Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
US Health Secretary Xavier Becerra says that White House needs more COVID-19 funds
Doctors are racing to get new COVID-19 pills to patients but face delivery hurdles
China may soon loosen COVID-19 restrictions
Moderna seeks FDA authorization for 4th dose of COVID shot
Sacramento City teachers set strike date for next week
COVID-19 By The Numbers
Monday, March 21
With COVID-19 restrictions lifting in multiple states, U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra is warning that vaccines, tests and treatments will be “stuck on the ground” unless Congress provides additional funds that the White House has asked for.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press, Becerra also expressed concerns about cases rising among children as schools lift mask requirements. Schools have become a flashpoint in the COVID response, with some parents objecting to mask requirements as an infringement on personal liberty and others reluctant to put their children near any potential risks.
He also said that his Department of Health and Human Services is trying to prepare so millions of people don’t lose health insurance once their eligibility for Medicaid lapses when the government ends the official COVID-19 public health emergency.
Currently, less than half of the eligible population is boosted.
As reported by the Associated Press, health systems around the country are rushing out same-day prescription deliveries.
Some clinics also have started testing and treating patients in one visit. The goal is to get patients started on either Pfizer’s tablets or Merck’s capsules within five days of symptoms appearing. However, the tight deadline highlights the immense challenges in getting the medication on time.
Often, patients delay testing, thinking they just had a cold, or are unwilling or unable to try the new drugs.
10:20 a.m.: China may soon loosen COVID-19 restrictions
According to the Associated Press, public health experts caution that any plan to ease zero COVID-19 measures are still sporadic and preliminary with no timeline set.
However, public messaging, plus a new study, has officials in China indicating that the government is exploring a possible relaxation of some of its restrictions.
Change does not appear imminent, with more than 15,000 new cases this month in multiple outbreaks across the country. For now, the government is sticking with its tried-and-true policy of lockdowns, mass testing and quarantining travelers.
Friday, March 18
The request Thursday is broader than rival pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s request earlier this week for the regulator to approve a booster shot for all seniors, the Associated Press reports.
In a press release, the company says its request for approval for all adults was made “to provide flexibility” to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical providers to determine the “appropriate use” of a second booster dose of the mRNA vaccine, “including for those at higher risk of COVID-19 due to age or comorbidities.”
In deciding to strike, district teachers and staff cite concerns they’ve raised around unsafe work conditions during COVID-19 and the ongoing staffing shortage.
On Thursday, Sacramento Unified Board of Education president Christina Pritchett said she hoped teachers and staff wouldn’t decide to strike.
“I want to emphasize our concern and compassion for the students in our district who lose valuable time in the classroom if a strike takes place,” Pritchett said. “The concern for our students is matched by concern for our teachers and our frontline staff who are caught in the middle of these situations.”
Kelly Stout is a parent of two, with one student attending Washington Elementary. At a rally later in the day, she said she understood why teachers and staff are planning to strike.
“Our school experience has been wonderful but I cannot stand for the people that are raising my children in my absence while they’re at school all day to be treated the way that they’ve been treated,” Stout said. “And I just have to stand up for something and I’m definitely going to stand up for them.”
Union representatives say the strike could be avoided if the district were to return to the bargaining table.
The last time the teachers’ union went out on strike was in 2019. But that strike ended up lasting for just one day. This would be the first time the staff union went out on strike.
Samoa will go into lockdown starting Saturday as it faces its first outbreak of COVID-19 after a woman who was about to leave the country tested positive during a routine test, according to the Associated Press.
Although health authorities have so far found just a single case, it is the first time Samoa has found any unexplained cases in the community and likely points to an undetected outbreak that has been going on for days or even weeks.
Samoa and several neighboring Pacific Island nations were among the last places on earth to avoid virus outbreaks. But the more transmissible omicron variant has changed the equation. About 65% of all Samoans have had at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
Thursday, March 17
One of the first orders of business at this week’s meeting was the removal of District 3
Supervisor Mary Rickert from the vice chair position. She was appointed vice chair in early January, alongside now-recalled supervisor Leonard Moty, who had been elected Chair of the Board.
