CBS San Francisco Staff Report

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With the surge in new coronavirus cases beginning to ease and demand for vaccination growing, the information you need to know is coming fast and furious. Here’s a roundup of the COVID stories we’ve published over the 24 weekend.

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California Reaches Grim COVID-19 Milestone — Deaths Top 40,000
SAN FRANCISCO — While the pace of new cases continues to decline and the state reopens businesses, California surpassed a grim milestone Saturday as the deadly virus has now claimed more 40,000 lives. Only New York state has endured more deaths since the virus’ outbreak began a year ago. In the San Francisco Bay Area, more than 4,100 people have lost their lives including 1,372 in Santa Clara County, 959 in Alameda County and 528 in Contra Costa County. As a hospice nurse, Antonio Espinoza worked to ease people’s passage into death. Just 36 years old, it seemed unlikely he soon would be on that journey. But when the unpredictable coronavirus hit Espinoza, he spiraled from fever to chills to labored breathing that sent him to a Southern California hospital, where he died Monday, a little more than a week after being admitted. Espinoza is among the latest to succumb in what has become California’s deadliest surge. Read More

UC Berkeley Students Warned Of Growing COVID-19 Outbreak
BERKELEY — UC-Berkeley officials warned Sunday of a surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases after 44 students tested positive for the virus over the weekend. Since August, officials said, there have been 588 confirmed cases among the student population. But the university’s COVID dashboard shows that 44 people tested positive on Saturday, representing 3.2% of the 1,362 tests analyzed. “As you may be aware, we’ve seen a surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst students, including some students who live in campus housing,” the officials warned in an email to its student population. “As we are committed to your safety and well-being, we are asking for your help in reducing virus transmission.” Among the behaviors officials cautioned about was the tendency for students to gather with classmates and friends. “We understand that local shelter in place orders may have been lifted, but with the current levels of rising transmission, we need to each do all that we can to help keep ourselves and our community healthy,” the warning stated. Read More

San Jose, Oakland Officials To Consider Pandemic Hazard Pay For Grocery Workers
SAN JOSE — Grocery workers in Oakland and San Jose could soon earn hazard or “hero” pay for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve talked to grocery store workers, they’re scared because there’s a new strain of COVID and because the cases continue to rise,” said Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas. Bas is backing the proposal in Oakland, which would impact establishments with at least 500 employees, if passed. In San Jose, council member Sergio Jimenez is behind a similar proposal that would affect grocery retailers with at least 300 employees. Both Jimenez and Bas are proposing an extra $5 an hour for grocery workers. “They’re risking their lives to serve us,” said Bas. “Hazard pay would make a huge difference so if that if they get sick or a loved one gets sick they have a little bit of extra money to pay the bills.” Read More

Newsom, Unions Clash Over Safety Of Reopening Schools For In-Person Instruction
SAN FRANCISCO — An effort to reopen California schools is foundering, stoking frustrations across America’s most populous state from parents eager to get their children back in classrooms and a governor who wants them there. Parents and behavioral experts say many schoolchildren are feeling helpless or depressed and need a classroom setting to improve their mental health. An exasperated Gov. Gavin Newsom told school officials last week to “pack it up” if they fail to resume in-person classes soon. Teacher unions say they won’t send their members into an unsafe environment. They want all teachers vaccinated before returning to the classroom. While Texas, Florida and New York are among states that have resumed some classroom instruction, California’s 10,000 public schools have for the most part been closed since March. As most of the state’s 6 million public school students approach a one-year anniversary of distance learning, parents are grappling more than ever with the toll of isolation and intense screen time on their kids’ well-being. Read More

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Saturday Night Diners Flock To Reopened Outdoor Bay Area Restaurants
SAN FRANCISCO — Once again there was a buzz among the restaurants in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood Saturday night as outdoor dining returned after being shut down during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. After temporarily closing for most of the recent stay-at-home order, the kitchen at tapas restaurant Bask was busy again and customers were socializing over dinner on the sidewalk. Owner Sabrina Thillard said it had been a full house since opening at 5:30 p.m. “We are just so overjoyed to see this tonight,” Thillard said. “It feels really good. Everybody that’s come in tonight or this weekend, they’ve been so pleasant and so happy and so eager to be here.” Just ask Frederic Neema, who traveled from Oakland to San Francisco to dine at his favorite spot. “They could serve me cat food, I would eat it, with pleasure,” Neema joked. “I would eat anything, actually the food is not important anymore, it’s the people. It’s the people around me. It’s fantastic.” Read More

