Updating . .   

Even as Omicron starts to ease in California, hospitals facing grim conditions -- Even amid signs that this winter’s Omicron-fueled wave may be starting to crest in California, the situation at hospitals like Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa is worsening. Marissa Evans, Emily Alpert Reyes, Luke Money, Rong-Gong Lin II in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

Omicron leaves testing labs overwhelmed, causing frustrating delays to get results -- As the Omicron surge drives infection rates to record highs, testing has emerged as an essential tool for limiting its spread. But over the last month, laboratories and manufacturers have struggled to keep up with the demand. Thomas Curwen in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

With pandemic protections gone, essential workers face omicron alone -- Essential workers such as supermarket cashier Brittannie Gulley are once again on the front lines of another COVID-19 surge. Only this time, they’re on the job without the initial policies intended to protect them. Alejandro Lazo CalMatters -- 1/20/22

Can Omicron Cause Long Covid? -- It is too soon to know, scientists say, but mild initial illness may not signal reduced risk. Pam Belluck in the New York Times$ -- 1/20/22

Policy and Politics  

Will California put vaccine mandates into law? Legislators look to tighten rules -- California lawmakers want stronger policies when it comes to vaccine requirements, but just what those policies will look like is still up for debate. Lara Korte and Sophia Bollag in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 1/20/22

Spotlight on S.F. Assembly race: Bilal Mahmood pushes innovation to address California’s biggest issues -- Bilal Mahmood is tired of the status quo in San Francisco — and the political newcomer is banking in his bid for state Assembly that he’s not the only one. Mallory Moench in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22

California redistricting is done: Here's what it means for representation in the Sacramento region -- While California lost a congressional seat after the 2020 Census, residents in the Sacramento region will see slight gains in representation for its growing suburbs — particularly in the state Legislature — under new redistricting maps approved last month. Nicole Nixon Capital Public Radio -- 1/20/22

California’s city councils are getting more diverse. This law made that happen -- Lawmakers designed the CVRA to ensure that minority voters’ interests were represented on city councils and other local elected bodies. It takes aim particularly at cities that elect council members at-large, meaning each candidate runs citywide instead of in separate, single-member districts. Loren Collingwood and Sean Long in the Washington Post$ -- 1/20/22

Skelton: Lithium might not be a gold rush for California. But it could be for people near the Salton Sea -- People have been fighting Salton Sea shrinkage, salinity and stench for decades without much success. But now the local economy could be headed toward a boom. George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

COVID Economy  

California unemployment claims jump, layoffs persist -- California workers filed a big increase in initial claims for unemployment last week, an unsettling report that suggests coronavirus-linked woes continue to afflict the ailing statewide economy. George Avalos in the San Jose Mercury$ -- 1/20/22

Rooftop Solar  

A big decision on rooftop solar in California is off the table, for now -- California utility regulators have quietly tabled a controversial plan made public last month that would drastically reduce the benefits provided to homeowners with rooftop solar panels. Erik Anderson, Mike Damron KPBS -- 1/20/22


Workers are out sick in record numbers, exacerbating labor shortage woes -- Nearly 9 million people missed work in late December and early January as the omicron variant bit into the labor market. Eli Rosenberg in the Washington Post$ -- 1/20/22


Newsom has big plans to get rid of California’s homeless camps. Will they work? -- After pouring an unprecedented $12 billion into homeless housing and services last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom now is turning to the massive tent camps, shanty-towns and make-shift RV parks that have taken over California’s streets, parks and open spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Marisa Kendall in the San Jose Mercury$ -- 1/20/22

High Speed Rail  

Burbank officials fear bullet train will compromise airport safety and water supplies -- Several serious concerns have emerged this week about the California bullet train’s impact on Hollywood Burbank Airport, Burbank’s water supply and the taking of a massive commercial development along a proposed 13.7-mile route that is close to final environmental approval. Ralph Vartabedian in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22


