Friday, May 21, 2021 | California Healthline

Friday, May 21, 2021 | California Healthline


Board Punts On Relaxing Thorny Workplace Rules: California’s workplace-safety board postponed a vote on whether to ease employee coronavirus restrictions. Cal/OSHA is now targeting June 15 to act on a proposal to allow fully vaccinated people to work without masks or social distancing. The regulators said they need more time to consider the CDC’s recent guidance changes. The Bay Area News Group reports on the arguments for and against the proposal made by groups and employers at the videoconference meeting. Get more details on the delay from the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and AP.

Vaccination proof is another controversial issue county government and employers are facing. Santa Clara surprised local businesses with its decision, the Bay Area News Group finds.

Health Bills Don’t Survive ‘Suspense File’ Day: Legislation related to nursing homes, insurance, end-of-life decisions and school nurses all failed, CalMatters reports.

Los Angeles Times:
L.A. Bought $19 Million Worth Of N95 Masks. Resales Are Lagging 

As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped Los Angeles in April 2020, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city had agreed to buy 24 million N95 masks made by Honeywell and resell them to hospitals and nursing homes. The news provided a glimmer of hope amid widespread alarm about the nationwide shortage of personal protective gear for first responders. Price-gouging and counterfeits were also common as buyers sought the masks. (Smith, 5/21)

Los Angeles Daily News:
LA County Reports Just 933 ‘Breakthrough’ COVID-19 Cases, Among 3.3 Million Vaccinated Residents 

The odds of contracting the coronavirus after being full vaccinated are minuscule, based on data Los Angeles County’s health chief provided Thursday, May 20 — and the chances of being hospitalized or dying are even lower. The vaccines are so effective that the county, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, has identified just 933 “breakthrough” cases of fully vaccinated residents testing positive for the virus out of more than 3 million people. (5/20)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Coronavirus Outbreaks Continue In San Diego County, But At A Slower Pace 

Outbreaks, once a closely watched measure of coronavirus spread outside the home, are now much less frequent than they were just a few months ago. But, as the current experience of one local church shows, the risk has not yet been extinguished. In a statement earlier this week, the Rock Church, which has multiple popular venues scattered across San Diego County, recently confirmed 15 coronavirus infections at its five locations, causing the house of worship to reduce the number of in-person gatherings on May 16 and again on May 23. (Sisson, 5/20)

Sacramento Bee:
El Dorado County Asks Public To Redirect Mask Concern To CA 

El Dorado County officials on Thursday asked residents to stop directing “verbal and physical hostility” toward county employees over COVID-19 restrictions, particularly the mask mandate, which are state decisions the local health office cannot overrule. In a news release Thursday, the county’s Board of Supervisors said it was urging the public “to redirect COVID-19 complaints to state decision makers.” (McGough, 5/20)

San Francisco Further Loosens Restrictions On Businesses And Activities 

As its coronavirus cases continue to fall and vaccination rates rise, the city is further loosening restrictions on an array of business operations and activities, in compliance with the state’s recently updated guidelines, city health officials announced Thursday. The new health order gives the green light, among other things, to a broader range of indoor dining and bar activities, allowing food preparation/performance at bars and tables to recommence (think Benihana), lifting the requirement that patrons sit at tables to consume food and beverages, and loosening physical distancing rules. (Green, 5/20)

Modesto Bee:
Do Kids Too Young For COVID Vaccines Need To Wear Masks? 

Some days after federal health officials announced fully vaccinated Americans no longer have to wear masks in most indoor and all outdoor scenarios, they clarified information on one group left out of the new guidance: kids. Children between 12 and 15 years old can now receive a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, but those who are younger and those who await vaccination are advised to follow the same guidance for unvaccinated adults. That is, continue to wear masks, physical distance and wash hands often. (Camero, 5/20)

San Francisco Chronicle:
The Bay Area Is Racing Ahead Of The Country On Vaccines. These Factors May Explain Why

If you walked across San Francisco today, you’d likely encounter more fully vaccinated people than partially and unvaccinated people combined. 54% of San Franciscans were fully vaccinated as of May 18. That’s far more than the U.S. overall rate of 38%. It’s also higher than all U.S. counties with 250,000 people or more save three — Cumberland County in Maine, Dane County in Wisconsin, and neighboring Marin County, which topped the list at 60%. (Neilson, 5/21)

Orange County Register:
With Demand For Shots Waning, OC Health Providers Decline Vaccine Doses

After struggling since early this year to get enough COVID-19 vaccine to meet public demand, Orange County Health Care Agency officials rejoiced in late March when they received a record amount for a single week – more than 100,000 doses. This week, they turned down every dose they were offered. The last order the county health agency accepted was of Pfizer vaccines, received May 11; the agency has already been refusing Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shipments because demand for new appointments has fallen off so much and they didn’t want to be wasteful. (Robinson, 5/20)

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
Most County Vaccination Clinics To Close By End Of June

