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July 2021: Coronavirus Blog Archive

An undated artist rendering of the coronavirus.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
An undated artist rendering of the coronavirus.

Retail Pharmacies Now Providing Lion’s Share Of San Diego’s COVID-19 Vaccines

– 6:25 p.m., Friday, July 30, 2021

San Diegans have largely turned to traditional vaccination clinics to get immunized against COVID-19, county health officials announced Friday.

According to county data, retail pharmacies are now the primary provider of vaccines, administering more than 100,000 doses in July through Wednesday. They were followed, in order, by community clinics, with nearly 20,000 doses; private medical providers, with nearly 17,000 doses; county sites, with around 13,000 doses; and hospitals, with just under 9,000 doses during the same time frame.

The county has been working with its vaccination partners to get the word out to San Diegans who are hesitant about getting immunized.

To date, around 2.28 million — or 81.4% of the 2.8 million San Diegans eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — have received a first dose and around 1.97 million or 70.3% are fully vaccinated.

The county is helping medical providers contact all San Diegans who are partially vaccinated to get their second shot, especially now that COVID-19 cases have been going up — a spike driven primarily by the Delta variant. The county is also using the San Diego Immunization Registry to develop follow-up reminders for those who are behind schedule. – City News Service

San Diego-Area Marine Bases To Require Face Masks Indoors

– 10:55 a.m., Friday, July 30, 2021

U.S. Marine Corps installations at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Air Station Miramar in San Diego and the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma (Arizona) will require face masks to be worn indoors, regardless of vaccine status, to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, officials said Friday.

"In response to COVID-19 cases increasing in the Southwestern region, Marine Corps Installations West has transitioned from Health Protection Condition Alpha to Bravo," according to a Marine Corps statement.

"This increase in HPCON level directs that some services be modified or suspended to protect the health and safety of service members, their families, and the workforce."

The statement did not specify which services would be modified or suspended but noted that all service members, federal employees, on-site contractor employees and visitors should wear face masks indoors in areas of substantial or high community, whether they are vaccinated or not. – City News Service

The CDC Says The Delta Variant Has Changed The War Against COVID-19

– 10:54 a.m., Friday, July 30, 2021

An internal slide presentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dated Thursday gives new details on how dangerous the delta variant really is.

One chart shows that it could be as contagious as chickenpox, which is one of the more transmissible viruses out there. It spreads more easily than the common cold, the 1918 flu and smallpox.

The document was first obtained by The Washington Post.

It also says that in addition to being more contagious, the delta variant likely increases the risk of severe disease and hospitalization, compared with the original strain.

A summary slide says that because of the delta variant, the agency should "acknowledge that the war has changed." It also recommends that the agency ramp up communications so the public will understand that vaccines still greatly reduce the risk of death and severe disease.

While most new infections are still occurring among unvaccinated people, the CDC estimates that 35,000 fully vaccinated Americans – out of more than 162 million — may get infected with the coronavirus every week. – Joe Neel, NPR

South Bay Schools Report COVID-19 Cases

– 10:53 a.m., Friday, July 30, 2021

chools in the South Bay were the first to open for the new school year and they are the first to have positive COVID-19 cases, with reports from high school and elementary campuses.

“You’ve got full classrooms with no physical distancing, so kids are in close contact," said Bob Mueller, the Assistant Incident Commander for COVID-19 Response for the San Diego County Office of Education.

He said after a positive COVID-19 test has been reported, notification is sent out to the whole school or those who came in close contact with the infected individual.

“The idea of those notifications is just to raise awareness, to monitor for symptoms and to reaffirm that good prevention behavior is necessary," Mueller noted.

The next step is contact tracing, which is complicated in middle and high schools because students move between classes all day and are involved in after school activities.

“They have to go back and identify anyone who’s been within six feet for more than 15 minutes in a 24 hour period of that person,” Mueller said. – Melissa Mae, KPBS Freelance Reporter

Biden Hopes To Boost COVID Vaccination Rates By Focusing On Federal Workers

– 2:57 p.m., Thursday, July 29, 2021

President Biden is announcing new COVID-19 vaccination and testing rules for federal employees and contractors Thursday afternoon.

The administration is hoping to increase vaccinations as the highly transmissible delta variant takes hold. But beyond urging Americans to get the shot and trying to expand access to the vaccines, the president has limited ability to force action.

Except when it comes to the federal workforce. Here, Biden has the ability to go beyond urging.

Under Biden's new rules, federal employees and contractors — a group that the White House said includes more than 4 million Americans — will need to confirm they are vaccinated or be tested once or twice a week for the virus. Those who cannot attest to being vaccinated will also have to wear masks while on the job.

The federal government is one of the largest employers in the nation, and the move could spur private sector companies to take similar steps. Some already have. Biden plans to urge private sector companies to follow the federal government's model.

He will also aim to incentivize inoculation by encouraging state and local governments to offer $100 to people who get the shot. – Tamara Keith, NPR

San Diego County Reports Increasing Vaccination Numbers As COVID-19 Cases Rise

– 12:05 p.m., Thursday, July 29, 2021

While COVID-19 cases continue to surge in San Diego County, the region continues to make progress on COVID-19 vaccinations, with 70% of residents 12 and older fully vaccinated, the Health and Human Services Agency reported Wednesday.

