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 weekend.

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Santa Clara County Officials Pause To Remember Grim COVID-19 Anniversary
SAN JOSE — It was a year ago Santa Clara County suffered the nation’s first death traced to a growing COVID-19 outbreak. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo released a statement Saturday to mark the passing of San Josean Patricia Dowd and the unprecedented year that has followed. “One year ago today, on February 6, 2020, our neighbor, San José resident Patricia Dowd, became the first casualty of COVID-19 on American soil,” Liccardo said in his statement. “Since her passing, we have lost more than 1,500 friends, neighbors, and loved ones in Santa Clara County, and 460,000 Americans. As we continue to mourn our neighbors, friends, and loved ones taken from us too soon, we come together through our common suffering to summon uncommon strength.” Read More

One Year After 1st Bay Area COVID Death, Officials Express Hope That End of Pandemic Is in Sight
SAN FRANCISCO — One year after the emergence of a virus that would upend life in the Bay Area, there were signs that the end of the pandemic is in sight. On Saturday, Andy Balram was upbeat as he made his way into Moscone Center for a COVID-19 vaccination. Balram made sure to show up early for an appointment he booked online Thursday. “That’s very encouraging and I hope that other people my age can do that too,” he said. Kevin Vander Wahl was another happy customer and, like many others, he couldn’t help but think of this day in a larger context. “I’m very excited,” Vander Wahl said. “Thank you to all of those involved. I see light at the end of the tunnel.” Read More

California Surpasses 4 Million COVID-19 Vaccinations; ‘Hope Is On The Horizon’
SAN FRANCISCO — California has surpassed 4 million COVID-19 vaccinations administered, but a shortage of the two approved coronavirus vaccines is forcing local officials across the state including in Napa County to restrict who gets shots. Gov. Gavin Newsom took to Twitter Saturday morning to spread the word of the 4-million milestone. “CA has administered over 4 million #COVID19 vaccines,” he posted. “We’re now administering about a million doses a week. Hope is on the horizon.” Some 4.2 million shots have been administered statewide, but health officials could not immediately say how many of those were second shots that would reflect the number of people in the state’s population of nearly 40 million with maximum protection from the virus. Read More

President Biden Gives Laid-Off SF Online Worker A Pep Talk
WILMINGTON, Del. — Like millions of Californians who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a daily struggle for laid-off San Francisco online worker Michele Voelkert. On Saturday, she got a little pep talk on a call from President Joe Biden. Voelkert, 47, was working for Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service based in San Francisco, when she lost her job. The White House on Saturday released a two-and-a-half-minute video of Biden’s long-distance telephone conversation. After losing her job at a startup clothing company in July, she wrote Biden a letter. He read it, then called her. Voelkert — who lives in Roseville — told Biden “it’s been a tough time” trying to find work. Read More

Victims of EDD Debit Card Hacking Describe Experiences on Road to Recovery
SAN FRANCISCO — The unemployment debit card accounts of tens of thousands of Californians have been hacked and frozen. KPIX has received e-mails from more than 300 victims since last October when we first exposed the massive hacks. We are now learning that Bank of America, which has the exclusive contract to handle the funds for the state Employment Development Department, is facing yet another class-action lawsuit. “I didn’t think this was possible. Like my stomach, my heart just dropped into my stomach and I felt, like, so shocked,” said Roland Oosthuizen. That was his reaction when he logged into his Bank of America EDD debit card account last September. “My account had been drained of $5,000 from the previous five days,” Oosthuizen said. Read More

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Santa Clara County Health Officials Continue To Ban Sunday Indoor Religious Services
SAN JOSE — Santa Clara County officials ordered churches to keep their doors shuttered for Sunday services despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling saying that such a ban on indoor services was illegal. The health officials said in a news release that they felt their health order still falls within the Supreme Court ruling. “Indoor gatherings of all types remain prohibited in Santa Clara County,” officials said. “Santa Clara County’s local health orders are structured in a fundamentally different way than the state’s rules that were the subject of last night’s (Friday night) U.S. Supreme Court decision. The county has consistently taken a neutral, across-the-board, risk-based approach to curbing COVID-19 that comports with the requirements of last night’s Supreme Court decision. Therefore, all indoor gatherings remain prohibited at this time due to their risk.” Read More

Gov. Newsom to Revise Indoor Church Guidelines Following Supreme Court Ruling
SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Saturday it will issue revised guidelines for indoor church services after the Supreme Court lifted the state’s ban on indoor worship during the coronavirus pandemic but left in place restrictions on singing and chanting. In the most significant legal victory against California’s COVID-19 health orders, the high court issued rulings late Friday in two cases where churches argued the restrictions violated their religious liberty. The justices said for now California can’t continue with a ban on indoor church services, but it can limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity and restrict singing and chanting inside. California had put the restrictions in place because the virus is more easily transmitted indoors and singing releases tiny droplets that can carry the disease. Read More

Santa Clara County Inspectors Make Surprise Visits To Outdoor Super Bowl Gatherings
SAN JOSE — Santa Clara County inspectors made unannounced visits to restaurants on Sunday trying to prevent any Super Bowl watch parties from turning into super spreader events. Restaurant managers said the inspectors in plain clothes showed their work badge and asked to do a walk-through of the outdoor setup. “They wanted to reinforce some of the restrictions, making sure the (COVID safety) postings were correct and accurate and current,” said Sonny Walters, owner of The Brit. Walters said two enforcement inspectors with the Santa Clara County Business Compliance unit issued the Britt a few correctable warnings and gave the sports bar 48 hours to fix those problems. “In general, they’ve been pretty helpful with giving us the direction and the tools to operate,” said Walters. Read More

San Francisco School Board, Teachers Union Agree to Reopen Classes Pending Vaccinations
SAN FRANCISCO — After nearly a year of public school buildings sitting empty in the city of San Francisco, the school board and teachers union announced a plan to reopen them. “The new part is vaccinations for all school district employees who will be in school buildings, working as students come back to school,” said Susan Solomon, president of the United Educators of San Francisco. In the deal struck, teachers and staff will return to campus when San Francisco reaches the red tier and teachers are vaccinated. “Part of the agreement is that the vaccination would be completely done before returning to school to make sure people are in fact immune,” Solomon said. When San Francisco reaches the orange tier, teachers and staff would go back without getting vaccinated. Read More

Some California Churches Hold Indoor Services After Supreme Court Ruling
SAN FRANCISCO — Some California churches opened their doors to worshippers on Sunday, after the state revised its guidelines for houses of prayer following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted a ban on indoor services during the coronavirus pandemic. “This morning we declare that this house will be a house of freedom,” announced Pastor Brittany Koopman at Harvest Rock Church near Los Angeles, one of the churches that sued the state over the ban. She led a socially distanced indoor crowd in prayer before Sunday’s service, which was also streamed online. In the most significant legal victory against California’s COVID-19 health orders, the high court issued rulings late Friday in two cases where churches argued the restrictions violated their religious liberty. Read More

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Administrators, Parents, Teachers, Students Clash in Berkeley Over School Reopening
BERKELEY — With many teachers and their unions resisting the call to reopen schools, the issue has reached a political stalemate and a rally in Berkeley Saturday brought out the passion on both sides. Parents, students and medical professionals gathered at a park next to Berkeley High Saturday morning to discuss the health affects of not being in school. “We see increasing rates of depression, anxiety, social isolation, children falling further and further behind academically and socially,” Dr. Dan Drozd, an infectious disease physician, told the assembled crowd. Even the CDC is now saying that, with proper masking and social distancing, the risk of infection to teachers and students may be outweighed by the damage being done by keeping them home. Read More