Sonoma County will soon dismantle its far-reaching constellation of coronavirus vaccination clinics, which administered more than 100,000 doses and were a key driver of the county’s high immunization rate. Public officials frame the clinics’ closures not as a tragedy, but as an encouraging marker of where things stand when it comes to vaccinating residents against the still-dangerous virus. (Barber, 5/20)

Los Angeles Times:
Study: COVID-19 Vaccines Don’t Cause Sudden Hearing Loss 

When you administer tens of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine, you’re bound to get reports of all kinds of side effects. That includes accounts of sudden hearing loss. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University treated some of the people whose hearing suffered in the wake of a COVID-19 shot, and it made them wonder whether the vaccine really could have been responsible. So they decided to investigate. Their verdict: The vaccine wasn’t to blame. (Kaplan, 5/20)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Emergency Water Urged For Rural Latino Communities Before California Drought Worsens

California lawmakers should take prompt action before drought conditions worsen by sending emergency drinking water to vulnerable communities in parched regions of the state, legislative advisers say. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report last week providing recommendations on how to address increasingly dry conditions throughout the state. Based on an analysis of the state’s previous efforts for the last major drought, from 2012 to 2016, analysts said lawmakers should start sending emergency water supplies to vulnerable communities in the San Joaquin Valley region, prepare to remove dead and dying trees that can increase the risk of severe wildfires, and hire additional staff, among other actions. (Flores, 5/19)

ABC News:
Summer Forecast Calls For Intensifying Drought Across American West

The western United States is in the midst of an intensifying drought. In the latest U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday, nearly 52% of the western U.S. is in “extreme” or “exceptional drought. “In parts of California and Nevada, two dry winters in a row, and a very weak monsoon in 2020 have combined to create massive precipitation deficits. Parts of this region are likely seeing the worst second sequential year of drought in over 30 years. (Manzo, 5/20)

California Healthline:
‘What The Health?’ Podcast: Roe V. Wade On The Ropes

The newly conservative Supreme Court will hear a case that could overturn the nationwide right to abortion and cause political upheaval. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s abrupt announcement that vaccinated people can take off their masks in most places has caused upheaval of its own. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet and Mary Ellen McIntire of CQ Roll Call join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too. (5/20)

Los Angeles Times:
Murder Charge Dropped Against Woman Who Suffered Stillbirth

A judge on Thursday dismissed a murder charge against a Central Valley woman who prosecutors said delivered a stillborn baby after using methamphetamine, ruling the prosecution failed to present adequate evidence to support the accusation. Chelsea Becker, 26, of Hanford had already been released into a treatment facility in March while awaiting trial. Before that, she had been ordered held on $5-million bond, which was later reduced to $2 million, and spent more than a year in jail after her arrest in November 2019. (Wigglesworth, 5/20)

Bay Area News Group:
Oakland Museum Of California, Closed 15 Months, To Reopen

The Oakland Museum of California, closed for more than a year by the pandemic and renovation, will celebrate its reopening on June 18 with free admission through June 20. Visitors will be able to tour the newly redesigned outdoor gardens with the newly reinstalled sculpture garden, and the Museum’s Galleries of California Art, History, and Natural Sciences. Tickets, while free, must reserved in advance. (Morris, 5/20)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Scripps Website Back Up, Patient Portal Still Down 

Nearly three weeks into a ransomware attack, Scripps Health announced that its main website,, is back up and running. My Scripps, the digital portal that patients use for everything from making appointments to communicating with doctors, was still returning an error message as of Thursday. One of the most important questions on patients’ minds since the attack occurred on May 1 is whetherpatient data stored in Scripps’ electronic medical record has been downloaded from servers and is at risk of disclosure or sale in the darker corners of the Internet. (Sisson, 5/20)

Sacramento Bee:
Newsom Must Increase CA Spending On Public Health After COVID 

No arm of the government has been more essential to our daily lives during the pandemic than public health departments. Their orders closed schools and businesses and forced us to stay home. They set local mask rules, investigated infections, guided reopenings and administered life-saving vaccines. Many play a crucial role in addressing homelessness. Yet prior to the pandemic, public health departments were on the brink of obscurity after more than a decade of austerity measures. Budgets declined at least 20% over the last decade, according to Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California. Without broader investment now and in the future, she said, public health leaders worry they may lose the staff and resources they’ve gained when emergency funding dries up. That could leave communities vulnerable, and overwhelm public health departments when the next crisis hits. (5/21)

Los Angeles Times:
Lifting Mask Rule Makes These Workers’ Lives Harder 

Workers at restaurants, pharmacies, supermarkets and other stores will not be as protected as they have been if hundreds of the customers they interact with daily stop wearing masks. So far, authorities haven’t clarified how businesses can determine if their customers without face coverings are vaccinated or are just pretending to be. “CDC guidance fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks,” said United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone. (Yana Pashaeva, 5/17)