Mendocino County Allowing Qualified Schools To Reopen In-Class Instruction For K-6th Grade
UKIAH — Mendocino County public health officials have issued a revised health order that will allow schools to immediately begin the re-opening process for students in kindergarten through 6th Grade. Mendocino County currently is in the state’s COVID-19 Purple Tier. At that level, schools that have qualified for a state wavier are allowed to reopen. “We are now able to start the process of re-opening our schools, due to our efforts as a community to avoid gatherings, wear masks, and maintain social distance,” explained Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Andrew Coren. The county has also undergone an intense effort to get teachers vaccinated within the county. “We here at public health are thrilled that our efforts to vaccinate as many teachers as possible have been successful,” Coren said. Read More

South Bay Chefs Turn Their Restaurants Inside-Out, Comp a Furloughed Worker With Each Paid Meal
SAN JOSE — These have been tough days for the food service business but one chef in San Jose has been operating a unique kitchen to help struggling restaurants and their laid-off workers. The restaurant business in San Jose is dealing with the pandemic blues. Rodney Baca, owner of The Shop by Chef Baca, is used to working with truffles and caviar. “But now … I need to make something out of my lemons, right?” Baca said. With his indoor restaurant closed for months, Baca has been operating out of a trailer downtown, creating his signature lobster and Gruyere cheese pizzas. He’s not been the only restaurant working here. “I figured, we’re all chefs, let’s do a little market and we’ll call it Chefs Market, get these restaurants together and you can order from this crazy, eclectic market,” Baca explained. Read More

San Mateo County Delivers Much-Needed Moderna Vaccine to Hard-Hit Community
EAST PALO ALTO — Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto had been waiting to open a vaccination clinic for its patients but, when the county finally delivered a supply of Moderna doses, Ravenswood decided they had no choice but to invite anyone in the community who was eligible. “We have patients that receive Medi-Cal, some have no insurance or are underinsured. We also have people who are undocumented and have no other access to care,” said Natalie Hodgen, with Ravenswood Health Center. “We would be OK running out. That would mean we were able to vaccinate over 1,100 people today,” she added. The line moved fast on Saturday, getting a vaccine clinic into this community was another story. “We know where Covid has had the biggest effect. We know which community it is affecting the most and we have to get the vaccine to those communities,” said California state senator Josh Becker (D-San Mateo). Read More

Law Enforcement Officials Probe Rising Threats Against Gov. Newsom and His Businesses
SACRAMENTO — Law enforcement officials are investigating escalating threats of death and violence against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, his family and the wineries, shops and other businesses he founded. A voicemail and emails provided to the Sacramento Bee contained graphic abusive language about Newsom, violent sexual threats against his wife and a reference to his children. The newspaper said one communication included a threat to burn down one of the wineries owned by PlumpJack Group, the hospitality company Newsom founded in 1992, with patrons inside. Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for Newsom’s Office of Emergency Services, said he couldn’t answer specific questions about the threats but confirmed that law enforcement agencies are investigating “We can confirm that we are aware of these threats,” Ferguson wrote in a statement. “Any threats against elected officials, including public or private property, are taken seriously and closely monitored by the appropriate local, state or federal law enforcement.” Read More

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San Francisco To Offer Mental Health Services To Remote Learning Students, Families
SAN FRANCISCO — Mayor London Breed has unveiled a program offering mental health resources to San Francisco Unified School District students and their families as schools remain closed. Breed said that with schools closed for more than 10 months now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the services are urgently needed to help students and their families cope with complex issues like self-esteem, stress, depression, and bullying. Students and families will be eligible for services through an expansion of the city’s Mobile Response Team, which provides personalized mental health and wellnesses services for children and youth referred to the program, including in-person interventions. “For all of us, this has been a hard year on our mental health. But for young people who were already dealing with a lot of stress and mental health challenges before the pandemic, this year has been especially challenging,” Breed said in a statement. Read More