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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West Contra Costa Unified School District Board Approves April 19 Return To Classrooms
RICHMOND — After a six-hour special meeting Friday evening, the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board voted 4-1 to reopen its 54 schools starting on April 19. The vote — with trustee Jamela Smith-Folds casting the only no vote — followed a 12-hour negotiation session that spanned Thursday and Friday between the district and its unions. The agreement still needs ratification from union members. The district spans public and charter schools in Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Pinole, El Sobrante and Hercules. Under the agreement, students will be returning to classrooms from Monday through Wednesday. Student classroom cohorts will not exceed 15 students. Read More

Getting Vaccinated An Emotional Moment For Many Who Long To Get Back To Their Lives
SAN JOSE — Many people view getting vaccinated as the key to ending the pandemic and eventually returning to some sense of normalcy in their lives and after a year in lockdown, for many, the experience of finally receiving their shot can be an emotional one. “A lot of my family members have heart conditions like me. So, I wanted to get the vaccine,” Selena Evans said. Evans suffers from a heart condition and recently became eligible for the vaccine. “I want to be around my family again. I haven’t seen them in months,” she said. At Santa Clara County’s Berger Avenue vaccination site, there was a mix of excitement and nerves and joy as people received their shots. Read More

Some Teachers Delaying Return to In-Person Learning, Impacting Oakland School Reopening
OAKLAND — While the youngest students in the Oakland Unified School District will be headed back to class for the first time this year next week, teachers opting out of in-person learning have impacted reopening plans. Some pre-school through second grade students in Oakland are slated to be back at school on March 30, But because teachers are not required to return to the classroom until April 19 according to the deal made with the Oakland Educators Association, many schools will not have sufficient staffing. Those locations will have to delay their reopening, possibly until April 19. Outside Hillcrest Elementary in Oakland, parents and children on Friday were painting a sign of appreciation for students and staff. But what was supposed to be an early return to campus for younger pre-school and elementary kids next week will be limited. Read More

Napa Valley Wine Country Anticipates Possible Orange Tier Move – ‘People Are Ready To Get Back’
NAPA — Napa County is set to enter California’s Orange Tier of coronavirus restrictions as soon as April 1st. It will be a significant milestone for a part of the Bay Area that depends on a steady flow of visitors from far and wide. “It was kind of like a ghost town here in Napa for a while,” says Greg Filippi of Jax Diner in downtown Napa. “It’s awesome to see people out in the streets and everybody’s coming back. A warm Friday made for crowded sidewalks in downtown Napa. Most of the visitors, however; people from not that far away, just looking to stretch their legs a bit. “The locals are happy to be out,” Filippi says. “The weather has been beautiful for the last couple weeks.” “Same,” adds Rod Santos of William Harrison Winery. “What we’re not seeing yet is a lot of people from out of state.” Read More

UCSF Study Explores Vaccination Immunity Questions
SAN FRANCISCO — With one in four Californians now at least partly vaccinated against COVID-19, questions are surfacing about the durability of the vaccine and how long will it protect the recipient from the virus. Some people are also wondering what, if anything, can be done to boost their response to the vaccine. UCSF scientists hope to find out and add to the growing body of scientific evidence. They are currently enrolling volunteers to help them better understand these important areas of inquiry. To date, no one knows how long these COVID-19 vaccines will provide protection. Some experts believe the vaccine is good for at least six months and probably longer, but it is still too soon to tell. Another added variable: the virus is changing, with new variants emerging. Read More

‘Flex Pool’ Program Matches Homeless San Franciscans to Vacant Apartments
SAN FRANCISCO — Throughout the pandemic San Francisco has seen an increase in vacant apartments, now people experiencing homelessness are being placed into those empty units. It’s called the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, it launched in July and has already rehoused 75 people, like Donald Booth. “Sometimes I think that I’m going to wake up from this dream because it’s too good to be true,” Booth said. For the first time in more than 50 years, he has keys to his very own apartment. “I went from absolutely nothing to a one room bedroom in Nob Hill,” Booth said. “There is this somewhat unique opportunity with the market right now,” Andrea Evans, Campaign Manager and Senior Planner for Tipping Point Community said. Read More

Sonoma Seniors Celebrate Full Vaccination With a Day on the Plaza
SONOMA — On this Friday business was picking up in Sonoma but it wasn’t the usual crowd sipping wines and dining out. Seniors are living it up after many have spent the past year cooped up in their homes. Surveying the scene at Sonoma Plaza you could see the smiles, hear the laughter and sense diners’ joy at being together again. “My heart is so much lighter and I feel a lot of hope,” Cynthia DeForge, a Sonoma resident, said. Hope that was delivered in the form of a vaccine. “I’m dancing in the streets happy about the vaccinations,” DeForge added. “When I got the first one I was like, ‘wow!’ So happy, you know?” Zoila Diaz, a fellow Sonoma resident, said. Read More

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Oakland Launches Campaign to Support Asian-Owned Businesses
OAKLAND — City leaders in Oakland on Friday were urging people to shop and dine in Chinatown as part of a new campaign to support Asian-owned businesses. Some mom-and-pop stores are reporting much slower foot traffic. “With the pandemic and the shutdown, business has already been slow. And now with the recent attacks, even less people are coming into Chinatown because they have a sense of feeling like, ‘Am I going to be next?'” said Tiffany Fang, who manages From the Heart Florist on Webster Street. She said the volunteer citizen patrols restored some shopper confidence, but many customers are still avoiding the area. “More feeling of safety, [then] definitely more people will come back,” said Fang. Read More

