President Joe Biden tests positive for COVID-19
WHO considers declaring monkeypox a global emergency
San Diego Comic-Con is back in full swing
Top California lawmaker calls U.S. monkeypox response ‘maddeningly slow’ despite two years of COVID
Sacramento City Council meetings going back to in-person
COVID-19 By The Numbers
Thursday, July 21
12:02 p.m.: President Joe Biden tests positive for COVID-19
President Joe Biden says he’s “doing great” after testing positive for COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, the White House said the 79-year-old Biden is experiencing “very mild symptoms,” including a stuffy nose, fatigue and cough.
He’s taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug designed to reduce the severity of the disease. Biden is also fully vaccinated and has received two boosters.
When a fully vaccinated person experiences infection, the chance of severe illness or death is low. The White House says Biden is isolating at the White House but carrying out his duties via phone and Zoom.
He canceled a planned visit to Pennsylvania on Thursday and tweeted: “I’m doing great. Thanks for your concern.”
11:58 a.m.: WHO considers declaring monkeypox a global emergency
The World Health Organization has convened its emergency committee to consider for the second time within weeks whether the expanding outbreak of monkeypox should be declared a global crisis.
According to the Associated Press, some scientists say the striking differences between the outbreaks in Africa and in other continents will complicate any coordinated response and possibly deepen existing inequities between the rich and poor.
While African officials say they are already treating the continent’s epidemic as an emergency, experts elsewhere say the mild version of monkeypox in Europe and North America makes an emergency declaration unnecessary.
Yet, while the U.S., Britain, Canada and other countries have bought millions of vaccines, none have gone to African nations.
10:29 a.m.: San Diego Comic-Con is back in full swing
The pop culture extravaganza that is Comic-Con International is back to its old extravagance.
Stars, cosplayers and fans are filling the San Diego Convention Center in full force after the pandemic forced it to go virtual for two years, as reported by the Associated Press.
The pandemic necessitated virtual versions of the event in the summers of 2020 and 2021, including a scaled-back in-person version in November. However, those events were nothing compared to the huge spectacle that happened before COVID-19.
It’s not clear whether the convention will draw the estimated 135,000 people who flooded San Diego before the pandemic, but during yesterday’s preview night, fans came in droves, mobbing the floor.
Far bigger crowds are expected tonight when the event begins in earnest.
Wednesday, July 20
The number of confirmed monkeypox cases continues to grow in California and the country — and with it calls for the federal government to do more.
It has been almost eight weeks since the first case of monkeypox was confirmed in California. Since, there have been more than 265 in the state, with more than 2,100 nationwide.
On Wednesday, Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said more could have been done to slow or prevent the spread.
“Despite two years of experience with COVID, our response to monkeypox has been maddeningly slow,” Rendon said.
The speaker, one of the most powerful lawmakers in the state, says he has sent a letter asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to declare a public emergency for monkeypox. He says such a declaration would ramp up vaccination, testing, education and outreach.
“We should always have a quick response. Had monkeypox primarily affected men identifying as heterosexual, we might have seen that rapid action,” Rendon said.
The LGBTQ-plus community has been hardest hit by the outbreak, and Rendon says opportunities were missed for treatment and messaging during Pride month celebrations in June.
The Sacramento City Council is headed back to City Hall chambers after holding virtual meetings all pandemic long.
The city has argued for months it should continue with virtual meetings while under a state of emergency. They said it’s an effort to keep the most vulnerable safe while physically distancing is still recommended.
But after two years of video meetings, the council is going back to the dais on Aug. 9.
The following week, residents will be able to attend meetings in person, but the chambers will only be half-full. People will also have to wear a mask and sit one seat apart from each other.
A Southern California man who tried to obtain $27 million in unemployment benefits by falsely claiming his business was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic has been sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison.
The Associated Press reports that Robert Benlevi submitted 27 applications for forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.
Benlevi made applications to four banks on behalf of the eight companies he owned. He claimed that each company had 100 employees when in fact, they had none.
Authorities say Benlevi sought $27 million and obtained $3 million.
Health officials say U.S. adults who haven’t gotten any COVID-19 shots yet should consider a new option from Novavax.
According to the Associated Press, the protein-based shot is a more traditional kind of vaccine than the three mRNA brands available in the U.S.
Federal regulators authorized the two-dose vaccine last week for adults. Recently advisers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously recommended the option on Tuesday and the agency agreed.
