December 23, 2020
Eden Health District COVID-19 Bulletin
"The scant good covid news pre-Xmas is that new cases have leveled off and would be decreasing were in not for explosive spread in California. But hospitalizations march on > 120,000 and yet another day w/ > 3,000 deaths. Test positivity still climbing,11.2%."
Dr. Eric Topol, Director of Scripps Research Translational Institute, 12/22/20
S.F. hero brings solace amid the loneliness, struggle of the pandemic
Each weekday, Michael Torres zips his little green van through the streets of San Francisco, dropping 84 meals to 42 seniors in isolation as the pandemic rages.

Most of the recipients, clients of the On Lok senior center, have him leave the food at their front door, too frightened of the coronavirus to take the packages directly. But not Jose Garcia. The 69-year-old retiree, who uses a wheelchair, invites Torres into his apartment every day for a masked and socially distanced chat.

They joke and laugh and end their time with an elbow bump and their Spanglish farewell, “See ya mañana!” And then Garcia waits until the next day and the next visit. The friendship doesn’t seem remarkable, but in this dreadful year marked by uncertainty, misery and isolation, it is. And it’s a reminder that as our politicians, public health officials and celebrities consume the headlines, it’s regular people like Torres, with his van and his food and his cheeriness, that keep things running.
Garcia has two daughters and grandchildren who visit regularly, but many days he sees nobody but Torres, who drives 1 of 9 routes managed by On Lok, providing 2 meals apiece to a total of about 350 homebound San Franciscans every weekday.

Torres worked for 35 years at Safeway before retiring and now holds three jobs: packing produce at a different grocery store, ushering at Oracle Park and delivering food for On Lok.

Torres explained that he loves delivering meals to seniors — and he brushes off the notion it’s anything special. “I’ve got people yelling at me on the streets,” he said. “I always think, ‘What did I do?’ They go, ‘Thank you for your job and your duty!’ I go, ‘Oh, OK, I thought I cut them off.’”

Source: SF Chronicle
By the Numbers
Bay Area: 230,075

California: 1,968,265

U.S.: 18,348,619
Alameda County

Cases: 45,751

Deaths: 609

Adjusted Cases per Day: 22.7

Test Positivity: 9.2%

Hospitalized Patients: 428

ICU Beds Available: 68
Bay Area: 2,338

California: 23,336

U.S.: 324,674
Contra Costa County

Cases: 36,313

Deaths: 308

Adjusted Cases per Day: 32.1

Test Positivity: 10.1%

Hospitalized Patients: 235

ICU Beds Available: 35
Sources: Johns Hopkins UniversitySF Chronicle, and dashboards for California and Alameda and Contra Costa Counties
Adjusted cases per day is per 100,000 residents. Test positivity is based on a 14-day average. Hospitalized patients refers to patients with confirmed and suspected Covid-19.
Bay Area News
Mercury News, December 23, 2020
Public health officials have been pleading with people to think twice about big family Christmas gatherings and traveling for the holidays as California struggles with a crushing surge of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The astounding burst of infections after Thanksgiving is all the evidence they need to show why. An analysis by the Bay Area News Group clearly shows how the Bay Area’s case rates took off in the weeks after Thanksgiving — and explains the alarm over what could happen if Californians don’t heed stay-at-home orders for this next round of holidays.

While cases in the Bay Area started to increase in early November, the rate of increase went up sharply in the days and weeks following Thanksgiving, and hasn’t slowed down yet. [See chart above.] Alameda County was reporting average daily cases around 250 on Thanksgiving day. That daily count has quadrupled to nearly 1,000 in less than a month.

East Bay Times, December 23, 2020
Things haven’t always been easy for Gina Harris and her son, Oliver. But, fortunately, they’ve had the Davis Street Community Center in times of need. “I’ve been going there for like three years now,” said the 26-year-old San Leandro resident, who has received food, clothing and other assistance from the nonprofit. “They have honestly really helped me through the hardest times I’ve been through.” Some of those hard times happened earlier this year as Harris, who supports herself and 4-year-old Oliver in part by cleaning homes, suddenly found herself in financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a really great feeling to be able to help people like Gina,” said Kristal Gonzalez, Davis Street’s basic needs director. “Everybody is struggling right now with COVID and people are losing their jobs left and right. “We need to help those families who are really struggling and in need — just give them the necessities they need, but normally they wouldn’t ask for,” she said. Over the past six months, the nonprofit has seen a huge increase in demand for its services, which include rent and utility assistance, medical, dental and behavioral health services, child care services, and assistance with food and groceries.

SF Gate, December 22, 2020
San Francisco's top health official provided an update on the city's Covid-19 pandemic Tuesday and said the rate of increase in new cases has slowed slightly since the day right after Thanksgiving, revealing that the city's new stay-at-home order is working. Dr. Grant Colfax said that two weeks ago new daily cases were increasing on average 8% every day, while as of Tuesday, they're inching up 2% a day.

