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Bay Area COVID-19 Roundup: Variant Infections Soaring In SF Mission District; Businesses Prepare For Red Tier Reopenings; $600 Stimulus Payments Approved

CBS San Francisco Staff Report

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- With the surge in new coronavirus cases beginning to ease and demand for vaccination growing, the information you need to know is coming fast and furious. Here's a roundup of the COVID stories we've published over the last 24 hours.

Dramatic Rise In COVID-19 Variant Infections Found In San Francisco's Mission District
SAN FRANCISCO -- UC-San Francisco researchers have detected a dramatic rise since mid-January of COVID-19 variants, particularly L452R, among those found to be infected with the virus living in the city's predominantly Hispanic Mission District. The study also identified one case of P.2 – a variant first identified in Brazil – though contact tracing suggests there was no forward transmission of that variant of the virus. Researchers said the other new variants -- L452R substitution and two other mutations -- initially appear to be more contagious, although further research is needed. he finding came in a joint testing project between UCSF, the nonprofit Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Unidos en Salud to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Mission District. Read More

Study Reveals California Variant Responsible For Half Of All Cases In State
SAN FRANCISCO -- Two studies released Monday reveal some alarming findings about a California variant of COVID-19. The strain is showing up in half of the samples in 44 California counties and there are signs that it causes severe disease and spreads quickly. This mutation has been here since May and one local scientist estimates it is now responsible for roughly half of cases in the state. Dr. Charles Chiu has been working in his lab in collaboration with California Department of Public Health to identify how prevalent this variant may be. Dr. Chiu not the only one. UCSF teamed up with Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, which looked into cases in San Francisco's Mission District. Read More

Effort To Recall San Francisco School Board President, Board Members Gains Momentum
SAN FRANCISCO -- Some parents fed up with the lack of in-person learning in San Francisco are demanding the recall of school board members in their effort to get their children back into schools. Weeks have turned into months as students in San Francisco approach one year of distance-learning since the beginning of the pandemic. The patience of parents is wearing thin. Students and their parents calling for a return to classrooms are turning to new ways to let the SFUSD board know their feelings, and that includes a petition to recall the school board president. Parents like Monica Scott say they are at the end of their rope. "The school board has definitely let us down," said Scott. Read More

COVID Road Warriors: No. 4 Stanford Women Claim Pac-12 Regular Season Title With Win Over No. 9 Arizona
STANFORD -- Stanford spent two months on the road this season because of local health department restrictions on sports — a major reason why winning the Pac-12 Conference title was deeply meaningful for Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer's team. Among the many championships on VanDerveer's resume, this was one of the most special Kiana Williams scored 15 points and No. 4 Stanford clinched its first regular-season league title in seven years, beating ninth-ranked Arizona 62-48 on Monday night. "I'm glad I was wearing my mask. I have to say I get a little emotional because it's such a great thing that this team has accomplished," VanDerveer said. "But not only that, it's how they have been as teammates, how they have been mature." Read More

Restaurants, Gyms Getting Ready For Red Tier Status In San Mateo County
BURLINGAME -- Many Bay Area counties could move into California's less restrictive COVID-19 tier as early as Tuesday. San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties will likely move from the purple to the red tier. The change will have a serious impact on businesses and indoor dining. Inside Burlingame's Sapore Italiano, dinner preps were underway on Monday, with the possibility of serving to a much larger crowd on the horizon. Owner Elio D'Urzo says a capacity of 25 percent for indoor dining would be a welcome addition to the outdoor setup and takeout he's been handling. "I do my own delivery, we make fresh pasta, we sell wine, we sell a lot of stuff. The restaurant become a supermarket," said D'Urzo. Read More

Inspectors Find 'Significant Deficiencies' At California Virus Test Lab
SACRAMENTO -- Inspectors found "significant deficiencies" at California's new coronavirus testing laboratory, problems that state officials on Monday partly blamed on the rapid ramp-up they required from the lab's private operator under terms of a $1.4 billion contract. A fraction of 1% of the more than 1.5 million tests processed at the Valencia Branch Laboratory had problems, the state said in a preliminary report, but Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said "one incorrect test result is one too many." The $25 million lab that opened in October north of Los Angeles was unable to test about 250 samples (0.017%) due to lab errors, the state said. It issued corrected reports for about 60 (0.0039%) samples. Read More

