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California coronavirus updates: Omicron could become dominant strain in US, UC Davis infectious disease expert says – Capital Public Radio News

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Omicron could become dominant strain in US, UC Davis infectious disease expert says
Nevada gambling revenues return to pre-pandemic levels
President Biden urges concern, not panic over omicron
California says it is closely monitoring the omicron COVID-19 variant
Here’s what we know or don’t know about the omicron variant

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9:56 a.m.: Omicron could become dominant strain in US, UC Davis infectious disease expert says
Over Thanksgiving weekend, many of us learned about the latest COVID-19 variant, omicron. Countries worldwide are scrambling to contain its spread by restricting air travel while also urging people not to panic.

However, at the same time, many cautioned that omicron is likely already in the U.S. Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health,, spoke with Insight host Vicki Gonzalez about what we know and don’t know about the variant.
While news of other countries banning flights has already begun, Blumberg stresses that these bans probably won’t make a difference.

“I bet [omicron is] in the U.S. I bet it’s already in California, and if it’s truly more contagious, then it’s going to end up being the dominant strain, more dominant than delta,” he said.
In the Sacramento region, hospitals appear to have adequate capacity, including in their ICUs.

“But the situation is being closely monitored, and obviously, if this becomes out of control, then you’d have to see some restrictions in place like we saw earlier in the pandemic,” he said.

Blumberg said models were already predicting a surge in cases as coronaviruses are winter respiratory illnesses, meaning that the weather, temperature, and humidity are favorable for their transmission.

However, not all hope is lost — Blumberg said being vaccinated counties to be the best way to protect yourself and that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very flexible.
“These [vaccines] are extraordinarily easy to update, these are plug and play vaccines basically,” he said. “You get the gene for the spike protein, for the omicron variant, you just plug that into the platform.”
New versions of the vaccine are tested to ensure a good antibody response.
9:42 a.m.: Nevada gambling revenues return to pre-pandemic levels
Nevada casinos matched a record streak of eight straight months of $1 billion or more in-house winnings in October, showing that hospitality and tourism have returned to pre-pandemic levels in a state dependent on gambling revenues.
According to the Associated Press, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported Tuesday that casinos statewide won a little more than $1.2 billion last month. That matched an eight-month mark set before the Great Recession in 2007 and was up 19.5% from pre-pandemic October 2019.
A board analyst says the key “gaming win” figure for 2021 is now 9.2% above calendar year 2019.
9:14 a.m.: President Biden urges concern, not panic over omicron
President Joe Biden is urging Americans to get vaccinated, including booster shots, as he seeks to quell concerns over the newly identified COVID-19 variant named omicron.

According to the Associated Press, Biden said he wouldn’t be seeking any severe business or other widespread lockdowns. The new variant is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” the president said in televised remarks from the White House.

He was accompanied by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Fauci said Monday that there are as of yet no cases of the variant identified in the U.S., but that it’s “inevitable” that it’ll make its way into the country.
10:15 a.m.: California says it is closely monitoring the omicron COVID-19 variant
State Public Health Officer and California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomás J. Aragón issued a statement yesterday on the new COVID-19 variant, omicron.
“California is closely monitoring the new omicron variant, which has not yet arrived in California or the U.S. Vaccines continue to be our best way through the pandemic by safely protecting us against severe illness from COVID-19 and its variants,” he said. “We are doubling down on our vaccination booster efforts to ensure that all Californians have access to safe, effective and free vaccines that can prevent serious illness and death.”
CDPH says it’s closely monitoring the new variant of concern, B.1.1.529, better known as omicron, as labeled by the World Health Organization.
The state has a public-private partnership called COVIDNet working on attempting to understand the genomic sequencing of omicron. CDPH also says it’s in communication with federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the latest advice for public health departments and health care providers.
Travelers who have been in South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, or Zimbabwe within the last 14 days should follow the CDC’s recommendation to get tested within 3 – 5 days after arrival, quarantine for seven days even if testing negative, and isolate for ten days if any COVID-19 symptoms crop up.
10:05 a.m.: Here’s what we know or don’t know about the omicron variant
The World Health Organization said it could still take some time to get a complete picture of the threat posed by the new omicron coronavirus variant as scientists worldwide scramble to assess its multiple mutations.