Berkeleyside, December 22, 2020
The Silverado memory care home in Berkeley has been hit with an outbreak of Covid-19 cases among staff and residents since Thanksgiving, despite successfully avoiding infections from the beginning of the pandemic in March, the long-term care home confirmed. It has the highest number of cases at any facility in Alameda County, with 29 active cases among residents as of Sunday, and 12 cases among staff. No one has died from the virus at the facility, which primarily treats patients who have Alzheimer’s and memory loss, according to data from the state.

SF Chronicle, December 22, 2020
For the past several weeks, even before Thanksgiving, public health officials pleaded with Americans to avoid traveling this holiday season, hoping to mitigate the explosive growth of coronavirus infections brought on by mingling households. If the lines at the Oakland International Airport on Tuesday morning — three days before Christmas — were any indication, people listened.

The airport’s Terminal 1 was desolate just after 9 a.m. As airport announcements echoed through the nearly empty terminal, only about a dozen people lined up at the security checkpoint. The scene at Terminal 2 was a bit more lively — but still not as crowded as one might expect at the height of the holiday travel season, in what might be a hopeful sign of the Bay Area’s acquiescence to public health directives.

Across the bay, the situation was similar at San Francisco International Airport, which reported a 75% drop in Thanksgiving passenger traffic over the same time last year. In December, “passenger traffic is down 80% compared to the same time in 2019, suggesting that current stay-at-home orders and travel advisories are being adhered to by more would-be travelers,” SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said.

SF Gate, December 22, 2020
A global pandemic isn't stopping Bay Area residents from hunting down bargains on Prada bags and Nike trainers at the San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore. On Monday, the mega-outlet center 40 miles from downtown San Francisco was brimming with crowds. Photos from Dec. 21 show the outlet's massive parking lot full and its outdoor corridors packed, and if people weren't wearing masks and lining up to get in stores you never would have known there was a pandemic.

State Covid-19 website, December 21, 2020
  • Bay Area: 13.5%
  • Greater Sacramento Region: 15.7%
  • Northern California: 29.5%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 0.0%
  • Southern California: 0.0%
Vaccine & Health News
SF Chronicle, December 22, 2020
California teachers, firefighters, grocery store and restaurant employees could be next in line to receive coronavirus vaccines under a plan state vaccine advisers are slated to consider Wednesday.

Now that vaccinations are well under way for the 2.4 million Californians in the first group of high-priority recipients — health care workers and long-term care facility residents in what the state is calling “Phase 1a” — officials are getting close to deciding who should be next in line in “Phase 1b.” The next wave of vaccinations will most likely target essential workers, potentially including 1.4 million people who work in education and child care, 3.4 million who work in food and agriculture jobs, and 1.1 million who work in non-health care roles in emergency services.

The state Community Vaccine Advisory Committee is scheduled to consider the matter during a public meeting Wednesday. The state expects to issue guidelines on who will be in this next group “within the next week or so,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Tuesday.

Kaiser Health News, December 23, 2020
Although the number of people in the trials is as large as or larger than in previous vaccine trials, some key questions won’t be answered until millions more are vaccinated. For example, we don’t know to what extent the vaccines will keep us from transmitting or contracting the virus — though the protection from potentially fatal illness they are likely to confer is in itself something of a miracle. We don’t know whether irreversible side effects might emerge, or who is at higher risk from them. And we don’t know whether we’ll need to get vaccinated every year, every three years, or never again. These unknowns add to the challenges faced by the federal government, local health authorities, medical professionals and private sector entities as they seek to persuade people across the broadest possible swath of the population to get a vaccine.

NPR, December 22, 2020
NPR's Noel King interviewed Dr. Roberta DeBiasi of Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

KING: And so how long would you say it will be before we know whether these two vaccines are safe for children?

DEBIASI: I would hope that maybe by January or February we should start to see some of the data coming out.

KING: Are you comfortable and confident that this is being handled well, that enough time is being given to determine whether or not this might affect children differently than adults, this vaccine?

DEBIASI: Yes, I'm very confident. I think, you know, one of the things that the public really should understand is that the ability to speed up, quote, "speed up the process" here has nothing to do with shortening or changing or taking shortcuts with the very careful safety and efficacy evaluations. The part that was able to be speeded up was because of the technology of these two vaccines and the ability to develop the vaccine with a piece of message RNA rather than some of the other methods that we've used for over 50 years that are very, very time-consuming to actually get to the point where you can put it into a human trial.

CDC Website Update, December 22, 2020
A new variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 that contains a series of mutations has been described in the United Kingdom (UK) and become highly prevalent in London and southeast England. Based on these mutations, this variant strain has been predicted to potentially be more rapidly transmissible than other circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2.

Although a variant may predominate in a geographic area, that fact alone does not mean that the variant is more infectious. Scientists are working to learn more about this variant to better understand how easily it might be transmitted and whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people against it. At this time, there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.

