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California coronavirus updates: Here’s what we know about ‘stealth omicron’

California coronavirus updates: Here’s what we know about ‘stealth omicron’

Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.

Latest Updates

Here’s what we know about ‘stealth omicron’

Philadelphia first city in the US to reinstate indoor mask-wearing

Shanghai discharged over 11,000 recovered COVID-19 patients two weeks into lockdown

Omicron subvariant, BA.2, now dominate in 68 countries

The push to manufacture PPE in the US has dropped

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Tuesday, April 12

9:24 a.m.: Here’s what we know about ‘stealth omicron’

Since “stealth omicron” was first identified in November 2021, BA.2 has been spreading around the globe, driving surges in parts of Asia and Europe.

It’s also now the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S. and in more than five dozen other countries.

According to the Associated Press, it was given the “stealth” nickname because it looks like the earlier delta variant on certain PCR tests. The original omicron, by contrast, is easy to differentiate from delta because of a genetic quirk.

In rare cases, early research indicates BA.2 could infect people even if they’ve already had an omicron infection. However, COVID-19 vaccines appear to be just as effective with this strain as they were with previous variants.

Health officials are tracking other variants, including XE — a combination of BA.2 and the original omicron. It’s not yet a variant of concern or interest.

9:05 a.m.: Philadelphia first city in the US to reinstate indoor mask-wearing

Philadelphia has become the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections.

As reported by the Associated Press, the city’s top health official said she wants to forestall a potential new wave driven by the omicron subvariant.

Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said that COVID-19 cases in the city have risen more than 50{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} in 10 days — the threshold at which city guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors.

Health inspectors will start enforcing the mask mandate at city businesses starting April 18.

Most states and cities dropped their mask requirements in February and early March.

8:26 a.m.: Shanghai discharged over 11,000 recovered COVID-19 patients two weeks into lockdown

Shanghai has discharged over 11,000 recovered COVID-19 patients and health authorities emphasize that they must be allowed to return home despite the lockdown that has severely restricted movement in China’s largest city.

According to the Associated Press, the director of the Shanghai Health Commission says their families must not worry about them or discriminate against them.

Shanghai has been under lockdown since March 28, and authorities said that the strict measures would be lifted in areas with no new cases in the last 14 days following another round of mass testing.

The U.S. has advised its citizens to reconsider travel to China due to “arbitrary enforcement” of local laws and COVID-19 restrictions.

U.S. officials cited a risk of parents and children being separated. China protested the notice.

Monday, April 11

9:46 a.m.: Omicron subvariant, BA.2, now dominate in 68 countries

An extra-contagious version of the coronavirus has taken over the world. Omicron subvariant BA.2 is now dominant in at least 68 countries, including the U.S.

The World Health Organization says it makes up 94{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} of sequenced omicron cases submitted to an international coronavirus database, as reported by the Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it was responsible for 72{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} of new U.S. infections last week.

One reason it’s gained ground: it’s about 30{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} more contagious than the original omicron, but it doesn’t seem to cause more severe disease.

Vaccines appear just as effective against it, limiting hospitalizations and deaths.

9:25 a.m.: The push to manufacture PPE in the US has dropped

The push to make personal protective equipment in the U.S. is running out of steam after an initial surge at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press identified more than $125 million of government grants to over 300 businesses in 10 states to spur the production of masks, gowns, sanitizer and other pandemic supplies.

But the AP found that many producers ran into troubles getting equipment materials and reliable buyers.

Some have quit or sold their equipment. Industry officials say they need more help from the federal government to ensure there is enough American-made protective gear for future pandemics or emergencies.

9:02 a.m.: Vulnerable Shanghai residents pay the highest price for China’s COVID-19 policy

A series of deaths at a hospital for elderly patients in Shanghai underscores the dangerous consequences of China’s pursuit of a zero-COVID approach amid an escalating outbreak in the city of 26 million people.

According to the Associated Press, relatives say multiple patients have died at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care hospital.

They say their loved ones weren’t properly cared for after caretakers infected with the virus were taken away to be quarantined, in adherence to the strict pandemic regulations, depleting the hospitals of staff.

Family members have taken to social media to plead for help and answers and are demanding to see surveillance video after getting little to no information about their loved ones from the hospital.

Friday, April 8

8:40 a.m.: Appeals court OKs Biden’s federal employee vaccine mandate

A federal appeals court has upheld President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.