California’s most flammable forests targeted by Biden wildfire plan. Here’s how they will change -- California’s most flammable forests will get a good sweeping as part of the United States Forest Services’ 10-year strategy for addressing wildfires. The federal agency also hopes to convince communities in at-risk areas to be more fire resilient through protective boundaries and eliminating brush that could fuel fires. Gillian Brassil in the Sacramento Bee$ Julie Johnson in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22


It’s ‘all hands on deck’ at Orange County schools -- Widespread teacher absences, and a shortage of substitutes, forces districts to scramble for educators. Roxana Kopetman in the Orange County Register -- 1/20/22

Cal State system adds caste to anti-discrimination policy in groundbreaking decision -- The California State University announced it has added caste as a protected category in its systemwide anti-discrimination policy, a hard-fought policy deeply meaningful to Dalit students of South Asian decent. Nani Sahra Walker in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22


Rewilding California: New $65 million preserve straddles north and south -- The 112-square-mile Randall Preserve — a gateway between LA and the San Joaquin Valley — provides a haven for wildlife and a living laboratory for scientists. Julie Cart CalMatters -- 1/20/22

Also . . .   

No way out: How the poor get stranded in California nursing homes -- In a parallel problem to patient ‘dumping,’ many poor nursing home residents find themselves stuck inside facilities and unable to return home. Jesse Bedayn CalMatters -- 1/20/22

A bottle of wine could cost $5 more this year as California winemakers grapple with a glass crisis -- California winemakers are grappling with a glass crisis that has sent the price of bottles shooting up, raising fears that they’ll have to increase costs for consumers. Roland Li in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22



California Policy and Politics Thursday Morning  

California approaches pandemic record for all hospitalizations -- In a stunning sign of the heavy burden facing California’s healthcare system, the total number of people hospitalized statewide is approaching the peak of last winter’s COVID-19 surge, even as there are indications that the rise in coronavirus-positive patients may be starting to ebb. Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money, Emily Alpert Reyes in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

San Diego ERs strain under crushing patient loads, but staffing shortages appear to be easing -- Emergency departments across the region continued to struggle with an onslaught of patients Wednesday, but there were some signs that staffing shortages are starting to improve. Paul Sisson in the San Diego Union-Tribune$ -- 1/20/22

COVID-19 surge at LAPD and Sheriff’s Department keeps over 2,000 personnel at home -- More than 2,000 employees of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are at home sick or quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said Wednesday. Richard Winton in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

Petition opposing Stanford’s COVID-19 booster mandate draws 1,700 signatures -- The petition, created last week by 23-year-old PhD student Monte Fischer, quickly gained the attention of students, alumni and professors opposed to the university’s Dec. 16 order, which requires that all students provide proof of a booster dose by the end of the month, exempting only those with approved religious or medical exemptions. Hayley Smith in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

COVID updates: California case rate drops from omicron peak; child hospitalizations up -- After about a month of exponential growth, California’s COVID-19 transmission numbers have started to descend from the omicron wave’s precipitous peak. Michael McGough in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 1/20/22

COVID-19 wastewater surveillance shows San Diego's case surge is slowing -- COVID-19 wastewater data now shows that the record spread of the virus in San Diego is beginning to fall. "We’re coming off the surge for sure," said UC San Diego Professor Rob Knight. "However, it’s possible that cases will continue to rise or maybe peak around now." Matt Hoffman, Nicholas McVicker KPBS -- 1/20/22

Omicron Means Ambulances Are Waiting Hours to Get Patients Inside Hospitals -- Emergency health workers in California Wednesday blasted hours-long waits to transfer patients from ambulances to hospital emergency rooms, pointing to what they said were chronic delays worsened by the nearly two-year coronavirus pandemic. Amy Taxin Associated Press -- 1/20/22

3 OC restaurants included in lawsuit against Farmers Insurance over pandemic losses -- A group of restaurants, including three in Orange County, is suing Farmers Insurance, alleging the company breached contracts by denying the restaurants compensation for losses due to health orders during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Nathaniel Percy in the Orange County Register -- 1/20/22

