CBS San Francisco Staff Report

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It’s been a year since the historic COVID-19 shutdown and the battle with the virus is still impacting our daily lives. Here’s a roundup of the COVID stories we’ve published over the last 24 hours.

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San Mateo County Moves Into COVID-19 Orange Tier; Restaurants Can Expand to 50% Indoor Capacity
REDWOOD CITY — San Mateo County became the first San Francisco Bay Area county since the holiday surge in new COVID-19 cases to return to the Orange Tier on Tuesday. The county’s shift to the less restrictive Orange Tier officially goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, March 17. The shift comes one year to the day after the beginning of the Bay Area’s first stay-at-home order. San Mateo County was last in the Orange Tier in the state’s color-coded plan for reducing COVID-19 in October 2020. The county has been in the Red Tier for three weeks. Prior to Tuesday, only three of California’s 58 counties representing just 0.1 percent of the state’s population were in the Orange Tier. Read More

Contra Costa County Reports 1st Cases Of More Contagious B117 Variant
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY — Health officials in Contra Costa County confirmed their first cases of the more contagious B117 variant of COVID-19 in the county Tuesday. Officials said laboratory results revealed two cases of B117, also known as the U.K. variant. One person infected with the variant began displaying common COVID-19 symptoms and was able to isolate at home, while the other reported multiple symptoms, including runny nose, cough, headache and new loss of smell and taste. Additional details about the people infected was not released “This is a reminder that even though COVID numbers are falling, we need to continue using all our tools to prevent another surge: wear masks in public, continue to physically distance, avoid both indoor and large gatherings, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county’s health officer. Read More

Progress On Tiers Means 90% Of California’s Indoor Businesses Can Reopen
SAN FRANCISCO — More California counties received permission to re-open for business thanks to low coronavirus case rates throughout the state, meaning around 90% of residents can enjoy a restaurant meal indoors, watch a movie at a theater and sweat it out inside a gym. California has been on a reopening roll since a deadly winter surge that saw skyrocketing hospitalizations and positivity rates. San Diego and Sacramento were among the counties that moved out of the most restrictive purple tier, public health officials announced Tuesday. Los Angeles and a dozen other counties were allowed to reopen Sunday, moving to the lower-risk red tier of a four-tier, color-coded system announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August. The system dictates which activities can open based on factors such as a county’s case rates per population and test positivity. Read More

Gov. Gavin Newsom Decries Recall Effort As ‘Sideshow’ Ahead Of Signature Deadline
ALAMEDA — As the deadline looms for gathering signatures in the effort to oust Gavin Newsom from office, the governor has begun to push back at recall campaign. Until recently, Newsom has stayed fairly silent on this topic, but now says he’s worried about the latest effort. “This sideshow, this circus. It’s unfortunate.  So yeah I’m a little intense about it,” Newsom said at a briefing about efforts to reopen schools in Alameda County on Tuesday.This 6th recall push against Newsom is the only one that appears to have garnered enough verified signatures, about 1.5 million. The deadline for signatures is on Wednesday. “We’re gonna fight it,” said Newsom. Read More

SF Police Link Suspect In Attack That Almost Blinded Asian Man To Brutal Mission District Stabbing
SAN FRANCISCO — A suspect has been arrested for two unprovoked attacks in San Francisco Monday in which one victim was stabbed in the face and the other brutally beaten and nearly blinded in one eye. Police told KPIX 5 that one of the victims, a 59-year-old Asian man from Vallejo, was walking on the 600 block of Market when he was assaulted. A witness said the suspect ran up to the victim, punching him in the head multiple times before he ended up on the ground motionless. The suspect left the scene on a Muni bus, police said. A description of the suspect was not immediately available. According to police, 30 minutes before the attack on Market Street, the suspect cut a man on the face, near the 16th/Mission BART station. That victim, a 64-year-old man, was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Read More

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A Year After COVID Lockdown South Bay Health Officials Reflect On Costs, Challenges
SAN JOSE — A year ago, public health officials faced historic challenges when they ordered a Bay Area-wide lockdown because the novel coronavirus had begun to sicken people at an alarming rate. “We had very little information. But the information that we did have was pretty terrifying to be honest. Everywhere we looked we started to find the virus. And we also knew that we didn’t have any other tools available.,” says Dr. Sara Cody, the Chief Health Officer for Santa Clara County. The lockdown was designed to limit interaction between people, slow the spread and ultimately save lives. At the time, the unprecedented stay-at-home orders were envisioned as a temporary measure to give the healthcare system time to catch up to the newly emergent virus. A year later, Dr. Cody acknowledges that while the lockdown saved lives it also did great harm to people’s livelihoods — their jobs and businesses. Read More

