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 latest COVID stories.

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Spring Has Sprung! How To Distinguish Seasonal Allergy Symptoms From COVID
PLEASANTON — There will be a lot of outdoor dining especially in this nice weather. It’s a good way to help curb the pandemic but if you have allergies, good luck. Spring has sprung. “It’s been really bad,“ said one East Bay resident. “My eyes get very itchy and very swollen.” Along with the pretty flowers, there is a pretty good chance many will be suffering from seasonal allergies. “They are say ‘oh I don’t know what’s wrong with me’ and I’m like, ‘it’s allergy season! The pollen is out,’” said one Pleasanton mom. “I’ve been experiencing a lot more headaches and congestion. Normally it’s sneezing, itchy eyes.” Some of the symptoms of allergies are similar to those of COVID-19. So how can you tell them apart? “Allergies cause itchy, watery eyes and puffy eyes and itchy throat, whereas fever and cough and shortness of breath with COVID-19,” said Dr. Ronald Labuguen with UCSF. Read More

Hearts Against Hate: Artist’s Chinatown Heart Gives Hope To Beleaguered Asian American Community
SAN FRANCISCO — There are a lot of heavy hearts in the Asian American community right now, but artists are using their talents to send the message of healing and solidarity. With each stroke, San Francisco artist Kate Tova is hoping to uplift the Asian community in light of the recent violence. Known for her street hearts across the city, her latest work on Grant Ave. in Chinatown spells out a message. “As an artist, I feel like I’m obligated to do something, because it feels bad right now to just sit in the studio when I have all this paint and skill,” said Tova. Though the meaning of the heart is universal, Tova wanted to do more. “I asked Lily, one of my friends, to help me with the translation, because I didn’t want to just put it in Google translate,” she said. Read More

Vaccine Has Bay Area Experts Optimistic Despite CDC Warning Of ‘Impending Doom’
SAN FRANCISCO — A dire warning of ‘an impending doom’ was issued from the director of the Centers for Disease Control, but is a fourth and deadly COVID-19 surge really around the corner? There are positive signs here in the Bay Area with Alameda County expected to move into the orange tier this week. Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF, says there is a reason to remain optimistic as more people become eligible for vaccines. “I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday. The swift easing of restrictions and rising cases in some parts of the country have top health officials concerne, but Dr. Gandhi is seeing more hope than fear. Read More

Couples Trying To Have Babies Experience High Anxiety, Low Sperm Counts
SAN FRANCISCO — Around the world, a lot of cradles are sitting empty. It’s been a year into the pandemic and we’ve got a baby bust. “This is a very stressful world in which we are currently living. Stress is just not great for fertility,” remarked Wellesley Economics Professor Phillip Levine. Professor Levine co-authored a recent Brookings Institution report on fertility. He has tracked worldwide trends for years. He told KPIX 5 that with lockdown restrictions, unemployment and economic uncertainties, the pandemic convinced many couples to hit the “pause” on having a baby. “To think an environment where you’re feeling high levels of anxiety, is that really the moment to be like ‘gee, now’s a great time to have a child?'” said Professor Levine. Read More

First Day Back On Campus At San Rafael Elementary School Triggers Range Of Emotions
SAN RAFAEL — As other schools celebrate the return of students on a hybrid, part-time basis, the San Rafael Unified School District has gone all in, bringing all elementary students back to campus together. What does it say about what we’ve been through that Monday’s classes at Laurel Dell School felt different, simply because they felt normal? “Today was as normal as the school year has felt, having the entire school,” said Principal Pepe Gonzalez. “You had that buzz back, the families dropping off, people taking pictures of themselves in front of the school…it felt like the first day of school!” The district brought kids back on a hybrid schedule back in November, but now, all elementary students in the district are back in class together, 5 days a week. No more ‘half in the morning, half in the afternoon,’ and no more Zoom classes. Read More

Santa Clara County Schools Set For April Return To Classrooms
SAN JOSE — As the pace of school reopenings across the Bay Area remains uneven and maddening for many parents, the Santa Clara Unified School District launched a phased reopening plan in which all grades will return to campus for in-person learning over the next two weeks. First- and second-graders were the first to return to campus after the district struck a deal with its teachers to return to the classroom when the county entered the less restrictive orange tier. Vaccinations were not a condition of the district’s school reopening plan.”In our classrooms, we have desk shields up for our students and everyone is six-foot distanced from each other,” said Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is among other Bay Area leaders urging school systems to accelerate reopening plans, especially in low-income neighborhoods. Read More

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Santa Clara County To Launch Mobile Vaccination Unit After Receiving $200K Donation
SUNNYVALE — Santa Clara County officials and the chief executive of San Jose-based Bloom Energy on Monday announced a $199,000 donation to the Valley Medical Center Foundation to cover the purchase cost of a mobile COVID-19 vaccine unit. The vaccination unit will target residents who are homebound, elderly and disabled as well as residents that live in the county’s underserved areas that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. To date, some 301,000 residents age 16 and older, roughly 18 percent of the county’s population, have been fully vaccinated. “We know there are many more that we could reach … with this mobile unit, and that is going to make all the difference in saving lives,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Monday at a briefing to announce the donation. Read More

