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.

Bay Area Mortuary Owners Running Out Of Space — ‘It’s Like Wildfire’
SAN LORENZO — Some mortuary owners in the East Bay are facing a grim reality of the coronavirus as the death toll climbs and they struggle to find space to accommodate families. In Alameda and Contra Costa counties, just over 1,000 total deaths from COVID-19 were confirmed as of Tuesday. Mortuaries throughout the Bay Area tell KPIX 5 they are swamped as the number of bodies continues to mount. Many say they don’t want to turn away families, but they are having to make more space available daily if not hourly. “It is mind blowing,” said Lisa Bradshaw, owner of Grissom’s Chapel and Mortuary in San Lorenzo. “Since you’ve been here, we’ve had four people join us. They have passed away. And that’s been within an hour.” Bradshaw says 90 percent of the people arriving have been COVID-related deaths. Read More

San Francisco 1-Bedroom Rents Begin 2021 Down 24% From Last Year
SAN FRANCISCO — The median rent of a 1-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is down nearly 25% from a year ago, a sign of how much the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the Bay Area rental market. According to real estate website Zumper, the median 1-bedroom rent in San Francisco at $2,660 a month, down 1.5% from December and down a staggering 24% from last January. One year ago, the median one-bedroom rent in San Francisco was $3,500 a month. Two years ago, San Francisco made headlines when the same website found the median 1-bedroom rent in the city soared to nearly $3,700 a month. Meanwhile, the median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3,500 / month, down from $4,500 a year ago, a drop of 22.2%. Elsewhere in the Bay Area, median 1-bedroom rents in San Jose have dropped 14.7% from last year to $2,090 a month. In Oakland, 1-bedroom rents are down 22 percent year-over-year to $1,950/month. Read More

San Francisco Vaccinations Well Under Way; Nearly Complete At Laguna Honda Hospital
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco has begun its COVID vaccine rollout and was working to complete the vaccination of its most vulnerable group, the residents of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center. The vaccinations began Monday and by tomorrow, all 715 residents who want the vaccine and 1,000 staff members at the largest skilled nursing facility in the state will have been given their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Mayor London Breed said Tuesday during her weekly coronavirus news conference. San Francisco is getting more than 12,000 initial doses from the state and federal government and is following the phased guidelines from the state about who will get the vaccine first. An estimated 80,000 people in San Francisco are included in the Phase 1A vaccine rollout, which is for health care workers and long term care residents. Following an earlier COVID outbreak at Laguna Honda, Breed said it was the location that was feared to be the most vulnerable to another major outbreak and getting everyone vaccinated was a huge priority for the city and for her personally. Read More

COVID Infections At San Jose Kaiser Hospital Blamed On Inflatable Costume Grow To 60
SAN JOSE — The number of people infected by a deadly COVID outbreak at a Kaiser hospital emergency room in San Jose linked to a staffer wearing an inflatable costume on Christmas has grown. Kaiser Permanente said in a statement on Tuesday that 60 staff members at the Kaiser San Jose Medical Center who were present on December 25 have tested positive for COVID-19. The healthcare provider said physicians have also contacted 70 patients who were treated and discharged from the emergency department that day and that testing is being made available to them. Earlier in the day, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department said they had confirmed 51 cases. “This is a stark reminder that COVID-19 can be so easily transmitted through the air and that even letting your guard down for a moment can have consequences,” health officials said in a statement. Read More

State Orders Elective Surgery Delays In Southern California As COVID Surge Swamps Hospitals
LOS ANGELES — With hospitals overwhelmed by the surge of COVID cases, state health officials have ordered that doctors delay nonessential “and non-life threatening” surgeries in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley to free up beds to be used to treat those suffering from being infected by the virus. The public health order issued Tuesday night could result in patients being shipped to the Bay Area and other regions Northern California from Southern California and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, where 14 counties were immediately ordered to delay nonessential “and non-life threatening” surgeries in order to provide beds. The order, which will last at least three weeks, also applies to any county where ICU capacity to treat COVID-19 patients is bottoming out. “If we continue to see an alarming increase of COVID-19 patient admissions at hospitals statewide, some facilities may not be able to provide the critical and necessary care Californians need, whether those patients have COVID-19 or another medical condition,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, the state’s public health officer. Read More

Small Business Owners Struggle to Receive Pandemic Funding; ‘We’re Being Strangled And Just Left For Dead’
SAN FRANCISCO — Small businesses make up nearly half of California’s total workforce, but many are frustrated by the COVID pandemic economic relief application process and say there still is not enough money to go around. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that in his 2021 budget, he is proposing another $575 million to add to the state’s Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant, which would bring the total to more than $1 billion. The office said the program offers grants up to $25,000 to micro and small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “$500 million sounds like a lot of money to anybody, because it is a lot of money, but when you spread that out to 4.1 million businesses, that’s $122 a business,” said Rory Cox, Founder and President of the San Francisco Small Business Alliance. “Now they say it’s going to be $5,000 to $25,000 grants to the businesses that are lucky enough to get it. First of all, the website has crashed on day one.” Read More

