In California: More COVID-19 vaccines arrive as the state buys more bodybags

CLOSEIn California: More COVID-19 vaccines arrive as the state
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Greetings from Palm Springs. I’m Robert Hopwood, online producer for The Desert Sun, bringing you a daily roundup of the top news from across California.

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In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

More vaccines arrive. The state stockpiles bodybags and revises quarantine guidelines

California is getting closer to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s goal to distribute 2.1 million vaccines before New Year’s Day.

Nearly 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been committed to the state. California has received more than 327,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, and it’s expecting another 393,000 doses next week. The state expects another 672,000 doses from Moderna, once its vaccine receives federal approval. 

Because each vaccine requires two shots given 21 to 28 days apart, approximately 2.1 million doses will only vaccinate a little more than 1 million Californians. That would still fall short of inoculating all of the roughly 2.5 million health care workers in the state.

Health care workers are first in line for vaccines, along with others working in labs and long-term care settings, emergency medical services and transport, dental and specialty clinics, home health care and in-home supportive care, and dialysis centers. This group makes up about 3 million people in Phase 1A of California’s vaccine allotment plan.

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Planning for Phase 1B, which is estimated to be about 8 million people, is happening this week, Newsom said Tuesday. An initial draft of the vaccine plan included essential workers and those at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, such as people 65 years and older. In other COVID-19 developments:

  • GRIM NEWS: As cases continue to climb, the state has activated a mutual aid program for coroners across California. Sixty 53-foot, refrigerated storage units are currently on stand-by in counties and at hospitals; the state has also purchased 5,000 additional body bags for its inventory.
  • GUIDELINE CHANGES: Newsom announced Tuesday a reduction in the recommended days a person must quarantine after coronavirus exposure — down from 14 days to 10. And, during critical staffing shortages, the state is now advising a seven-day quarantine — as opposed to 10 days — for health care workers who test negative on day five or later after exposure. The change is in line with new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • SMALL BUSINESS TAX CHANGESNewsom has signed an executive order giving small businesses until the end of July to file their first-quarter tax returns. More broadly, the order gives a 90-day extension on returns and payments for all businesses with returns of less than $1 million.
  • FARMWORKER HOUSING: Newsom also extended occupancy laws for farmworkers and their families in housing centers and dropped a requirement about how far away from the job workers must live to access that housing. 

No high school sports until late January — at the earliest

There will be no high school sports competitions until at least Jan. 25, 2021, according to guidance from the California Department of Public Health. 

The latest announcement includes youth sports and recreational adult sports, and applies to all school and community sponsored programs, privately organized clubs and leagues. 

The high school sports directly affected by the latest news are football, volleyball, boys and girls water polo and boys and girls cross country. 

It had already been announced that those sports could not compete or hold organized practices other than outdoor workouts until at least Jan. 1, and now that sports pause has been extended. 

New bill would extend eviction protections and push to convert big-box stores to housing

State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, introduced two housing bills that would extend tenant eviction protections through the end of March and introduce a new path to create additional housing in under-utilized, big-box developments.

SB 3 — The Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord-Tenant Relief Act of 2021 — would extend the tenant eviction protections of Assembly Bill 3088 through March 31, 2021. AB 3088 was passed in August and disallowed evictions or mortgage foreclosures due to nonpayment during the pandemic. 

SB 6 — the Neighborhood Homes Act — would create a fast-track for walkable infill housing developments by turning underperforming or vacant big box stores — like K-Mart or Toys ‘R Us — into condos or apartments. 

Dogs, chaplains to help firefighters improve mental health

In a program that is the first of its kind in the United States, the San Diego Fire Department will pair service dogs and chaplains with firefighters to provide emotional support for work-related trauma.

The canine and chaplain teams have completed more than 120 hours of training and will be retested every three months for their first year. The department currently employs 17 chaplains.

The teams help with other wellness efforts such as a peer support program and counseling services.

Studies have shown that post-traumatic stress disorder, binge drinking and depression occur on a higher per capita basis among firefighters than among the general population.

No federal protections for monarchs, even though they meet the ‘endangered’ criteria

The federal government has decided against listing the monarch butterfly as either threatened or endangered – at least for now. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will next consider the black-and-orange butterfly, once a common sight in backyard gardens, meadows and other landscapes, as a “candidate” for designation as either threatened or endangered in 2024.

The delay is because there are so many other higher-priority species across the nation – 161 to be exact – that are ahead of the monarch, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Scientists estimate the monarch population in the eastern U.S. has fallen about 80% since the mid-1990s, while the drop-off in the western U.S. has been even steeper. For decades, monarchs in the West have been in decline because of loss of habitat, including destruction of their California overwintering sites and loss of both milkweed for caterpillars and flowering resources to fuel migration, the Xerces Society said. The insects are also impacted by climate change and pesticide use.

That’s all for this Tuesday. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with more headlines from the Golden State.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. The Associated Press also contributed.

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