Oakland schools brace for another teacher sickout: The protest comes less than a week after a group of teachers forced the closure of 12 campuses by calling in sick to protest working conditions during the region’s omicron surge. Some students are also expected to call in sick Thursday. The district was already grappling with educators who were out due to COVID and a shortage of substitutes. Read the full story here.
Omicron has peaked in Boston according to sewage samples: Boston area epidemiologists are seeing signs of hope in the city’s wastewater samples, which show levels of COVID-19 in the region dropping off at a rapid rate. Data released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s tracking system, which analyzes genetic material in the Boston area’s sewer system, shows that virus levels have plummeted to 6,000 RNA copies of COVID per milliliter from a peak near 10,000 a few weeks ago. Harvard Medical School administrator Stanley Y. Shaw cautioned in a Twitter post that the data are not necessarily a reliable indicator of pandemic trends but may yet offer “a glimmer of better days ahead.” Bill Hanage, an associate professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, discussed the figures in a Twitter thread.
Oakland requires proof of vaccination for indoor businesses: Starting Feb. 1, Oakland residents will have to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars and clubs that serve food, as well as gyms, movie theaters and entertainment venues. The rule applies to anyone over the age of 12, and matches similar mandates previously issued in San Francisco, Berkeley and Contra Costa County. Businesses in Oakland are required to inform their customers of the change with clearly displayed signage starting Jan. 15. The Oakland City Council voted unanimously in December to issue the mandate amid increasing concerns about the highly transmissible omicron variant.
State testing mandate for nursing home visitors is unfair, family groups say: A California order that requires indoor visitors to nursing homes to provide a negative COVID test result on top of being fully vaccinated is unfairly locking families away from their loved ones, according to groups representing caregivers. Given the high demand on testing — and subsequent challenges in finding either PCR or rapid home tests — the state order is effectively preventing some families from visiting nursing home residents, many of whom have already been isolated for months during the pandemic, the groups say. San Francisco is among a handful of counties that are requiring the nursing home facilities to provide tests for visitors in response to the state mandate. Leading the push against the state order is California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a consumer oriented nonprofit.
Judge blocks California law limiting vaccine site protests: A recent state law that prohibits protesters from coming within 30 feet of vaccination clinics to harass or obstruct those seeking to enter has been blocked by a federal magistrate, who said it violates free speech. But it was immediately challenged in court — not by vaccine opponents, but by anti-abortion groups, as the 30-foot restriction applied to any facilities offering vaccinations, including hospitals that also perform abortions. The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins of San Jose bars enforcement of the entire law pending further proceedings in the case. Read the full story here.
S.F. updates mask guidance, vaccination rules for mega-events: To get a grip on the omicron COVID surge slamming the city, San Francisco health officials have revised the rules for attending mega-events, updated masking guidance for city residents, and changed the definition of a “close contact.” With fewer people allowed inside, attendees will have to show evidence of full vaccination and booster shots, and wearing higher-quality masks is recommended. Read the full story here.
Omicron’s softer impact highlighted in new study: Compared to those infected with the delta variant of the coronavirus, omicron patients have a 53% lower adjusted risk of symptomatic hospitalization, 74% reduced adjusted risk of ICU admission, and 91% less chance of dying, according to a new study conducted by Kaiser Permanente and funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The data in this study remain consistent with what we are seeing from omicron in other countries, including South Africa and the U.K., and provide some understanding of what we can expect over the coming weeks as cases are predicted to peak in this country,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday. But she cautioned, “The sudden and steep rise in cases due to omicron is resulting in unprecedented daily case counts, sickness, absenteeism, and strains on our healthcare system. The risk of hospitalization remains low, especially among people who are up to date on their COVID vaccines. However, the staggering rise in cases — over 1 million new cases each day — has led to a high number of total hospitalizations.”
⬇️53% less risk of symptomatic hospitalization
⬇️74% less risk of ICU admission
⬇️91% less risk of death
0⃣Omicron patients required mechanical ventilationJanuary 12, 2022
CDC likely to update mask guidance: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may soon update its guidance on masking, which has not changed since October, to “best reflect the multiple options available to people and the different levels of protection they provide.” The agency did not say when the new recommendations would go into effect but said in a statement, “any mask is better than no mask, and we encourage Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The Biden administration is actively working on ramping up the supply of N95 and KN95 masks that work better against the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus. “Right now, we are strongly considering options to make more high-quality masks available to all Americans, and we’ll continue to follow the science here. The CDC is in the lead. But this is an area that we’re actively exploring,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said during a briefing Wednesday.
Biden administration promises 10 million monthly tests for schools: In an effort to keep schools open amid the rampant omicron surge, the White House pledged to provide 10 million monthly coronavirus tests for schools. States will be able to requests the tests, which will become available later this month. The Biden administration said it would distribute 5 million rapid tests to K-12 schools per month in states that apply for them and open up lab space for 5 million PCR tests.
Fifth & Mission podcast — COVID pills and Sonoma County’s new shutdown strategy: On this episode of the Fifth & Mission podcast, reporter Catherine Ho joins host Cecilia Lei to discuss why new antiviral pills could be a game changer for the pandemic. Plus: Reporter Erin Allday discusses Sonoma County’s new shelter-in-place recommendation and why it isn’t a return to the early days of the pandemic. Listen to the episode here.
Google is giving employees access to free COVID tests, but a union says access is unequal: Full-time Google employees have access to at-home COVID-19 tests for themselves and their families, but that’s not the case for thousands of company contractors and temporary workers, according to a Google engineer. Read the full story here.aside">