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 last 24 hours.

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2 UC-Berkeley Students Diagnosed With Contagious COVID-19 UK Strain; Six New Cases In Alameda County
BERKELEY — Two UC Berkeley students have been diagnosed with the contagious COVID-19 UK strain of the virus amid an overall surge in new cases on campus, officials said. The infected students reported symptoms and were tested for the coronavirus on Jan. 19 and 21, respectively. Contact tracing by University Health Services staff revealed that both had recently arrived in the U.S. from abroad and were connected. “It is unfortunately no surprise that this and other variants are being detected locally, given the extent of viral spread happening currently regionally, nationally and internationally,” said Dr. Anna Harte, medical director at University Health Services. “With more viruses circulating, emerging strains that are more transmissible will tend to dominate.” At his weekly COVID update, Gov. Gavin Newson said that the state has had 150 confirmed cases of the UK COVID-19 mutation and 960 of what is being called the West Coast variants. No cases of the potent South African strain of the disease has been reported as of yet in California. Read More

Constrained COVID Vaccine Supply Prompts the Privileged to Jump the Line
SAN FRANCISCO — According to a new survey, 80 percent of people who live in Bay Area want to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The bad news? The supply of doses remains limited. As the first week of Feb. 2021 comes to an end, only about 10 percent of Californians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That means tens of millions more are waiting for their chance. Despite ramped-up efforts to open mass vaccination sites, the supply of coveted doses is still limited and there is growing concern about equal access over the supply that’s allocated to California and the Bay Area. The situation is leading to frustration, anger and accusations of favoritism and gamesmanship. Unfortunately, there are examples of some truly bad behavior which reinforce those complaints. For starters, there’s the story of a Canadian mogul and his wife who allegedly violated public health rules. Authorities claim they chartered a private plane, flew 300 miles to a tiny community in the Yukon, ignored quarantine orders, posed as new motel workers and got COVID-19 shots that were intended for vulnerable, Indigenous elders. Read More

San Quentin Faces $421,880 In CalOSHA Fines Over Employee Safety Violations During COVID-19 Outbreak
SAN QUENTIN — CalOSHA has proposed levying $421,880 in fines against San Quentin State Prison for allegedly endangering its employees during a massive COVID-19 outbreak that sickened more than 2,000 inmates and 427 employees and claimed 29 lives including one guard. The state agency cited 14 violations ranging from failing to report employee illnesses to state health officials to exposing staffers “to unsafe patient handling conditions” while removing ill inmates from cells on stretchers to unsafe working conditions in the prison medical lab to not enforcing mask policies. “Cal/OSHA determined that San Quentin staff were not provided adequate training or equipment for working with COVID-19 infected individuals, and employees who had been exposed to COVID-19 positive inmates were not provided proper medical services, including testing, contact tracing and referrals to physicians or other licensed health care professionals,” the agency said in a news release. Read More

Mass Vaccination Site At San Francisco’s Moscone Center Set To Open
SAN FRANCISCO — For the second day in a row the Bay Area is announcing a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination site. The one at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, which is set to open Friday, might actually be larger than the Oakland Coliseum effort announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials on Wednesday. It all depends on future vaccine deliveries. As for getting an appointment here, that too may prove difficult to forecast. “This major site will play a significant role in getting our city to a better place,” Mayor London Breed announced Thursday. The Moscone South vaccination site won’t officially open until Friday, but a handful of people got jabbed in front of the cameras Thursday, just to kick things off. Down in the main hall, the stage is set for this grand effort. With a little practice, health officials think they’ll be able to move some 10,000 people through this facility every day. Read More

San Mateo Event Center Shifts From Testing To Vaccinations
SAN MATEO — The San Mateo County Event Center has shifted from being used for COVID-19 testing to vaccination, as the county’s vaccine rollout continues via several clinics this week and next. While last Friday was the last day of COVID-19 testing at the Event Center, multiple free testing sites are still offered throughout the county. A full testing schedule is available at https://www.smcgov.org/testing. As of Tuesday, 67,292 San Mateo County residents have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to county data. That’s 10% of the 642,340 individuals 16 years and older who will eventually be eligible for the vaccine. Right now, vaccination is underway for health care workers and long-term care residents (Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine tiers) and for groups 65 or 75 years and older (Phase 1B).
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Golden Gate Fields To Open Parking Lot COVID-19 Drive-Thru Vaccination Site
ALBANY — Alameda County health officials have announced plans for a drive-thru vaccination site in the parking lot of Golden Gate Fields racetrack. The site initially will be open from Friday to Monday for county residents 75 and older. Appointments are required and can be set up at Curative Inc. website at https://curative.com/sites/24551#9/37.8675/-122.2969. Curative Inc., the vendor, will add those with appointments into its notification system for second appointments. The vaccinations are for those seeking their first dose and target the ages most vulnerable to hospitalization and death from COVID-19, Berkeley Health officials said. The form will ask about basic demographic information to confirm eligibility for an appointment and an email will be sent confirming the date and time of an appointment. Read More