According to the Associated Press, stock markets swooned, some public gatherings were canceled, and countries across the globe suspended flights after South African scientists identified the new variant that appears to have been behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in the country’s most populous province.
The U.N. health agency issued a statement on omicron that boiled down to, “We don’t know much yet.”
9:54 a.m.: Vaccine inequity becomes more glaring under new COVID-19 variant
The emergence of the new omicron variant and the world’s desperate and likely futile attempts to keep it at bay are reminders of what scientists have warned us all about for months — COVID-19 will thrive as long as parts of the world still lack vaccines.
According to the Associated Press, a major contributor to vaccine inequity is the hoarding of limited COVID-19 shots by rich countries, creating essentially “vaccine deserts.” This ultimately threatens to prolong the pandemic for everyone, and that’s because the more the virus spreads among unvaccinated populations, the more possibilities it has to mutate and potentially become more dangerous.
Perhaps nowhere is the inequality more evident than in Africa, where less than 7% of the population is vaccinated. South African scientists identified the new omicron variant, and researchers are now rushing to learn more about it.
1:46 p.m.: US plans travel restrictions because of new omicron variant
The United States will implement travel restrictions to eight southern African nations, NPR reports
The nations are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 
U.S. citizens and permanent residents will not be affected by the restrictions, according to senior officials with the Biden administration.
The World Health Organization also announced Friday that it is calling the new variant omicron, labeling it a “variant of concern.”
10:01 a.m.: Sacramento awarding $500,000 in grants to local artists
Sacramento County artists will be the beneficiaries of $500,000 in new grant money aimed at helping a population hard-hit by the pandemic. 
Previous local allocations targeted arts groups hurt by the pandemic, but these funds from the National Endowment for the Arts will be awarded to individual artists.
“Individual artists, we think of them as the backbone of our creative economy,” said Melissa Ciron with the city of Sacramento’s Office of Arts and Culture. “They’re the place where everything begins. It bubbles up from the individual artists and they’re struggling. They have lost gigs, they’ve lost work.”
Sacramento city and county are among 66 recipients of the federal funds.
Cirone says the plan is to award $10,000 stipends to 45 artists. She says they hope to begin accepting applications in early 2022.
8:52 a.m.: EU could block flights from southern Africa over worries of new COVID-19 variant
A new coronavirus variant has some countries blocking flights from southern Africa as the World Health Organization plans to meet to discuss the new strain Friday.
According to NPR, the European Union is planning to stop air travel to the region, with a resolution possible as soon as Friday night. A fourth spike of the coronavirus is hitting the 27-nation EU especially badly, with governments scrambling to tighten restrictions in an attempt to contain spread.
The WHO’s technical working group is to meet Friday to assess the new variant and may decide whether to give it a name from the Greek alphabet.
— The Associated Presss contributed to this report
9:22 a.m.: Sacramento Airport expects big Thanksgiving travel crowds
​​Big crowds are expected this week at Sacramento International Airport. Thanksgiving passenger numbers could be twice that of 2020 levels and 75% percent of 2019 before the pandemic hit.

“We recommend that you try to be here on the campus about two hours prior to your departure time,” the airport’s Scott Johnston said.
Johnston says you should check the airport’s website for parking availability in the hourly and daily lots and the parking garage. And allow extra time to get through security. And he says to not forget face coverings.
“The mask mandate is still in effect, and anybody who comes onto the airport campus, they are still required to wear a mask via the federal mandate that’s in place,” he said.
Similar increases are expected nationwide. Car member association AAA, is predicting an 80% jump in air travel from last year.

“This week, we actually are predicting Thanksgiving traveler numbers to be twice what they were in 2020,” Johnston said. “So it looks [like] there’s going to be a lot of people traveling.”
Like many businesses, airports are going through staffing shortages from TSA agents to concession-stand workers. That could mean longer waits in security and difficulty finding a place to buy food and drinks.
8:33 a.m.: Supply chain issues could stretch into 2023, shipping expert says
One of California’s leading export companies says the shipping crisis could last another year.

“I think what we are projecting as a recovery is through 2023,” said Steve Schult, vice-president of global supply chain for Sacramento-based Blue Diamond Growers, the largest supplier of almonds in the world. “We see the congestion continuing with ships, with labor in trucking in the United States to offload and quite frankly labor in warehouses and retailers to stock shelves,” he said.
Schult said the biggest impact on Blue Diamond has been the time it takes to secure booking capacity on vessels. It went from as little as one week to as much as eight weeks.

The Port of Oakland is Blue Diamond’s primary outlet. Unlike some of the state’s other agricultural exports, almonds are less perishable and can go into storage and ship year-round.
“We explored shipping through other ports but, as congestion ran through the Port of LA, everyone moved to other ports — [such as] Houston congestion just followed in those other areas,” he said.
9:46 a.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom encourages adults to get booster shots ahead of possible winter surge
Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a Bay Area vaccine clinic this week to encourage everyone 18 or older to get their COVID-19 booster shots, especially those in hard-hit communities.
Newsom said this is especially important as the winter months approach to avoid another surge. Between October and December 2020, the state saw a nine-fold increase in cases over just an eight-week period. Cases jumped from an average of 6,000 a day to 54,000.

Newsom also said that the state’s peak was reached on Christmas Eve. He’s concerned about some recent case increases and positivity rate, as well as hospitalization ICU admissions, but there’s been an improvement in recent days.
During his clinic visit, he also expressed concern about low vaccination rates among Latino communities and said it’s something his administration has to fix.

“There is no substitute for meeting people where they are, knocking on doors, quite literally going into communities, not asking people to come to a location but going to them,” Newsom said.

He believes there’s a coordinated effort to circulate misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of boosters. To counter this, he said his administration is working with community organizations, pharmacies, school clinics and others to distribute vaccine information.
9:37 a.m.: Is it safe to travel this holiday season? It could be if you’re vaccinated.
Traveling this holiday season can be safe if you’re fully vaccinated for COVID-19. For those who haven’t gotten their shots, officials advise delaying travel.

According to the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said to not travel if you’re sick or if you tested positive for COVID-19 and your isolation period isn’t over yet — even if you’re fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people who decide to travel should get a COVID-19 test one to three days before travel and three to five days after returning.

The agency notes all travelers must still wear masks on plans and other indoor public transportation areas.
9:17 a.m.: Expectant parents with COVID-19 have a higher risk of stillbirths
Pregnant people with COVID-19 face increased chances for stillbirths compared with uninfected people, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Associated Press reported that the report involved 1.2 million deliveries from March 2020 through September 2021. Stillbirths were rare overall, totaling 8,154 among all deliveries.

But researchers found that for expectant mothers with COVID-19, about 1 in 80 deliveries resulted in stillbirth. Among the uninfected, it was 1 in 155, with the risk growing even higher after the delta variant appeared.

Experts say this report shows the importance of vaccination during gestation.
9:47 a.m.: Health experts say vaccinating children helps prevent COVID-19 mutations
Scientists say vaccinating kids should not only slow down the spread of the coronavirus but also help prevent potentially dangerous variants from emerging, according to the Associated Press.
Each new infection brings another opportunity for the virus to mutate and evolve dangerous new traits. Protecting a new, significant chunk of the global population would limit those opportunities.