Biden to give away 400 million N95 masks starting next week -- The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to U.S. residents starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings. Zeke Miller Associated Press -- 1/20/22


Judge fires parting shots at PG&E as the utility’s probation comes to end -- The federal judge who has scrutinized Pacific Gas and Electric Co. operations through a crisis of wildfires sparked by power lines said he believes the utility should be split into two companies, one serving fire-prone areas of its California service area and another serving the rest. Julie Johnson in the San Francisco Chronicle$ Robert Burnson and Mark Chediak Bloomberg -- 1/20/22

COVID School  

LAUSD: About a quarter of students absent this week -- About one in four Los Angeles Unified students has not been in class this week, though the absentee rate is down from last week when about a third of students, on average, were out, according to the school district. Linh Tat in the Los Angeles Daily News$ -- 1/20/22

Policy and Politics  

Britney Spears’ case drives California bid to limit conservatorships -- Disability rights activists and advocates for Britney Spears backed a California proposal Wednesday to provide more protections for those under court-ordered conservatorships, while promoting less-restrictive alternatives. Their move came as the volatile Spears case again boiled over in a Los Angeles County courtroom. Don Thompson Associated Press -- 1/20/22

Longtime California lawmaker moves to ‘emeritus’ position -- California Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg, a former Assembly speaker, is moving to an “emeritus” role as he prepares to leave a state Legislature he first joined in 1996, officials said Wednesday. Hertzberg, of Van Nuys, is termed out of the Legislature after this year. He announced Tuesday that he will compete, along with other lawmakers, for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Associated Press -- 1/20/22

Villanueva touts homeless outreach, deputy discipline in year-end remarks -- At a year-end news briefing Wednesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva touted his agency’s homeless outreach efforts, addressed an uptick in homicides and announced his move to discipline deputies who fired 34 shots at a car in 2019, killing an unarmed man. Alene Tchekmedyian in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

L.A. mayoral candidate Jessica Lall wants a city department of homelessness -- Mayoral candidate Jessica Lall says that when she looks at the system that dispenses aid and care to homeless people in Los Angeles, she sees a “maddening refrain of ‘it’s not my responsibility.’” Benjamin Oreskes in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

S.F. Dems allege campaign violations by Boudin recall committee -- San Francisco’s Democratic Party has filed a state complaint against the campaign working to oust District Attorney Chesa Boudin, alleging that the recall committee violated campaign laws by misrepresenting its paid spokesperson as an independent critic of the prosecutor. Megan Cassidy in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22

Tenderloin, fentanyl dominate debate among candidates vying for S.F. Assembly seat -- As half of San Francisco gets ready to choose its representative in the state Assembly — in the first vote of a bizarre four-election obstacle course — constituents are searching for what separates the four candidates. Heather Knight in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22

Will Jan. 6 committee subpoena McCarthy? Congress could set up a political and legal showdown -- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s refusal to cooperate with the congressional committee investigating last year’s Capitol assault marks his most definitive rejection of the Jan. 6 probe — thrusting him and the committee into uncharted legal and political waters. Arit John in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

Voting bill collapses, Democrats unable to change filibuster -- Voting legislation that Democrats and civil rights leaders say is vital to protecting democracy collapsed Wednesday when two senators refused to join their own party in changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster after a raw, emotional debate. Lisa Mascaro Associated Press -- 1/20/22


Five workers sue Sutter Health for cleanser ‘corrosive’ to eyes, skin, respiratory tract -- Sutter Health faced high rates of infection in its hospitals from a germ that causes severe diarrhea, and to combat the problem, the company procured a cleanser so noxious that dozens of employees have reported illnesses after using it, according to a lawsuit filed in Alameda Court earlier this week. Cathie Anderson in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 1/20/22