The company hopes to also clear booster doses and teen use fairly soon.
Tuesday, July 19
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, says he plans to retire by the end of President Joe Biden’s term in January 2025, as reported by the Associated Press.
Fauci, 81, became director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984 and has advised seven presidents.
Fauci said on CNN Monday that he doesn’t have a specific retirement date in mind and hasn’t started the process.
He was thrust into the national spotlight at the height of the coronavirus pandemic under then-President Donald Trump, who suggested the pandemic would “fade away,” promoted unproven treatment methods and vilified scientists who countered him.
While more than 1 million people in the United States died of COVID-19, many more survived ICU stays that have left them with anxiety, PTSD, and a host of health issues, the Associated Press reports.
Research has shown that intensive therapy starting in the ICU can help, but it was often hard to provide as hospitals teemed with patients.
Families find themselves in a tough place as the world moves on and mask mandates disappear. The COVID-19 pandemic is not gone for them and it may never be. Those that survived are left dealing with long-term consequences.
Monday, July 18
An Associated Press survey of state election officials across the U.S. found that the expanded use of drop boxes for mailed allots during the 2020 election didn’t lead to any widespread problems.
The survey revealed no cases of fraud, vandalism, or theft that could have affected the results — contrary to false claims made by former President Donald Trump and his allies, who have intensely criticized their use and falsely claimed they opened the door to fraud.
Drop boxes are considered by election officials to be safe and secure. They became a mainstay in states with extensive mail voting for years and had not previously rained any alarms.
They were used widely in 2020 as election officials sought to provide alternative ways to cast ballots with the COVID-19 outbreak, creating concerns about in-person voting and U.S. Postal Service delays.
Despite mail-in ballot boxes being nearly universally agreed to be a safe voting method, conspiracy theories and efforts by some Republicans to eliminate or restrict them persist.
Everyone in Britain who is 50 or older will be offered a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine in the fall, lowering the age threshold from the previously announced 65.
According to the Associated Press, the U.K.’s Department of Health said it had accepted advice from the Union’s independent vaccines adviser about the autumn booster program.
Fourth doses will also be given to health care workers, nursing home staff and residents, and everyone 5 and older with health conditions that make them more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19.
Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the booster campaign would “keep our defenses strong over autumn and winter.”
The U.K. has one of Europe’s highest official death tolls in the pandemic, with almost 178,000 confirmed deaths.
Friday, July 15
About 25 million children worldwide have missed out on routine immunizations against diseases like diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, largely because the coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular health services or triggered misinformation about vaccines.
According to the Associated Press, a new report published Friday by the World Health Organization and UNICEF said their figures show that 25 million children last year failed to get vaccinated against those three diseases, a marker for childhood immunization coverage.
That continues a downward trend in childhood immunizations that began in 2019.
UNICEF called it “a red alert” for child health, warning that the lack of vaccinations and the current rise in global malnutrition would result in many lives lost.
Canadian regulators have authorized Moderna’s COVID-19 shots for infants and preschoolers, according to the Associated Press.
Health Canada said the Moderna vaccine can be given to children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years in doses one-quarter the size of that approved for adults.
U.S. regulators authorized the first COVID-19 shots from Moderna and Pfizer for infants and preschoolers last month.
Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months to 5 years was submitted to Health Canada last month and is still under review.
Thursday, July 14
The nation’s most populous county is facing a return to a broad indoor mask mandate as new omicron variants are again driving hospital admissions and deaths higher.
Health officials say Los Angeles County, home to 10 million residents, could reinstate the mandate on July 29, the Associated Press reports. In recent weeks, states and cities began to rethink their responses to COVID-19. And the White House is stepping up efforts to alert the public.
Some experts say the warnings are too little, too late. The highly transmissible variants have shown a remarkable ability to get around the protection offered by vaccination.
The highly transmissible variants have shown a remarkable ability to get around the protection offered by infection and vaccination — especially as protection from vaccinations are warning for Americans overdue for booster shots.
Less than half of all eligible U.S. adults have gotten a single booster shot, and only about 1 in 4 Americans age 50 and older who are eligible for a second booster have received one.
1:23 p.m.: You can reduce the time you wait between COVID-19 infection and a booster shot, Yolo County health officer says
With new, highly contagious variants like BA.5 and the even newer BA.2.75, COVID-19 cases are increasing. Hospitalizations in California are rising, but deaths remain low thanks to vaccines, treatments and therapeutics.