The recent move to offer COVID-19 vaccines to 28 million U.S. children ages 5 to 11 also means reducing silent spread. When the virus spreads unseen and unabated, some experts say, more people contract it and variants may arise.
9:45 a.m.: All Nevada adults now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots
COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are now available for all Nevada adults.
According to the Associated Press, the state Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that shots are recommended for people who received two Pfizer or Moderna vaccine shots at least six months ago — and people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson at least two months ago.
Nevada joins several states offering boosters to anyone 18 and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended vaccine boosters for all adults last week.
The announcement comes amid a recent uptick in caseloads, particularly in the Las Vegas and Reno areas. The state says almost 67% of eligible state residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
9:15 a.m.: Santa Cruz County reinstates masking mandates
An indoor mask mandate has been reinstated in Santa Cruz County due to increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, according to the Associated Press.
The mandate took effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, requiring everyone to wear face coverings when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said in a statement last week that a potential winter surge appears to be a significant threat to the health and safety of the community.
The health officer order even requires masks to be worn in private settings, including homes, when people who are not from the household are present. The previous mask order was rescinded in late September.
9:55 a.m.: Sacramento County public health officer recommends booster shots
With concerns of another winter surge on its way, Sacramento health officials are urging people to get a COVID-19 booster or the vaccine if they haven’t been immunized.

The county is still seeing a high number of new cases, averaging about 170 a day, despite vaccines being available to all adults since April. Last week, California became one of the first states to offer booster shots to any adult who wants one.
But there’s been some confusion about eligibility. County public health officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said that if you want to get a booster shot, you should get one.
“Anybody over the age of 18, if they showed up and requested a booster dose, they should be able to get it,” Kasirye said.

So far, about 63% of Sacramento County is at least partially vaccinated, and with the holidays quickly approaching combined with new vaccine availability for kids, local health officials are hoping that number increases.
9:30 a.m.: How to navigate and host holiday parties during the pandemic
Lots of people are looking forward to getting together with family and friends, especially since many couldn’t do so last year.

But not everyone agrees on what getting together in the thick of a pandemic looks like. Rosalinda Randall is a civility and etiquette expert based in Northern California. She said on CapRadio’s Insight if you’re hosting a gathering and people being vaccinated is vital to you, it’s good to let them know.

Randall also said to explain the entire get-together to others so they can feel comfortable in making a decision.
“Are pets allowed? Are children all supposed to be vaccinated? Are you going to provide social distancing? What is the food situation like? [Are they] going to be changing the utensils regularly?” Randall said to ask. “And then allow for people to decline.”
She said, as a host, it’s good to know local mandates and restrictions, in addition to your personal preference when hosting. Make sure to set parameters for your gathering.
And in the past few years, holidays like Thanksgiving feel like they could become potential conflict zones, leaving many to wonder how they can navigate these situations.

A final suggestion she gave is that if you’re uncomfortable hosting for the holidays or attending a particular gathering, it is to offer up instead to meet another time, soon after the holidays.
9:20 a.m.: The Food and Drug Administration approves booster shots for all adults
The Food and Drug Administration has opened up COVID-19 booster shots to all adults, letting them choose another dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to the Associated Press.

The move expands the U.S government’s booster campaign to shore up protection and get ahead of rising coronavirus cases that may worsen with the holidays.

But there’s one more step — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must agree that even healthy young adults should get either a Pfizer or Moderna booster. Its scientific advisers are set to debate that later Friday.

If the CDC agrees, tens of millions more Americans could have three doses of protection ahead of the new year.
11:03 a.m.: Californians feel the wealth gap is increasing
Despite the pandemic surging in various parts of the country, several indicators show the U.S. economy is doing very well, and California may be leading the way.

Just last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom reported that 44% of August’s job numbers came from the Golden State.
Yet, in a recent survey, seven out of 10 people said the gap between rich and poor is widening. Mark Baldassare is the CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California, which conducted the survey.
He said that while more affluent residents are doing well, that’s not the whole story.
“We have many people in our state with low to modest economic circumstances who continue to be struggling in a difficult economy,” Baldassare said. “Some of them were struggling before the pandemic, some of them are struggling more now because of the pandemic.”
Baldassare adds lower-income survey respondents reported worrying about housing costs, debt, retirement savings or an unanticipated $1,000 expense.
10:16 a.m.: City of Oroville declares itself a “constitutional republic city.”
Some school districts, unions and localities in California have opposed COVID-19 mandates of various kinds.

Earlier this month, the city of Oroville voted to declare itself a “constitutional republic city.” UC Davis law professor Lisa Pruitt said the declaration demonstrates a desire for local autonomy.

“What the city was doing here is really consistent with what we’ve seen for decades, even coming up on a century, in far Northern California, with the State of Jefferson,” Pruitt said. “And that really is a movement to resist state and federal authority.”

Pruitt said a lot of the resistance is to the governor’s state of emergency in response to the pandemic.

McGeorge School of Law professor Leslie Jacobs said on CapRadio’s Insight that legally, there’s a distinction between what states and the federal government can do in these cases.