Bay Area Homeless Shelter Workers Ask to Be Prioritized for COVID-19 Vaccines
SAN JOSE — Frontline and essential workers at homeless shelters have petitioned to be moved up the priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations. In multiple cases, it has worked. Julissa Patino is a residential coordinator at HomeFirst, a homelessness service provider in San Jose she says social distancing at work is simply not an option. “Most of the time do I have to physically see people. Most of the people don’t have phones, so we wouldn’t be able to coordinate Zoom meetings,” Patino said. She’s already had COVID-19 once, and is worried she could get it again. “Thankfully I didn’t get it that bad, but it’s a little bit more scary working here, knowing that I can get it again and putting these people at risk because they do have underlying health conditions,” she said. Patino’s boss petitioned Santa Clara County asking that HomeFirst’s essential workers be moved up on the priority list for Covid-19 vaccinations. The county agreed. Read More

Despite COVID, San Francisco Chinatown Prepares For Muted Celebrations
SAN FRANCISCO — The pandemic has devastated San Francisco’s Chinatown, leaving it without much tourism or foot traffic. Still, the community is trying to make it as festive as safely possible for the Lunar New Year, which begins on February 12. The Year of the Ox is also making a strong and vibrant entrance. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco has placed 11 colorful, life-size statues painted by artists across the city. Each ox will be auctioned off to benefit local Chinatown non-profit organizations. This year, the nation’s biggest annual Lunar New Year parade celebration is canceled, and many businesses are still shuttered. “I think it’s the worst in my lifetime, because I never experienc[ed] anything worse than this,” said Chinatown business owner Calvin Louie. Read More

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Livermore Parents, Teachers Spar Over Reopening Classrooms
LIVERMORE — On Thursday, Nobella Baba joined a large group of Livermore parents who have been very vocal about getting their children back into the classroom. “(Remote learning) is doing a lot of harm to our children, mentally, physically, academically “ Baba said. High school teacher Caryn Quesada says she loves her job and wants to get back in front of her students but there is one thing she says she needs. “I don’t have any desire to go back to a school setting until I’m fully vaccinated,” Quesada said. Other teachers say it is unfair to compare teaching to a grocery store job or other frontline work. “Teaching is incredibly different,” Granada High School English teacher Liz Watson said. “I have never spent six and a half hours in a grocery store with a small group of the same people. At the high school, we spend over an hour with multiple sets of students who are spending over an hour with other multiple sets of students.” Read More

East Bay Sports Bar Preps For COVID-Controlled Super Bowl Watch Party
NEWARK — This upcoming Super Bowl Sunday is going to be one of the most unusual Super Bowl Sundays in the history of the NFL. So what does an enthusiastic football fan do to stay safe during the pandemic? O’Sullivan’s Sports Bar in Newark is one of the largest sports bar restaurants in the East Bay. With warm weather and stay-at-home orders lifted, owner James Skinner expects good business. He also expects folks to obey the rules. “As soon as you enter, we have signs that go over two of our main things,” said Skinner. “One of our first things is to maintain social distancing, the six-foot rule. We have hand sanitizing stations, free standing stations as you enter and hand sanitizer at each table.” Lisa Dapelo has worked at O’Sullivan’s for 12 years. She says she has no idea what to expect this Sunday, but staff is instructed to take the rules seriously and enforce them. We just want to stay open!” said Dapelo “So, unfortunately, if you don’t want to, you know, go with our protocols, then you’re welcome to go home.” Read More

Lawmakers Unveil Reforms To California’s Troubled EDD Unemployment Payment Program
SACRAMENTO — In the wake of billions of dollars lost to fraud, a group of California lawmakers unveiled legislation Thursday designed to overhaul the state’s troubled Employee Development Department (EDD) unemployment payment program. If passed, the bills would enact crucial oversight and consumer protection measures, ensure claimants get timely access to benefits and address fraud. “Our most vulnerable Californians have struggled with this agency for decades, and I’m pleased we’re coming together today to help move EDD towards the path of becoming a functioning agency,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). Since the pandemic’s earliest days when businesses began to shut down, the unemployment payment program has been a lifeline for millions of out-of-work Californians. But it also has been a target for organized gangs, other con artists even inmates in the California prison system who have stolen as much as $11 billion in fraudulent claims. Read More

