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 48 hours.

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Bay Area Hospitals, Near Capacity, Prepare for Post-Holiday COVID Surge
SAN JOSE — In a year defined by the pandemic, Christmas Day arrives as a significant milestone. As December draws to a close, Bay Area hospitals are near-capacity. Another holiday surge like the one after Thanksgiving and things could get much worse. “Staffing in general has always been a very complex issue to address in hospitals, ’cause you’re dealing with a moving target,” explained UCSF nurse Sarah Egan. The Bay Area’s ICU capacity dipped below 10 percent on Thursday. The effort to manage patients, beds and staffing is only getting more complicated. “There are people in the ICUs who are scheduled to be in the ICUs after major surgery, for instance,” said UCSF epidemiologist George Rutherford. “And they try to move them out at a certain point in time so there’s an ebb and flow through ICUs.” Read More

Bay Area Rain Dampens Parishioners but Not Spirits at Outdoor Christmas Services
EL SOBRANTE — Several outdoor church services around the Bay Area were canceled on Christmas because of the rain. Those that held services said the rain is another reminder that 2020 has been a year of challenges and adjustments. At Saint Brendan Church in San Francisco, the service on Friday began with a temperature check. At Corpus Christi Church in Fremont, each household brought their own chairs and stayed within yellow squares spaced six feet apart. At Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley, parishioners were encouraged to frequently sanitize their hands. All of those churches required social distancing and masks. “Praying outside in the rain on Christmas … that’s a whole new way of praying for us,” said parishioner Deborah Tatto, who’s been with Newman Hall for more than 30 years. Even though the church live-streams all of its services, she said online is not the same. “(Being here in person) gave me the opportunity to really connect to see my friends — I mean at a distance of course,” Tatto said. Read More

Beating the COVID Blues, Bay Area Musicians Tour Neighborhood Driveways
SAN FRANCISCO — House Call Soul, a group of top-flight Bay Area musicians, doesn’t respond to medical emergencies but musical requests. When coronavirus canceled their concerts, band leader Chris Hoog brought the artists together. “This has been the one consistent source of joy since May really,” Hoog said. Back in May, Chris performed in a front yard with some friends for his birthday. It’s the first time they’d made music as a group since sheltering in place began in March. “Pretty quickly, the neighbors started pulling lawn chairs out of their houses and watching,” Hoog recalls. The artists realized they’d struck a chord. 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

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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

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

‘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

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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