Dr. Aimee Sisson, the public health officer for Yolo County, said she’s now encouraging people not to wait as long after an infection to get up to date on their vaccination or booster shots if they need to.
“I used to encourage people to wait about 90 days after an infection before getting boosted because the infection itself can serve as a booster dose,” Sisson said. “But I think, you know, now with the variants that we have that are escaping immunity, any additional boost that you can get from a vaccine in addition to the booster that you get from infection is important.”
Sisson said you still need to wait at least 10 days after infection and not show symptoms such as a fever before getting a vaccine or booster shot.
11:04 a.m.: Food banks are seeing long lines again
Long lines are back at food banks around the U.S. as working Americans overwhelmed by inflation increasingly seek out charity to feed their families.
As reported by the Associated Press, food banks struggle to help even as federal programs provide less food, grocery store donations wane and cash gits don’t go nearly as far while U.S. inflation hits a 40-year high.
Charitable food distribution has remained far above amounts given away before the coronavirus pandemic, even though demand tapered off somewhat late last year.
Wednesday, July 13
While COVID-19 continues to spread, another virus outbreak is on the rise in California: Monkeypox.
There are over 140 possible and confirmed cases of the virus in the state California as of this week. At least 10 possible cases have been reported in Sacramento County, according to KCRA.
The Biden administration announced last week that almost 300,000 doses of the vaccine would become available nationwide throughout the country in the upcoming weeks to address an ongoing vaccine shortage.
Currently, the vaccine is only available now for those who have had suspected or confirmed exposure to monkeypox.
In Sacramento County, it’s also being offered to men who have sex with other men and trans people if they fit specific criteria. County health officials said those interested in getting the vaccine should check with their healthcare provider or contact the Sacramento County Public Health Immunization Assistance Program at (916) 875-7468 to schedule an appointment.
Tuesday, July 12
11:34 a.m.: White House urges caution on latest COVID-19 variants and is pushing for more booster shots
The Biden Administration is calling on people to exercise renewed caution about COVID-19, emphasizing the importance of getting booster shots for those who are eligible and wearing masks indoors.
According to the Associated Press, the warning comes as two new highly transmissible variants are spreading rapidly across the country.
The new variants, labeled BA.4 and BA.5, are offshoots of the omicron strain that has been responsible for nearly all of the virus spread in the U.S. and are even more contagious than their predecessors.
White House doctors pressed the importance of getting booster doses and said people shouldn’t wait until the fall when vaccines targeted at the variants in addition to the original strains.
The European Union says it’s “critical” that authorities in the 27-nation bloc consider giving second coronavirus booster shots to people between the ages of 60 to 79 years and other vulnerable people.
As reported by the Associated Press, a new wave of the pandemic is sweeping across Europe.
European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement that with cases rising in many nations, “there is no time to lose.”
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and European Medicines Agency said that the second booster can be given at least four months after the first booster.
The recent advice comes after the agencies in April recommended that people over 80 years of age be considered for a second booster.
London’s Heathrow Airport is capping daily passenger numbers for the summer and telling airlines to stop selling tickets as it steps up efforts to quell travel chaos caused by soaring travel demand and staff shortages.
According to the Associated Press, Britain’s busiest airport said that it’s setting a limit of 100,000 passengers that it can handle each day through Sept. 11.
The restriction is likely to result in more canceled flights even after airlines have already slashed thousands of flights from their summer schedules.
Booming demand for summer travel after two years of COVID-19 travel restrictions have overwhelmed European airlines and airports that had laid off tens of thousands of staff amid the depths of the pandemic.
Monday, July 11
The quickly changing coronavirus has spawned yet another super contagious omicron mutant that’s worrying scientists as it gains ground in India and pops up in numerous other countries, including the U.S.
Scientists say the variant, which is called BA.2.75, may be able to spread rapidly and get around immunity from vaccines and previous infection, according to the Associated Press.
It’s still unclear whether it could cause more serious disease than the globally dominate omicron variant BA.5.
Scientists are concerned about the fact that this new variant is geographically widespread — it’s already been detected in India as well as about 10 other nations.
Hundreds of couples whose weddings were derailed or scaled back due to the COVD-19 pandemic got a do-over thanks to a New York City landmark.
According to the Associated Press, the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in New York City hosted “Celebrate Love: A (Re)Wedding” on Sunday in the pavilion outside the center.