Happy Valley School Board President Tim Garman replaced Moty as supervisor. He was seated on March 1.
At this week’s meeting, some residents voiced their support of Rickert. Others saw her appointment as a mistake that needed to be corrected, and told the board they wished she had done more to uphold individual rights, alluding to COVID-19 restrictions implemented during the pandemic.
“I’m a little surprised at all the discussion this morning, I just assumed I’d be removed,” Rickert said before the vote. “And I just want to say thank you to all of the people that spoke, I appreciate all of you.”
The vote to remove Rickert passed 3 to 2, with Rickert and Supervisor Joe Chimenti voting against. Shortly after, District 4 Supervisor Patrick Henry Jones was appointed vice chair in a 4 to 1 vote, with Rickert being the only “no” vote.
Last month, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced that travelers coming to Canada would be able to present a negative rapid-antigen test at the border as an alternative to a more costly molecular test.
The United States still requires a negative COVID-19 test to enter.
Jha replaces Jeff Zients, a management consultant and former top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. Zients led the Biden administration’s efforts to ramp up vaccinations, testing and treatments from the time the president first took office.
Jha, a ubiquitous media presence who had advised the White House on its most recent COVID-19 plan, is a “wise and calming public presence,” Biden said in a statement.
The shift comes as the administration moves into a new phase of its pandemic response, one that seeks to get more things back to normal after two years of crisis, while staying vigilant for new variants and outbreaks.
That plan hit a road bump when the White House asked Congress for more emergency spending to pay for it. Congress has thus far declined, and the White House has said it needs to scale back its efforts.
The White House said it will start to wind down a COVID-19 program that pays to test, treat and vaccinate people who don’t have health insurance, and had to step back from plans to place another order for monoclonal antibody treatments.
Read more from NPR.
— By Tamara Keith, Elena Moore, NPR
Wednesday, March 16
Republicans have long pushed for an end to the state of emergency, arguing the law gives Gov. Gavin Newsom too much power and is no longer necessary.
Sen. Melissa Melendez introduced a resolution to terminate it, saying local governments are able to call emergencies if the virus surges again.
“It is time for the Legislature to reassert its constitutional authority as the legislative body of this state and end this endless emergency,” she said.
But with the state Association of Counties and several local officials opposing the measure, Democrats in a Senate committee voted it down.
The California Hospital Association also argued ending the emergency would hurt their efforts to maintain adequate staffing and hospital beds.
That would add a fourth shot to the regimen for adults over 65, who currently get a primary series of two shots, followed months later by a booster dose.
If the government approves the request, made by the company Tuesday, a key question would be how soon seniors would be advised to roll up their sleeves, given that cases are currently dropping. Pfizer based its request on data from Israel, where a fourth dose already is offered to those 60 and older.
Tours of the executive mansion were suspended indefinitely by President Joe Biden when he took office as he tightened virus protocols in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The free tours must be requested through a congressional office and will resume Friday and Saturday mornings beginning Friday, April 15.
Tuesday, March 15
The announcement Tuesday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency comes as FEMA launches a new campaign to raise awareness about the aid available to the families of the more than 965,000 people who have died in the U.S. from the virus.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell says the program has helped provide people with “critical financial relief during a time of such unexpected, unimaginable and widespread loss.”
“We seem to have lost perspective as to what the major goal of vaccines is and where they are going to yield the greatest public health benefit,” Shabir Madhi, a prominent vaccine researcher at South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, told NPR.
Specifically, Madhi argues that governments in countries that still have low vaccination rates should shift their attention to vaccinating those who are most vulnerable to severe disease from the coronavirus. That means people ages 50 and above or those with health conditions that put them at particular risk. The aim, says Madhi, should be to get 90% or more of people in this category vaccinated.
