Happy Friday, all.
It’s been a completely bonkers news day, so let’s get right into it:
• Shortly after we sent/published the Daily Digest last night, the state made some tweaks and clarifications to the impending Regional Stay at Home Order. First: The state released its figures on ICU capacity in each of the state’s five regions—and as of last night, Southern California had 20.6 percent of its ICU capacity remaining. Second: The order will go into effect “within 24 hours”—not 48 hours, as first announced—once the state determines that ICU capacity has dropped below 15 percent. How soon may that happen? Your guess is as good as mine, although Gov. Gavin Newsom said yesterday he expected it to happen very soon. The numbers had not yet been updated as of 5:30 p.m. today.
• Five Bay Area counties—in the region Gov. Newsom said would likely be the LAST to be subject to the new stay-at-home order—today decided to go ahead and enact that order on their own. As the Los Angeles Times explains: “The orders will go into effect in San Francisco, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties on Sunday; in Alameda County on Monday and Marin County on Tuesday. The four other Bay Area counties—San Mateo, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties—are not part of the joint action. ‘Waiting until only 15% of a region’s ICU beds are available is just too late,’ said Dr. Tomás Aragon, health officer for San Francisco. ‘Many heavily impacted parts of our region already have less than 15% of ICU beds available, and the time to act is now.’ SFGate notes that the city of Berkeley is also enacting the order, which closes gyms, hair salons and outdoor dining, and cuts all retail-store capacities to 20%.
• Casinos owned by Native American tribes, because they are on sovereign land, are not subject to these state orders. However, over in Arizona, one Tucson-area casino has decided to close for the rest of the year, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
• Meanwhile, down in L.A., Fox 11 Los Angeles reports: “Deputies in Los Angeles County are not expecting to go all-out in enforcement at businesses if—or when—Governor Gavin Newsom’s new stay-at-home order kicks in for Southern California. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva explained enforcement at businesses is the health department’s job, not his deputies’. … ‘They bent over backwards to modify their entire operation to conform to these current health orders, and then they have the rug yanked out from under them, that’s a disservice. I don’t want to make their lives any more miserable,’ Villanueva told FOX 11’s Bill Melugin.
• Our partners at CalMatters explain the state’s preliminary plans regarding the recipients of the first 327,000 doses of vaccines, which could arrive as early as next weekend: “The coveted first batch is reserved for health care workers directly caring for COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including psychiatric and prison hospitals, residents and staff in long-term care facilities, paramedics and other emergency medical responders, and workers in dialysis centers, according to priorities set by state and federal health officials.”
• Related: MedPage Today examines the dilemma that some health-care professionals will be facing, well, as early as next weekend in California: Should medical workers who have had COVID-19 get vaccinated, given they likely already have some degree of immunity? It’s a VERY complicated question: “Experts disagree when it comes to interpreting the evidence regarding lasting immunity and the need for vaccination among healthcare workers (or anyone, for that matter) who’ve already been infected. Cases of reinfection have been documented; they appear to be rare, but the true rate remains unknown. For starters, second infections won’t be recognized as such if the first was never detected. … At the same time, the vaccine trials thus far have not examined whether the shots prevent infection, only clinical illness.”
• The last sentence from the item above is explored more in-depth in this piece from The Hill: The chairman of Pfizer admits that it’s unknown whether people who get vaccinated will be able to spread the coronavirus. This could be kind of a big deal when it comes to achieving herd immunity.
• The CDC—showing increasing independence from the seemingly checked-out Trump administration—today said that if you’re not at home, you should pretty much be wearing a mask wherever you go … and there are even times at home when you should be masked up. CNN explains the latest guidance.
• The New York Times surveyed 700 epidemiologists and asked them how they’re living their lives now, and what they think the future will bring. Key quote: “Even with coronavirus vaccines on the way, many epidemiologists do not expect their lives to return to pre-pandemic normal until most Americans are vaccinated. In the meantime, most have eased up on some precautions—now going to the grocery store or seeing friends outdoors, for example—but are as cautious as ever about many activities of daily life.”