LA Times, December 22, 2020
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer urged people not to believe that a negative test result means it’s safe to attend or host a holiday gathering with people from more than one household.
“By the time you get a negative test result, you may no longer be negative,” Ferrer said. “And even if you have no symptoms, you can easily infect others.”

Sometimes people can test negative even though they are actually infected, because the virus hasn’t yet replicated to detectable levels.
Relying on testing to determine whether it’s safe to gather “is a very dangerous strategy,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, the L.A. County health services director.

Ynet News, December 21, 2020
Tests at Israel's largest hospital have revealed that a 74-year old man who succumbed last month to his second bout of Covid-19 died of a different strain of the coronavirus.

Editor's Note: There have been 31 documented cases of patients worldwide reinfected with Covid-19. To date 27 of these patients have recovered; 2 have died. A reinfection is confirmed when testing shows each virus’ genetic makeup is different to a degree which cannot be explained through in-vivo evolution. Source: BNO News
US and California Data: Last 90 Days
Covid Tracking Project, 12/22/20 (bold lines are 7-day averages)
United States
California News
East Bay Times, December 23, 2020
California’s coronavirus surge has started to result in record deaths before Christmas as hospitals struggle with capacity and the staggering caseload shows few signs of abating.
Local officials tallied 363 deaths Tuesday, a high only trailing the 428 deaths reported on Dec.16th and far outpacing the previous mid-July peak of 215 deaths. Nearly 36,000 new cases statewide were reported, holding the seven-day average for new cases steady at 45,388 — a more than 80% increase compared to just two weeks ago.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed for days by the rising need for care; as of Monday, there were 17,843 coronavirus patients hospitalized statewide, according to the California Department of Public Health. Just 1.4% of intensive-care unit beds are available, with 0% capacity across the state’s population epicenter in Southern California. The Bay Area has about 13.5% ICU capacity.

Los Angeles County remains the epicenter of the virus in California, making up about one-third of the state’s caseload and nearly 40% of the more than 23,000 total recorded deaths.

LA Times, December 23, 2020
As Covid spreads faster than ever in L.A. County, it has reached malls, too. The vast majority of outbreaks reported at shopping malls during the pandemic were reported in the past four weeks, according to a Times analysis of data posted on the county’s website. 

An outbreak is defined as three or more cases among staff in a 14-day period. The cases don’t necessarily reflect unsafe practices on the part of companies as much as the difficulty of controlling spread when prevalence of the virus is this high, experts say. To many, the flare-ups at retail stores and shopping malls exemplify the contradiction of L.A.'s current Covid rules: Stores that sell nonessential goods, such as books, jeans and TVs, remain open for in-store browsing, while officials warn that it is dangerous to leave the house unless absolutely necessary.

Sacramento Bee, December 23, 2020
California residents have not greatly reduced their visits to stores and workplaces since Gov. Newsom ordered them to stay at home in early December, according to a Sacramento Bee review of mobility trend data collected by Google from cell phones. The new orders do not appear to have immediately changed mobility patterns that much.

From Dec. 12 through Dec. 18, visits to California stores and restaurants were down an average of 31% compared to a January baseline. That’s only slightly different than the 27% decline in visits during the same week a month earlier — before the severe shutdown — and well short of the decline in visits seen during April. Visits to grocery stores and pharmacies were down about 12% from Dec. 12 through Dec. 18 as compared to a January baseline. They were down about the same amount a month earlier, showing little change with the new stay-at-home orders.

The Hill, December 23, 2020
Public health officials are pointing to California as a cautionary tale of how the coronavirus can spread during holidays, just before the next holiday season threatens to amplify outbreaks that could overwhelm the nation’s most populous state.

California is now one of the worst epicenters in the nation, second only to Tennessee, as a wave of infections likely spread during the Thanksgiving holiday threatens to overwhelm public health systems across wide swaths of the state. The state’s trend lines are worrying. Models from UC San Diego and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia show case counts continuing to rise for weeks, perhaps into mid-January. Hospitalizations tend to trail confirmed cases by a week or two, raising the frightening prospect of a month of rising hospitalizations at a time when capacity is already strained.

CalMatters, December 22, 2020
While some California industries have managed to adapt their business models to the coronavirus pandemic, for many, the show simply cannot go on. Spectator sports, catering and the performing arts rely on live events as the centerpiece of their business, and each has been decimated by the pandemic. Tens of thousands of Californians who work in sports arenas, the arts and catering have lost their jobs.

All three of these industries in California saw declines in employment of more than a third, and most of those jobs haven’t come back. As pandemic restrictions tightened this month throughout the state, there’s no recovery in sight for these hard-hit businesses.

SF Chronicle, December 22, 2020
A federal judge says Gov. Newsom’s shutdown of indoor worship services in most of California is a valid measure to protect public health and protects religious freedom by allowing outdoor services, unlike the New York restrictions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena and Harvest International Ministry, affiliated with 162 California churches, argued that Newsom’s orders violated the constitutional standards set by the high court in its Nov. 25 ruling on the New York case.