Anti-virus controls have forced auto and electronics makers to shut factories in China and are raising risks of wider disruptions if the prevention measures spread to Chinese ports that are among the world’s busiest.
According to the Associated Press, stock markets were rattled by the shutdown of Shenzhen in the south, a tech and finance hub, and Changchun, an auto center in the northeast. Controls on access to Shanghai were tightened.
Economists say smartphone makers and other industries can use factories and suppliers in other parts of China. But a bigger threat looms if controls are extended to nearby ports that link Chinese factories at the center of global manufacturing networks with foreign suppliers and markets.
Monday, March 14
6:38 a.m.: Temporary ‘Ice Pac’ exhibit in Sacramento helps support local artists
Like others around the world, Sacramento artists have struggled during the pandemic. As the latest COVID-19 surge appears to wane, a new temporary exhibit has given some of the region’s top artists a chance to tear down walls and make art, but just as important: a paycheck.
The Coordinates: Ice Pac exhibit in Midtown, Sacramento opened March 4. For a month, 35 of Sacramento’s top artists have turned a cable broadcast center set for demolition into an immersive art experience.
“They have torn up carpets. Torn into the walls,” said Molly Stroud, one of the curators. “Gone up into the ceiling and really just experimented with this space and also their practices to create truly unique installations.”
You can smell redwood as you’re in a room with log cuts standing four or five feet high, which gives viewers a the sense of the forest
Faith McKinnie was the first artist contacted about using the space. She spoke to Insight host Vicki Gonzalez.
“That was the most moving thing for me. Just to know that we were able to put some money in these artists’ pockets again and do something that has changed so many people’s lives,” she said.
Los Angeles Unified is working with labor partners and stakeholders to transition away from its indoor mask mandate, the district announced Friday. LAUSD met Friday with United Teachers Los Angeles to negotiate health and safety protocols. Per UTLA’s agreement with the district, any changes to the indoor mask mandate must be negotiated between both the district and UTLA.
Negotiation comes as California ends its indoor mask mandate for K-12 schools across the state Saturday and follows LAUSD’s end to outdoor masking requirements last month — the first major decision made under Superintendent Alberto Carvalho since starting his new position.
Since February, Carvalho has indicated that the district would continue to adhere to the advice of medical experts over Covid-19 protocols. In an interview with EdSource last month, he said he expected masking requirements to loosen “going into the summer” and said the district would come forward with thresholds and indicators by which future Covid-19 protocols would be based.
“We ought to maintain nimbleness — the ability of our district to pivot quickly … which is what are the best indicators, the best thresholds and the best data that we follow,” he told EdSource in late February.
—Kate Sequeira, EdSource
Friday, March 11
According to the Associated Press, the Los Angeles City Council ordered the city attorney on Wednesday to craft an ordinance that makes vaccine verification voluntary for indoor locations such as bars, restaurants and gyms and eliminates proof of vaccination for large outdoor events.
A final will be required when the ordinance is ready. San Francisco on Friday will stop requiring proof of vaccination to enter those businesses.
Vaccination verifications will still be required to enter indoor events with 1,000 or more people in both cities.
9:38 a.m.: Two years into the pandemic and Americans take cautious steps forward
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitalizations from COVID-19 in the U.S. have dropped 80% in the last six weeks, since a mid-January pandemic peak down to the lowest levels since July 2021.
Case counts have followed the same trend line, and even the death tally, which typically lags, has slowed significantly in the last month.
People are headed back to gyms, bars, restaurants and even crowded concerts — things that seemed too risky just last month.
8:53 a.m.: Chinese city of 9 million goes back into lockdown as new cases crop up
China has ordered a lockdown of the 9 million residents of the northeastern city of Changchun amid a new spike in COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious omicron variant, according to the Associated Press.
Residents are required to remain home with one family member permitted to venture out to buy food and other necessities every two days. All have to undergo three rounds of massive testing.
The latest lockdowns also include Yucheng, with 500,000 people in the eastern province of Shandong.