In a 2-1 ruling Thursday, a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a lower court and ordered dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the mandate.

U.S. District Judge Jeffery Brown of Texas had issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement in January.

A different 5th Circuit panel had refused to block it on appeal. But Thursday’s ruling said the federal judge didn’t have jurisdiction in the case and those challenging the requirement could have pursued administrative remedies under Civil Service law.

8:35 a.m.: US health experts trying to figure out what to do with possible booster shots in the future

Vaccine experts are grappling with how to formulate a U.S. strategy for future COVID-19 booster campaigns.

A panel of federal advisers to the Food and Drug Administration spent hours Wednesday debating key questions about updating vaccines. As reported by the Associated Press, they didn’t seem to reach any firm conclusions.

FDA regulators cautioned that waning vaccine effectiveness, new viral mutations and colder weather could lead to surges in the fall and winter.

The FDA experts agreed that boosting Americans every few months was not sustainable, and COVID-19 shots should only be reviewed if a strain lowers their ability to prevent hospitalization and death.

8:01 a.m.: Germany may have to go back to requiring face masks after COVID-19 vaccine requirements fail to pass

Germany’s health minister says the country may need to bring back a requirement for wearing face masks in public this autumn after lawmakers rejected a proposed coronavirus vaccine mandate.

According to the Associated Press, Karl Lauterbach, the country’s health minister, acknowledged that the Bundestag’s vote on Thursday against requiring COVID-19 vaccination for people 60 and over was a personal setback for him.

The bill was a watered-down compromise after some government lawmakers rejected a vaccine mandate for all adults.

Germany recently ended the requirement for mask-wearing in many indoor settings, though they are still compulsory on public transportation. Lauterbach also urged people to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling to visit relatives during the Easter holidays.

Thursday, April 7

8:24 p.m.: Sacramento City Schools will no longer require masks indoors April 18

The Sacramento City Unified School District will no longer require masks indoors starting April 18, the district announced Thursday night.

California dropped its statewide school mask mandate March 11, but SCUSD announced it would wait until Sacramento County was in the CDC’s “low” COVID-19 community transmission for four consecutive weeks. The county met that requirement this week.

Schools will be out for spring break after Friday, coming back April 18, when the new rules will take effect.

The district said Thursday that it will still be “strongly recommending masking,” and will provide take-home COVID-19 tests for students before spring break.

“Sacramento City Unified will continue to purchase and provide masks so that we can continue to support those who choose to continue masking,” SuperintendentJorge A. Aguilar said in a press release.

SCUSD is one of the last districts in the state to require masks indoors. The Los Angeles Unified School District ended its mask requirement March 23, and the Davis Unified School District will drop its rules April 11.

District officials said they would reinstate a mask mandate if Sacramento County moves back into a “high” transmission level or if state or local health rules change to require masks again. It would consider a change if the county moves into the “medium: transmission level. 

10:03 a.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19, as reported by the Associated Press.

That’s a day after the 82-year-old Democratic leader appeared unmasked at a White House event with President Joe Biden.

Pelosi received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic, her spokesperson, Drew Hammill, said in a tweet. He said she had tested negative earlier in the week.

“The Speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted and thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” Hammill said.

He said she will “quarantine consistent with CDC guidance.” A congressional trip to Asia was postponed.

9:58 a.m.: Napa naturopathic doctor pleads guilty to selling fake COVID-19 treatments, vaccine cards

Federal prosecutors say a naturopathic doctor in Napa has pleaded guilty to selling fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and hundreds of fraudulent vaccination cards that made it seem like customers received Moderna vaccines.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Justice says Juli A. Mazi pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco to wire fraud and false statements related to health care matters.

The department says it was the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19.

Federal prosecutors say the 41-year-old provided the fake cards to a least 200 people.

She’s scheduled to be sentenced in July.

9:44 a.m.: COVID-19 bill stalled in Senate

A compromise $10 billion measure bolstering the government’s COVID-19 defenses has stalled in the Senate.

According to the Associated Press, it seems all but certainly sidetracked in that chamber for weeks due to a campaign-season fight over the incendiary issue of immigration.

There was abundant finger-pointing Wednesday but no signs that the two parties were near resolving their stalemate over a bipartisan pandemic bill that President Joe Biden and top Democrats wanted Congress to approve this week.