Sacramento Bee, December 22, 2020
Tahoe and Truckee officials sent a letter to Airbnb this week asking the vacation-rental site to help them limit vacation bookings as tourists continue to visit the region amid California’s stay-at-home order.

The letter — sent by Placer County Supervisor Cindy Gustafson, El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novasel and Truckee Town Manager Jen Callaway — asks the vacation-rental giant to inform property owners that bookings for non-essential travel are in violation of the state order. The letter also asks Airbnb to work with local government officials and inform them of property owners who are “noncompliant.”

Sacramento Bee, December 22, 2020
The coronavirus has reached California’s state-run veterans homes, which had managed to keep infections to a minimum through the year. CalVet’s 8 homes had 72 active cases as of Friday, including residents and employees, according to the most recent data from the department. Thirty-three residents and 39 employees were infected, according to CalVet.

Kaiser Health News, December 22, 2020
Instead of strictly penalizing businesses for violations, Gov. Newsom has relied on educating owners about infectious disease mandates. State agencies have contacted establishments primarily by email, sending them 1.3 million messages since July 1 to urge them to comply with state and local public health rules.

“The reality is it’s not enough to send an email and say ‘Wear a mask,’” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California-San Francisco. “We see workplace violations that we know are major sources of transmission. We have to be willing to enforce or there’s no point in doing these things.”
US News
Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2020
States and major cities across the country have imposed the most extensive restrictions on business and social gatherings since widespread lockdowns during the spring, in hopes of preventing a further surge in Covid-19 cases over the winter holidays.
In the spring, all but a handful of states issued stay-at-home orders that ground nonessential economic activity to a halt. At the time, states were short of ventilators, testing capacity and personal protective equipment for health-care workers, and lacked treatments for the new virus. Those broad orders slowed the rate of infection and bought time for hospitals to catch up.

Now, as case numbers surge, most states are clamping down on activities that help the virus spread while trying to avoid a complete shutdown of the economy.

USA Today, December 23, 2020
Pfizer and BioNTech will supply the U.S. with an additional 100 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine under a second agreement. The drug makers said Wednesday that they expect to deliver all the doses by July 31. Pfizer already has a contract to supply the government with 100 million doses of its vaccine, which requires two doses per patient.

Under the nearly $2 billion deal announced Wednesday, the companies will deliver at least 70 million additional doses by June 30, with the remaining 30 million to be delivered no later than July 31. The government also has the option to acquire up to an additional 400 million doses.

Reuters, December 23, 2020
The CDC said it has administered 1,008,025 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Wednesday morning and has distributed 9,465,725 doses. The tally of vaccine doses distributed includes both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, while the administered doses count is only for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as of 9 am ET on Wednesday, the agency said.

NY Times, December 23, 2020
Currently, more than two in five U.S. hospitals with intensive care units have reached occupancy levels of 85 percent or higher. When bed availability dwindles, hospitals begin to operate in crisis mode; in California, 85 percent occupancy is the threshold to trigger regional stay-at-home orders.

In early October, just a quarter of U.S. hospitals’ I.C.U.s were that full. The surge in hospitalizations nationwide has taken a tremendous toll on the country’s health care workers, many of whom are caring for more patients than normal. Many hospitals have added I.C.U. beds to handle the surge of Covid-19 patients, but they still have a limited, fixed number of health care workers available to care for patients.

NY Times, December 22, 2020
Tennessee has become one of the worst-hit states by the coronavirus, spurring the governor to warn residents against gathering and traveling for the holidays. The state is identifying cases at the highest per capita rate in the nation by a wide margin. At least 9,265 new cases and 65 deaths were reported in Tennessee on Monday, according to a New York Times database. Over the last week, there has been an average of 8,953 cases per day, an increase of about 90 percent from the average two weeks earlier. Eight of the nation’s 20 metropolitan areas with the most recent cases per capita are in Tennessee.

Reuters, December 23, 2020
President Donald Trump’s threat late Tuesday to veto the $892 billion coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress this week may delay aid for millions of families on the cusp of eviction and about to lose unemployment benefits. Trump’s apparent refusal to immediately sign the bill “has injected uncertainty or worse into the effort to protect millions of Americans from falling over a financial cliff,” said Mark Hamrick of Bankrate Wednesday.

Trump said the bill, which passed Congress Monday night, did not provide enough support for small businesses, and he asked Congress to increase stimulus checks to individuals to $2,000, instead of the “ridiculously low” $600 in the bill.

Axios, December 23, 2020
The federal government will probably neither mandate nor encourage digital immunity passports or other proofs of vaccination. But privately-operated digital certificates are already being developed — and U.S. law means that anybody who gets vaccinated here should be able to obtain the proof they need.

