A roundup of the biggest news stories in California this week, including coronavirus news and the latest from Sacramento.
Majority of Californians Under Regional Stay-at-Home Orders
The regional stay-at-home order announced on December 3 is now in effect in three out of five California regions. Further, local authorities in much of the Bay Area have voluntarily enacted the order in advance of reaching the required metric of 15% ICU availability. Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley and Greater Sacramento regions have met the metric and are subject to the order, which bans private gatherings, limits retail and other business operations and requires 100% mask wearing and physical distancing. The population of the three regions totals 30,896,229 Californians, or 77% of the state’s population.
San Joaquin and Southern California will be eligible to exit the order if ICU capacity recovers on December 28, and Greater Sacramento will be eligible on January 1. Northern California currently has an ICU capacity of 26.6% and the Bay Area is at 16.7%. ICU availability has dropped to 9% statewide.
The California Department of Public Health confirms 1,485,703 cases of Covid-19 and 20,622 deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic. There were 35,468 new cases reported on Thursday. The seven-day positivity rate is 10.5% and the 14-day positivity rate is 9.7%.
Los Angeles County Reports Covid-19 Cases in Record Numbers
Los Angeles County Public Health officials confirmed 13,815 new cases and 50 new deaths due to Covid-19 today. It is the third time within the last six days that new daily cases exceeded 10,000. The nation’s most populous county is overwhelmed by Covid-19, with a total of 500,000 cases and 8,199 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Of these cases, 100,000 have been reported since November 30th.
“These numbers are overwhelming. The grief that our community continues to experience cannot be comprehended, and my deepest sympathies go out to everyone who is mourning,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “We cannot undo what has already been done and collectively, we are going to pay a very high price for the actions we took in the past. What we can do and what everyone across the county needs to do right now is to stay at home as much as possible, and limit going out to what is essential… Make the choice today and every day through December that you will protect yourself, you will protect your friends and loved ones, and you will protect the friends and loved ones of other people. Our actions prevent terrible suffering and save lives.”
State Launches Covid-19 Exposure Notification Tool
A new digital tool designed to slow the spread of Covid-19, CA Notify, officially launched statewide on Thursday. Smart phone users can opt in to receive alerts of potential exposure to Covid-19 via the free digital tool. Californians with iPhones can enable CA Notify in their settings while Android phone users can download the CA Notify app from the Google Play Store. Use of the technology is free, voluntary, private and secure, and users may opt in or out at any time.
When individuals voluntarily activate CA Notify, the tool uses Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes between phones without revealing the user’s identity or location. When someone is tested for Covid-19, they will receive a text message from (855) 976-8462. This text will remind CA Notify users who receive a positive test result from a provider or laboratory to enter their verification code into their phone using CA Notify. Any other CA Notify users who were within six feet of the COVID-19 positive individual for 15 minutes or more when that person was most likely to be infectious will get an anonymous notification of possible exposure.
Visit CANotify.ca.gov to learn more about how CA Notify works.
Zodiac Killer’s Mysterious Cipher Solved After 51 Years
A coded letter sent by the Zodiac Killer to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 has been solved. Millions of attempts to solve the “340 Cipher” have failed to solve it during the past 51 years, but the Chronicle reports that an international team of codebreakers has finally succeeded. The cipher’s solution has been confirmed by the FBI. One of the nation’s most notorious serial killers, the Zodiac has five known victims in the Bay Area. His identity remains unknown.
Mystery Monolith Briefly Seen in Southern California
After mysterious metal monoliths appeared and then quickly disappeared in locations across the world, a similar structure was spotted at the top of a hiking trail in Southern California. The Los Angeles Times reports that the 10-foot-tall, three-sided silver-colored monolith appeared at the top of a hiking trail in Atascadero. A few social media users snapped photos before the curiosity vanished. It was reportedly removed by a group of young men who recorded video of themselves replacing it with a wooden cross. Similar short-lived monoliths have been spotted in Utah, Romania, Belgium, Colombia and the Isle of Wight.
Attorney General Becerra Joins Federal Lawsuits Against Facebook and Google
Earlier this week, Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a multistate lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly violating federal antitrust laws and maintaining an illegal monopoly by buying up emerging competitors. The lawsuit was filed in parallel with a similar suit from the Federal Trade Commission.
Today, the Attorney General announced that the California Department of Justice intends to join the U.S. Department of Justice in lawsuit alleging Google violated federal antitrust laws. The suit alleges that Google has engaged in anticompetitive behavior and suppressed innovation to maintain an unlawful monopoly on internet search and search-based advertising.
“Google’s market dominance leaves consumers and small businesses with little choice when it comes to internet search engines. By using exclusionary agreements to dominate the market, Google has stifled competition and rigged the advertising market. We look forward to litigating this case to restore competition and innovation for California consumers,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This lawsuit paves the way for search engine innovation with greater regard for privacy and data protection.”