pay the rent during economically lean times. Read More