Contra Costa Set To Expand Eligibility to Ages 16 and Over
MARTINEZ — Health officials in Contra Costa County on Monday announced they are anticipating a surplus of available COVID vaccine doses that will allow the county to expand eligibility to those 16 and older later this week. The Contra Costa County Health Services Twitter account posted that eligibility would be extended to all people 16+ in the coming days. Officials already made the vaccine available to people age 50 and older who live or work in the county a week ago. The county has thousands of appointments for the shots available this week. Appointments can be made online at https://www.coronavirus.cchealth.org/ or by calling (833) 829-2626. Read More

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Rides To Open April 1; Reservations Urged
SANTA CRUZ — The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is set to reopen select rides starting Thursday, April 1, the same day amusement parks in California are allowed to resume operations with limited capacity. “The thrills will return on April 1 and we look forward to reopening rides to California residents in a manner that ensures the health and safety of all Boardwalk guests and employees,” said spokesperson Kris Reyes, who emphasized that the reopening process would be “gradual and measured.” On Monday, the theme park announced 8-12 rides would be open each day, which includes the famed Giant Dipper roller coaster, which dates back to 1924. Read More

State Senator Becker Calls for Expanded Vaccine Eligibility In Hard-Hit Communities Before April 15
MENLO PARK — State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, on Monday urged California health officials to expand vaccine eligibility in San Mateo County’s vulnerable communities ahead of April 15. In a news release, Becker requested that the state allow vaccinations for all residents 16 and older in communities like East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks, which have had higher infection rates and lower vaccination rates compared to the rest of San Mateo County. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated, Becker said. While the state plans to expand eligibility to allow all adults 16 and older to receive the vaccine starting April 15, Becker wants that expansion to happen earlier in hard-hit communities so that vulnerable residents can get vaccinated ahead of the expected rush. Read More

San Ramon Valley Unified Welcomes Students Back to Classrooms
DANVILLE — Students and teachers in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District on Monday returned to the classroom for the first time in a year. Campus was a bit more crowded at Monte Vista High School as students said goodbye to hybrid learning and hello to full-time, in-classroom sessions four days a week. For the students and staff in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Monday was be one step closer to pre-pandemic life. 30% of the student body — about 10,000 students total — were expected to return to classrooms after opting in for full-time, in-person learning. “We planned for this day back in October and we made all of our schedule changes in January. All we had to do was move more desks back in over the weekend,” said district superintendent John Malloy. “So we’re ready. We are as close to normal as we can be.” Read More

Officials Announced In-Person San Mateo County Fair In June
SAN MATEO — After a year’s hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak, San Mateo County officials announced Monday they plan on hold an in-person county fair in June. Currently, the county is in Orange Tier which allows for outdoor live events such as the county fair to host up to 25% of maximum capacity. There have been 4.4 new cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate under 1 percent. The fair – which will be one of California’s first major public events since early 2020 – will be held from Saturday, June 5th to Sunday, June 13th and will follow all state and county health and safety guidelines. “The theme of the San Mateo County Fair is Where Tradition Meets Innovation, and we will certainly bring the favorite traditions of animals, pig races, BBQ, funnel cakes, carnival rides, and the Ferris Wheel back, with the innovations that provide a healthy and safe space for our community,” said Dana Stoehr, CEO of the San Mateo County Event Center. “The health and safety of our guests is our top priority,” Read More

Warm Weather Draws Big Crowds to San Francisco Dolores Park, Prompts Measured Concern
SAN FRANCISCO — The warm weather attracted crowds to Dolores Park in the Mission Sunday evening. It’s a place that became problematic earlier on in the COVID-19 pandemic when it became overrun with visitors. “When I saw Mayor Breed get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and I said I’m going to get that and have full faith too,” said Nick Sincere of San Francisco. “Out here at Dolores Park, boy they don’t make days like this anymore.” Sincere is one of the 43% of San Francisco residents that have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. “We’re not hugging everyone, and we’re not kissing others,” said Nariman Farsaie of San Francisco. He enjoyed the afternoon with fellow San Franciscan Iris Piko. Read More

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Oakland Teams Return To Gridiron; Skyline Dedicates Season To Shooting Victim
OAKLAND — There was so much more than just high school football returning to the Oakland gridirons on Saturday. Four schools from the Oakland Athletic League played their first game on Saturday evening after the pandemic delayed their season by six months. Coaches said the game of football provides structure and mentors for the student athletes. “You just missed that afterschool practice,” said McClymonds High School varsity receiver Daveonne Sanders. “You missed the afterschool lift. You just missed being around your peers. “It was real difficult, cause we used to see each other every day,” said McClymonds varsity defensive end Arrion Hughes, who lost five family members during the pandemic. Without football and mentors, Hughes mom and dad worried he would join the wrong crowd. Read More