Employers have a clear interest in knowing whether you've been vaccinated, as do the immigration staff in any foreign country you want to visit. Many workers, from nursing-home aides to opera singers, have a clear desire and even need to be vaccinated before doing their jobs. Which means they'll need some kind of proof of vaccination.

NY Times, December 23, 2020
Early in the pandemic, health officials were terrified that the virus would decimate America’s homeless, the half million people who live in shelters or on the streets. As the year comes to a close, those same specialists say they are relieved that street encampments and homeless shelters did not suffer the same devastation as nursing homes.

Experts caution that the transitory nature of homelessness makes it challenging to gather precise data. And they remain anxious because overall rates of the virus soared throughout the fall. A recent outbreak at a shelter in San Diego served as a reminder that homeless populations, especially those sheltered indoors, are still very vulnerable to the dangers of Covid-19. Still, researchers and public health officials across the country have conducted testing at encampments and homeless shelters, watching for signs of outbreaks. And in places like Seattle and Los Angeles these tests have turned up relatively low rates of infection.

Associated Press, December 23, 2020
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 89,000 last week to a still-elevated 803,000, evidence that the job market remains under stress 9 months after the coronavirus outbreak sent the U.S. economy into recession and caused millions of layoffs.

Before the virus struck, jobless claims typically numbered around 225,000 a week before shooting up to 6.9 million in early spring when the virus — and efforts to contain it — flattened the economy. The pace of layoffs has since declined but remains historically high in the face of the resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

NPR, December 23, 2020
Demand for bus travel has fallen by more than 80% during the pandemic, as public health authorities urge people to avoid travel where possible. That is raising concerns about the potential long-term damage to an essential transport method for millions of lower-income Americans even as air travel has shown signs of picking up since the Thanksgiving holiday period.
CA Education News
CalMatters, December 23, 2020
Black students in California have much higher rates of unexcused absences from school than their white peers, which sometimes lead to disciplinary consequences that can further disrupt their education, according to newly released data.

The data, released in November, represents the first time the CA Department of Education has broken down absenteeism rates by the reasons for students missing school — whether students were excused, say, for an illness or doctor’s appointment, or unexcused, defined as missing school without a “valid” reason. Lack of transportation to school, among the most common reasons students miss school, is typically an unexcused absence.

The data covers two school years, 2017-18 and 2018-19, before schools shifted to distance learning in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Districts with high absenteeism rates before the pandemic are expected to see similarly high rates when schools return to in-person classes.

EdSource, December 22, 2020
he Covid-19 relief legislation that Congress passed on Monday will provide at least $6.8 billion to California’s school districts and charter schools. That equals about an eighth of the $54.9 billion that Congress will award to K-12 schools.

EdSource has calculated how much of the $6.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief each charter school and school district will receive. Go here for the database.

The latest federal funding is about four times as much as the $13.5 billion in aid that went to K-12 schools under the CARES Act that Congress passed in March. But the combination of the two — about $70 billion — is substantially less than the $98 billion that Congress provided K-12 under the economic recovery act that Congress funded in the midst of the Great Recession a decade ago, said Michael Griffith, a national expert on school finance who is currently a senior researcher and policy analyst at the Palo Alto-based Learning Policy Institute.

Sacramento Bee, December 22, 2020
Students in Roseville, several of them competitive debaters and social and outgoing by nature, are calling for the district to continue a hybrid schedule and delay its 5-day, nearly full-day reopening plan. They want to protect their teachers and the community during the region’s worst coronavirus surge since the start of the pandemic.
One by one, Woodcreek High School student Alexander Houston’s friends spoke at a recent board meeting. They collected more than 3,200 signatures in a petition calling the new schedule dangerous and inequitable.
US Education News
USA Today, December 23, 2020
While a recent RAND Corporation study found just 6 in 10 U.S. teachers are assigning letter grades this fall, that rate is nearly double what it was in this past spring. Class failure rates have surged in districts across the country, from Virginia to Hawaii. And those F’s tend to be concentrated among low-income students of color, data indicate, as well as those who are still learning to speak English or have disabilities. 

The trend raises questions about the culture of grading in general — especially at a time when achievement is so influenced by factors beyond students’ control. “Traditional grading practices aren't just giving us inaccurate information; they're also inequitable,” said Joe Feldman, an education consultant who works with schools to improve grading practices and wrote the book "Grading for Equity."

The Hill, December 22, 2020
An analysis done by The Associated Press and Chalkbeat of 33 states has found that school attendance this fall dropped by 2 percent or about 500,000 students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The report found that the pandemic has had a devastating effect on education in the U.S. as students and educators have had to find new ways to conduct lessons. The drop in school attendance is expected to rise as the remaining 17 U.S. states make their attendance numbers known.

The analysis by the AP and Chalkbeat found that kindergarten enrollment accounted for 30 percent of the total reduction across the states they observed. Kindergarten is not required in many states, leading some parents to not send their children. 

NY Times, December 23, 2020
Even with a promised lifeline of billions of federal dollars, public schools in many parts of the country are headed for a financial cliff, as the coronavirus drives up the costs of education while tax revenue and student enrollment continue to fall.