SF Couple Stranded For Months In New Zealand Due To COVID Reunites With Family Dogs
SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco couple that got stranded in New Zealand due to coronavirus restrictions has been reunited with their dogs, Whiskey and Waffles after living nearly 10 months apart. Michelle Paulson and Eric Denman left the dogs with a dogsitter in San Francisco last March and caught a flight to New Zealand for what was supposed to be a short vacation. Then Covid-19 started shutting down flights. “Obviously, the situation did not improve,” said Paulson. “And we had a lot more faith in the New Zealand government’s ability to handle a pandemic.” Michele has Lupus, an autoimmune disease, which clinched their decision to stay. She made an arrangement with her employer to work from long distance. Eric is now employed in New Zealand. The island nation of 5 million shut down its borders and put in place an extreme 6-week lockdown. “The restaurants in particular, there were no restaurants open, not even for takeaway,” said Denman. Read More

Marin County Pushes To Vaccinate Teachers In Hopes Of Reopening Schools
SAN RAFAEL — Marin County will soon be taking the next step in hopes of opening every single school in the county to some form of in-person learning. The goal is to start phase 1B of vaccinations which includes teachers around the end of January. According to the Marin County Office of Education, 82 percent of its schools have opened to in-person learning and the data gathered in the county has helped guide the State’s plan to open schools across California. Marin County Superintendent Mary Jane Burke says, “It took us admitting that it wasn’t working.” For Marin, district officials realized the flaws of distance learning early in the pandemic and a plan was put into place to reopen schools. “It was never about whether we should be bringing children back to school into the classroom it was really about the how,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. Read More

California May Have Paid Out-Of-State Inmates More Than $40 Million In Job Benefits
SACRAMENTO — More than $40 million in California funding intended to help people left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic probably went to inmates in out-of-state jails and prisons, it was reported Tuesday. The state has acknowledged that its Employment Development Department was bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID-19 unemployment funds that went to fraudsters, including some in the name of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. But a December analysis commissioned by the state’s EDD found that the department approved more than 6,000 claims totaling more than $42 million involving people who probably were incarcerated out of state, including at least 2,000 Florida county jail and state prison inmates that included a man serving time for second-degree murder who received $10,800 in payments from California, the Los Angeles Times reported after reviewing the analysis. California, the nation’s most populous state, has processed more than 16 million unemployment benefits since March, a byproduct of the pandemic that prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to order businesses to close. Read More

California Put Frontline Dentists In Back Of The Line For Vaccinations
SAN FRANCISCO — Frontline health care workers and nursing homes are first in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine in California, but dental workers who face unmasked patients at work daily, have to wait. While the State of California granted dentists an emergency waiver to administer COVID-19 vaccines, it’s unclear when they’ll get scheduled to get their own. Mary Hoffman is a dedicated dental hygienist in Menlo Park. Roughly 8 times a day, she puts herself at risk by peering into the mouths and assessing the oral health of unmasked patients. “It’s unnerving at times. Even though we’re taking precautions and taking temperatures and asking questions, people are asymptomatic, and you have no idea if they are contagious or have the virus which is very scary,” recounted Hoffman. A COVID-19 vaccine would make all the difference. Read More

District Officials Push Back As Peninsula Lawmaker Seeks To Shut Down Schools
REDWOOD CITY — Citing the surge in COVID-19 cases on the peninsula and throughout the Bay Area, the head of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors wants to halt all in-person learning. Board of Supervisors president David Canepa is leading the push to close the schools but district officials are pushing back. “To even have conversations of keeping schools open, probably not the most responsible thing to do at this point in time,” said Supervisor Canepa. As of Tuesday evening, only one standard Intensive Care Unit was available in the entire county. However, 88 so-called ICU surge beds were available, according to the county COVID-19 dashboard. Surge beds provide temporary hospital capacity during times of increased demand. Canepa, who pulled his son out of daycare in December, as San Mateo County dropped back into the purple tier and reinstated a shelter-in-place order, is alarmed at the sharp rise in hospitalizations. Read More

Bay Area Distribution Among General Public Remains Work In Progress
SAN FRANCISCO — After priority groups get the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines now allocated to California, Bay Area public health departments and medical centers are busy making plans for the general population. But it’s a work in progress. “There’s going to be a certain complexity to it all,” said public health epidemiologist and chair of California’s vaccine safety working group Dr. Art Reingold. “It is complicated, and we are brainstorming and trying various ideas,” explained Dr. Narinder Singh, pharmacy director at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Like the tip of an iceberg, California has so far received enough doses to vaccinate roughly 5% of the state’s population. These shots are all for priority groups which include healthcare workers, critical infrastructure teams, grocery staff, agriculture workers, nursing homes, and teachers. That means 95% of the state’s population is left unvaccinated. Read More