Aliso Canyon  

LA County inches closer to launching sought-after Aliso Canyon gas-leak health study -- More than six years after the mammoth Aliso Canyon gas leak started near Porter Ranch, Los Angeles County health officials announced Tuesday, Jan. 18 that they are seeking independent third-party researchers to conduct the study into health impacts from the blowout, moving closer to launching the long-anticipated probe. Olga Grigoryants in the Los Angeles Daily News$ -- 1/20/22


California attorney general will investigate Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, jails -- The state Department of Justice is opening a civil-rights investigation into the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and its management of South Bay jails, as well as other allegations of neglect and misconduct, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Wednesday. Robert Salonga in the San Jose Mercury$ Sam Whiting in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22

Chaplain at California women’s federal prison charged with sexual abuse of inmate -- A chaplain at an all-female federal prison in the East Bay area has been charged with repeatedly sexually abusing a woman incarcerated in the facility, authorities said Wednesday. Richard Winton in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

Murder charge upheld against ex-Long Beach school security officer in teen’s death -- Following a preliminary hearing in a Long Beach courtroom on Wednesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daniel Lowenthal ruled that Eddie Gonzalez, 52, had no reason to believe his life was in danger when he shot into the back of a car and killed Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez last year. James Queally in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

Housing Bonds  

California gives non-housing projects a shot at cheap financing -- A California agency voted Wednesday to reserve some of the state’s limited private-activity bonds for non-housing uses, providing an opportunity for projects such as a private-equity backed train to Las Vegas and a controversial desalination plant to apply for the coveted financing. Romy Varghese Bloomberg -- 1/20/22


Study shows widespread conflict over critical race theory in schools, including in some Bay Area districts -- The effort to stifle the teaching of race and racism in schools has prompted 54 bills in 24 states in the past year, while nearly 900 school districts nationwide serving 17.7 million students have grappled with similar bans on race-based instruction in public classrooms. Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22

USC fraternity parties can return, but with guards near bedrooms to prevent sexual assaults -- Most USC fraternities will be open for parties in March if members abide by strict rules that include posting security guards at stairs or hallways leading to bedrooms, under new university polices enacted three months after allegations of sexual abuse and drugging at several houses roiled campus. Colleen Shalby in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

‘Last resort to seek justice:’ Stanford VP and professor sue university in fentanyl overdose death of their son -- Two parents who have dedicated nearly 30 years of their lives to Stanford University have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university and the on-campus fraternity where their son died from an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2020. Lauren Hernández in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22

Parents scramble for higher-quality masks for children amid nationwide shortage -- As the omicron surge continues to destabilize California schools, teachers, students and families are demanding their districts provide KN95 or N95 masks – widely recognized as the most effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19 – to everyone on campuses. Ali Tadayon EdSource -- 1/20/22


Oakland bans the sale and possession of ghost guns, hoping it will cut violence -- The Oakland City Council voted Tuesday to ban the possession, sale, transfer and manufacture of ghost guns — making it the latest Bay Area city to take up the issue of untraceable weapons. Sarah Ravani in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22


Oakland A’s waterfront ballpark proposal can move forward after vote on environmental review -- A month after the city released its final 3,500-page report assessing the environmental impact of the A’s proposed waterfront ballpark and housing development, the planning commission voted Wednesday to recommend the city council certify the report, a key document whose approval is crucial to making the development a reality. Annie Sciacca in the San Jose Mercury$ Sarah Ravani in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/20/22

Also . . .   

Your health insurance says, ‘Claim denied.’ How to fight back -- A letter arrives in the mail. Oh, great: It’s from your health insurance company. It contains some variation on the phrase “Your claim has been denied” and possibly “You may file an appeal to challenge this decision.” There’s probably also an alarmingly large dollar amount with “patient responsibility” next to it. Jessica Roy in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/20/22

Mountain lion seen in Bay Area neighborhood after killing other lion -- An "aggressive" mountain lion was seen walking a residential street in Belmont after killing another lion early Wednesday morning. Andrew Chamings in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 1/20/22