Schools can expect about $54 billion from the coronavirus stimulus plan approved by Congress late Monday night, or nearly four times what K-12 education received in a March relief package. The deal also includes $7 billion to expand broadband access for students who have trouble logging on, and continued funding for school meal programs.
But school officials say that is not nearly enough to make up for the crushing losses state and local budgets have suffered during the pandemic, or the costs of both remote learning and attempts to bring students back to classrooms. Advocates for public education estimate that schools have lost close to $200 billion so far.
'Miracle' survivor feared his life was over
Mal Martin, 58, of United Kingdom was taken to the Princess of Wales Hospital in March, a week after "feeling unwell," and placed on a ventilator for 61 days. His wife and children even said their goodbyes before he was put into an induced coma.

He said he does not remember the first two weeks, describing them as "a blank," and after that he "honestly felt it was over," as did his doctors. Martin's recovery was described by doctors as a "miracle."

Martin was taken to hospital just before the UK went into a national lockdown in March. He is diabetic, which is genetic, not life-style related. Four years ago he had a heart attack and had three stents fitted. He recovered well, ran regularly and never drank heavily or smoked. Doctors reassured his family that his diabetes was controlled and that he was fit and healthy.

"Basically [Covid] turned my world upside down. I can only walk so far, I'm having lots of dizziness, I've got problems with my lungs, I've got major problems with my kidneys."
"I've lost vision in my right eye which I'll never get back and I've had amputations on my hands - I've lost my thumb from on my one hand and I've lost a forefinger and a half a finger and my thumb is going to come off my right hand."

There is hope of an end in sight for most people, with vaccinations starting to be rolled out. But Martin, who has been recovering at home since July, said there were still people out there who were not taking the virus seriously.

"It's a horrible, horrible, horrible disease to have and I think if I could have any wish, it would be that it would all go away," he said. “But I suppose the biggest wish is for people to understand I was healthy. It astounds me really that there's so many … people are still not taking heed and not understanding. I think once somebody gets it in their family, then it really hits home."

Source: BBC
International News
Reuters, December 23, 2020
The British government on Wednesday said huge swathes of England would be placed under its strictest Covid-19 restrictions as a highly infectious virus variant sweeps the country, pushing the number of cases to a record level.
Britain reported almost 40,000 new infections as the mutated variant of the coronavirus, which could be up to 70% more transmissible than the original, causes the number of cases and hospital admissions to soar.

Reuters, December 23, 2020
Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine against COVID-19 is over 50% effective in late-stage trials, newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported on Wednesday, adding that the Chinese company had asked the Brazilian institute running tests to wait up to 15 days before publishing their full results. Sinovac would be the second Chinese vaccine maker to produce results from late-stage clinical trials, after United Arab Emirates said this month that a vaccine from a Beijing-based unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) has 86% efficacy.

BBC, December 23, 2020
In the Philippines, the lockdown has meant hundreds of thousands of women have been unable to access birth control, resulting in tales of unplanned repeated across the country. It is estimated an extra 214,000 unplanned babies will be born in the next year, according to projections by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the UN Population Fund. These children will be born into hospitals already overwhelmed by 1.7 million births a year, largely into families struggling to make ends meet.

The Guardian, December 23, 2020
For weeks, officials have pleaded with Mexicans to stay home. Even President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose public statements have rarely acknowledged the gravity of Mexico’s outbreak, began the month urging Mexicans to forego the holiday parties that stretch through December into January. But he refused to impose restrictions, declaring that Mexicans were “responsible, well-behaved and conscientious.”

The result has been devastating. Almost 120,000 Mexicans have died of Covid-19, although health experts at Mexico’s National Autonomous University of Mexico, known as the UNAM, estimate that the number is anywhere from two to four times more. Even the reported figure makes Mexico one of the world’s deadliest countries for the pandemic based on its population.

Associated Press, December 23, 2020
After managing against the odds to keep the coronavirus largely in check for most of the year, Thailand has suddenly found itself challenged by an expanding outbreak among migrant workers on the doorstep of Bangkok, the capital. The surge of cases threatens to undo months of efforts to contain the virus and hasten recovery of Thailand’s ailing economy.

Seeking to slow the spread of the virus by isolating infected patients, the army and navy have been ordered by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to help set up a 1,000-bed field hospital, Defense Ministry spokesperson Lt. Gen. Kongcheep Tantrawanit said Wednesday. It would be located as close as possible to where the most patients already are in order to reduce the risks of transmission by transporting them elsewhere, he said.

Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2020
Aggressive contact tracing and public transparency around every identified coronavirus case have helped Hong Kong contain three waves of infection. The latest surge, however, has led to some unwanted attention for the city’s community of socialites and wealthy families, some of whom have a hobby that they would like to keep among themselves: ballroom dancing. The identification in November of a 75-year-old woman who enjoyed ballroom dancing as the first reported case of the city’s largest cluster of more than 720 has led to finger pointing at dance devotees as well as accusations that they helped spread the virus through reckless behavior by doing so unmasked—in close quarters—with their partners.
Dr. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, December 23, 2020
Despite alarming news reports, most allergies shouldn’t be an issue.

