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Bay Area COVID Roundup: Fears Over New Year's Eve Surge; Danville Restaurant Defies Health Order; Lafayette's Beloved El Charro Shuts Down For Good

CBS San Francisco Staff Report

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- With a surge in coronavirus cases, 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.

Bay Area Health Officials Bracing For Christmas, New Year's Surge In Cases
SAN FRANCISCO -- California health officials are begging residents to stay home on New Year's Eve, warning it could be a matter of life of death. More than nine months into the pandemic, state and county public health officials know fatigue has set in, especially with the latest round of stay-at-home orders. Some public health officers say there is evidence that suggests we might have hit our peak of this latest surge. What concerns them the most is we haven't seen the real impacts from the Christmas and New Year's surge, yet. Since March, those in the Bay Area have rolled with the waves of coronavirus and the stay-at-home orders that have come with them. This latest order came at a time when families hoped to gather with loved ones during the holidays. "We might have been able to do it for a few months, getting to this point feels long for many people," says Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's Health and Human Services Secretary. Read More

Danville Restaurant Continues To Defy Health Orders, Faces $1,000 Daily Fines
DANVILLE -- A defiant restaurant owner in Danville is still keeping outdoor dining open, weeks after the county entered its stay-at-home order and despite ever-growing fines. Staying open for outdoor dining despite the Contra Costa County health order, Incontro owner Gabe Moufarrej said he wants the public to know he's doing it for one reason. His employees. "You know, we want to tell people that we are not defying the order just to defy the order," Moufarrej told KPIX 5. "We are doing it because we have many employees that would've been home without a paycheck." Moufarrej may well be the last restaurant owner standing in defiance of the county's shelter-in-place order. Even the other restaurants that initially stayed open have since stowed their outdoor equipment. Read More

Coronavirus Spread Likely To Worsen Due To Holiday Travel And Gathering
SAN FRANCISCO -- The spread of COVID in California is likely to increase this week as people travel and gather for holidays like Christmas and New Year's Eve, the state's Health and Human Services secretary said Tuesday. Traffic at Bay Area airports is down compared to this time last year -- at SFO, it is down 80% -- but millions are still going through airports across the country each day. The Transportation Security Agency said figures show it screened 1.28 million people Sunday on Christmas weekend. That's the highest number of travelers since the onset of the pandemic. California officials are hoping people avoid non-essential travel, even though there have been some promising signs. The number of people seen traveling on the weekend after Christmas and as New Year's Eve approaches has health officials again making pleas for only essential travel. Read More

Our Children Will Pay For These Trillion Dollar Stimulus Packages
BERKELEY -- The Internal Revenue Service is already processing millions of $600 stimulus checks and Americans with direct deposit could see it in their bank accounts as early as Tuesday night. The IRS will mail out paper checks starting on Wednesday. So far this year, the federal government has spent more than $3.5 trillion on COVID-19 relief and that's before this latest stimulus package was approved. So where is all that money coming from? The answer is: our children. The COVID-19 stimulus bills approved by Congress are supposed to be a lifeline for the American economy, but it's getting CPR from the Federal Reserve. East Bay economist T.J. Connelly says the U.S. Federal Reserve has been buying up most of the bonds Congress has approved for the stimulus programs, turning them from debt into a kind of phantom money. Read More

East Oakland Church Expands Testing To Serve Hard-Hit Neighborhoods
OAKLAND -- A church in the East Bay is stepping up to serve neighborhoods hit hard by COVID-19 by expanding the availability of free testing. At Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland on Tuesday, a line of cars snaked through the parking lot, as hundreds of people are waiting in line to get tested for the coronavirus. The church's testing site was prepared to test 300 people Tuesday for COVID-19. Azurie Bright and his grandmother got in line 30 minutes before the site opened and waited about two-and-a-half hours for their free tests. "I work at Starbucks and I have a lot of interaction with a lot of people during the day," Bright told KPIX 5. Church leaders said as an organization in the underserved area of East Oakland, it's their obligation to step up during the pandemic. Read More

Mexican Dining Institution El Charro In Lafayette To Close Permanently After 73 Years
LAFAYETTE -- Popular East Bay Mexican restaurant El Charro in Lafayette confirmed Tuesday that it would be closing permanently after New Year's Eve, according to a Facebook post. The restaurant on Mount Diablo Boulevard with its trademark serape and sombrero sculpture hanging out front has been serving Mexican food since first opening in 1947, according to the restaurant's website. "It is with heavy hearts that we announce El Charro Mexican Dining, a Lafayette community staple of 70+ years, will be permanently closed beginning this Friday, January 1st, 2021," the Facebook post from Tuesday morning read. Read More

McConnell Rejects Standalone $2,000 Stimulus Checks, Links Money To Other Trump Requests
WASHINGTON D.C. -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked an attempt to vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks approved by the House, but resurrected the higher payments in a new bill that includes several items on President Donald Trump's wish list. Among those items include the creation of a commission to study election fraud and the repeal of Section 230, which shields social media companies from lawsuits. The House passed the bill introduced last week and brought it to the floor for a vote in response to the last-minute request from Mr. Trump to increase the payments to $2,000. A number of Republicans joined with their Democratic counterparts in support of the measure. Read More