• On one hand, doctors and nurses around the country are begging more-lenient elected officials to take action against the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The Washington Post reports: “The largest organized effort by health-care providers may be in Connecticut, where dozens of doctors wrote Gov. Ned Lamont (D), asking him to halt indoor dining, close gyms and ban ‘all other unnecessary public gatherings.’ Nearly 700 people signed an online version of the letter, adding comments that illustrate their frustration and fear about the unrelenting flow of patients into the state’s hospitals.”
• On the other, business owners around the country are rather unhappy with less-lenient officials who have taken action against the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Locally, the Press-Enterprise reports: “‘They just left us high and dry with no compensation about how we’re going to survive,’ said Tammy Rapp, who owns the horror-themed Little Shop of Hairdos salon in downtown Upland. ‘This is the third time this year.’”
• So … does outdoor dining spread COVID-19? The San Francisco Chronicle talked to a bunch of experts … and the evidence is murky, at best—and it definitely depends on what is meant by “outdoor dining.”
• Guess who wants to be put close to the front of the vaccine line? If you guessed Wall Street traders and bankers, you’re damn right! Per MarketWatch: “Lenders, bank tellers and traders could jump ahead of most Americans for vaccines, after such remedies receive emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, potentially putting financial industry workers ahead of those aged above 65, adults with medical issues and the rest of the U.S. population. The American Bankers Association said it has asked for the CDC to designate financial services industry as ‘essential workers,’ following guidelines issued by the Department of Homeland Security.”
• The brainiacs at MIT examined the data available from the leading vaccine candidates, and found this, according to ZDNet: “Vaccines to block COVID-19 that are in development by Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and others, and that are currently in Phase III clinical trials, may not do as well covering people of Black or Asian genetic ancestry as they do for white people.”
• If you’re sick of reading about vaccines, but would like to learn more in video form, we offer you this seven-minute video filmed on Dec. 1, compliments of popular YouTube channel SciShow.
• The New York Times offers an update on the gala held by the New York Young Republican Club, which was mentioned in this space yesterday. It took place last night, and: “Crowds gathered, masks were not worn and pictures were taken. And by Friday, the event space, in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, was shut down.” Stay tuned for the inevitable update in this space on how many COVID-19 cases come as a result.
• NPR reports: “Millions of Americans who are expected to receive the new COVID-19 vaccinations in coming months will need to take two doses of the drug—and the U.S. government says it will issue a vaccine card and use other tools to help people follow through with their immunizations. ‘We’ve set up everything [in] a draconian process, where when we sent out the ancillary kits which have needles and syringes, we’ve included paper cards to be filled out and … given to the individuals, reminding them of their next vaccine due date,’ Army Gen. Gustave Perna, Warp Speed’s chief operating officer, said at a briefing Wednesday.”
• Meanwhile, in China, one of the coronavirus vaccine candidates is under a cloud of suspicion, because its CEO apparently has a history of “bribing China’s drug regulator for vaccine approvals,” The Washington Post reports.
• Schools are seeing a lot more students getting bad grades during this era of distance learning. The Poynter Institute has gathered together some recent news stories from across the country looking into this disturbing trend.
• And now, for some non-COVID-related news: A federal judge has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to begin accepting new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by Monday. According to NBC News: ‘U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said in his six-page ruling that he was fully reinstating the DACA program based on the terms established under former President Barack Obama’s administration. (President) Trump tried to end the program in September 2017, and this past July, Chad Wolf, the acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, suspended DACA pending a ‘comprehensive’ review.
• KESQ is reporting that charges against John Wessman, one of the two developers accused of bribing former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, have been dismissed—but the charges against Pougnet and the developer Richard Meaney are moving forward.
Folks, please have a safe and enjoyable weekend. If you have the means, and would like to support the quality local journalism produced by the Independent, please click here. The Daily Digest will return on Monday—or perhaps sooner, depending on the news that breaks over the weekend.