Modesto Bee:
 COVID Tier Colors Still A Joke In Stanislaus County 

So Stanislaus County will spend at least another few days in the red tier instead of moving up to the orange tier. Yeah. Whatever. Does anyone truly think life will dramatically change when we finally escape red? Did it in March, when we jumped from purple to red? (Garth Stapley, 5/20)

Los Angeles Times:
In Defense Of The COVID Lockdowns

The pandemic may be ebbing, at least in the U.S. and some other well-vaccinated countries, but debate over the government and public response to the crisis is destined to live on. That’s certainly the case with government-ordered lockdowns, the most onerous and controversial policies imposed to keep people safe from COVID-19. Fortunately, they’re also among the most widely studied policies, and research about their effectiveness is beginning to flow to economic and scientific journals. (Michael Hiltzik, 5/19)

Los Angeles Times:
Black New Mothers Are Dying At Unacceptably High Rates 

Childbirth has always been perilous for women. Before the advent of modern medicine, a breech birth was often a death sentence. And even as recently as the turn of the 20th century, six to nine women in the U.S. died during childbirth or from related complications for every 1,000 babies born alive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advances in medicine and public health have significantly improved the odds that women — and their infants — will survive childbirth. In 2019, the most recent year for which there are data, only two women died for every 10,000 or so live babies born. That’s quite an improvement in little more than a century. Nevertheless, the U.S. still has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the industrialized world, and the rate has been creeping up in recent years. (5/20)

Fresno Bee:
Proposed State Law Would Limit How Health Insurers Can Disrupt Patients’ Prescriptions

The severe repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic have cast widespread attention on the flaws in our health care system, especially on the lack or imbalance of services to our most vulnerable communities. One area of concern centers on a policy known as “step therapy” and how it is adversely affecting people living with chronic health conditions. In California, for example, there are millions of cases of chronic disease that include cancer, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and mental health disease. It’s why this year I have authored Assembly Bill 347 to reduce delays in obtaining medications and to establish a standard, transparent process. (Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, 5/19)

San Francisco Chronicle:
California’s Housing Crisis Is Getting Worse. So Is Anti-Housing Denialism

In the latest sign that the pandemic has done nothing to mitigate California’s housing crisis, the median price for a single-family home in the state broke $800,000 for the first time last month, according to data released this week, while the Bay Area hit a record $1.3 million. The state’s median grew 7% over the previous month, also a record, and by a third over prices a year ago, reaching about 2½ times the national figure. Even seasoned observers of our perpetually overheated housing prices are using terms like “feeding frenzy” and “chaos.” (5/20)

Los Angeles Daily News:
To End Suffering On California’s Streets, Invest More In Mental Health Treatment 

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a one-time $12 billion spending plan will end homelessness in California. He said Project Homekey, the program utilizing hotel and motel rooms as housing for those experiencing homelessness, is working so well it should be expanded across the state. This spending will certainly house many people.  But is it really working to catch the sickest people – those living with untreated serious mental illnesses and addictions?  Will it make a dent in suffering occurring in the streets and encampments common place in California? (Paul Webster, 5/20)

San Francisco Chronicle:
I’m A Doctor Treating Anti-Vaxxers In California While My Family Is Dying In India

Earlier in the pandemic, my beloved uncle in India succumbed to COVID-19. I watched on Whatsapp from thousands of miles away as my cousin performed the last rites on the side of a street while his father’s body lay in a medical hearse. Alone, my cousin walked the tar road in bare feet, his white kurta soaked in the monsoon rain, as car horns blared in the background. Step by step, pouring water out of a black earthen pot aloft his shoulder, he thrice circled the hearse, aiding his father’s journey to the beyond. Neither myself nor the rest of my family could be by his side to help him bear that heavy burden, as he cracked the clay pot and bowed to his father, shoulders heaving with sobs. (Dipti S. Barot, 5/20)

Los Angeles Times:
Changing The Incentives For Global Vaccine Production 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal underlying infrastructural inequalities around the world. While the United States rapidly rolls out vaccines even to children, countries such as India suffer devastating numbers of death each day. India recently reported more than 340,000 daily coronavirus cases with no end to its crisis in sight.In response to intensifying political pressure to reduce the suffering in lower-income nations, the Biden administration now supports a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines for as long as the pandemic lasts. This development has elicited two responses. Some commentators regard the administration’s new position as a paradigm shift that will affect IP protection. But others predict that it will have no impact on vaccine access. (Michele Goodwin and Gregory Shaffer, 5/21)

The Mercury News:
Back Biden Ban On Menthol-Flavored Cigarettes

Joe Biden is taking on Big Tobacco with his proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. It’s a worthy endeavor, but don’t expect a victory anytime soon. R.J. Reynolds calls Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a “special friend.”  Even if the Biden administration effort is ultimately successful in Congress, it would litigated in the courts for years.This, despite science showing a ban on menthol cigarettes would be one of the best things that could happen to improve Americans’ health. That’s goes double for Blacks and teens. The tobacco industry has for decades used targeted advertising of menthol cigarettes to attract Black and teen smokers with devastating results. (5/15)

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