A roundup of the biggest news stories in California this week, including a coronavirus update and the latest from Sacramento….
Regional Stay-at-Home Order Lifted Statewide
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) ended the Regional Stay Home Order across California on Monday. The action resulted from projections for improved ICU capacity of above 15% in all regions. The four-week projection for ICU capacity is 25% for the Bay Area, 27.3% for the Greater Sacramento Region, 18.9% for Northern California, 22.3% for the San Joaquin Valley and 33.3% for Southern California.
All counties are now under restrictions defined by the Blueprint for a Safer Economy according to color-coded tiers. As of Tuesday, 54 counties are in the purple tier, three counties (Alpine, Mariposa and Trinity) are in the red tier and one (Sierra) is in the orange tier. No counties are in the yellow tier. Local authorities including Los Angeles County have allowed outdoor dining and personal care services to resume.
California Revamps System to Speed Up Vaccination Schedule
On Monday, Governor Newsom announced a series of changes to California’s vaccination system designed to simplify eligibility framework, improve data tracking and increase the pace of administering the Covid-19 vaccine.
California has tripled the pace of vaccinations from 43,459 per day on January 4 to 131,620 on January 15. The 10-day effort to ramp up vaccinations exposed key improvements needed to administer even more vaccines when increased supply becomes available.
The state will also officially launch My Turn, an online registry for Californians to find out when they are eligible to receive a vaccine and to schedule appointments. A pilot site for My Turn launched last week. Vaccine scheduling through the site is currently available only for Los Angeles County residents aged 65 and older. Others can sign up to receive a notification when they become eligible for the vaccine.
To increase available supply based on existing in-state vaccines, the Department of Public Health announced a process that will allow for the reallocation of vaccines from providers who have not used at least 65 percent of their available supply on hand for a week and have not submitted a plan for administering the remaining vaccine to prioritized populations within four days of notice.
To date, California has received more than 4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, roughly enough for 2 million people at two doses each. California has 3 million health care workers and nursing home residents, 6 million people 65+, and 2.5 million Californians who work in education and child care, emergency services and food and agriculture.
Dr. Shirley Weber Sworn in as California Secretary of State
Dr. Shirley Weber, San Diego Assemblymember and Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, was sworn in today as Secretary of State by Governor Newsom. Dr. Weber makes history as the first African American to serve as California’s Secretary of State. The Governor nominated Dr. Weber earlier this month to fill the position vacated by newly appointed U.S. Senator Alex Padilla.
“The fact that each citizen is a primary officeholder in a democracy is the lodestone tenet of our system of government. It is my responsibility as Secretary of State to ensure that more Californians are able to exercise that power through the electoral process, and that our elections remain secure, accessible and fair even under the most adverse conditions,” said Secretary of State Dr. Weber. “Dr. King teaches us that we are at our best when we stand up in service of others and I am humbled to be able to continue to stand up for Californians as Secretary of State.”
Winter Storms Cause Damage and Evacuations Across the State
Californians learned the weather term “atmospheric river” this week when a cold, slow-moving column of atmospheric water vapor brought significant snow to the Sierras and heavy rain all across the state. Thousands of residents were evacuated in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Mateo counties due to the threat of mud and debris flows. South of Big Sur, a section of Highway 1 collapsed into the ocean during a heavy rainstorm.
The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains increased from 40% of its historical average to 66% by Friday, MSN reports. Mammoth Mountain received 9 feet of new snow.
In Southern California, heavy rains resulted in evacuation orders for areas burned by late 2020 wildfires in Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Los Angeles County ordered its beaches closed due to the danger of lightning. Reports of hail came from Manhattan Beach and parts of Malibu.
Governor Newsom Signs Legislation to Extend Eviction Moratorium
Governor Newsom today signed legislation to extend California’s eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021. SB 91 also protects tenants’ credit and creates a new rental assistance program allocating $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance. The legislation will protect millions of Californian renters who have been economically impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Once again, California is leading the way by enacting the strongest eviction protections in the nation, which will provide relief for millions of Californians dealing with financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19,” said Governor Newsom. “This law not only provides greatly needed support for tenants, but also provides relief to small property owners in need of assistance to pay for mortgages, thanks to $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funding.”
Today, CDPH reports that California has 3,205,947 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, which includes 19,337 newly recorded cases on Thursday. The seven-day positivity rate has dropped to 7.4% and the 14-day rate is also lower than last week at 8.2%. Since the start of the pandemic, 35,578 Californians have died due to Covid-19.
As of today, providers report administering a total of 3,078,250 vaccine doses statewide. A total of 4,759,750 vaccine doses, which includes first and second doses, have been shipped to local health departments and health care systems across California.