Lincoln Center’s website called it “a special day for newlyweds, those whose weddings were canceled or diminished and people who want to recommit their love to their partners and the city we love.”
The event featured a multicultural ceremony, music, dancing and more. The website notes that the ceremony is not legally binding.
Abbott Nutrition says baby formula production has resumed at the Michigan plant, whose February shutdown over contamination contributed to a national shortage.
As reported by the Associated Press, damage from severe thunderstorms had halted the Sturgis plant operations in mid-June after just two weeks of renewed production. Abbott says EleCare, a specialty formula, is being made at Sturgis following a July 1 reboot and that Similac production will resume as soon as possible.
Abbott is just one of four companies that produce 90% of U.S. baby formula.
Its recall in February of several leading rands squeezed supplies already strained by supply chain disruptions and stockpiling during COVID-19 shutdowns.
Friday, July 8
President Joe Biden has presented the nation’s highest civilian honor to 17 people, including gymnast Simone Biles and the late Arizona Republican Sen. Jon McCain.
The president who took office during the coronavirus pandemic also honored Sandra Lindsay, the New York nurse who received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine that was administered in the U.S. outside of clinical trials.
Others receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom include gun safety advocate Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe and late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Uruguay has stopped administering coronavirus vaccines to children under age 13, the Associated Press reports.
The halt began after a judge ordered on Thursday that all inoculations in that age group halt until officials present documents relating to contracts signed with vaccine manufacturers.
The government says it’ll apparel the ruling, characterizing the stoppage as a threat to public health.
Vaccination for children under 13 in Uruguay has been on a voluntary basis. The Health Ministry says vaccinations for those older than 13 will continue.
Beijing, China’s capital, appears to be backing off a vaccine mandate it announced just two days ago.
According to the Associated Press, the mandate would require vaccinations for entry into certain public spaces, including gyms, museums and libraries, starting next week. It drew intense discussion as city residents worried how the sudden policy announcement would disrupt their lives.
While not explicitly saying the government had dropped the plan, a city official was quoted in state media late Thursday saying that people could enter venues with a negative virus test result and a temperature check, as has been the norm.
They also said vaccinations would continue on the principle of informed, voluntary consent.
Thursday, July 7
U.S. pharmacists can now prescribe the leading COVID-19 pill directly to consumers, according to the Associated Press.
The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that pharmacists can begin screening patients to see if they are eligible and then prescribe Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid.
Previously only doctors could prescribe it. Paxlovid has been shown to curb the worst effects of COVID-19, but it has to be started within five days of symptoms.
Paxlovid is intended for people with COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill, including older people and those with health conditions.
The Sacramento Food Bank is closing its two Oak Park facilities to consolidate services at its North Sacramento Location.
The closures came with little warning to the community it’s served for 50 years. Residents were outraged on social media and were left confused by the decision.
The organization’s Family Services building had adult education, clothing programs and provided legal assistance for immigrants.
In response, the food bank’s president and CEO, Blake Young, answered a few questions about the closure at a recent public meeting.
“We’re lucky in that we can provide some of those other family services,” they said. “But with the pandemic, with inflation, with where we saw the demand for food resources in our own county going, we needed to focus on that.”
He said a number of services offered at Oak Park locations had been suspended because of the pandemic. Since then, the food bank has leaned on other community organizations to help.
Canada is going to throw out about 13.6 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines because it couldn’t find any takers for it either at home or abroad.
According to the Associated Press, Canada signed a contract with AstraZeneca in 2020 to get 20 million doses, and 2.3 million Canadians received at least one dose of it, mostly between March and June 2021.
Following concerns in the spring of 2021 about rare but potentially fatal blood clots from AstraZeneca, Canada instead focused on using its ample supplies of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
In July 2021, the country promised to donate the rest of its procured supply, about 17.7 million doses, but in a statement on Tuesday, Health Canada said that despite efforts to meet the pledge, 13.6 million doses have expired and will need to be thrown out.
Wednesday, July 6
The Nevada Board of Regents will no longer require staff at the state’s public universities and colleges to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, a majority of the regents for the Nevada System of Higher Education voted Thursday to rescind an employee vaccine mandate after it was first approved last year.
Regents met on the issue in December but could not come to a majority vote.
Hundreds of employees statewide ended up quitting or losing their job because they would not get vaccinated. It was not immediately clear if those employees would be offered their jobs back.
According to the regents, roughly 97% of 22,000 current system employees have gotten vaccinated.