More than 81% of eligible San Diego County residents are at least partially vaccinated. Children under 12 are not eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccination.

New COVID-19 infections continue to increase, mostly in unvaccinated San Diego County residents. In the last 30 days, 11,391 people tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, close to 90%, or 10,234, were not vaccinated and 10%, or 1,157 people, were vaccinated.

More than 4.24 million vaccine doses have been administered, with 2.27 million residents at least partially vaccinated.

A total of 11 new deaths were reported since the last report on July 21 while 765 COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday. The county's cumulative cases have increased to 294,176 while the death toll has risen to 3,798. – City News Service

California Cites Grocery Stores For Not Giving Virus Leave

– 12:26 p.m., Tuesday, July 27, 2021

California regulators have cited and fined three El Super grocery stores for failing to provide or delaying paid sick leave to 95 employees affected by COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.

Some of the employees were forced to work while sick, others were told to apply for unemployment while quarantining or in isolation, and others waited months to be paid, according to a statement from the state Labor Commissioner’s Office.

Citations including fines totaling more than $447,000 were issued to El Super stores in Los Angeles, Lynwood and Victorville. The parent company, Delaware's Bodega Latina Corporation, was also cited.

“Supplemental paid sick leave is intended to protect workers from being forced to choose between their health and providing for their families,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “These violations expose workers, their families and El Super’s customers to unnecessary health risks.” – Associated Press

CDC Reverses Course On Indoor Mask In Places Where Virus Is Surging

– 12:26 p.m., Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reversing course on some masking guidelines.

The agency announced new recommendations Tuesday that even vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.

Scientists cited new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people.

The CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

The new guidance follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that have been especially bad in the South. — Associated Press

Cal State University Will Require Vaccination For Students, Faculty And Staff For Fall Term

– 10:33 a.m., Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Following in the footsteps of the University of California, the California State University system announced Tuesday it will also require all students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to take part in any in-person classes or activities for the fall term.

The CSU had previously announced plans to require vaccinations, but only after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to at least one of the vaccines. All current vaccines are being administered under an "emergency use" authorization.

"The current surge in COVID cases due to the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant is an alarming new factor that we must consider as we look to maintain the health and well-being of students, employees and visitors to our campuses this fall," CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said in announcing the mandate. "Receiving a COVID vaccine continues to be the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus. We urge all members of the CSU community to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and announcing this requirement now allows members of the CSU community to receive multiple doses of a vaccine as we head into the beginning of the fall term."

According to the CSU, the date by which faculty, staff and students will have to formally verify their vaccination status will vary by campus, but all certifications will be required no later than Sept. 30. The policy will allow students and staff to seek "medical and religious exemptions." — City News Service

San Diego County Will Not Reinstate Mask Mandates As COVID-19 Cases Surge

– 7:05 p.m., Monday, July 26, 2021

While some counties in the state are requiring masks indoors regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, San Diego County public health officials announced Monday they will continue to follow state guidelines, which require indoor masking for unvaccinated people and masking of everyone in certain settings.

"COVID-19 is now the pandemic of the unvaccinated," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "Get vaccinated now, especially since cases and hospitalizations have been going up."

The county statement comes following an announcement Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom requiring all state employees and all workers at hospitals and health care facilities across California to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Those who are unable or refuse to do so will have to be tested at least once a week.

Locally, 98% percent of hospitalizations in the last 30 days are in people who are not vaccinated or have not completed the full series of the two- dose vaccine. Around 150,000 San Diegans are only partially vaccinated and overdue for their second shot. – City News Service

VA Requires COVID-19 Vaccination For Health Care Workers

– 1:35 p.m., Monday, July 26, 2021

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines, as the aggressive delta variant spreads across the nation and some communities report troubling increases in hospitalizations among unvaccinated people.

The VA's move came on a day when nearly 60 leading medical and health care organizations issued a call for health care facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated.

Although vaccination among physicians is nearly universal — 96% according to an AMA survey — that's not the case for many other people working at health care facilities. In nursing homes, only about 60% of staffers are vaccinated, compared with about 80% of residents, according to recent numbers from Medicare. And COVID-19 cases are rising.

At the VA, vaccines will now be mandatory for certain medical personnel — including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants and others who work in departmental facilities or provide direct care to veterans, said VA Secretary Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough.

Employees will have eight weeks to get vaccinated.

– Associated Press

California To Require Proof Of Vaccination For State Workers

– 11:19 a.m., Monday, July 26, 2021

California will require state employees and all health care workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or get tested weekly. It comes as officials aim to slow rising coronavirus infections, mostly among the unvaccinated.

Officials announced Monday that the new rules will take effect next month.

There are at least 238,000 state employees. Health officials couldn’t immediately provide an estimate on size of the health care workforce in the nation’s most populated state.

About 62% of all eligible Californians are fully vaccinated, and the state has struggled to make significant progress in recent weeks.

The more contagious delta variant now makes up an estimated 80% of infections in California. — Associated Press

San Diego County Reports Most COVID-19 Cases Since Early February

– 2:13 p.m., Friday, July 23, 2021

San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency is seeing a significant spike in new COVID-19 cases, with 1,264 new cases reported Friday, the highest number since Feb. 5.