A Year After COVID Lockdown South Bay Health Officials Reflect On Costs, Challenges
SAN JOSE — A year ago, public health officials faced historic challenges when they ordered a Bay Area-wide lockdown because the novel coronavirus had begun to sicken people at an alarming rate. “We had very little information. But the information that we did have was pretty terrifying to be honest. Everywhere we looked we started to find the virus. And we also knew that we didn’t have any other tools available.,” says Dr. Sara Cody, the Chief Health Officer for Santa Clara County. The lockdown was designed to limit interaction between people, slow the spread and ultimately save lives. At the time, the unprecedented stay-at-home orders were envisioned as a temporary measure to give the healthcare system time to catch up to the newly emergent virus. Read More

Pandemic-Related Questions Arise a Month Ahead of Tax Day
SAN JOSE — With the IRS filing deadline now a month away, many Bay Area taxpayers are navigating some of the most unusual circumstances for tax preparation in recent memory. While millions of Americans dealing late stimulus payments, receiving unemployment benefits and asking questions about deductions for home offices, the IRS has so far not announced a postponement of the April 15 deadline. Caroline Chen, assistant professor of Accounting and Finance at San Jose State, and a former IRS attorney, said the agency is likely mindful of the struggles that the country endured over the past year. “Given the pandemic, and depending on the type of problem that you have with the IRS, I wouldn’t say that the IRS would necessarily be more forgiving, or more compassionate. However, I think that they would be more understanding of particular situations,” said Chen. Read More

Mt. Diablo Unified, Teachers Hammer Out Deal To Return To K-2nd Classrooms On March 25
WALNUT CREEK — After a 19-hour bargaining session, Mt. Diablo Unified School District officials and the system’s teacher union announced Tuesday they have reached a tentative agreement to bring K-2nd grade students back into classrooms on a hybrid schedule beginning on March 25. To become final, the deal will need to be ratified by the teaching rank and file and the district’s Governing Board, which is scheduled to meet on Tuesday night. Once ratified by both parties, district officials said they would move quickly to notify parents and implement reopening plans that have been long in development. In a joint announcement, Dr. John Rubio, Chief of Human Resources, and MDEA President, Anita Johnson, expressed appreciation “for the tremendous amount of work that went into coming to an agreement.” Read More

Monterey County Becomes Last In Region To Emerge From Red Tier
SALINAS — Monterey County moved out of the state’s most restrictive reopening tier Tuesday, the last county in the greater Bay Area region to do so since a stay-at-home order was lifted in January. Monterey County became eligible to move out of the purple tier last week, when state health officials announced they would loosen the COVID-19 case and test positivity rate thresholds required to change tiers. The move to the red tier will allow the county to resume indoor operations at 10-25 percent capacities for a litany of businesses such as restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and museums. In addition, outdoor stadiums and amusement parks in Monterey County will be allowed to reopen at 20 percent and 15 percent capacity, respectively, as of April 1. Read More

BART Officials Announce Plans For Schedule Changes
OAKLAND — Transit officials with BART on Tuesday announced some minor schedule changes going into effect next week that will allow for increased ridership as COVID restrictions are reduced in the Bay Area. Officials noted that while the changes would not be major, they would allow for future service increases. The new schedule that goes into effect on Monday, March 22, will leave service hours unchanged as BART staff monitors ridership and demand with more relaxed COVID-19 restrictions. The new schedule is already available to view on the agency’s online Trip Planner and both versions of the BART App. PDFs of the current and new schedule timetables are also available. “Weekday riders will have the same frequency they experience now, but the new schedule allows us to add 26 additional trips to enhance 15-minute commute periods when and where ridership data reflects more riders are returning,” read the transit agency statement on the schedule changes. Read More

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California Launches COVID Rent Relief Portal For Landlords, Tenants
SACRAMENTO — California’s COVID-19 rent relief application portal went live on Monday, which will help eligible landlords and tenants cover unpaid rent from the past year. Funding for the relief comes from the $2.6 billion in federal aid from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s emergency rental assistance program. The application for California tenants and landlords is available at housing.ca.gov/covid–rr/. Though some counties or cities have their own application portal for administering the rental assistance, Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for California’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, said that there is no wrong door for applying. For jurisdictions with their own application portal, the state’s website will direct people to the relevant website. Read More