Despite some earlier indications that authorities would be implementing more targeted measures, the latest happenings show that China seems to be planning to stick to its strict approach to the pandemic.
China reported 397 cases nationwide on Friday, with just two cases being detected within Changchun.
Thursday, March 10
9:56 a.m.: National mask mandate on public transportation has been extended to April 18
But the existing face-covering requirement will be extended through April 18.
The masking requirement had been set to expire on March 18 but is being extended by a month to allow the public health agency time to develop new, more targeted policies.
Currently, the requirement extends to planes, buses, trains and transit hubs.
9:31 a.m.: Experts look to the past to predict how COVID-19 will end
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic and most of the world has seen a dramatic improvement in infections, hospitalizations and death rates in recent weeks, signaling the crisis appears to be winding down — but how will it end?
One thing experts have learned is that it can be a long-drawn-out process. This includes different types of endings that may not all occur at the same time.
Generally, there are three types of “endings,” including a “medical end,” when disease recedes, the “political end,” when government disease prevention measures cease, and the “social end,” when people move on. These ends may happen in any order.
Safe and effective vaccines have been developed at record speeds. As reported by the Associated Press, as of early March, 10 vaccines have been cleared for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
Experts have learned a lot more about keeping the coronavirus under control since it emerged in late 2019.
“The world has watched us learn in real-time how to treat COVID-19,” says Neil J. Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
Still, the distribution of vaccines has been unequal despite an international effort to deliver shots more fairly, and misinformation has fueled hesitancy about the shots.
However, there are still some questions experts have about the virus. Studies are underway to better understand how long COVID-19 affects the body months after an initial infection.
And with all of this new information, scientists are still on the lookout for the next fast-spreading variant.
Wednesday, March 9
As reported by the Associated Press, the Clark County School District no longer requires wearing masks on school buses and employees don’t have to participate in mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing.
The district took these steps as the numbers of COVID-19 cases dropped in the previous week. Last month, the district lifted its requirements for masking indoors at schools and other facilities immediately after Gov. Steve Sisolak lifted the state’s mask mandate.
Sisolak said school districts could set their own policies. CCSD measures remaining in place include a mandate that parents or guardians ensure children are free of symptoms when going to school.
9:32 a.m.: Minor league baseball and hockey teams turn to COVID-19 relief funds to stay afloat
According to the Associated Press, minor league sports teams and their facilities were left out of the first round of small business subsidies. Most had to rely on Paycheck Protection Program loans to keep their staff together.
Unlike major league teams, minor league teams are very reliant on in-person attendance to stay afloat due to a lack of TV and streaming ad revenue. A Minor League Baseball survey found that the average team lost over 91% of revenue from pre-pandemic levels — a result of the entire 2020 season being canceled — while the American Hockey League reported revenues are down 85-95% from its last full seasons in 2018-2019.
An influx of funds from a bill that could go through Congress as soon as next week would allow teams to hire more people, payback debts and dig out of the hole they’ve been in for the past two years.
Only the Western Pacific is reporting an increase in COVID-19.
According to the latest report from the health agency, the WHO said new COVID-19 infections dropped by 5% in the last week, continuing a declining trend that first started more than a month ago.
Deaths were also down by 8% and have been falling globally for the last two weeks.
Tuesday, March 8
10:02 a.m.: Black-owned businesses dropped 41% during the start of the pandemic, study shows
In particular, there was a loss of about 450,000 Black-owned businesses, a 41% drop.
The Inclusivity Project aims to raise $100 million to help 1,000 Black entrepreneurs in California.
Jay King, president and CEO of the California Black Chamber of Commerce,, is involved in this effort.
“My hope is that what it does is, it starts to build those micro and mini-micro businesses into a small business that can house two to four employees and then scale it up,” King said on CapRadio’s Insight.
He said the goal of the Inclusivity Project is to provide mentorship and business development expertise.