The increase in cases is not a single-day phenomenon, but part of a larger trend in recent weeks. In the 30 days between June 21 and July 20, 6,572 San Diegans tested positive for COVID-19. Of that group, 11% were fully vaccinated, while 89% were not. On June 21, just 56 new cases of the virus were reported. On July 7, the number of new cases crossed the 200 mark and has not receded.

"The vaccines are effective in preventing severe illness or death from COVID-19," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "If you have not gotten vaccinated, the time to get vaccinated is now. If you are late for your second dose, the time to get that second shot is now."

Community outbreaks, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also up dramatically. The county reported an additional two community outbreaks today, bringing the total number of outbreaks in the last seven days to 25. One month ago, on June 23, only five community outbreaks were reported.

A total of 98% of hospitalizations in the last 30 days are in individuals who are not vaccinated or have not completed the full series of the two-dose vaccine. – City News Service

The Delta Variant Will Drive A Steep Rise In U.S. COVID Deaths, A New Model Shows

– 2:11 p.m., Friday, July 23, 2021

The current COVID-19 surge in the U.S. — fueled by the highly contagious delta variant — will steadily accelerate through the summer and fall, peaking in mid-October, with daily deaths more than triple what they are now.

That's according to new projections released Wednesday from the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a consortium of researchers working in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help the agency track the course of the pandemic.

It's a deflating prospect for parents looking ahead to the coming school year, employers planning to get people back to the workplace, and everyone hoping that the days of big national surges were over.

"What's going on in the country with the virus is matching our most pessimistic scenarios," says Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina who helps run the modeling hub. "We might be seeing synergistic effects of people becoming less cautious in addition to the impacts of the delta variant.

"I think it's a big call for caution," he adds. - Rob Stein, NPR

The Lambda Variant: What You Should Know And Why Experts Say Not To Panic

– 2:42 p.m., Thursday, July 22, 2021

While the delta variant of the coronavirus has quickly become the dominant strain in the United States, it's not the only variant circulating in the population.

The lambda variant, first identified in Peru, is also making headlines as it has started to be identified in several states. Houston Methodist Hospital reported its first case of the variant this week. Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina recently announced they had found the variant in a virus sample taken in April.

According to a database for scientists tracking coronavirus variants, fewer than 700 cases of the lambda variant have been sequenced in the U.S. so far out of more than 34 million coronavirus cases reported to date. But the U.S. has sequenced only a tiny fraction of its cases, so that number does not reflect the actual number of lambda cases in the country.

Fewer than 1% of U.S. cases in the last four weeks have been identified as the lambda variant, according to GISAID, a repository for genome data.

So do we need to add lambda to our list of big worries in the U.S.? Not yet, according to public health officials and experts. – Laurel Wamsley, NPR

Public Health Experts Call On CDC To Change Its Mask Guidance

– 2:41 p.m., Thursday, July 22, 2021

The summer surge in COVID-19 cases is an unwelcome surprise for health officials and experts who thought, for a brief period, that the U.S. had the coronavirus pandemic largely under control.

"This is the low season. It shouldn't be spreading as fast during summer," says Ali Mokdad, who tracks coronavirus trends at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Respiratory diseases such as the flu and COVID-19 usually spike in the winter, when people spend much of their time sequestered indoors.

But now, in the blazing heat of summer, hospitals in some parts of the country are again getting slammed with COVID-19 patients. Holiday gatherings over the Fourth of July — which President Biden once hoped would mark the country's independence from the virus — may have fueled new outbreaks. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are ticking up after a long decline.

Back in mid-May, when over a million new people were getting vaccinated each day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance declaring that it was safe — for fully vaccinated people — to shed their masks in most settings. "You can do things you stopped doing because of the pandemic," the CDC's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said at the time. – Pien Huang, NPR

COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Surge Among Unvaccinated San Diegans

– 10:42 a.m., Thursday, July 22, 2021

A significant increase in COVID-19 cases has prompted San Diego County public health officials Thursday to renew their efforts to get county residents vaccinated from the virus.

In the past seven days, 3,465 COVID-19 cases were reported in San Diego County. That's 1,566 or 82% more cases than the previous seven-day period.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are also trending up. The daily total rose above 100 on July 6 and has remained above that threshold since. Hospitalizations are likely to increase, a county spokesman said, since they typically do after increases in cases.

The rise in cases and hospitalizations is occurring primarily in San Diegans who are not vaccinated. These individuals are also being disproportionately impacted by the Alpha, Gamma and Delta COVID-19 variants of concern.

"The best protection we have against COVID-19 is getting vaccinated," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "The vaccines are extremely effective at preventing serious illness from COVID-19. If you have not gotten immunized, do it now."

There has also been a very slight increase in post-vaccination infections, meaning people got infected with COVID-19 even though they were fully vaccinated. – City News Service

Hugs As California Public School Returns To Class In Person

– 3:16 p.m., Wednesday, July 21, 2021

There was pumping music, dancing teachers and lots of hugs as one of the first public schools in California opened fully to in-person learning Wednesday, marking a major milestone in the fight to return to normalcy in the nation's most populated state, though the masked students served as a reminder that the coronavirus pandemic is still far from over.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond welcomed students at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School in Chula Vista, south of San Diego near the Mexican border.

