A roundup of the biggest news stories in California this week, including a coronavirus update and the latest from Sacramento….
Alex Padilla Formally Appointed to the U.S. Senate
On Monday, Governor Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to become California’s first Latino U.S. Senator. The Governor’s action followed the Monday morning resignation of Kamala Harris from the United States Senate as she prepared to be inaugurated Vice President of the United States on Wednesday. Padilla also resigned his position as California Secretary of State. Additionally, the Governor formally submitted his nomination letter for Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber to serve as California’s next Secretary of State. Current Chief Deputy Secretary of State James Schwab will serve as Acting Secretary of State until the Legislature votes on Dr. Weber’s confirmation.
“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Governor Newsom. “These appointments are only possible because of the trailblazing leadership of my dear friend and California’s own Kamala Harris, who will move on from the Senate to make history by becoming the first African American and woman to serve as Vice President of the United States. This is a proud day for California.”
New Covid-19 Variant Found More Frequently in California
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH), in coordination with Santa Clara County and the University of California San Francisco, announced earlier this week that an L452R variant of Covid-19 is increasingly being identified by viral genomic sequencing in multiple counties across the state. The 452R variant has previously been detected in other countries and states, including California, and is now increasingly being found in multiple counties throughout California. This variant is different to the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom. The state is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local public health departments and laboratory sequencing partners to learn more about the variant, including how it spreads.
“It is common to identify variants of viruses like SARS-CoV-2, and we are working with our federal, local and university partners to better understand this variant and how it might impact Californians,” said Dr. Erica Pan, State Epidemiologist for CDPH. “It’s too soon to know if this variant will spread more rapidly than others, but it certainly reinforces the need for all Californians to wear masks and reduce mixing with people outside their immediate households to help slow the spread of the virus. We also urge anyone who has been exposed to the virus to isolate from others to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
California Attorney General Launches Civil Rights Investigation into the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced he is launching a civil rights investigation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the largest sheriff’s department in the United States. The investigation will seek to determine whether LASD has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. The California Department of Justice investigation comes on the heels of allegations of excessive force, retaliation, and other misconduct, as well as a number of recent reported incidents involving LASD management and personnel.
“Those of us in positions of public trust know that the job comes with the solemn obligation to be accountable to the people we serve. Because of the nature of the work involved in law enforcement, that duty of care is heightened,” said Attorney General Becerra. “There are serious concerns and reports that accountability and adherence to legitimate policing practices have lapsed at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. We are undertaking this investigation to determine if LASD has violated the law or the rights of the people of Los Angeles County.”
State Launches Pilot Site for Vaccination Appointments and Registration
The State of California has launched MyTurn (myturn.ca.gov), the pilot site for an online registry to help residents find out when they are eligible to receive a vaccine. The site is now live, but at this time only Los Angeles County residents aged 65 and older can use it to schedule appointments. All other Californians can register to be notified when they are eligible to receive a vaccine, and will be able to make an appointment through MyTurn at that time.
The California Department of Public Health confirmed today that the state has 3,062,068 cases of Covid-19 to date. That figure includes 23,024 newly confirmed cases on Thursday. The seven-day positivity rate is 8.9% and the 14-day positivity rate is 10.5% – both lower than the positivity rates last week. Since the start of the pandemic, 35,768 Californians have died due to Covid-19.
ICU capacity remains at 0.0% in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. The Greater Sacramento region has a capacity of 7.8%, and the Bay Area has 6.5% capacity, both improvements from last week. Northern California also increased its availability and now reports an ICU capacity of 32.6%. Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area remain under the regional stay-at-home order.
As of January 21, providers have reported administering a total of 1,795,174 vaccine doses statewide. Local health departments and other multi-county entities have ordered a total of 4,332,175 doses, or which 3,989,850 doses have shipped.