“The state government does have the power to make executive orders that tell local officials that they have to enforce it, but the federal government actually doesn’t,” Jacobs said. “And so that’s the one window of opportunity here for cities to say ‘we’re not going to use our local officials to enforce federal law.’”
As a result, Jacobs said Oroville’s declaration is largely symbolic because none of the current COVID-19 mandates require local officials to enforce federal law.
9:54 a.m.: Port of Los Angeles still backed up due to lack of truck drivers and new hours
Last month, President Joe Biden announced a deal to operate the Port of Los Angeles around the clock to break a massive backlog of cargo that’s driving up prices for consumers.
However, according to the Associated Press, it hasn’t happened yet. Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said the facility has “24/7 capability,” but a shortage of truck drivers and nighttime warehouse workers poses problems.
Seroka also mentioned that they’re having issues with getting importers to embrace the expanded hours.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said going to 24 hours is not just “flipping the switch.” But the backlog is thinning. Seroka said cargo sitting nine days or longer is down 29% since October.
4:34 p.m.: Food banks prepare to provide aid during holidays and beyond
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, and many social service agencies are gearing up to provide meals for people who are in need. According to the USDA, 10.5% of U.S. households were food insecure at some point during 2020. In California, it was 20%.
Nicole Lamboley, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, said her organization’s territory ranges from very rural to urban communities, including parts of the Eastern slope of the Sierra in California. That’s a 90,000 square mile area. 
“Food insecurity among people is very different,” she said on CapRadio’s Insight. “Sometimes they need assistance to help meet their monthly household food budget. In other cases, they lack access to grocery stores.”
Lamboley said that while right now the focus is on the holidays, a need at this time of year suggests a continuing need.
“If people are needing assistance with holiday meals, we know they need assistance throughout the year and that’s really what we do,” she said. “So we are trying to connect those people to the programs and services that either we operate or our partners operate.”
She said food banks have experienced some of the same shortages as grocery stores, as a result of supply chain issues.
2:40 p.m.: Los Angeles couple convicted of pandemic relief theft remain at large
A Los Angeles couple who were convicted of trying to steal $20 million in COVID-19 relief funds have been sentenced to federal prison, although they remain fugitives, the Associated Press reports.
A judge on Monday sentenced Richard Ayvazyan to 17 years and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, to six years. Prosecutors say they and others used dozens of phony or stolen identities to submit applications for federal COVID-19 relief funds that were intended to help struggling businesses during the pandemic. 
Instead, authorities say they received millions that were spent on luxury items, including gold, luxury goods and down payments on homes.
1:50 p.m.: Pfizer asks US officials to OK promising COVID-19 treatment pill
Pfizer is seeking U.S. authorization of its experimental COVID-19 treatment pill. 
The filing Tuesday sets the stage for a likely launch of a promising treatment that can be taken at home. Pfizer’s pill has been shown to significantly cut the rate of hospitalizations and deaths among people with coronavirus infections. 
The Food and Drug Administration will scrutinize company data on the safety and effectiveness of the pill before making a decision. The FDA is already reviewing a competing drug from Merck. Several smaller drugmakers are also expected to seek authorization for their own antiviral pills in coming months.
9:58 a.m.: Amazon is now required to alert California warehouse employees of workplace COVID-19 infections
Amazon has agreed to pay $500,000 and be monitored by California officials to ensure it properly notifies its workers about new coronavirus cases, according to the Associated Press.

The settlement announced Monday requires the Seattle-based retail giant to notify its tens of thousands of California warehouse workers of new coronavirus cases in their workplaces within a day.
The company also agreed to stop issuing notices that Attorney General Rob Bonta says don’t adequately tell employees about Amazon’s safety and disinfection plan and workers’ rights related to the pandemic.
Amazon says in a statement that the company is glad that the case was resolved and that no substantive safety issues were found.
9:49 a.m.: Pfizer agrees to let other companies make a generic version of their COVID-19 pill
Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has signed a deal with a U.N.-backed group to allow other manufacturers to make its experimental COVID-19 pill.
According to the Associated Press, the move could help make the treatment available to more than half of the world’s population. In a statement from today, Pfizer said it would grant a license for the antiviral pill to the Medicines Patent Pool.
The agreement lets generic drug companies make the pill for use in 95 countries. The deal excludes some large nations with manufacturing capacity.

Still, health officials say the fact that the deal was struck before Pfizer’s pill has been authorized anywhere could help end the pandemic more quickly.
9:36 a.m.: Racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations for children is difficult to track
The rollout of COVID-19 shots for elementary-age children has exposed another blind spot in the nation’s efforts to address pandemic inequalities, according to the Associated Press.

Health systems have released little data on the racial breakdown of youth vaccinations. Community leaders fear that Black and Latino kids may be falling behind in their COVID-19 inoculations.
Only a handful of states have made public data on COVID-19 vaccinations by race and age. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not compile racial breakdowns either.

Despite the lack of hard data, public health officials and medical professionals say they have been reaching out to communities of color to overcome vaccine hesitancy. That includes going into schools, messaging in other languages, deploying mobile vaccine units and emphasizing to skeptical parents that the shots are safe and effective.
11:01 a.m.: Sacramento City Unified School District to hold webinar about student and staff vaccine requirements
Sacramento City Unified School District will be holding a COVID-19 Vaccine Safety and SCUSD Reporting Process Town Hall Webinar on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.
Community members who join the webinar can ask questions about the COVID-19 vaccine available for 5- to 11-year-old children, along with the district’s new vaccination requirement for students and staff.
UC Davis Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Dean Blumberg will be joined by SCUSD Student Health & Support Services Director Victoria Flores on the webinar panel.

Together, they’ll talk about vaccine safety and efficacy, where to get vaccinated, and the next steps for families to report their student’s vaccination status.

“We know parents have many questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine,” said SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar. “Our dedication to educate and inform our community goes beyond the hours of our schools.”
People who are interested in attending the webinar can send in their questions today until 1 p.m. to [email protected].