“Bienvenidos! Welcome back to school! That’s it for my speech," Thurmond said to laughter and applause from students and parents gathered on the school's playground. “I'm just here to say we're so proud of you. This is one of the first schools in all of the state of California to be back, and you're showing everyone in California and in our nation that we learn well, we stay safe and we support our students and families."

Thurmond tried to calm concerns about the timing of Chula Vista Elementary School District's return to full-day, in-person instruction amid rising numbers of COVID-19 infections from the more contagious delta variant, including among younger kids, for which a vaccine has not yet been approved.

Thurmond said he was confident that masks, hand-washing and frequent testing of staff and students were enough to allow schools to reopen safely. – Associated Press

Worried About Breakthrough COVID Cases? Here’s What To Know

– 3:11 p.m., Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Here's what to know about breakthrough cases in the context of delta, and what scientists are doing to track the vaccines' efficacy:

You can get COVID-19 even if you're vaccinated, but it's rare and likely to be mild

Bottom line: Don't panic. So far, research shows the current vaccines are holding up well against the delta variant. For instance, a June study from the U.K. found that the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization from the delta variant after two doses.

If you do get infected (which is not likely but possible), the vaccine should help you keep from getting seriously sick. "Breakthrough infections, they tend to be mild — they tend to be more like a cold," said Dr. Carlos del Rio, professor of medicine and infectious disease epidemiology at Emory University.

"Those mild breakthroughs, according to a New England Journal study three weeks ago, are accompanied by lower viral loads and less — much less — symptoms," added Dr. Monica Gandhi, infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco. In particular, the study "showed that if you get a mild breakthrough with any variant, you have a 40% lower viral load in your nose after vaccination than you do if you had a natural infection," she said.

Severe cases among vaccinated people are possible, but extremely rare — the vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of serious illness that leads to hospitalization or death. And 97% of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For context, as of July 12, out of 159 million fully vaccinated people, the CDC documented 5,492 cases of fully vaccinated people who were hospitalized or died from COVID-19, and 75% of them were over age 65. It's not clear how many of these breakthrough infections were caused by the delta variant, but that's now by far the dominant variant in circulation.

The chances of getting seriously ill after being vaccinated are higher for those with certain health conditions that affect the immune system. Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, said that at his hospital, 90% of the patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The small percentage of vaccinated patients who do end up hospitalized, he said, "have underlying significant health risks — like cancer, like [organ] transplants — that probably prevented them from mounting a full immune response to the vaccine." – Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR

CDC: Delta Variant Accounts For 83% Of US Cases

– 9:52 a.m., Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Health officials say the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to surge and accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases.

That’s a dramatic increase from the week of July 3, when the variant accounted for about 50% of genetically sequenced coronavirus cases.

“The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease, and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday.

The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world. – Associated Press

Uptick In COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Likely Due To Delta Variant

– 9:50 a.m., Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Health officials are beginning to notice cases of COVID-19 rising, a trend that is likely due to the Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in California.

In San Diego County 579 cases were recorded on Thursday of last week, while 501 were reported Friday, 467 on Saturday and 439 on Sunday. It was around early March when daily reported cases were in that range. COVID-19 vaccines were made available to those 70 and older in mid-January and everyone in the state ages 50 and older beginning April 1, then to everyone age 16 and up on April 15.

Some experts believe the more contagious Delta variant is driving the uptick in cases, largely among those not vaccinated.

"Delta is really infectious," said infectious disease researcher Shane Crotty at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. "And it is a bigger problem — it’s easier to catch — it’s easier to transmit."

Crotty said the good news is that the vaccines protect against the Delta variant.

"At this point you’re either vaccinated or you’re going to catch the Delta variant and if you’re not vaccinated and you catch Delta you’re more likely to end up in the hospital than anything else you’ve caught in your life," Crotty said. – Matt Hoffman, KPBS Health Reporter

San Diego Infectious Disease Expert Advises Indoor Mask Wearing, Even If You’re Vaccinated

– 3:25 p.m., Monday, July 19, 2021

What we thought was a simple picture - no mask wearing in most public places - is getting more complicated by the day thanks to the quickly spreading Delta variant.

San Diego County isn't following Los Angeles County's lead in requiring masks be worn indoors by everyone, including the vaccinated - yet.

But the numbers here are concerning; rates have been above 200 a day for the last 8 days. On Thursday, 428 new infections were reported.

“Just because San Diego’s numbers aren’t where L.A.’s are today doesn’t mean we’re not gonna get there in the coming weeks," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Joel Wertheim of the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

“I see the value in masking, I continue to mask indoors and anyone who asks me, I would advise to mask indoors," Wertheim told KPBS Midday Edition on Friday. – John Carroll, KPBS reporter

Los Angeles Hopes New Mask Mandate Will Reverse Virus Spike

– 11:55 a.m., Monday, July 19, 2021

Los Angeles County residents are again required to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status — a new mandate starting this weekend that health officials hope will reverse the latest spikes in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The rule went into effect late Saturday for the nation’s largest county, home to 11 million people, where a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases is led by the highly transmissible delta variant.

The vast majority of new cases are among unvaccinated people, LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis said Sunday.

“I’m not pleased that we have to go back to using the masks in this matter but, nonetheless, it’s going to save lives. And right now that to me is what’s most important,” Solis said on ABC's “ This Week.”

