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Bay Area COVID Roundup: Stay At Home Orders Will Linger; South Bay Small Business Owners Battling To Hang On; State Tops 25,000 Deaths

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 48 hours.

COVID Cases Surging; State Reports Record 585 Virus Deaths In Single Day
LOS ANGELES -- California started the new year by reporting a record 585 coronavirus deaths in a single day after a health official said the pandemic was pushing state hospitals to the "brink of catastrophe" as some medical centers scramble to provide oxygen for the critically ill. The California Department of Public Health on Friday reported more than than 47,189 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to nearly 2.3 million. Nearly 26,000 people have died from the virus in the state. The previous single-day record of 432 deaths was set on Tuesday. Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced California would begin collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate and upgrade outdated oxygen delivery systems at six Los Angeles area hospitals. Read More

California Starting To Lose Battle With Coronavirus
LOS ANGELES -- California once stood as a model state during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's infection rates managed to stay below states like New York and Washington, demonstrating the success of lockdown strategies. Now infections have been racing out of control for weeks, and California has routinely set new records for infections and deaths. It remains at or near the top of the list of states with the most new cases per capita. When Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Dec. 15 that 5,000 body bags were being distributed, it was clear that the nation's most populous state had entered a new phase of the COVID-19 crisis. On Friday, the state reported 47,189 new COVID cases, a 2.1% increase from the previous day's total. Deaths due to COVID were also up, increasing 2.3% from the prior day with 583 deaths. Read More

Most Bay Area Stay-at-Home Orders Likely to Be Extended
UNION CITY -- California health officials said the number of available ICU beds continues to drop in the San Francisco Bay Area, down to 6.3 percent capacity Friday. That's leading many Bay Area health experts to say the stay-at-home order initially set to expire next week will likely be extended. San Francisco has already done so. The possibility of a prolonged ban on outdoor dining is worrying a lot of restaurant operators. The owner of Mexico Tipico in Union City invested thousands of dollars on his outdoor setup and heat lamps. He was hoping to use them again next week. "All the restaurants in this area are affected 'cause there's no business now," said Ricardo Soto, who manages Mexico Tipico. "The families coming down want to enjoy food at the table not take it to-go." Read More

South Bay Small Business Owners' Optimism Tested as New Year Dawns With Virus Surging
SAN JOSE -- Many Bay Area business owners say they are limping in the New Year but are determined to fight to make it through the pandemic and public health orders. "Moving forward, we do so with a sense of guarded and cautious optimism," said Dan Holder, owner of Jack Holder's restaurant in San Jose. Holder says his business has struggled to survive ever-changing public health orders, vacillating between takeout, outdoor and limited indoor dining during the summer and fall. "We were asked to prepare ourselves for outdoor dining. We did. We spared no expense. We all invested quite a bit of money and the goal posts were continually being moved," says Holder. Holder gave voice to the frustration of many business owners who have not been able to operate their businesses in traditional ways -- if at all -- during the pandemic. Read More

California Taps Army Corps To Help Upgrade Hospital Tech
SAN JOSE -- California hospitals ended the year on "the brink of catastrophe," a health official said as the pandemic pushed deaths and sickness to staggering levels and some medical centers scrambled to provide oxygen for the critically ill. Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced Friday that California would begin collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate and upgrade outdated oxygen delivery systems at six Los Angeles area hospitals. Assessments could begin as early as Saturday, according to a statement from the governor's office. The collaboration comes as older hospitals are having difficulty maintaining oxygen pressure in aging infrastructure and some were scrambling to locate additional oxygen tanks for discharged patients to take home. "By working to upgrade challenged oxygen delivery systems at these older hospitals we can improve the ability to deliver life sustaining medical care to those who need it," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Read More

Santa Clara County Offers Free Testing, Changes Restrictions
SAN JOSE -- Still trying to stem the surge of COVID-19 cases in the area, Santa Clara County announced Friday it's offering free tests and changing restrictions for businesses staying open during the pandemic. The county is making appointment-based and drop-in testing available on various days next week in San Jose, Gilroy, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell and Palo Alto, according to health officials. Health officials highly recommend testing for anyone who may have been exposed. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel through the vaccinations that have begun," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer, in a statement. Read More

Inoculations Begin At Veterans Home In Yountville
YOUNTVILLE -- Vaccinations against COVID-19 are underway at the California Veterans Home in Yountville, the state's Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as CalVet, announced Thursday. Officials said staff from Walgreens began distributing the shots Wednesday to residents of the skilled nursing facility, along with staff. With supplies expected to increase, CalVet said other prioritized groups at the Yountville home would receive their shots in the coming weeks. Vaccinations at CalVet's seven other homes would also take place over the next few weeks, with some homes receiving doses as early as next week. The homes are enrolled in the state and federal Pharmacy Partnership Program, in cooperation with CVS and Walgreens. "As we roll out vaccinations to all eight of our veteran Homes' residents and staff, we are continuing our efforts to protect one of the state's most vulnerable populations," said Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. Vito Imbasciani. Read More