9:56 a.m.: WHO says booster shots are now needed, in reverse from last year’s stance
The call caps a reversal from the U.N. health agency’s previous insistence that booster doses weren’t necessary and contributing to vaccine inequity.
In a statement on Tuesday, WHO said its expert group concluded that immunization with authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide high levels of protection against severe disease and death amid the global circulation of the hugely contagious omicron variant.
Last year, WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a moratorium on booster doses, pleading with rich countries to donate their vaccines instead.
9:32 a.m.: Hong Kong experiences COVID-19 surge, could lead to lockdowns again
According to the Associated Press, Hong Kong is grappling with a coronavirus surge driven primarily by the omicron variant. Daily cases have more than quadrupled from a week ago.
Health authorities say the government could implement measures that may involve “asking people to stay at home.”
Several supermarkets’ shelves were wiped bare as residents stockpiled daily necessities after rumors of a lockdown circulated on social media. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has called for calm, saying that food supplies were normal.
Monday, March 7
9:47 a.m.: Global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 6 million
The tragic number confirmed on Monday is believed to be a vast undercount and shows that the pandemic in its third year is far from done. It’s also a reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic, even as people are shedding masks, traveling and moving around the globe.
The last million deaths of the tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University were recorded over the previous four months.
That’s slightly slower than the previous million but highlights that many countries are still struggling with the coronavirus. Overall, some 450 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded.
9:39 a.m.: NFL and NFL Players Association drop face masking rules
NPR reports that both the NFL and the player’s association announced the suspension, which means the NFL will no longer conduct mandatory testing for any of its players or staff.
With the change in protocols, players and staff will no longer have to wear face coverings at team facilities, regardless of vaccination status. However, each club can require face coverings “if they elect to do so.”
While no NFL games were canceled during the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to COVID-19, many teams ended up moving games during the 2020 schedule, according to the Associated Press. Nearly 95% of NFL players and about 100% of NFL staff were fully vaccinated.
According to the Associated Press, the mainland reported 214 new cases in 24 hours on Monday. The southern province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, reported the most cases at 69.
Hong Kong has been recording tens of thousands of cases per day. No new cases were reported in Beijing, which was essentially back to normal.
In his annual report to the national legislature on Saturday, Premier Li Keqiang said China needs to “constantly refine epidemic containment” but gave no indication that Beijing may switch up its current “zero tolerance” strategy.
Friday, March 4
10:59 a.m.: UC Davis will no longer require masks in most indoor settings
This change will apply to both the Davis and Sacramento campuses. However, masks will still be required in clinical settings and on public transit, following federal, state and local guidelines.
Despite this change, masks are still strongly recommended by public health officials and by the school for vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike. The school said it will support those who continue to wear masks indoors for any reason.
Employees and students who are not fully vaccinated must continue testing every four days. Davis campus employees and fully vaccinated students must continue testing every 14 days.
As a reminder, people who are up to date on their vaccinations have a much lower risk to their health.
Further updates will be provided in Chancellor Gary S. May’s next letter to the community on March 11.
10:50 a.m.: Senators introduce bill to fund research into long COVID
The Washington Post reports that’s why Kaine joined fellow Democratic senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois in introducing a bill to fund research aimed at better understanding long COVID.
The little-understood phenomenon in which symptoms linger for weeks or months after a coronavirus infection could affect thousands.
The Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act would centralize data about patient experiences and fund research into the effectiveness of treatments.
It would also expand resources to help those with lingering symptoms.
10:44 a.m.: Here’s why vaccine rates are still low in some countries.
Other challenges now include unpredictable deliveries, weak health care systems and vaccine hesitancy. According to the Associated Press, many countries with low vaccination rates in Africa. Other places include Yemen, Syria and Haiti.
For most of last year, developing nations were struggling with a lack of supplies, but other setbacks have emerged, such as poor infrastructure to distribute the shots and a lack of materials like syringes.
At the same time, rich countries were hoarding doses, while many countries didn’t have the facilities to make their own vaccines. COVAX, the initiative to distribute vaccines equally around the world, faltered in delivering shots to countries that needed them.