California has seen a steady rise in virus cases since the state fully reopened its economy on June 15 and did away with capacity limits and social distancing. – Associated Press

University Of California To Require COVID Vaccines For Students, Staff Returning To Campuses

– 10:56 a.m., Friday, July 16, 2021

The University of California will require all students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to campus for the fall term, the university announced Thursday.

The policy requires vaccinations "for all individuals learning, working and living at UC locations this fall, and participating in person in UC programs that may occur off-site, such as UC athletics programs or study abroad, with limited exceptions, accommodations and deferrals."

The policy announced Thursday is a shift from April, when the university said it would require vaccinations only when at least one of the vaccines receives "full approval" from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The vaccines currently in use are being administered only on an "emergency use" basis.

According to the university, the new policy "incorporates input from UC infectious disease experts who reviewed the evidence from medical studies, which have found the vaccines to be safe and effective for preventing infection, hospitalizations and deaths, and for reducing the spread of this deadly disease." – City News Service

LA County Residents Again Ordered To Wear Masks Indoors

– 2:50 p.m., Wednesday, July 15, 2021

In the face of steadily increasing COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, Los Angeles County residents will again be required to wear masks in indoor public settings beginning Saturday night, health officials announced Thursday.

County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said the county is "not where we need to be" in terms of vaccinations against the virus, as evidenced by seven straight days of new cases numbers that topped 1,000. On Thursday, the county reported 1,537 new infections, the highest number since early March.

Davis said the rate of virus spread in the county has officially risen from moderate to substantial, with infections five times more likely to occur among unvaccinated residents.

So far, San Diego County has no plans to require masks indoors like Los Angeles.

"The County will continue to follow California Department of Public Health guidance on masking and urges those who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19," said San Diego County spokesperson Sarah Sweeney in a statement.

In Los Angeles, a revised county Health Officer Order will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, requiring all residents to wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status. The county previously only recommended such mask-wearing in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and protect unvaccinated residents.

There are still nearly 4 million county residents who are unvaccinated. – City News Service, KPBS Staff

San Diego County Coronavirus Cases Cross 200 For Seventh Consecutive Day

– 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The number of new COVID-19 cases continued to increase, with more than 200 infections reported for the seventh consecutive day, San Diego County public health officials announced Wednesday.

In Wednesday's report, 275 San Diego County residents were infected with the virus, increasing the total to 285,268.

Four new deaths were reported in the past week, increasing the region's total to 3,786. Three men and one woman died between July 2 and Saturday, according to the county's weekly report.

Three of the deceased were in their 80s and one was in their 70s. All had underlying medical conditions.

San Diego County's case rate is 3.7 cases per 100,000 residents as of Wednesday's report, up from 2.5% last week.

A total of 7,097 tests were reported to the county, and the percentage of new positive cases was 3.9%. The 14-day rolling percentage of positive cases among tests is 2.9%, nearly double last week's 1.5%.

Ten new community outbreaks were confirmed in the past seven days: six in restaurant/bar settings, one in a business setting, one in an emergency services setting, one in a government setting and one in a retail setting. – City News Service

LA County Reports 5th Day Of More Than 1,000 Virus Cases

– 9:45 a.m., Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Los Angeles County reported the fifth straight day of more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases and health officials warned Tuesday that the especially contagious delta variant of the disease continues to spread rapidly among California’s unvaccinated population.

The nation’s most populous state reported 3,256 COVID-19 cases, the highest one-day total since early March. Los Angeles County, where a quarter of California’s 40 million people live, reported a new caseload totaling 1,103.

“One month ago, on June 13, the five-day average of cases was 201 and today the five-day average is 1,095,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement. “This is an increase of more than 500% in just one month.”

The statewide seven-day positivity rate is 2.7%, which is 50% higher than a week ago and at the highest point since late February, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.

Officials expected a jump in cases when capacity limits were lifted for businesses and most mask restrictions and social distancing requirements were eliminated for vaccinated people in mid-June.

Los Angeles County recommended two weeks later that vaccinated residents resume wearing face coverings indoors after detecting that about half of all new cases were the delta variant. – Associated Press

Supervisors OK $24 Million Grant For COVID Outreach

– 9:40 a.m., Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to accept a $24.2 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that will be used to address COVID-19 disparities among underserved populations, including those at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus.

The grant was awarded to the county's COVID-19 Health Disparities Project — a collaboration of staff, community partners and contracted service providers — with an emphasis on racial and ethnic populations and rural communities.

Grant money will be spent on local COVID-19 response and prevention through increased testing, tracing and vaccination; improved public health data systems; better access to health and social services for vulnerable populations; and expanded public health infrastructure for COVID-19 prevention and control.

Nick Macchione, county Health and Human Services Agency director, said the grant is highly competitive and aligns with the board's priorities. – City News Service

California Changes Course On Schools Enforcing Mask Mandate

– 3:31 p.m., Tuesday, July 13, 2021

California public health officials say they will let local school districts decide how to enforce new mask rules.

California is still requiring all students and staff to wear masks while indoors at school even if they are fully vaccinated.

The state told school districts on Monday they must send home students who refuse to wear masks and are not exempt from wearing them. Hours later, the state then changed the rules.