It’s possible that not every question will be asked or answered. If you’d like to pre-register for the event or request translation services, you can register online here.
9:43 a.m.: Americans’ purchases are fueling supply chain issues
Take a step back from the picked-over store shelves, the stalled container ships and the empty auto showrooms, and you’ll find a root cause of the shortages of just about everything you’d want to buy — we’re all buying too much stuff.
Households with money saved up from stimulus checks, booming stock markets and enlarged home equity have felt like spending freely again. And since consumer demand drives most of the economy, the recovery keeps sailing ahead.

Add the fact that companies are ordering more goods and parts than they need so they don’t run out, and you end up with an almost unquenchable demand that is magnifying the supply shortages.
9:23 a.m.: International students are returning to US college campuses, but pandemic still worries them
A new survey finds that international students are returning to U.S. colleges in stronger numbers, but the rebound has not made up for last year’s historical declines.
According to the Associated Press, American colleges saw a 4% annual increase in international students this fall nationwide, but that follows a decrease of 15% last year.
These figures come from new survey results recently released by the Institute of International Education. The upturn is better than many colleges were forecasting over the summer as COVID-19 cases surged.
However, it reflects continued obstacles as visa backlogs persist and some students show reluctance to study abroad during the pandemic.
12:18 p.m.: Inflation is surging with no end in sight during the pandemic 
Prices of everyday items have surged during the pandemic, thanks to a combination of staffing shortages and supply chain woes.
Grocery prices in October were 5.4% higher than a year ago, according to the latest consumer price index. Overall inflation was 6.2%—the highest annual figure in more than three decades.
Both the White House and the Federal Reserve have described this inflationary spike as a temporary byproduct of the pandemic. And like the pandemic, price hikes don’t appear to be going away any time soon.Read more here.
11:26 a.m.: Nursing homes are to allow visits at all times for all residents
The government on Friday directed nursing homes to ease on many remaining pandemic restrictions and be open to visitors—while urging residents, families and staff to keep their guard up against outbreaks.
The new guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructs nursing homes to allow visits at all times for all residents.
Nationally, vaccination rates average 86% for nursing home residents and 74% for staff, although that can vary a lot from state to state and facility to facility.
Read more here.
10:26 a.m.: Holiday shopping may be affected by supply chain problems
Experts say products are starting to move at the ports in Southern California, where they’ve been held up on container ships this fall. But the hope that everything will be resolved in time for the holidays looks rather unlikely.

Nick Vyas, executive director and co-founder of the Kendrick Global Supply Chain Institute at USC,, said people may want to adjust their expectations in the weeks to come.
“What we’re looking at is a system that is feeling a tremendous distress, so if you are thinking about the holiday season and buying things, you may be disappointed, or if you do get it, you’re going to be paying a much higher price than you would have if the system was working perfect,” Vyas said.
He also said that part of the problem is the lowest inventory of goods in four years, coupled with shortages of drivers, trucks and trailers.
9:51 a.m.: Sacramento housing prices continue to increase
Sacramento home prices have soared during the pandemic, while the number of new and existing homes for sale is meager.
According to the realty website, Sacramento and Miami are tied for having the highest percentage of people who are unable to purchase a newly constructed home.

“We have underperformed as far as new units relative to housing demand in our state for a decade,” said Kellie Swayne, president of the Sacramento Association of Realtors.

Swain said there’s been a reluctance to build since the big housing crash in 2008.
“People weren’t willing to take on the risk, the expense of building a home in California or Sacramento for the kind of return they were or were not going to get for that product,” Swayne said.
She said that California is millions of housing units behind in terms of new construction, while demand remains very high.
9:45 a.m.: Nevada parents get their children vaccinated despite protesters
Despite the shouts of protesters at a Las Vegas protest on Wednesday, many parents of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have begun getting their kids COVID-19 vaccines in Nevada.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for kids in the 5-11 age group late last month. In Las Vegas, some pharmacies started giving shots out last weekend.

Southern Nevada Health District spokeswoman JoAnn Rupiper told the Las Vegas Sun that the district received 21,000 of the lower children’s doses this week and will be able to order more as needed.

Health district officials have also said that more than 37,000 children age 17 and under in Clark County have contracted COVID-19, and 269 have been hospitalized.
10:10 a.m.: California is readying itself for another possible winter surge
California has begun prepositioning equipment and locking in contracts with temporary health care workers in preparation for another possible coronavirus winter surge.
While the state is still doing comparatively well, Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday warned that Californians should prepare for another harsh pandemic winter, according to the Associated Press.
At the same time, he’s also bragging that the state is among the nation’s leaders in vaccinations that should blunt hospitalizations and deaths. The state’s models predict an overall continuing decline in both hospitalizations and intensive care cases over the next month.

News and health officials have said that the upward tick in certain areas as winter approaches is worrisome.
9:40 a.m.: Nevada health officials feel hopeful with state vaccination rates
Nevada health officials are encouraged by initial demand for COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5-11 and local pediatricians are reporting strong interest, according to the Associated Press.
But, they said that some logistical issues and technical glitches in the state’s scheduling platform have slowed the rollout of doses at county and community health clinics.

Experts also expressed concerns that a recent uptick in new coronavirus cases statewide could signal a similar trend as last November when the pandemic began a climb to its most serious level.
Experts are hopeful that the addition of 277,000 Nevadans aged 5-11 to those now eligible for vaccination will put the state in a better position than last year.
9:43 a.m.: Pfizer asks FDA to OK COVID-19 booster shot for adults of all ages
Pfizer is asking U.S. regulators to allow boosters of its COVID-19 vaccine for anyone 18 or older, as reported by the Associated Press.
Older Americans and other groups, like those particularly vulnerable to the virus, have had access to a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine since September.