Along with the Senate Democrats’ top goal this week being the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, the COVID-19 bill seemed sure to slip at least until Congress returns after a two-week recess.

Wednesday, April 6

10:19 a.m.: US Rep. Adam Schiff tested positive for COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff says he has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.

The California Democrat made the announcement Tuesday evening in a tweet that says he’s feeling fine and will quarantine.

The 61-year-old Schiff says he’s been vaccinated and boosted and urged everyone to do the same.

Several other political figures have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, CIA Director William Burns and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, received his fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine last week.

9:49 a.m.: US health experts are discussing booster shots for fall and beyond

Vaccine experts are meeting to discuss the U.S. strategy for future COVID-19 booster campaigns.

Key questions include how often the vaccines should be updated against new viral strains and who should get them.

As reported by the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration advisors won’t make any binding decisions during Wednesday’s virtual meeting. However, their advice could shape the government’s approach to vaccinations later this year and beyond.

FDA regulators cautioned that waning vaccine effectiveness, new viral mutations and colder weather could lead to surges in the fall and winter. The FDA’s vaccine chief says it’s important to begin discussing the process for updating vaccines as soon as possible.

9:39 a.m.: WHO says COVID deaths and cases are dropping globally

The World Health Organization reports that the number of coronavirus cases reported globally has dropped for a second consecutive week, according to the Associated Press.

In its latest pandemic report, WHO said 9 million cases were reported last week, a 16{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} weekly decline. Even when accounting for the 26,000 new deaths from COVID-19 last week, cases are still in decline.

The U.N. health agency said confirmed coronavirus infections were down in all regions of the world. However, it warned that the reported numbers carry considerable uncertainty because many countries have stopped widespread testing for the coronavirus.

WHO says it is tracking an omicron variant that recombines two versions — BA.1 and BA.2 — which was first detected in Britain in January.

Tuesday, April 5

10:17 a.m.: SCUSD Teachers strike ended and students are back in class

Teachers and other workers returned to schools in Sacramento following weekend negotiations that resolved a strike over better pay and more staffing that lasted nearly two weeks.

The Sacramento City Unified School District announced Sunday that it reached tentative agreements with the Sacramento City Teachers Association, and SEIU Local 1021, which represents classified staff without teaching credentials. .

Students were back in class this Monday. The strike at one of the districts in California’s capital began on March 23, affecting 43,000 students and 76 schools.

The teachers association tweeted that the deal will help address a severe staffing crisis. News of the settlement comes as Sacramento reels from a weekend mass shooting in a nightclub district that killed six people and wounded 12 others.

9:45 a.m.: Senate bargainers reach agreement on COVID-19 package

Senate bargainers have reached an agreement on a slimmed-down $10 billion package for countering COVID-19 with treatments, vaccines and other steps, as reported by the Associated Press.

But the compromise ended up dropping all funding to help nations abroad combat the pandemic.

It drew quick support from President Joe Biden, who initially pushed for a $22.5 billion package.He ended up settling for much less despite the administration’s warnings that the government was running out of money to keep pace with the disease’s continued spread in the U.S.

Questions remain about whether objections by some Republicans might prevent the Senate from considering the bill this week, as Biden wants.

9:11 a.m.: Shanghai city officials says latest COVID-19 outbreak is ‘extremely grim’

A city official says the COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest city, Shanghai, remains “extremely grim” amid an ongoing lockdown confining 26 million people to their homes.

According to the Associated Press, China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from around the country to aid the city, including 2,000 from the military, and is mass testing residents. Some have been locked down for weeks.

Most of eastern Shanghai, which was supposed to reopen last Friday, remains locked down along with the city’s western half.

Concern is growing about the potential economic impact on China’s financial capital, also a major shipping and manufacturing center.

The city recorded another 13,354 cases on Monday, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.

Monday, April 4

1:57 p.m.: Grand jury finds Sacramento County Board undercut public health response during pandemic 

A scathing report from the Sacramento County Grand Jury issued Monday afternoon accuses the County Board of Supervisors of ignoring Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye’s request for assistance in COVID pandemic response for five months.

The grand jury found that “the Board’s apathy during the most significant public health emergency in over a century, one that impacted every resident of Sacramento County, delayed needed OPH program funding and undercut public health order enforcement.”

The grand jury found that the Officer of Public Health’s COVID response activities should have been the Board of Supervisors’ top priority and recommends that the County Board of Supervisors, the County Executive and the County Office of Public Health jointly develop a public health emergency response plan.