Students will still be required to wear masks indoors, but school districts can decide how to enforce that rule. — Associated Press

San Diego Food System Alliance Sets 10-Year Goals To Improve Local Food Systems

– 3:21 p.m., Monday, July 12, 2021

The San Diego Food System Alliance on Monday released "San Diego County Food Vision 2030," highlighting where the food system fails communities and workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic's upheaval to the regional economy and food supply chains.

The report also puts forward 10 objectives intended to help heal the food system over the next decade by "cultivating justice, fighting climate change and building resilience," according to a statement released by the Alliance, a coalition of local organizations, businesses, health systems, nonprofits and government agencies "dedicated to building a healthy, sustainable and just food system in San Diego County."

"The past year has proven we have a food system that fails to provide for the vast majority of our communities," said Elly Brown, executive director of the San Diego Food System Alliance.

"It's not broken, but instead working exactly how it was designed, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few," she said. "Our goal should not be to 'fix' the system, but rather transform it completely by confronting the systemic injustices it was built on — including the exploitation of Black, Indigenous and people of color. We need to rebalance power, so that our communities have a say in how their food is grown, produced, sold and shared." – City News Service

US Officials Flag "Small" Reaction Risk With J&J Vaccine

– 1:15 p.m., Monday, July 12, 2021

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine may pose a “small possible risk” of a rare but potentially dangerous neurological reaction, U.S. health officials said Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement it has received reports of 100 people who got the shot developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune system disorder that can cause muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis.

That number represents a tiny fraction of the nearly 13 million Americans who have received the one-dose vaccine. Most cases of the side effect were reported in men — many 50 years old and up — and usually about two weeks after vaccination.

The CDC said it would ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to review the issue at an upcoming meeting. J&J didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The government said the vaccines most used in the U.S., made by Pfizer and Moderna, show no risk of the disorder after more than 320 million doses have been administered.

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks some of its nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis that typically is temporary. An estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop the syndrome each year, according to the CDC. – Associated Press

California To Require Face Masks At Schools This Fall

– 5:15 p.m., Friday, July 9 2021

California will require that masks be worn at schools when classrooms open this fall, despite new guidance issued Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear face coverings inside school buildings.

Ahead of new school guidelines expected next week, health officials in California said Friday that requiring face coverings will allow all schools to reopen this fall for full in-person instruction.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that not all schools can accommodate physical distancing of at least 3 feet or more, so the best preventive measure is wearing masks indoors.

The California Department of Public Health said in a statement that the mask requirement “also will ensure that all kids are treated the same,” without any stigma attached to those who are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

“We believe that with masking and with testing, we can get kids back to in person 100% in our schools,” Ghaly said.

Ghaly noted the CDC guidance released Friday says that when it is not possible to maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance, “it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking." – Associated Press

CDC Updates Guidelines To Protect Kids From COVID In School. Plus: Vacation Tips

– 4:08 p.m., Friday, July 9 2021

It's only July, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is focusing on the coming school year, and its message is clear: It wants students back in the classroom.

On Friday, the agency issued updated guidance for K-12 schools, highlighting the importance of getting as many eligible children vaccinated as possible to return classrooms to normal or near normal and enumerating its list of best practices to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

So far, just 1 out of 3 kids ages 12 to 17 have received a COVID-19 vaccine. The Biden administration is hoping to boost these numbers before school starts in the fall.

"For families who haven't gotten their kids vaccinated yet, now is the time," says Erin Sauber-Schatz, lead for the Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force at the CDC. "It takes five weeks to get fully vaccinated. If you got your first shot today, the second would be July 30, and you'd be fully vaccinated on Aug. 13. So now's the time if you haven't gotten vaccinated yet."

If a high school could document that everyone in the building was fully vaccinated, she says, school would look a lot like it did pre-pandemic. Of course, the reality is that most schools will have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff. – Sheila Mulrooney Eldred, NPR

County Pleads For Residents To Get Vaccinated As COVID Delta Variant Grows

– 3:15 p.m., Friday, July 9 2021

Citing data which found the vast majority of COVID- 19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths since March 1 have occurred in unvaccinated people, San Diego County officials pleaded with those San Diegans who haven't yet received a jab to do so as quickly as possible.

The county's data found that since the beginning of March, 95% of all cases, 98% of all hospitalizations and 96% of deaths involved people who had not yet been fully inoculated from the virus.

Dr. Hans Crumpler, a physician at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, in La Mesa, urged those skeptical of the shots to get more information from medical experts.

"Come to your provider if you have any doubts or questions, we are there to educate you," he said. "Get the vaccine as readily as you can. It's going to give you side effects, but they are far preferable to getting the virus."

Crumpler contracted COVID-19 and said the contant body aches and intermittent chills and fever were "beyond description." He also said vaccination side effects were rare — most often soreness or a rash — and paled in comparison to the impact of COVID-19.

The message had a note of urgency to it, as the Delta variant of COVID- 19 appears to be the next major strain to make its way through unvaccinated populations. Dr. Eric McDonald, San Diego County's Chief Medical Officer, said one shot of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines were not as effective against the Delta variant as they were against previous strains. He urged the more than 140,000 San Diegans who have not received a second dose to get it done.

"Ideally you want to get it on time, but if it has been one month, two months, four months, it will still be more effective," he said. "The first shot isn't enough for the Delta variant."