However, the Food and Drug Administration has said it would move quickly to expand boosters to younger ages if warranted. The filing was announced yesterday.
Pfizer is submitting early results of a booster study in 10,000 people to make its case that it’s time to further expand the booster campaign.
9:38 a.m.: Food banks facing pandemic-related surge now have to face supply chain shortages
U.S. food banks dealing with increased demand from families economically hurt by the pandemic are now facing some new challenges — surging food prices and supply chain issues.
According to the Associated Press, the higher costs and limited availability means that some families may get smaller servings or substitutions for staples like peanut butter, which costs nearly double what it did a year ago.

As the holiday season approaches, some food banks worry they won’t have enough turkeys, stuffing and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
9:28 a.m.: Casinos in Nevada and across the country are hitting record high revenues
America’s commercial casinos are marketing the industry’s best quarter ever and pushing U.S. casino revenue past what it was for all of 2020, according to the Associated Press.
Figures released yesterday by the American Gaming Association show that U.S. casinos are poised to have their best year ever in 2021 as more consumers feel comfortable visiting casinos amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Plus, the figures noted that online and sports betting revenues continue to grow as well.
Just over the third quarter of this year, casinos across the country made nearly $14 billion and are on pace to break the annual record of over $43 billion set in 2019.
9:47 a.m.: Court rules United Airlines can put unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave
A group of United Airlines employees recently sued the airline over its policy of putting unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave, even if they’ve been granted religious or medical exemptions to its vaccine mandate.

The employees said this would cause them irreparable harm. However, for now, the federal court in Texas has handed the company a win, according to NPR.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman expressed sympathy towards the plaintiffs but denied their motion for a preliminary injunction.
“The Court appreciates the difficulty conscientious employees face when asserting their religious rights,” he wrote. “But that difficulty does not demonstrate irreparable harm.”
The decision covers roughly 2,000 United employees. The company said it will work to identify roles for these workers that won’t put them in close contact with customers, and workers can also apply for and work in these roles until they can safely return to their original positions.

Employees who choose not to take on a different role will be put on leave.

United has touted the success of its mandate, noting that aside from those granted exemptions, more than 99% of employees had gotten the shots.
9:44 a.m.: Despite reopening borders, travelers in and out of the US will still be limited by mandates
The U.S. said it’s inviting the global community to visit now that the government has ended the ban on travelers from 33 countries.
In reality, however, it will still be difficult for much of the globe to enter the country, according to the Associated Press.
Experts say it’ll take years for travel to fully recover. For starters, half of the world isn’t yet fully vaccinated, which is a requirement for travelers to enter the U.S.
And even if a traveler is vaccinated, there are months-long delays in getting the visas needed to enter the U.S., plus other countries have their own strict rules which complicate foreign travel.
9:24 a.m.: San Francisco police officer dies from COVID-19 after refusing vaccination
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a police officer who was placed on leave for missing the city of San Francisco’s deadline to be inoculated has died after contracting COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.

The wife of Officer Jack Nyce tells the newspaper he tested positive on Nov. 2 and died Saturday at a hospital in Manteca. The vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, Lt. Tracy McCray, said Nyce was on a 30-day stint of paid administrative leave because he had not received the vaccination required by the city.

Nyce was a 17-year employee of the department.
10:14 a.m.: Sacramento City school district to hold vaccine clinics for people ages 5 and older
Sacramento City Unified School District announced today that all upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinics hosted by the district will now be able to serve all community members ages 5 and up.
Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine through the emergency use authorization from both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have seen the social-emotional benefits the COVID vaccine has brought to our students and staff, such as returning to school and extracurricular activities that our students, families and staff enjoy,” said Victoria Flores, the district’s Student Support & Health Services Director. “We are looking forward to providing this additional layer for our students age 5 and up.”
SCUSD vaccine clinics are held together with the Del Paso Heights Vaccine Clinic, Sacramento County Public Health, Dignity Health, University of California, Davis, and other health partners.
Here’s a list of upcoming SCUSD COVID-19 vaccination clinics for people ages 5 and up:
SCUSD Serna Center
5735 47th Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95824
Elder Creek Elementary
934 Lemon Hill Ave, Sacramento, CA 95824
Holiday Health Fair & Food Drive
New Joseph Bonnheim Community Charter
7300 Marin Drive, Sacramento, CA 95824
For more information on SCUSD vaccination clinics, visit
9:45 a.m.: Los Angeles joins other US cities with strict vaccine mandates
Starting today, anyone going to a shopping mall, theater, gym or nail salon in the city of Los Angeles must verify they are vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.
The mandate — one of the strictest in the country — requires proof of shots for everyone entering a wide variety of businesses.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who tested positive for the virus last week, said the rules will encourage people to get vaccinated and make businesses safer for employees and customers.
Business trade groups say this could present safety concerns for employees tasked with checking customers’ vaccination statuses. City officials say they won’t start enforcing the rules until Nov. 29.
Fines up to $5,000 could be imposed for those skirting the rules.
9:42 a.m.: US reopens borders with Mexico and Canada, lifting pandemic-related travel restrictions
The U.S. has fully reopened its borders with Mexico and Canada and lifted restrictions on travel that covered most of Europe.