9:43 a.m.: Biden administration gives green light for another COVID-19 booster for people 50 and older

The Biden administration has given the go-ahead for another COVID-19 vaccine booster for people aged 50 and older and certain people who are immunocompromised.

As reported by NPR, they can now get another Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech booster at least four months after their last dose.

But just because you can get an additional booster, does that mean you need to?

Health officials argue that protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccine booster shots wanes over time. And they are concerned about people considered to be at highest risk of getting severe COVID.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t make it clear how urgently people should be lining up for second boosters. The agency says these groups are “eligible” for the shots, but stopped short of saying if they should get them.

Some infectious disease experts say not everyone in this age group needs another booster shot now.

9:33 a.m.: COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US have dropped to their lowest levels

COVID-19 hospitalization numbers have plunged to their lowest levels since the summer of 2020, offering a much-needed break for health care workers and patients alike following the omicron surge.

According to the Associated Press, the number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus has fallen more than 90{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} in more than two months, and some hospitals are going days without a single COVID-19 patient in the ICU for the first time since early 2020.

The freed-up beds are expected to help U.S. hospitals retain exhausted staff, treat non-COVID-19 patients more quickly and cut down on inflated costs.

More family members can visit loved ones, and doctors hope to see a correction to the slide in pediatric visits, yearly checkups and cancer screenings.

“We should all be smiling that the number of people sitting in the hospital right now with COVID, and people in intensive care units with COVID, are at this low point,” said University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi.

But, he said, the nation “paid a steep price to get to this stage. … A lot of people got sick and a lot of people died.”

9:16 a.m.: China sends in military to assist with Shanghai lockdown

China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from across the country to Shanghai, including 2,000 military medical staff.

According to the Associated Press, they’re struggling to stamp out a rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest city.

Shanghai is conducting mass testing of its 25 million residents as what was supposed to be a two-phase lockdown entered its second week.

Many factories and financial firms have been able to keep operating by isolating their employees, but concern is growing about the potential economic impact of an extended lockdown in China’s financial capital, which is also a major shipping and manufacturing center.

Friday, April 1

10:13 a.m.: Trimmed down $10 billion congressional COVID-19 deal is moving forward

Federal lawmakers have moved to the brink of clinching a scaled-back bipartisan compromise to provide a fresh $10 billion to combat COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press, that could set up final congressional approval next week. The price tag was down from an earlier $15.6 billion agreement between the two parties that collapsed weeks ago after House Democrats rejected cutting unused pandemic aid to states to help pay for it.

President Joe Biden previously requested $22.5 billion in early March. With leaders hoping to move the package through congress quickly, the lowered cost seemed to reflect both parties’ calculations that agreeing soon to additional savings would be too hard.

The effort, which would finance steps like vaccines, treatments and tests, comes as Biden and other Democrats have warned the government is running out of money to counter the pandemic. At the same time, the more transmissible omicron variant, BA.2, has been spreading quickly in the U.S. and abroad.

9:41 a.m.: Easing coronavirus protections could hurt Medicaid recipients and cause significant disruptions to the system, experts say

When the stated end of the COVID-19 pandemic comes, it could create major disruptions for U.S. health care, the Associated Press reports.

Experts say the cumbersome health care system has been made more generous, flexible and up-to-date technologically through a raft of emergency measures.

Winding down those temporary policies could start as early as the summer if the Biden administration ends a federal public health emergency that’s been in effect for over two years.

A change like this would force an estimated 15 million Medicaid recipients to find new sources of coverage and require congressional action to preserve broad telehealth access for Medicare enrollees. 

It also would scramble COVID-19 rules and payment policies for hospitals, doctors, insurers and patients.

9:25 a.m.: Shanghai moves into second part of COVID-19 lockdown

About 16 million residents in Shanghai are being tested for the coronavirus as a staged lockdown shifts to the western half of China’s biggest city and financial capital, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, eastern districts that were supposed to be ending their lockdown were told it might be extended in spots where COVID-19 cases are found. The lockdown of the city with 26 million people has rattled global markets, worried about the possible economic impact.

Residents sent to designated testing sites were met by long lines and waits of more than 90 minutes. People who are sick are sent to hospitals, and people who test positivity without any symptoms are sent to temporary isolation centers, including gymnasiums.

Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here

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