The recommended spacing of doses is three weeks for the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for the Moderna vaccine. Completing the full two-dose series of the vaccine is recommended regardless of how long ago a person received their first shot. – City News Service

Pfizer To Seek OK For 3rd Vaccine Dose; Shots Still Protect

– 3:50 p.m., Thursday, July 8, 2021

Pfizer is about to seek U.S. authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying Thursday that another shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity and maybe help ward off the latest worrisome coronavirus mutant.

Research from multiple countries shows the Pfizer shot and other widely used COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant, which is spreading rapidly around the world and now accounts for most new U.S. infections.

Two doses of most vaccines are critical to develop high levels of virus-fighting antibodies against all versions of the coronavirus, not just the delta variant — and most of the world still is desperate to get those initial protective doses as the pandemic continues to rage.

But antibodies naturally wane over time, so studies also are underway to tell if and when boosters might be needed.

– Associated Press

More Than 140,000 San Diegans Overdue For Second COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

– 2:21 p.m., Thursday, July 8, 2021

More than 140,000 San Diegans who have received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are overdue for their second dose, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reported Thursday.

The recommended spacing of doses is three weeks for the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for the Moderna vaccine.

A single dose of either vaccine is significantly less effective at protecting people from getting sick, especially against the new variants of the virus, and county health officials are encouraging those overdue to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Completing the full two-dose series of the vaccine is recommended, regardless of how long ago a person received their first shot.

"A single dose of those vaccines is only 33% effective against the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19, which has become the most prevalent strain of the virus in the United States and is likely to become more prevalent locally," said Denise Foster, the county's chief nursing officer and COVID-19 clinical director. "San Diegans who are overdue for their second shot should take action as soon as possible to lower their risk of getting or spreading the virus."

Everyone 12 years and older is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine at no cost. Go to coronavirus-SD.com vaccine for a full list of hours and locations of vaccine sites in the county. – City News Service

Unvaccinated San Diegans Account For Nearly All COVID Cases And Deaths

– 6:39 p.m., Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Almost all COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths reported in San Diego County in 2021 occurred among residents who are not fully vaccinated, it was announced Wednesday.

Data released Wednesday from the county Health and Human Services Agency shows that since Jan. 1, COVID-19 has nearly exclusively occurred among residents who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. They represent 99.8% of deaths, 99.88% of hospitalizations and 99.1% of cases.

The data also shows a total of 54 delta variant cases in San Diego County, which the Center for Disease Control recently said has become the dominant strain in the U.S.

"The data shows what we've known all along. The COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing serious illness and deaths," said Dr. Seema Shah, medical director of HHSA's epidemiology and immunization services branch. "If you have not gotten vaccinated or are missing a second shot of your COVID-19 vaccine, do be safe and limit the spread of this virus."

Since Jan. 1, a total of 1,219 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the region but only three were county residents who had been fully vaccinated. – City News Service

Mask Mandate Returns For California Lawmakers, Staff

– 3:25 p.m., Wednesday, July 7, 2021

At least nine people who work at the California state Capitol tested positive for the coronavirus last week, including four who are fully vaccinated, triggering a return of the mask mandate for lawmakers and staff.

When the Capitol reopened last month, masks were still required in public places like hallways, committee rooms and legislative chambers. But fully vaccinated lawmakers and staff were allowed to remove their masks while working in their offices.

That changed this week following the outbreak. The new directive applies not just to the Capitol, but also the Legislative Office Building and lawmakers' district offices. Unvaccinated lawmakers and staff must also be tested twice per week, according to memos from the state Assembly and Senate.

It appears the outbreak is among employees of the state Assembly, although no official has confirmed all nine cases occurred among those workers. – Associated Press

SDSU To Distribute 6,000 COVID-19 Testing Kits At Sweetwater Middle School

– 2:56 p.m., Wednesday, July 7, 2021

San Diego State University will distribute 6,000 home testing kits for COVID-19 at a San Diego County middle school this summer, the school announced Wednesday, part of a pilot program to determine whether self- testing of students' high-risk family members can help keep schools safe.

The tests will be distributed to families at an as-yet undesignated school in the Sweetwater Union High School District, which includes some of San Diego County's most heavily Latino communities and returns to in-person classes on July 21.

"The idea is to catch it before it transmits to the middle schooler or before that middle schooler comes to campus," said Corinne McDaniels- Davidson, director of the Institute for Public Health at SDSU. "We need to step up and protect our students so that they can focus on their schooling."

The $300,000, one-year project is one of eight grants awarded by the RADx-UP Rapid Research Pilot Program through the Coordination and Data Collection Center at Duke University and part of a $1.4 billion initiative from the National Institutes of Health.

Targets of the SDSU study are unvaccinated or otherwise high-risk individuals living with children of middle-school age. Nasal swab tests will be self-administered, inserted into a liquid, then placed on a test strip, photographed and then analyzed through a smartphone or tablet computer app. Plans call for testing about once every two weeks. – City News Service

Delta Is Now The Dominant Coronavirus Variant In The U.S.

– 5:59 p.m., Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The highly contagious delta variant now accounts for more than 51% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to new estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first detected in India and is spreading quickly across the globe.