According to the Associated Press, the new rules set the stage for emotional reunions nearly two years in the making and provided a boost for the travel industry decimated by the pandemic.
Lines moved quickly Monday morning at San Diego’s border with Mexico, the busiest crossing in the United States, despite the added checks for vaccinations required to enter the country.
The new rules also allow air travel from a number of countries from which it has been restricted since the early days of the pandemic. Air travelers do, however, need proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.
10:10 a.m.: Sacramento doctors are preparing to start vaccinating young children
Federal health officials have approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Doctors’ offices and other sites are preparing to give injections as early as this weekend.
Local South Sacramento Doctor, Dr. Beatrice Tetteh, said that her pediatric office is already getting multiple calls about vaccine appointments.
“Parents are very interested and are asking when can I come in?’” Tetteh said.
She hopes to start scheduling patients this weekend, but that depends on when the doses arrive. Some parents have also been coming to Tetteh with concerns about the vaccine.
“I don’t see any specific concerns regarding safety other than, okay, their arms are going to be a little sore,” she said. “At this time, I think a big part of it is helping parents understand the correct information.”
County health departments said they’re working with the state to immunize children at schools and other community sites. Many pharmacies are also opening up appointments for younger children.
9:33 a.m.: Trucking may be the next bottleneck in the supply chain, international trade research says
As efforts are made to resolve the backlog of container ships at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, there’s increased attention on where some goods will go next — on to the back of a truck.
Dr. Thomas O’Brien, executive director of the Cal State Long Beach Center for International Trade and Transportation, said there are some problems with the trucking industry as well.

“If you get goods off of the vessel, is there a place to store them at the docks? If there’s a place to store them at the docks, is there a truck driver to move them off the docks?” O’Brien asked. “If there’s a truck driver, is there a chassis to move them? If there’s a chassis, is there a place to take it, a warehousing and distribution center?”
O’Brien also said that from a port’s perspective, there needs to be a holistic approach to the supply chain to solve the problem.
9:23 a.m.: US hiring is up, possibly moving away from the pandemic-induced recession
In October, America’s employers boosted their hiring, adding a solid 531,000 jobs — the most since July. This could be a sign that the recovery from the pandemic recession is overcoming a virus-induced slowdown.
According to the Associated Press, the unemployment rate fell to 4.6% last month from 4.8% in September.
The jobs report also showed that the gains in August and September weren’t as weak as initially reported. The government revised its estimate of hiring for those two months by a combined 235,000 jobs.

All told, the figures point to an economy that is steadily recovering from the pandemic recession, with health consumer spending prompting companies in nearly every industry to add workers.
10:49 a.m.: California farmers say supply chain issues hurting exports
California farmers say they’re having trouble exporting their crops because of delays in the global supply chain. 
Intense demand for products has led to a backlog of container ships outside the nation’s two largest ports along the Southern California coast. The shipping crisis backlog in California was the focus of a hearing at the state Capitol Wednesday. 
“More than 80% of our bookings, or scheduled exports, are being rolled, in other words canceled,” said Roger Isom, who represents California’s cotton and nut tree industries. “As an example, this last month of October one of my walnut processors had all 27 bookings rolled. None of those have been rescheduled to go out.”
Some processors have resorted to paying much more to ship their products to ports in Texas and Maryland. California accounts for 16% of the nation’s agricultural exports.
Dee Dee Myers, head of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, told the Assembly Select Committee on Ports and Goods Movement that the Newsom administration’s main focus now is getting cargo containers off the ports.
“Finding excess space either in the port complexes or outside where you could temporarily store or transfer containers so that you could create more velocity in the system at the ports,” Myers said.
Myers told lawmakers the state is also working on transitioning the ports to 24/7 operations and growing the supply chain workforce now and in the future.
9:57 a.m.: Port of Los Angeles forecasts major increase in cruise ship sailings in 2022
The Port of Los Angeles expects a major return of cruise ship operations next year. 
According to the Associated Press, the port is forecasting more than 200 sailings for the 2022 calendar year, the most since 2008. The first cruise ship departure from Los Angeles since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the industry occurred when the Grand Princess sailed on Sept. 25. 
A busy weekend, with three or four cruise ships in port, may bring as many as 20,000 people to the LA Waterfront district. The port says each ship call generates more than $1 million in economic activity.
9:23 a.m.: Biden administration will require employees at large companies be vaccinated or tested weekly by Jan. 4
Companies with more than 100 employees must ensure workers are fully vaccinated or tested weekly by Jan. 4, according to new rules announced by the Biden administration Thursday.
According to NPR, the new rules — issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — will cover around 84 million workers. 
Companies will have to provide paid time off for people to get vaccinated, but won’t have to cover the costs of the weekly tests if an employee chooses not to get vaccinated. Unvaccinated employees would also be required to wear masks at work.
12:35 p.m.: Western States group gives final approval for vaccines in younger kids in California
A group of health experts from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington gave final approval for a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 on Wednesday, following federal approval on Tuesday.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective for youth 5 to 11 years of age. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the vaccine yesterday, and the Food and Drug Administration did the same last week.
“This expanded eligibility for lifesaving vaccines moves us closer to ending the pandemic, which has taken a heavy toll on the well-being of our kids,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
Last week state health officials said they have 1.2 million doses of the vaccine for children ready, which come in smaller amounts than adult vaccines. There are nearly 3.5 million children ages 5-11 in California.
10:22 a.m.: COVID-19 cases in Sacramento County jails continue to rise
COVID-19 cases in the Sacramento County jail continue to rise, with the sheriff’s office reporting 75 positive cases in their incarcerated population since last week.
Sacramento County resident Jael Barnes said her husband has been held at the county jail for two years awaiting trial. In that time, she said he’s fallen ill.
“My husband went into that facility with nothing but severe anxiety, but now he has asthma, he has contracted COVID twice, he has COVID as we speak, and is vaccinated, but is still sick due to his breathing problems,” Barnes said.
She explained that her husband was moved to solitary confinement after testing positive for COVID-19 and without any adequate protection, such as a mask.
Advocates say they’ve heard from people inside the jail that conditions are not sanitary and are exacerbating the spread of COVID-19.