Santa Clara County Begins Offering Vaccines To All Residents 65 And Older – ‘No Wrong Door’ For Shots
SAN JOSE — Health officials in Santa Clara County on Thursday announced a partnership with other major vaccine providers in the South Bay to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to any county resident 65 and older, regardless of one’s healthcare provider. Billed as a “no wrong door” policy, the new strategy is aimed to speed up distribution of the shots among the most vulnerable. “In the county, we only have control over part of the system. And our job is to make it as clear and consistent and barrier-free as we can,” Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said at a briefing on Thursday. “So anyone who is 65 and up, doesn’t matter where you go to get your medical care, you can register and get vaccinated. A Kaiser patient can come to the county, a Stanford patient can go to Kaiser, a county patient can go to Stanford. It doesn’t matter,” Cody went on to say, urging seniors to sign up. According to Cody, out of the 1,473 people in the county who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, 80% of the deaths were among people 65 and older. So far, roughly 37% of people 75 and older have received the vaccine. That number drops to just 28% for people 65 and up. Read More

Sutter Health Opens Up Vaccination Appointments For Patients 65 And Older
SAN FRANCISCO — Sutter Health announced Thursday that it is now offering COVID-19 appointments to patients 65 and older, as rollout of the shots continues to expand. “At this time, we are prioritizing our patients who are 65-plus years of age and community healthcare workers. These populations are at greatest risk, according to CDC guidance,” the company said in a statement. Sutter, one of the largest healthcare networks in Northern California, said it is also scaling up large-scale vaccination clinics and several are already operational. The announcement from Sutter Health comes as health officials in Santa Clara County announced all residents 65 and older can now schedule shots, regardless of provider. Read More

Airport Workers Protest Vaccination Priority Shift From Essential Workers To Elderly
SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — Airport workers at San Francisco International Airport held a vigil Thursday in honor of their colleagues who died from COVID-19 and demanded that Gov. Gavin Newsom put airport workers and other essential workers back on the vaccine priority list. SEIU United Service Workers West, a union representing more than 40,000 janitors, security officers, property and airport service workers, was incensed by Newsom’s Jan. 26 announcement that changed California’s vaccine distribution plan. The vaccine rollout was shifted to focus on those 65 and older and booted essential airport workers down a tier, increasing their wait time until vaccinations will be accessible. “The governor made these changes to the vaccine priority list even as poor black and brown people, who make up a majority of the essential worker population, continue to die at a higher rate than other Californians,” the union said in a press release. Read More

Hurt By The Pandemic, Santa Maria Valley On Central Coast Paying Tourists To Visit
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY — When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a second state-wide lockdown in early December, businesses across California braced for more economic hardship. For officials in the Santa Maria Valley on the Central Coast, it was a wake-up call to develop a plan to help the local businesses. The result was a program called “Visit Santa Maria Valley,” which will pay tourists $100 to visit and stay for a minimum of two nights at one of the many hotels in the area. The payment comes in the form of a voucher that can be used at any of the town’s wineries, breweries or restaurants. The promotion starts on February 4 and ends March 31. Santa Maria Valley, which lies about 65 miles north of Santa Barbara, offers many of the same amenities as the more well-known California destinations, but at a lower price, officials said. Read More

School Districts Feeling Pressure From Politicians, Parents To Reopen
SAN FRANCISCO — Pressure is building on school systems around the U.S. to reopen classrooms to students who have been learning online for nearly a year, pitting politicians against teachers who have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In California, a frustrated Gov. Gavin Newsom implored schools to find a way to reopen. In Cincinnati, some students returned to classrooms Tuesday after a judge threw out a teachers union lawsuit over safety concerns. In Chicago, the rancor is so great that teachers are on the brink of striking. A battle is breaking out in California over reopening schools, despite teachers unions saying they won’t send their members into an unsafe situation with 6 million public school students. Read More

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San Francisco Public Works Employees File Cal/OSHA Complaint Over Outbreak Concerns
SAN FRANCISCO — Labor union officials representing San Francisco Department of Public Works employees said on Wednesday they’re calling on the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to investigate what they say are hazardous working conditions. The Laborers’ Local Union 261 filed an Imminent Hazard complaint with Cal-OSHA last week, alleging the city had failed to comply with state standards to protect workers from COVID-19 after several recently tested positive for COVID-19. “We need action now to protect workers and the public from COVID-19,” Local Union 261 Business Agent Theresa Foglio-Ramirez said in a statement. “San Francisco talks a good game about protection and prevention, but they treat their own workers as if we are expendable.” The union has alleged DPW refuses to enforce mask use among employees and refuses to provide dedicated restroom and handwashing facilities, forcing employees to use the Pit Stop public toilets used by the homeless, which the union said make employees feel unsafe. Read More