Sad Crowd Watches As San Francisco's Famed Cliff House Sign Taken Down </b.
SAN FRANCISCO -- People gathered Thursday afternoon on the last day of 2020 to pay their respects to another COVID casualty as the iconic sign of San Francisco's beloved Cliff House restaurant was taken down. Earlier this month, the announcement of the permanent closure on Dec. 31 was posted on the restaurant's website by the Cliff House's longtime owners, Dan and Mary Hountalas. They said 180 employees will lose their jobs. The Cliff House, which first opened 157 years ago, was a victim of both of the COVID-19 pandemic and, according to the owners, delays by the National Park Service in reaching a long-term operating contract with the restaurant. Read More

Santa Clara County Reaches 100,000 Vaccinations; Officials Plead For Patience
SAN JOSE -- Santa Clara County has received nearly 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines which are being given to first responders and others in the highest risk categories, and county officials encouraged people to maintain their vigilance as more vaccinations roll out. The county Public Health Department said Thursday that healthcare providers have received 40.605 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 54,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Santa Clara County COVID Testing and Vaccine Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said the vaccines are giving health officials hope as the challenging year draws to a close. "Wanted to give an update on what I think is somewhat of a light at the end of the tunnel for us. Some hope for the end of the year as we continue to receive more vaccines," said Dr. Fenstersheib. At the same time, the county again urged people not to gather for New Year's Eve celebrations as the latest surge has ICU capacity in the county at a critically low 8%. Read More

California Becomes 3rd State to Pass 25,000 Virus Deaths
LOS ANGELES -- California became the third state Thursday to surpass 25,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, following New York and Texas, health officials said. The grim milestone comes as the nation's most populated state faces a surge of COVID-19 infections that has hospitals stretched to capacity and forced nurses and doctors to treat more patients than usual. California also has confirmed the second reported U.S. case of a mutant variant of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious. The state Department of Public Health says hospitals in Southern California and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, which together account for a large majority of the state's 40 million residents, have no capacity left in intensive care units to treat COVID-19 patients. Hospitals are housing patients in hallways, conference rooms, a cafeteria and gift shops. Makeshift hospitals are being set up in tents, arenas and schools. Read More

Some California Tribal Casinos Ring In 2021 As Virus Spreads
SACRAMENTO -- "We're open!" says Thunder Valley Resort Casino east of Sacramento. Morongo Casino Resort & Spa near Palm Springs declares, "Good Times are back!" Barona Resort Casino near San Diego says, "We're open 24/7." Splashy messages on websites and freeway signs for California's tribal casinos are a jarring contrast with the sober restraint that Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered amid a crushing surge in coronavirus cases that has overwhelmed hospitals statewide. California's self-governed tribal casinos have largely left safety rules unchanged since reopening in the spring as the government has stiffened restrictions on other businesses in most of the state. Stay-at-home orders that began in early December prohibit indoor religious services and on-site dining, close gyms and cardrooms, restrict hotel reservations and limit capacity to 20% at retail stores. Tribal casinos operate under federal law on federally protected land, known as rancherias in California, so they're not required to fall in line with Newsom's orders. The country's 574 federally recognized tribes also are sovereign entities and can decide on how to operate their businesses without approval from states. Read More

San Francisco Extends Mandatory Quarantine Until State's Regional Stay Home Order Lifted
SAN FRANCISCO -- A health order placing a mandatory 10-day quarantine for anyone traveling to or returning to San Francisco from outside the Bay Area has been extended beyond the January 4th end date. San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax announced the quarantine extension which applies to returning residents, people moving to San Francisco, those who work in San Francisco, and visitors, unless specifically exempted by the order. The travel quarantine order implemented on December 17th also strongly discourages non-essential travel of any kind and within any distance, including from one location to another within the Bay Area. San Francisco also extended its local Stay Safer at Home order implemented on December 3rd and mirrored by California's Regional Stay-At-Home Order on December 17th when the Bay Area's ICU bed availability fell below 15%. While the earliest date the state could lift the stay-at-home order for the Bay Area is January 7th, the city does not expect to meet the state's ICU capacity threshold for lifting the order by that date. Read More

VTA Chief Urges Gov. Newsom To Prioritize Vaccinations For Public Transit Workers
SAN JOSE -- An appeal to prioritize public transit workers for COVID-19 vaccinations was made Wednesday by Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority General Manager and CEO Nuria Fernandez in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Transit workers are a lifeline serving other essential workers, the elderly and those with disabilities at a critical time, Fernandez said, adding that "surveys show passengers are overwhelmingly low-income earners and people of color, many who are essential workers themselves." He noted that VTA makes 33,000 trips a day. "Given the clear societal, economic and equity benefits of the services public transit workers provide, we believe it would be a significant mistake for the state to fail to include public transit workers in Phase 1B of the state's vaccine distribution plan," Fernandez writes. Read More

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