Facebook Plans To Begin Opening Bay Area Offices At 10% Capacity In May
MENLO PARK — More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced Facebook employees to work from home, the company is set to reopen its Bay Area offices at limited capacity starting in May. The social media giant announced Friday said they planned to open select offices at up to 10% capacity beginning May 10, as long as health data continues to improve and vaccines become more widely available. On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all Californians 16 and older would be eligible to be vaccinated starting April 15. Company spokesperson Chloe Meyere said the company is taking a “measured approach” to reopening offices. Workers who return must practice physical distancing, wear masks and undergo weekly COVID-19 testing “where possible.” “We will continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritize everyone’s health and safety,” Meyere said. Read More

Bellarmine Vs. Saint Francis Football Matchup Rescheduled Due To Positive Cases
SAN JOSE — A highly-anticipated rivalry high school football matchup between Bellarmine College Preparatory and St. Francis High School in Mountain View has been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Friday night’s game between the two schools will not take place due to cases among the JV and varsity programs in the Bellarmine program, St. Francis Athletic Director Michael Pilawski said in a letter to families. Pilawski said the school was looking for any potential opponents to face on Saturday. “We know how disappointing this news is for all of you but also know that the health and safety of our student-athletes is the top priority of all of us,” he said. Bellarmine announced in a tweet Friday that the game would be played on the weekend of April 23-24. Read More

Nonprofit SF New Deal Helps Restaurants While Keeping Needy Fed
SAN FRANCISCO — A nonprofit aimed at feeding those in need in San Francisco while helping businesses recently hit a big milestone with nearly 1.9 million meals distributed in its first year of operation. SF New Deal pays restaurants ten dollars per meal and then distributes them to vulnerable and food-insecure communities. KPIX 5 first reported on the organization in April of last year. The program was started as a way to help restaurants shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic stay afloat, but it has also extended a food lifeline to residents who need it. A year after being founded, SF New Deal now works with 185 restaurants. Read More

SACRAMENTO — The state’s Employment Development Department launched an expanded online dashboard for unemployment claim and payment data Friday, outlining its efforts to catch up with its backlog of claims. The dashboard includes multiple charts displaying EDD’s progress in issuing unemployment payments since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year and caused a spike in unemployed workers. More than 1 million unemployment claims were filed last March, according to the EDD. Several hundred thousand more were filed each subsequent month as the pandemic dragged on. Since March 1, 2020, nearly 21.3 million claims have been filed across the state. Read More

In Likely Newsom Recall, Energizing Latino Voters Is Key
SACRAMENTO — California’s Latinos, who have borne the brunt of coronavirus deaths and the pandemic’s economic toll in the state, are a critical voting bloc for Gov. Gavin Newsom as he fights for his political life in a likely recall election driven by criticism of his handling of the health crisis. Latinos are the largest racial or ethnic group in California and their share of the population is increasing faster than others. Their voter turnout is also rising, but it’s still disproportionately low, leaving politicians room to grow support. With a special election on whether to keep or replace Newsom now a near certainty for the fall, Latino advocates say their communities will be looking for engagement and a more robust policy response to address the effects of the pandemic. “If Newsom fails to re-engage that group and give them reasons to vote for him he will lose,” said Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, chief executive officer of the Latino Community Foundation. “People are exhausted, they want answers, to be seen, be heard and be addressed.” Read More

Mount Diablo Unified Campuses Reopen; Plans For Full-Time In-Person Learning This Fall
CONCORD — Officials with the Mount Diablo Unified School District announced Friday plans to offer full-time in-person instruction in the fall, as in-person learning resumes in the district. MDUSD welcomed students in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades on Thursday, with in-person learning for grades 3-12 set to resume on Monday, March 29. “We are pleased to report that by Monday, we will have successfully welcomed over 11,000 students back to our classrooms,” Superintendent Adam Clark and Mount Diablo Education Association president Anita Johnson said in a joint statement. As part of a deal approved earlier this month, schools are operating under a hybrid model, with one group of students receiving live instruction on Mondays and Tuesdays and a second receiving live instruction on Thursdays and Fridays. Read More

Hopeful Signs As California Adds 141,000 Jobs In February
SACRAMENTO– California added 141,000 jobs in February as more than a quarter of a million people returned to the workforce, state officials announced Friday, a reflection of loosening virus restrictions on businesses as more people get vaccinated. Employment in restaurants and hotels surged by more than 102,000 people, welcome news for an industry hit hard by the on-again, off-again restrictions imposed by the government at the whims of an unpredictable virus. California lost 155,400 jobs in December and January when Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a sweeping lockdown amid frightening increases of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. But California gained 91% of those jobs back in a single month, dropping the unemployment rate to 8.5%, according to new data from the California Employment Development Department. “The California job machine has been turned back on after a dismal two months,” said Sung Won Sohn, a professor of finance and economics at Loyola Marymount University. Read More

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California To Expand Eligibility To All 50 And Older Starting April 1; 16+ In Mid-April
SAN FRANCISCO — California health officials announced COVID-19 vaccine eligibility would expand to all residents 50 and older starting April 1, and all residents 16 and up by the middle of next month. “With vaccine supply increasing and by expanding eligibility to more Californians, the light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.Thursday’s announcement beats a directive set by President Joe Biden compelling states to expand COVID-19 vaccine availability to all adults by May 1. During a briefing Thursday at a AltaMed Medical Group vaccination site in Orange County, Newsom touted the number of doses administered in California so far. Read More