San Francisco Health Director Says To Avoid New Year's Gatherings, Notes Gains During Stay-At-Home
SAN FRANCISCO -- As 2021 approaches, San Francisco health officials noted the stay-at-home order is starting to have an effect on new COVID-19 cases, but warned residents to avoid New Year's gatherings. Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said gatherings, like those at Thanksgiving attributed to fueling the current surge in cases, would result in thousands more people in city hospitals and hundreds more deaths. "I cannot emphasize enough how catastrophic it will be if people celebrate in ways that we normally do for New Year's Eve," Colfax said at Tuesday's briefing. "There is more virus out there than ever before. We simply can't get away with things you may have been able to get away even with in prior surges. It's one New Year's Eve. I know it's been a hard year. But the vaccine is on the way," the public health director went on to say. Read More

COVID School Plan: San Francisco Rolls Out Teacher, Employee Testing Plan; Reopening Delayed
SAN FRANCISCO -- School teachers and district employees preparing San Francisco public schools for reopening will be provided with COVID testing in the days leading up to a reopening date which has now on hold. Mayor London Breed and the San Francisco Unified School District announced Tuesday a partnership with Los Angeles County-based Curative Lab to set up testing sites for SFUSD staffers in different parts of the city. The initial rollout would at the district offices on Franklin St. and expand to other parts of the city as needed. According to the city, the program will prioritize SFUSD staff who work at the schools opening for in-person learning in the first phase of SFUSD's rollout plan. The target date of January 25th to begin returning small cohorts will not be met, it was announced, and when school resumes on January 5, 2021, SFUSD will continue to provide distance learning. "We know that getting our students safely back in the classroom is an absolute top priority for our City and our School District right now," said Breed in a statement. "While we all need to continue to do our part right now to get this current surge under control, we also need to keep moving forward in putting the pieces in place to support getting our schools reopened next year, including having the right testing program." Read More

New 'More Contagious' Variant Of COVID-19 Found In Colorado
DENVER -- A new variant of the COVID-19 virus, which is considered more contagious, has been discovered in Colorado. Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials announced Colorado's first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, which was previously discovered in the United Kingdom.In a statement, health officials announced: "The Colorado State Laboratory confirmed and notified the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of the case. The individual is a male in his 20s who is currently in isolation in Elbert County and has no travel history. The individual is recovering in isolation and will remain there until cleared by public health officials. The individual has no close contacts identified so far, but public health officials are working to identify other potential cases and contacts through thorough contact tracing interviews." Read More

Ghaly Says SoCal, San Joaquin Valley Regions To Remain Under Stay-At-Home Order
SACRAMENTO -- California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Tuesday said that the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley hospital regions would remain under the current stay-at-home order as long as their ICU projections were under 15% capacity. Ghaly was speaking from Sacramento to provide the update on the stay-at-home order promised by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday. "So today, the order will remain because those projections do not show that the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California have projected four weeks out, ICU capacity over 15%, so they will remain under the order for the time being. We essentially are projecting that the ICU capacity is not improving in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley and that demand will continue to exceed capacity." As of Tuesday, Ghaly said the San Joaquin Valley hospital region had a case rate of 97.5 and a transmission rate of 1.13, while the Southern California hospital region had a case rate of 130.1 and a transmission rate 1.10. Read More

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris Receives 1st Dose Of Moderna Shot
WASHINGTON -- Vice President-elect and California Sen. Kamala Harris received the first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine live on television on Tuesday in Washington, DC, and urged Americans to get vaccinated for the virus. "That was easy," Harris said after receiving the shot in her left arm. "Thank you. I barely felt it." "I want to encourage everyone to get the vaccine. It is relatively painless. It happens really quickly. It is safe," said Harris, who will resign from the Senate sometime before Inauguration Day. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would appoint Secretary of State Alex Padilla to succeed Harris in the Senate. "It's literally about saving lives," Harris said. "I trust the scientists. And it is the scientists who created and approved this vaccine. So I urge everyone, when it is your turn, get vaccinated." Read More

New Year's Eve 2021 Goes Virtual In Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO -- Maybe it's not the best year to find someone to kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve, though there probably hasn't been a better year to kiss goodbye than 2020. COVID-19 is obviously keeping the lid on traditional celebrations this year -- no fireworks over the bay attracting the bundled-up masses -- but there's plenty to do virtually while keeping one's distance. For bringing in the new year mindfully, Sahaja Yoga and Meditation of Fremont is hosting a free virtual meditation session, via Zoom, at 6:45 p.m. Participants can join up to 30 minutes in advance to ask questions or receive help. Beginners are welcome and use of laptops are encouraged. More information can be found online. Read More

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