Wednesday Updates   

Growing signs Omicron is leveling off in California -- The shift is uneven across the state, but the numbers suggest California could be reaching a crest in the latest surge. States on the East Coast that were hit earlier by the Omicron wave have already started to see a sustained decline in infections. Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/19/22

ICU beds are filling up, as lagging effects of LA County’s booming COVID case counts emerge -- Public health officials on Tuesday, Jan. 18, confirmed a nearly 10% increase in patients admitted to intensive care units in Los Angeles County compared to last week — a sign that the lagging effects of the staggering surge in overall cases are beginning to play out. Ryan Carter in the Los Angeles Daily News$ -- 1/19/22

Hispanic women were more likely to contract COVID during pregnancy, study says -- Maria Vega made the financially tough choice to leave her fast-food job and become a stay-at-home mother in October 2020, in the middle of a global health pandemic and the parallel economic crises it unleashed. Shwanika Narayan in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/19/22

Biden to give away 400 million N95 masks starting next week -- The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to U.S. residents starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings. Zeke Miller Associated Press -- 1/19/22

COVID School  

As LA schools backtrack on COVID vaccine, dozens more districts push to mandate it -- At least 40 California schools have tried to implement their own vaccine mandate ahead of the state mandate that will take effect next fall. Jennah Haque, Melissa Newcomb and Caroline Ghisolfi CalMatters -- 1/19/22

Omicron surge worsens teacher shortage, closing more California schools to COVID -- The omicron variant of COVID-19 has hit California’s teacher workforce so hard that many schools are weighing closure and in some cases forced to dip into emergency days. The quality of instruction is suffering, but some teachers say they still prefer this to remote instruction. Joe Hong CalMatters -- 1/19/22

An existential moment for California schools -- “It is so bad.” That was Simi Valley Unified School District Superintendent Jason Peplinski’s stark assessment of the situation facing California schools as the omicron variant infects record numbers of staff and students, forcing many campuses to announce or consider temporary closures, CalMatters’ Joe Hong reports. Emily Hoeven CalMatters -- 1/19/22

Policy and Politics  

Lopez: Dear Karen Bass and others, L.A. needs a real homeless plan we haven’t heard before -- OK, here we go. In the city of sprawling encampments, broken promises and simmering frustration, the mayoral derby is under way. Eric Garcetti, after 20 years in power as a councilman and mayor, will soon be leaving City Hall here in the homeless capital of the United States. Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/19/22


A Tesla on autopilot killed two people in Gardena. Is the driver guilty of manslaughter? -- On Dec. 29, 2019, a Honda Civic pulled up to the intersection of Artesia Boulevard and Vermont Avenue in Gardena. It was just after midnight. The traffic light was green. Hayley Smith, Russ Mitchell in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 1/19/22


Study shows widespread conflict over critical race theory in schools, including in some Bay Area districts -- The effort to stifle the teaching of race and racism in schools has prompted 54 bills in 24 states in the past year, while nearly 900 school districts nationwide serving 17.7 million students have grappled with similar bans on race-based instruction in public classrooms. Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle$ -- 1/19/22

UC Davis students rebel against fees for sports. As costs rise, should they bankroll athletics? -- For 27 years, UC Davis students have funded a significant portion of the university’s athletic programs out of theirpockets. Now, some are saying enough is enough. Ryan Sabalow and Joe Davidson in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 1/19/22


Highway 37, a major Bay Area corridor, could be fully underwater as soon as 2040 -- California State Route 37, the major throughway that bridges the divide between Highway 101 and Interstate 80 and serves thousands of drivers daily in the North Bay, is in dire straits. Joshua Bote in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 1/19/22


Wildfire Risk in California Drives Insurers to Pull Policies for Pricey Homes -- Worried about wildfire exposure and frustrated by state regulations, insurers in California have been cutting back on their homeowner businesses. Now, affluent homeowners are feeling more of the pain, as two of the biggest firms offering protection for multimillion-dollar properties end coverage for some customers. Leslie Scism in the Wall Street Journal$ -- 1/19/22