Legislature Approves $600 Stimulus Payments For 5.7 Million Californians
SACRAMENTO -- California lawmakers on Monday cleared the way for 5.7 million people to get at least $600 in one-time payments, part of a state-sized coronavirus relief package aimed at helping lower-income people weather what they hope is the last legs of the pandemic. The state Legislature passed the bill by a wide margin on Monday, moving faster than their counterparts in Congress who are also considering another round of stimulus checks for the nation. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will sign it into law on Tuesday. People who are eligible for the money should get it at between 45 days and 60 days after receiving their state tax refunds, according to the Franchise Tax Board One of those people is Judy Jackson, a 75-year-old former teacher and cancer survivor who lives off of about $1,000 a month from other government programs. Read More

Santa Cruz County Education, Child Care, EMS and Food Workers Now Eligible
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY -- On Monday, Santa Cruz County health officials extended COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to residents in several occupations now that more than half of the county's residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose. Education and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture workers are all now eligible for the vaccine across the county now that vaccines are widely available to older residents. The eligible occupations are in line with the California Department of Public Health's phased vaccination schedule. Phase 1B includes the named industries and all residents age 65 and older while the previous Phase 1A included health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff. County officials expect it to take several weeks to fully vaccinate the age- and occupation-based groups in Phase 1B due to a dearth of vaccine supply. Read More

U.S. Tops Sobering Milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths
WASHINGTON D.C. -- More than half a million people in the United States have now died from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — a devastating milestone just over one year into the pandemic, which has upended so many aspects of life across the country and around the world. The milestone comes as vaccination efforts roll out nationwide but new variants continue to emerge, creating uncertainty about the future. It has been 13 months since the U.S. confirmed its first case of the virus, but the death toll has only intensified in recent months. More than 138,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. just since January 1. Read More

San Francisco Adds $2.5 Million To Loan Fund To Help Black-Owned Businesses
SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Monday announced a $2.5 million investment in the city's African American Small Business Revolving Loan Fund, expanding the fund to $6.3 million. The fund, created in June 2020 by Breed and the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce, aims to help Black-owned and Black-serving businesses that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, offering zero-interest loans of up to $50,000 for eligible businesses. The new funding was made possible via philanthropic support from the San Francisco Foundation and business executive Aneel Bhusri, according to the mayor's office. "This has been such a difficult year for small businesses across San Francisco, and sadly, Black-owned businesses across the country have been especially hard hit and many have had to close their doors for good," Breed said in a statement. Read More

Santa Clara County To Allow For More Outdoor Activities, Youth Sports
SAN JOSE -- Citing declining COVID-19 infection rates, health officials in Santa Clara County announced additional outdoor activities would be allowed starting Friday, including youth sports. Officials said in a statement that effective February 26, the county's health orders will be updated to allow for "a range of social and recreational outdoor activity to resume, including youth sports, performing arts, and enrichment activities." Restrictions would also be relaxed on outdoor gatherings "of all kinds." The county said it would also follow the state's recently updated guidance on youth and recreational adult sports, paving the way for the resumption of many high school sports, including football. Read More

Kindergarteners, 1st Graders Return To San Carlos Classrooms
SAN CARLOS -- While other San Francisco Bay Area school districts remain in the planning phase, the San Carlos Unified School District opened the doors of its schools Monday to transitional kindergarten and first-grade students. The district held orientation classes for those younger grades ahead of the first day of in-person instruction set to be held Monday, March 1. Children arrived to Brittan Acres Elementary to find teachers' names on signs planted on the front lawn. From there, the students learned about their designated school entrance, proper hallway and line etiquette, and check-in procedures. Read More

Santa Clara County Business Owners Anxiously Wait As Neighbors Look To Enter Red Tier
SAN JOSE -- Owners of restaurants and other businesses in Santa Clara County are eyeing the progress other neighboring counties are making towards reopening and wondering when it will be their chance to enter the state's COVID-19 Red Tier. "When we were open for outdoor dining and that was taken from us, it was pretty rough from an economic standpoint. I mean it just devastated us as a restaurant and really the industry in general," said Dan Holder, owner of Jack Holder's Restaurant in San Jose. Holder has set up, torn down and set up again a tent for outdoor dining outside his restaurant, as the pendulum of public health orders has swung from closing to reopening and back. He said he would welcome a return to the state's red tier and a reopening on limited indoor dining. Read More

Relief Grants Available To Restaurants, Wineries, Breweries In San Mateo County
SAN JOSE -- Qualifying restaurants, wineries and breweries in San Mateo County can now apply for COVID-19 relief grants of up to $10,000. The county opened the grant application Monday at noon. The online application is available at Grants will help qualifying applicants pay employees, cover rent and cover the cost of health and safety modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board of Supervisors voted on Jan. 26 to establish the Restaurant, Brewery and Winery Relief Program, which has $2.384 million of available funding. The board allocated $1 million toward the fund, matching a $1 million donation from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. An additional $384,000 came from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Read More

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