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 hours.

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South African Variant Cases Found In Bay Area; 1st in California
SAN FRANCISCO — The first California cases of a South African variant of the COVID-19 virus have been found in the Bay Area. Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday in Fresno to update the state’s vaccine response and unveil a new vaccination site for the Central Valley. “As of a few hours ago, we have the first reported cases of South African variants,” said Newsom. “Two cases have been reported at Stanford, one in Alameda and one in Santa Clara County.” According to local health officials, the Santa Clara County case involves an individual who recently returned from international travel with another person in their household last month and experienced symptoms several days later. Officials said the pair followed the county’s 10-day mandatory travel quarantine and remained isolated in their apartment for the entire period they were potentially infectious. Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody praised the individual, adding the person had food delivered and never left their apartment. Read More

San Jose Council Approves $3/Hour Hazard Pay For Workers At Large Grocery Stores
SAN JOSE– Grocery store employees in San Jose will be getting a $3 per hour boost in hazard pay, but it will be about two months before they see a change in their paychecks. On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council voted 7-3 in favor of implementing a policy that mandates chain supermarkets, large grocery stores and retail stores that sell food and employ at least 300 people nationwide to give their employees an additional $3 per hour in addition to their hourly wage for 120 days. The reason for the hazard pay, Councilmember Sergio Jimenez said, is because grocery store employees are more at risk of contracting COVID-19, and therefore should be compensated for their sacrifices to provide essential services to the community. Read More

Santa Clara County Leaders Urge Lunar New Year Celebrants To Comply With Health Orders
SANTA CLARA COUNTY (CBS SF) — As the Lunar New Year approaches and those celebrating on Friday get ready to usher in the year of the ox, Santa Clara County officials and local Vietnamese leaders are urging residents to shift how they celebrate. “Here at the Grand Century Mall, the site of so many Lunar New Year celebrations over the past years, we are here to say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (happy new year in Vietnamese),” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said on Wednesday. “And to please celebrate this Lunar New Year safely.” Celebrating safely means avoiding celebrations with those outside of one’s household, avoiding indoor gatherings and wearing a mask, “or better yet two masks,” Cody said. Lunar New Year, also known as Tet, is one of the most important celebrations in Vietnamese culture. Read More

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$47M In Assistance Coming To San Mateo Renters, Landlords
SAN MATEO COUNTY — Between state and federal funds, almost $47 million in rental assistance will be available to provide San Mateo County renters and landlords impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic much-needed relief in the coming months. San Mateo County’s rental relief allocation — which includes $22.8 million from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program and $24.5 million from state funds — will be administered via the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national nonprofit enlisted by the state to administer rental assistance. The exact timeline and process for applying for assistance is yet to be established. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to transfer most of the money to the state’s housing department and use 1.5% of the federal funds for local outreach. Even before this injection of funding, the county had been providing rental assistance via its core agencies, such as local nonprofit organization Samaritan House. Read More

East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee Announces Coronavirus Funeral Reimbursement Fund
OAKLAND — Families that have lost a loved one due to the coronavirus can now receive up to $7,000 in funeral expenses reimbursed, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said Wednesday. Some $2 billion in funding will be made available to families through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Lee. The program is modeled after funeral assistance funding the government provided following Hurricane Katrina. Funds will be retroactive through the start of the pandemic, according to Lee, from Jan. 20, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020. The funding was made available as part of the federal COVID-19 relief bill passed in December. “No one should struggle to afford a proper funeral for a loved one,” Lee said in a statement. “During this time of unprecedented pain and economic hardship, it’s a moral imperative that the federal government step in and provide relief.” Read More

High School Students Create ‘Kits Cubed’ To Inspire Oakland Kids To Tap Into Their Inner Scientist
OAKLAND — A pair of young men in are making science more interactive and inviting for kids in Oakland who have yet to tap into their inner scientist. Ahmed Muhammad was babysitting his grade school niece and nephew at the start of the pandemic a year ago. “I asked them, ‘Do you want to try science?’ They said, ‘No, they hated science,'” Muhammad recalled. So the Oakland Technical High School senior designed some hands-on experiments. “They loved it. The joy they felt is what I wanted to share,” he said. The 18-year-old high school student then began creating science kits for elementary-aged kids. His 19-year-old friend, Eli Berrick, shared his vision, and joined the project. “I thought it was an amazing idea,” Berrick said. Read More

Project Home: Small Bay Area Landlords Keep Properties Vacant Because of Rent Control
SAN JOSE — Vacancy rates are well into the double digits in cities across the Bay Area, but not all landlords are willing to drop rent prices to meet demand. Some small property owners say because of rent control, they’re choosing to keep some apartments empty. “This is far more of a tenant market than a landlord market and we haven’t seen that for quite some time,” Jim Castellanos said. Castellanos has been a property owner and manager for 40 years in San Jose. Pre-pandemic, he couldn’t rent his units fast enough. Now he’s dealing with vacancy rates near 10%. “We’re tapping every possible resource we can to get a flow of new residents because we just have so many leaving right now,” Castellanos said. Read More

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SF Giants, A’s To Host Fans At Games During Arizona Spring Training
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants announced a deal Wednesday with the city of Scottsdale that allows the team to host between 750-1,000 fans during exhibition games. Meanwhile, the city of Mesa approved gave an A’s proposal to host up to 2,000 fans for 15 games at Hohokam Stadium last week. The Giants deal, approved by Major League Baseball, provides first priority to current season ticket holders. As the COVID-19 continues to threaten the lives of everyday Americans, seats will be sold in pods of 2 or 4 seats and fans will be required to wear masks. The team expects to reach out to potential customers this week. Read More