In the weeks since the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to hundreds of thousands of people, eight serious reactions have so far been reported. The symptoms vary, and in some cases have required observation in the hospital. All of these people recovered, and none seem to have lasting issues.

Six of those cases happened in the United States, and the CDC has considered them cases of anaphylaxis—a severe allergic reaction that involves a full-body response, quickening the heart and narrowing the airways, not simply redness or itching or muscle pain. Reactions of the sort that have been reported always need to be taken seriously. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention. When it happens, say, in response to a bee sting in the middle of the woods, anaphylaxis can be fatal. But in a medical setting, this sort of reaction is extremely manageable.

Vox, December 22, 2020
Figuring out whether and how to approach a previously routine event is still complicated. And the calculus seems to change with new case rates and evolving guidelines — and with our own fluctuating pandemic burnout.
We talked with epidemiologists and other health experts about the safest — and riskiest — ways to see others, keep kids busy, help out, and travel this winter during the pandemic.

Krysia Lindan, an epidemiologist at UCSF, notes it is especially important to “avoid multi-generational gatherings that include older adults and those with pre-disposing health conditions.” Expected family time might need to be skipped this year. “This may be the year not to invite your young adult children to come home or, conversely, to visit your parents or grandparents,” Lindan writes.

How can you lower your risk if you decide to fly? Wear not only a good mask but also eye protection, such as sunglasses, safety glasses, goggles, or a face shield (with a mask), says Jodie Guest, vice-chair of the department of epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, December 23, 2020
Anthony S. Fauci celebrates a big birthday on Christmas Eve. He’ll be 80. He says he has worked every day since January, often late into the night, laser-focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. He enters his ninth decade with remarkable vigor, and attributes his youthful appearance to genetics. His father lived to 97 and never looked his age.

To deal with the demands of his job, Fauci says he relies on the muscle memory from his days as a young doctor working crazy shifts in a big New York City hospital, often all through the night, triaging patients with life-threatening injuries. “There is no option to get tired. There is no option to sit down and say ‘I’m sorry, I’ve had enough,’ ” he said. When fatigued, he recalled, he would tell himself: “I’m gonna dig deep and just suck it up.”
Which is kind of what he’s been advising the whole country.

CalMatters, December 22, 2020
Within a matter of months, the pandemic-necessitated rise in teleworking has inverted parts of the state’s real estate market in ways housing economists never imagined possible. The median rent in San Francisco has dropped nearly 25% since stay-at-home orders began in March. Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego have also seen rents drop or at least taper, instantly flattening a decade-long spike. 

As younger professionals flee overcrowded and overpriced apartments in urban cores, rents and home prices in many suburbs, exurbs and mid-size cities have shot up significantly. Many of the homebuyers sending single-family-home prices across the state skyrocketing are millennials who, now in their 30s, are taking advantage of record-low interest rates to finally buy a house.

The rise of remote work could forever expand what “suburb” really means. If you only need to come to San Francisco once a week, Sacramento — a 2 hour plus train and bus ride away — is a feasible and much cheaper place to call home.

We are proud to partner with the East Bay Community Foundation in publishing this bulletin. Through donations to its Covid-19 Response Fund, the EBCF provides grants to East Bay nonprofit organizations delivering essential services to those most impacted by the economic fallout from the pandemic.
East Bay Focus
by day as of 12/22/20
by day as of 12/22/20
Over the last seven days, Alameda County officials have reported 5,653 new coronavirus cases, which amounts to 344 cases per 100,000 residents.
Over the last seven days, Contra Costa County officials have reported 4,272 new coronavirus cases, which amounts to 377 cases per 100,000 residents.
Top 10 Locations of Cases in Alameda County, as of 12/22/20. Alameda County does not publish cases per 100,000 in the last 14 days by city.
Oakland: 14,789

Hayward: 6,822

Fremont: 3,757

Eden MAC: 2,926

San Leandro: 2,657

Livermore: 2,273

Union City: 1,945

Berkeley: 1,724

Newark: 1,317

Castro Valley: 1,310
Top 10 Locations of Cases in Contra Costa County plus (in parentheses) cases per 100,000 in last 14 days, as of 12/2/20
Richmond: 6,179 (1,112)

Antioch: 4,663 (855)

Concord: 4,360 (642)

Pittsburgh: 3,603 (935)

San Pablo: 2,985 (2,056)

Brentwood: 1,752 (677)

Bay Point: 1,491 (1,024)

Walnut Creek: 1,418 (422)

Oakley: 1,390 (850)

San Ramon: 1,107 (342)
East Bay Resources

In their December 17, 2020, podcast, Dr. Michael Osterholm and host Chris Dall discuss discuss Covid-19 vaccines becoming vaccinations, forthcoming research related to the safety of vaccinating pregnant women, continued surges throughout much of the US, and guidance for having safe holidays.
Special Feature: Understanding the New Vaccines
"This will go down in history as one of science and medical research's greatest achievements. Perhaps the most impressive."