Vaccine hesitancy has also contributed to low uptake.
Thursday, March 3
9:43 a.m.: Some of Nevada’s school districts have lowered the bar for substitute teacher hiring during states of emergency
According to the Associated Press, the Legislative Commission on Monday unanimously approved a permanent rule change covering school districts with over 9,000 students attending district schools or public charter schools within a district’s geographic boundaries.
The covered districts include Las Vegas, Clark and Washoe counties.
The new permanent regulation replaces a temporary measure that expired Nov. 1. It was put in place during the pandemic because of Clark County’s severe staffing shortage.
9:39 a.m.: As demand for COVID-19 vaccines drop, states scramble to figure out what to do with soon-to-expire doses
From the least vaccinated states like Indiana and North Dakota to some of the most vaccinated states like New Jersey and Vermont, public health departments are shuffling doses around their states in hopes of finding providers that can use them.
In California, the percentage of wasted doses is only about 1.8%, but in a state that’s received 84 million doses and administered more than 71 million of them, that’s about 1.4 million wasted doses.
All this comes only about a year after the vaccines were released, and people such as hospital board members, their trustees and donors jumped the line to get early access before those deemed a higher priority.
According to the Associated Press, company leaders said they have since expanded production and expect big gains in the next several months. That could help if another wave of cases develops later this year.
The drugmaker uses more than 20 different sites in over 10 countries to produce Paxlovid, however making the complex drug involves chemical reactions that need time to develop. Pfizer said it has reduced production time from nearly nine months to about seven.
Wednesday, March 2
9:56 a.m.: California man allegedly stole $1 million in COVID-19 tests
Santa Ana police say 33-year-old Carlitos Peralta had access to his employer’s shipping and delivery system, according to the Associated Press.
His employer has seven warehouses nationwide that are used to store and ship COVDI-19 tests to customers, including clinics, pop-up testing sites, schools, and hotels.
Police say Peralta diverted nearly 100 separate shipments from multiple warehouses to his home.
The police department asked the public on Thursday to contact the agency with information about his whereabouts.
9:51 a.m.: Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines protect young kids against omicron, report shows
As reported by the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the new data on Tuesday.
A day earlier, a study from New York raised the question of whether the vaccine is less effective in children ages 5 to 11, especially against milder infections, particularly since younger kids get an even smaller dose than teens.
However, CDC data from additional states doesn’t suggest any age-related issues with the vaccine. While vaccines are generally less effective against omicron, they still protect against severe outcomes.
Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday that California’s most populous county would likely issue a revised health order that would take effect Friday and along with new state guidelines.
Ferrer told the county’s Board of Supervisors that it would still be recommended but not required for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents to wear face coverings in public indoor settings.
Tuesday, March 1
9:41 a.m.: Sacramento County public health officer to virtually attend State of the Union
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) made the announcement Monday night. The address will cover some of the achievements of the Biden presidency, from the economy to the government’s COVID-19 response.
“I am thrilled to have Dr. Olivia Kasirye join as my virtual guest … and thank her for her guidance, vigilance and service for the Sacramento community,” Matsui said in a press release.
Kasirye said that she’s worked together with Matusi to “provide the people of the Sacramento region with timely and accurate information and the resources they need to stay safe during the battle with COVID-19.”
CapRadio will broadcast the speech live at 6 p.m. You can also watch it live on our website.
9:06 a.m.: US Treasury Department says overwhelming amount of federal rental assistance during pandemic went to low-income tenants
According to the Associated Press, the Treasury also found that the largest percentage of tenants receiving pandemic aid were Black households, in which many were led by women.
In the fourth quarter of 2021, the Treasury also found that more than 40% of tenants getting help were Black and 20% were Latino, while two-thirds were woman-headed households.
Lawmakers approved $6.5 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance last year, and through 2021, the government body said more than $25 billion has been spent or allocated, representing 3.8 million payments to households.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.