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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Unifying America: Venerable San Jose Baptist Church Fights On COVID Frontlines
SAN JOSE — One of San Jose’s oldest and most well-respected black churches has carved out a unique role on the frontline of the pandemic as a mass testing site, even as the church itself has largely been shuttered and has not held in-person worship services in nearly a year. More than 36,000 tests have been administered at the Emmanuel Baptist Church site since it opened during the fall surge in October. “There’s nothing like sitting with a family member who feels responsible because they brought the virus into a household and they lost a loved one. That’s a burden that no one should have to carry,” Senior Pastor Jason Reynolds told KPIX 5. Read More

Newsom, Legislature Leaders Agree On Pandemic Relief Package Targeting Low-Income Earners
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly announced an agreement Wednesday on a package of financial relief programs, including $600 payments to the state’s low-income taxpayers. Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Los Angeles, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, jointly announced the legislative package, which state legislators are expected to consider in the coming days. The package is headlined by the payments that Newsom has dubbed the “Golden State Stimulus” and would benefit households that received a state earned-income tax credit for 2020 and taxpayers that have Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. Also eligible for the $600 payments are households that are enrolled in several state programs including CalWORKS, Supplemental Security Income, State Supplementary Payment and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants. Read More

Berkeley Schools Can Begin Reopening Once Teachers Are Vaccinated
BERKELEY — After much debate, Berkeley Unified School District officials and their teachers union reached a tentative agreement late Tuesday night on a timeline to return to the classroom. It all begins with the teachers receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in March. “At the center of this agreement is a commitment to reopen our schools for in-person learning by ensuring that our teachers and staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Superintendent Brent Stephens, Teacher’s Union President Matt Meyer and Board of Education President Ty Alper in a joint statement. “The CDC has recommended, though not required, vaccines for educators, and we recognize the value of vaccines as a strong, additional layer of protection for our staff. Vaccinations will lead to a more confident reopening, and allow us to focus now on the final details of a hybrid learning schedule for our students.” Read More

San Jose Gym Fined $1 Million For COVID-19 Health Order Violations Shuts Down Indoor Operations
SAN JOSE — A San Jose gym has closed its indoor operations after racking up nearly $1 million in fines for violating coronavirus health orders. The owner of California Ripped Fitness submitted a statement of compliance that indicated it wasn’t holding indoor operations, Santa Clara County announced on Wednesday. “We will be working with them on an agreement to resolve the outstanding fines,” the health department in the San Francisco Bay Area county said, adding that the gym could face additional fines and potential court action if it reopens. The gym sent an email to members apologizing for closing over the weekend and said it had no choice but to shut its doors temporarily because it had been served “a court-mandated shutdown.” “If we didn’t close now we would of been shut down permanently,” the notice said. “We are still fighting our legal battle for your rights and ours, hopefully we will be open soon.” Read More

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3 Bay Area Counties Could Move To Red Tier Next Week
BURLINGAME — Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said California is in a very different place in regards to COVID than it was just one month ago because of residents working hard and following safety protocols like wearing masks. The positive case numbers being reported across the state and in the Bay Area will soon lead to reduced COVID restrictions in some areas. San Mateo is one of three Bay Area counties that could enter the red tier as early as next week. Sapore Italiano in downtown Burlingame was bustling Wednesday evening. Come next week, it could get even busier. “It will be a big difference, between to go, indoor and outdoor. We can do at least very, very good business,” said owner Elio D’Urzo. Read More

Santa Clara County Expands Eligibility To Education, Emergency Services, Food Sectors
SAN JOSE — Santa Clara County on Wednesday announced it will expand access to the COVID vaccine to workers in education and childcare, emergency services, and food and agriculture sectors beginning in less than two weeks. The announcement about the expansion of vaccinations to the state’s Phase 1B/Tier 1 vaccine group on Feb. 28 comes as the county continues to increase its capacity at both large vaccination centers and smaller community-based and mobile sites. County Director of Public Health Dr. Sara Cody said Wednesday the expansion to additional eligible groups would also be focused on the most impacted areas of the county, while older residents and those most at risk from COVID-19 will continue to be prioritized as well. Read More

Pandemic Protocols Change How Ash Wednesday Is Celebrated
SAN JOSE — Traditionally an in-person, hands-on celebration for Christians in the Bay Area and beyond, Ash Wednesday was not immune to changes brought on by the pandemic. “Rather that imposing the ashes on each individual, we were allowed and requested by the dioceses to just drop the ashes on the head,” says Father Antonio Silveira, Pastor of Five Wounds Church in San Jose. Since the early days of the pandemic, Five Wounds Church has broadcast its daily mass live on social media, reaching an audience of thousands. Recently, the diocese of San Jose has given churches permission to resume in-person services amid an ongoing court battle over the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s ability to impose restrictions on places of worship. Read More

Pop-Up Vaccination Site Opens at Gilroy Senior Center
GILROY — A new pop-up vaccination site opened in Gilroy on Wednesday at the Gilroy Senior Center. The new site is a part of Santa Clara County’s most recent effort to ensure vaccine distribution and access to its hardest-hit communities located in East San Jose and Gilroy. The move comes after the county’s realization in early February that eligible Latinx residents were receiving the vaccine at lower rates than other groups despite being impacted by COVID-19 at disproportionate rates. According to county data, just 5.9% of the nearly 415,000 eligible Latinx population has been vaccinated as of Wednesday. In comparison, the rate for eligible white residents is 14.3% and for the eligible Asian population, 15.8% of the 530,000 people eligible currently for the vaccine have been vaccinated. Read More

Alameda County Fairgrounds Opens Mass Vaccination Site
PLEASANTON — Alameda County has opened the county fairgrounds in Pleasanton for COVID-19 vaccinations. In conjunction with Sutter Health and Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare, the county public health department is now administering the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to health care workers and people over 65, by appointment. Education and childcare workers, emergency service workers, and agricultural workers are also currently being vaccinated under the county’s Phase 1B Tier 1, which began Feb. 8. Appointments can be made through local health care providers, or by going to the Alameda County Public Health Department website at Drop-ins will be turned away. Read More

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Priest At San Francisco’s Famed Sts. Peter and Paul Church Dies Of COVID-19
SAN FRANCISCO — One of three priests stricken with COVID-19 at San Francisco North Beach District’s Sts. Peter and Paul Church has died while battling the virus, according to parish officials. According to the parish website, Father Bob Stein passed away early on the morning of February 16. He was one of three priests at the parish to test positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. There was no immediate word on the condition of the other two priests. “We are deeply touched and grateful for the prayers and support so many of you have sent for those of us (clergy and staff) who tested positive for COVID,” a statement on the website said. “We are sorry to say that Fr. Bob Stein passed away early on the morning of February 16.” Read More