Dr. Eric Topol on development of the new mRNA Covid-19 vaccines
Messenger RNA (mRNA) may not be as famous as its cousin, DNA, but it’s having a moment in the spotlight. This crucial intermediary in the protein-making process is now being harnessed by scientists to to try to protect us from disease — including Covid-19, as explained in a short video from STAT, a leading online medial news source. Never before have mRNA vaccines — such as the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that have now received emergency use authorization from the FDA — been approved for use in any disease.

How do mRNA vaccines differ from traditional vaccines, and why we should have confidence in their safety and efficiency are questions Dr. Anthony Komaroff, editor in chief of Harvard Health Letter, answers on the Harvard Health Blog, updated December 18, 2020.
Dr. Komaroff writes: "Compared to traditional vaccines, mRNA vaccines can actually generate a stronger type of immunity: they stimulate the immune system to make antibodies and immune system killer cells — a double strike at the virus."

"30 years of painstaking research allowed several groups of scientists — including a group at Pfizer working with a German company called BioNTech, and a young company in Massachusetts called Moderna — to bring mRNA vaccine technology to the threshold of actually working," Dr. Komaroff explains.
"The companies had built platforms that, theoretically, could be used to create a vaccine for any infectious disease simply by inserting the right mRNA sequence for that disease," Dr. Komaroff adds.

The authors explained:

"There are about a dozen experimental vaccines in late-stage clinical trials globally, but the ones being tested by Pfizer and Moderna are the only two that rely on messenger RNA. For decades, scientists have dreamed about the seemingly endless possibilities of custom-made messenger RNA, or mRNA.

Researchers understood its role as a recipe book for the body’s trillions of cells, but their efforts to expand the menu have come in fits and starts. The concept: By making precise tweaks to synthetic mRNA and injecting people with it, any cell in the body could be transformed into an on-demand drug factory. But turning scientific promise into medical reality has been more difficult than many assumed. Although relatively easy and quick to produce compared to traditional vaccine-making, no mRNA vaccine or drug has ever won approval."
"Before messenger RNA was a multibillion-dollar idea, it was a scientific backwater. And for the Hungarian-born scientist behind a key mRNA discovery, it was a career dead-end. Katalin Karikó (in photo above) spent the 1990s collecting rejections. Her work, attempting to harness the power of mRNA to fight disease, was too far-fetched for government grants, corporate funding, and even support from her own colleagues.

It all made sense on paper. In the natural world, the body relies on millions of tiny proteins to keep itself alive and healthy, and it uses mRNA to tell cells which proteins to make. If you could design your own mRNA, you could, in theory, hijack that process and create any protein you might desire — antibodies to vaccinate against infection, enzymes to reverse a rare disease, or growth agents to mend damaged heart tissue."
Mask On Eden Area
Working in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department, the Cities of Hayward and San Leandro, and the Castro Valley and Eden Area Municipal Advisory Councils, the District has printed “Mask On” posters for each city and community in the Eden Health District area. The posters are free and intended for businesses, health clinics, schools, churches, public agencies and nonprofit organizations to display in their entrances.

“Wearing masks in public or any gatherings, including events with friends and extended families, is essential for slowing the spread of the virus,” stated Eden Health District Director Pam Russo. “While we are seeing signs of progress in California, Alameda County remains a Covid-19 'hot spot' in the Bay Area. Please wear a mask to protect yourself while protecting others.”
The public is welcome to download and print or share “Mask On” posters from the District’s website. Posters are available in English, Spanish and Chinese languages.

Posters may also be retrieved during business hours from the lobby of the Eden Health District office building located at 20400 Lake Chabot Road, Castro Valley. Posters for the City of Hayward are also available from the Hayward Chamber of Commerce located at 22561 Main Street, Hayward.
Eden Area Food Pantries
We have posted information on food pantries and food services in the cities of Hayward and San Leandro and unincorporated Alameda County including Castro Valley and San Lorenzo. You can access the information here on our website. Alameda County has also released an interactive map listing food distributions and other social services. 
Your feedback is welcome. Please share the Bulletin.
The Eden Health District Board of Directors are Mariellen Faria, Chair, Pam Russo, Vice Chair, Roxann Lewis, Treasurer, Gordon Galvan and Varsha Chauhan. The Chief Executive Officer is Mark Friedman.

The Eden Health District is committed to ensuring that policy makers and community members receive accurate and timely information to help make the best policy and personal choices to meet and overcome the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. We publish the Bulletin on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, unless the day falls on a public holiday.

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We welcome your feedback on our bulletin. Please contact editor Stephen Cassidy.