People in 24 Oregon counties, 15 counties in Washington and over 30 counties in California should resume mask-wearing indoors in public and on public transportation, according to recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Data from the CDC shows that those aforementioned counties are considered at high risk for COVID-19 infection as of June 30, the Associated Press reports.
California counties labeled as high risk include: Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, El Dorado and the rest of the surrounding area.
High risk means the counties have had 200 or more new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days or more than 20 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 within a seven-day period.
Emerging research suggests reinfections could put people at higher risk for health problems.
Unvaccinated people have a six times higher risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with people with at least a primary series of shots, the CDC estimated based on available data from April.
Residents in parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been ordered to undergo further rounds of COVID-19 testing following the discovery of new cases in the two cities.
According to the Associated Press, restaurants have also been restricted to takeout only in the northern city of Xi’an, which endured one of China’s most sweeping lockdowns under the hardline zero-COVID policy.
The gambling hub of Macao has also shut down one of its most famous hotel casinos after cases were discovered there.
The strict measures have been retained despite relatively low numbers of cases, with mainland China reporting 353 cases of domestic transmission on Wednesday, 241 of them asymptomatic.
Tuesday, July 5
12:17 p.m.: US warily treads forward through another pandemic summer
The fast-changing coronavirus has kicked off summer in the U.S. with lots of infections but relatively few deaths compared to its prior incarnations.
Keep in mind that COVID-19 is still killing hundreds of Americans each day even though many people feel it’s not as dangerous as it once was.
It’s easy to feel confused by the mixed picture — repeat infections are increasingly likely and a sizeable share of those infected will face the lingering symptoms of long COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, how long this interlude will last is impossible to know since more dangerous variants could be around the corner.
A new poll shows that about half of Americans would think it’s a “good thing” if virtual options continue, as reported by the Associated Press.
Digital services like exercise classes, telehealth and so forth are all examples of services that moved remotely during the pandemic.
However, a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that close to half of U.S. adults say they won’t return to virtual activities like having groceries delivered or use curbside pickup once the pandemic ends.
The World Health organization’s European chief has warned that monkeypox cases across the region have tripled in the last two weeks and called on countries to take stronger measures to ensure the previously rare disease does not become entrenched in the continent.
According to the Associated Press, in a statement on Friday, Dr. Hans Kluge said increased efforts were needed despite the U.N. health agency’s decision not to declare the escalating outbreak a global health emergency last week.
To date, more than 5,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 51 countries worldwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
Kluge said the number of infections in Europe represents about 90% of the global total.
Friday, July 1
Two men have been indicted by a federal grand jury in New Hampshire on multiple fraud charges alleging that they falsely applied for $5 million in federal CARES Act loans for companies and misused some of the proceeds, including one man’s purchase of a Rolls Royce.
According to the Associated Press, court documents say both men were based in New Hampshire, but one later moved to Irvine, Calif.
Prosecutors allege that the two applied for over two dozen loans in 2020 and in 2021, submitting fabricated tax documents.
The California man was arrested in Hawaii on Thursday.
It wasn’t immediately known if he had an attorney. The New Hampshire man was arrested, released and faces a hearing.
9:16 a.m.: When can you stop isolating after a COVID-19 infection? Here’s what you need to know
With inections on the rise in some places, some Americans are wondering — when can you stop isolating after a COVID-19 infection?
It can feel extra stressful and confusing if you’re feeling good but still testing positive on a rapid test.
NPR reports that even with the new subvariants, the basic rules haven’t changed since omicron first developed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says someone can stop isolating after five days if they’re fever-free for 24 hours and are starting to get better.
Just keep wearing your mask for another five days.
Some researchers don’t agree and point out that some people are still infectious after day five. But if you’re feeling alright and are tired of waiting, here’s what you need to know.
8:32 a.m.: Summer travel numbers are all over the place due to pandemic recovery
Summer travel is underway across the globe, but a full recovery from two years of coronavirus could last as long as the pandemic itself.
Interviews by the Associated Press in 11 countries in June show that most passionate travelers are thronging to locales like the French Riviera, Amsterdam and the American Midwest.
But even as safety restrictions fall, places like Israel, India and Rome are reporting only fractions of the record-setting tourism of 2019.
For them, a full recovery isn’t forecasted until at least 2024. China, once the world’s biggest source of tourists, remains closed per its “zero-COVID” policy, which is holding down the rebound in many countries.
Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here
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