Sacramento County health officials say one man died of COVID-19-related complications.
Corinne McIntosh Sako works with the Mobilize for Mental Health Coalition and said the handling of the virus in jails is inhumane.
“Not receiving medical care, being deprived of testing, deprived of access to soap and toilet paper, and other basic cleaning supplies,” Sako said. “Not only is this a public health crisis, this is psychological harm being done.”
County supervisors are asking the inspector general to look into procedures for intake, quarantine and coronavirus tracing at the jails.
10:17 a.m.: Some California families missing out on pandemic food assistance money
California has struggled with making sure families with students receive their pandemic food assistance dollars, according to a recent report by the state auditor.

The state issues Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to eligible families to assist them with paying for school lunches, but approximately 500,000 of these cards went unused during the 2019-2020 school year.
For many families, the benefits have already expired, meaning they may never see that extra money. While the benefit cards are issued to families whose school-aged children qualify for free or reduced-price meals, many haven’t been able to get them because of remote learning or other reasons.
10:08 a.m.: CDC discussing whether to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for younger children
A government advisory panel is discussing which schoolchildren should get Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Associated Press.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration OK’d the emergency use of kid-size doses for children ages 5 to 11. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also must sign off before widespread vaccinations begin in that age group.
CDC’s advisers on Tuesday are weighing who will get the most benefit from the vaccine. Their recommendation goes to the CDC director for the final say. In the meantime, Pfizer is shopping millions of doses to states and pharmacies to be ready.
10 a.m.: Culinary workers on the Las Vegas Strip rally for a return to more jobs
Hundreds of hotel, casino and restaurant workers rallied on the Las Vegas Strip as the culinary union made a second monthly call to return more people to jobs idled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As reported by the Associated Press, the Culinary union said that more than one-third of its 60,000 members haven’t been rehired, despite a recovery by casinos and hotels from closures imposed in March 2020.
Union President Ted Pappageorge said companies charging full rates should provide full service. The message echoed calls made during a Sept. 24 march on the Strip.
Casinos statewide have been setting monthly winnings records, hotel room rates have rebounded and tourism officials report the number of visitors is approaching pre-pandemic levels.
9:55 a.m.: Big trade show resumes in Las Vegas after last year’s COVID-19-related cancellation
Tourism officials say the return this week of a big automotive products trade show could draw as many as 100,000 people to the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to the Associated Press.
The Specialty Equipment Market Association show, commonly known as SEMA, opens Tuesday after being canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It runs through Thursday, followed by a public event on Friday dubbed “SEMA Ignited” in the convention center parking area. A companion event, the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo, will be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.
Electric vehicles are featured this year, and convention attendees will be able to ride Teslas in the underground people mover built between convention center stops by The Boring Co.
5:55 p.m.: Federal judge strikes down part of California law that limits protests at vaccination sites
A federal judge has struck down part of a California law that limits protests at vaccination sites. 
Earlier this year, protesters attempted to shut down some COVID-19 vaccination sites, so California lawmakers passed legislation that establishes a buffer zone around vaccine locations and people entering them.
The law applies to all vaccination sites. An anti-abortion group filed a lawsuit, since abortion clincs provide certain STD vaccines.
The judge took issue with the law’s definition of “harassment” which includes activities like passing out leaflets and displaying signs.
A temporary restraining order allows protesters to carry out those activities, but still prevents them from obstructing and intimidating people entering vaccination sites.
11:18 a.m.: Shopping for health insurance during the open enrollment period? Here’s some tips to help you out.
It’s important to have health insurance, especially during a pandemic. KPCC’s Jackie Fortier reports that there’s a big change to most health care coverage you now should be on the lookout for when shopping for a new plan during open enrollment.
At the beginning of the pandemic, some insurers chose not to charge COVID-19 patients for expensive hospital stays and therapies, and a few have continued that policy as long as the public health emergency is in place.
However, most are quietly going back to business as usual. Because the insurance companies voluntarily waived those costs, they can decide when to reinstate them.
You’ll need to check the policy of each plan you’re considering to see how treatment for COVID-19 is covered. You can also get free COVID-19 shots or boosters if you’re eligible.
Vaccinated people are five times less likely to get infected and ten times less likely to get sick enough to end up in the hospital.
9:55 a.m.: US prisons are facing a staffing shortage due to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the labor market have pushed many prison staffing systems into crisis, according to the Associated Press.
Correction officers are retiring and quitting in droves, while states struggle to recruit new employees. Unions representing prison officers in states including California and at the federal level claim vaccine mandates will drive out unvaccinated employees and exacerbate understaffing, though it’s unclear how big of an impact those rules will have.
Staff shortages have long been a challenge for prison agencies for a while.
“There are dozens of reasons to leave and very few to stay,” said Brian Dawe, national director of One Voice United, a nonprofit supporting corrections officers. “Understaffing, poor pay, poor benefits, horrendous working conditions. … Officers and their families in many jurisdictions have had enough.”
And some prisons whose populations dropped during the pandemic have seen their numbers rise again, exacerbating the problem.

Meanwhile, incarcerated people don’t have the opportunities to see family members or shower due to a lack of correctional officers. Counseling and other programs have also fallen away.
9:52 a.m.: COVID-19 global death totals surpass 5 million
The global death toll from COVID-19 has topped 5 million, nearly two years into a crisis that has devastated not only developing countries but also humbled wealthy ones with first-rate health care systems.
According to the Associated Press, the combined totals from the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil account for one-eighth of the world’s population, but nearly half of all reported deaths.
The U.S. alone has recorded over 745,000 lives lost, more than any other nation. The staggering figure is almost certainly an undercount because of limited testing and people dying at home without medical attention, especially in poorer parts of the world.
Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here.
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