Healthcare Workers, Seniors Get First Round Of Vaccinations In Santa Clara Co.
SAN JOSE — Santa Clara County public health officials say their priority is getting as many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered to the healthcare workers and seniors in nursing homes who form the first wave of the vaccine rollout. “Our priority is getting every single dose in somebody’s arm. We do not want to sit on any vaccine like we’ve heard in other communities,” say Dr. Marty Fenstersheib. Santa Clara County has received 105,630 doses of the two approved vaccines. A county spokesperson says they are reasonably confident they will receive new shipments of vaccine in time to administer the scheduled second dose for the estimate 140,000 healthcare workers and seniors living in nursing homes. The vaccine rollout in California overall has been somewhat rocky. The state has received nearly 1.8 million doses so far but has given fewer than a half million shots. Read More

Newsom Announces $4 Billion Economic Recovery Plan For California
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday proposed a $4 billion spending plan he says will create jobs and help small businesses recover from the economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Close to half of that money — $1.5 billion — would help people purchase electric cars and build the charging stations necessary for drivers to use them. That proposal is part of Newsom’s goal to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars in California by 2035. Small businesses would get $575 million. The money would pay for grants of up to $25,000 each to small business owners, with priority given to areas and industries most affected by the pandemic. That money includes $25 million for small museums and art galleries that have been forced to close during the pandemic. Newsom and the state Legislature have already given $500 million to this program, so this proposal would make more than $1 billion available. Newsom provided a preview of his plan in a 12-minute video that was posted to the California Governor’s Facebook page. Read More

Santa Clara County Launches Loan Program As Lifeline To Small Businesses
SAN JOSE — Santa Clara County small businesses have a new lifeline to ring in the New Year — a low-interest loan program of up to $100,000 now available for qualifying establishments The loan program, proposed by county Supervisors Joe Simitian and Susan Ellenberg, provides three- or five-year term options with a 4.25 percent interest rates for small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees. Qualifying businesses also require revenues of under $2.5 million in 2019 and at least a 25 percent reduction in revenues compared to a prior one-year period, among other guidelines. The loan program is designed to quickly provide financial support. Approved applicants can get their money as soon as two to three weeks after submitting their application. “These funds are available now and are relatively easy to apply for,” Simitian said. “I know people are hurting, and these funds are a step in the right direction.” Read More

Oakland Police Union Warns Of Possible Cuts Amid City’s Budget Crisis
OAKLAND — Oakland officials are facing a $62 million shortfall due the to COVID pandemic this year, with the city administrator saying there must be cuts to all departments to balance the budget, including the police department. Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Ed Reiskin sent a letter to city employees last month saying without massive cuts, “…the General Purpose Fund will be insolvent before the end of the fiscal year… Even the City’s emergency reserve will be completely exhausted.” But the police officers’ union is pushing back, warning that crime in the city has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic and that now is not the time to cut officers on the streets. The Oakland Police Officers’ Association took out a full-page ad in the East Bay Times on Tuesday that points to the number of murders year over year as an example of how violent crime skyrocketed in Oakland in 2020. The ad reminded residents about the surge in murders that went from 75 in 2019 to 102 last year. Read More

Nearly 90 Active Cases Among Santa Rita Jail Inmates, Staff
DUBLIN — Nearly 90 cases of coronavirus remain active at Santa Rita Jail among the facility’s inmates and staff members, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. As of Monday, 80 inmates and nine staff members have active cases of the virus, according to the sheriff’s office. Eight of the inmates are symptomatic and none are hospitalized. Roughly 6,800 tests have been completed at the facility since the pandemic began, with another 102 outstanding. The jail population as of Monday was 2,158, according to the sheriff’s office. To date, 414 total positive cases have been confirmed among inmates at the facility, 139 of which were eventually released from custody. Including active cases, 93 staff members have also tested positive. No coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded at the jail, according to the sheriff’s office. Read More

Displaced San Jose Sharks Look For Fast Start To Season
PHOENIX — The San Jose Sharks never managed to climb out of the deep hole they dug with a slow start last season. Avoiding the same fate this year is a high priority for the Sharks, especially with the condensed 56-game schedule and the extended road trip they’re on to start this season. “That’s our main focus right now,” captain Logan Couture said. “The last two years, we broke camp and we didn’t play well for the first how many games of the season. I think this year, everyone’s not going to play any preseason games. Some teams are going to have even shorter camps than we will. Whoever has the best camp, I think is going to get out to a good start. With a shortened season every game means a little bit more.” The Sharks lost their first four games and 11 out of 15 to open the 2019-20 season. They never truly recovered and coach Peter DeBoer was fired in December 2019 and replaced by Bob Boughner, who remains on the job this season. San Jose finished the season in last place in the Western Conference. It marked just the second time the Sharks missed the playoffs since the start of the 2003-04 season. Read More