And in parts of the U.S., the delta strain accounts for more than 80% of new infections, including some Midwestern states like Missouri, Kansas and Iowa.

The good news is the vaccines being used in the U.S. all appear to be highly effective at protecting against serious disease, hospitalization and death.

But the new estimate comes as health officials in Israel are suggesting the Pfizer vaccine's protection against the delta variant is waning. – Jane Greenhalgh, NPR

14 Additional San Diego Libraries Reopened To The Public

– 5:57 p.m., Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Following pandemic closures, the San Diego Public Library is reopening 14 branches Tuesday for in-person services, adding to the 12 that had opened back in October with COVID-19 restrictions.

Misty Jones, the director for public libraries in the county, says capacity limits are still in place.

“So we’re at 50% capacity and there's no mask required as long as you are vaccinated, but for safety reasons anyone that is not vaccinated we are asking to wear a mask.”

She says some of the reopening delays had to do with employee shortages.

“A lot of it had to do with just the state and county guidelines and capacity limits. We also had a lot of staff that left during the pandemic so we had to do a lot of hiring to get back open,” Jones said. – Alexandra Rangel, KPBS Freelance Reporter

Holiday Travelers To San Diego Not Deterred By Delta Variant Threat

– 5:40 p.m., Monday, July 5, 2021

The July Fourth weekend saw the most visitors streaming through the San Diego International Airport since the pandemic began.

“On July second, we saw approximately 68,000 people coming and going from the airport,” said airport spokeswoman Sabrina LoPiccolo. “That’s still less than we saw in 2019, but that is the most that we’ve seen since March of 2020.”

This despite news that the new delta variant of COVID-19, which the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “hyper-transmissible,” is now the dominant strain in California.

“I think it’s a combination of people being vaccinated, feeling more comfortable to get out and probably take the trips that they had to postpone during COVID,” LoPiccolo said.

LoPiccolo went on to say the airport will continue to follow guidance from San Diego County officials and the CDC. As of now, mask wearing and social distancing will continue to be enforced in airports through September, regardless of a person’s vaccination status. – Melissa Mae, KPBS Freelance Reporter

As COVID Vaccinations Slow, Parts Of The U.S. Remain Far Behind 70% Goal

– 4:03 p.m., Monday, July 5, 2021

July 4th was not the celebration President Biden had hoped for, when it comes to protecting more Americans with the coronavirus vaccine. The nation as a whole fell just short of the White House's goal, which was to give at least a first dose to 70% of adults by Independence Day.

Currently, 67% of adult Americans have gotten either the first shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If you include teenagers age 12-17, who are now eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech, the national percentage of those who have gotten at least one shot is 64%.

But drilling down from national rates, the picture varies widely at the regional level, and from state to state.

For example, Massachusetts and most states in the Northeast reached or exceeded 70% (for adults 18 and older) in June. Tennessee and most southern states have vaccination rates between 50% and 60%, and administration rates are slowing down.

Variations in local desire for the vaccine, and in state strategies for marketing and distributing the shots, help explain the range.

In Massachusetts, for example, residents overwhelmed phone lines and appointment websites as soon as vaccines were available. The state began opening mass vaccination sites in January to meet demand. At Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots, jumbotron screens flashed updates and speakers blasted instructions to people arriving for a shot. – Martha Bebinger, NPR

California Virus Cases Rising As Delta Variant Spreads

– 4:31 p.m., Thursday, July 1, 2021

California broadly reopened its economy barely two weeks ago and since then an especially contagious coronavirus variant has spread among the unvaccinated, a development that has health officials on edge and already has prompted Los Angeles County to strongly recommend everyone resume wearing masks inside.

The nation's most populous state is averaging close to 1,000 additional cases reported daily, an increase of about 17% in the last 14 days. Officials expected an increase when capacity limits were lifted for businesses and most mask restrictions and social distancing requirements were eliminated for vaccinated people.

But public health officials raised concern this week with the more transmissible delta variant spreading among the unvaccinated, who comprise the vast majority of new infections. LA County, where a quarter of the state's nearly 40 million people live, recommended Monday that vaccinated residents resume wearing face coverings indoors after detecting that about half of all cases were the delta variant.

“The new wrinkle in this is really this new variant. It just sort of rips very quickly through people who are susceptible to being infected, which overwhelmingly is people who are not vaccinated,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “We just opened up two weeks ago, everything was hunky dory.” – Associated Press

San Diego Launches Small Business Assistance Program to Recover From COVID-19

– 2:13 p.m., Thursday, July 1, 2021

San Diego this week began the Small Business and Restaurant Assistance Program with the intent of supporting the economic recovery of small businesses and restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced Thursday.

Through SBRA, qualified local businesses can access support to navigate the city's planning requirements and permitting process, expediting construction projects and improvements that can give businesses a boost and help grow their operations.

Mayor Todd Gloria's "Back to Work SD" budget plan, unanimously approved by City Council last month, provides funding to establish the program, operated through the city's Development Services Department.

"This small-business concierge service, provided by the SBRA Program, will help equitably jumpstart the city's economy by targeting those that need assistance the most," Gloria said. "Our permitting process is complex and it can be difficult to navigate, especially for new or small businesses.

"This service will give those business owners a direct line of support and make it easier for them to complete upgrades and improvements to help their businesses thrive in our great city," he continued. – City News Service