COVID live updates: California cash prizes helped spur vaccinations in poorest communities, state official says

Latest updates:

SF Board of Education approves budget for 2021-22 school year, including funds for pandemic recovery: The board unanimously approved the $1.16 billion total operating budget for the 2021-22 school year on Wednesday. As part of the budget, SFUSD expects to receive $140 million in federal stimulus funding that will help students return to in-person learning with increased academic and wellness support in the fall. “As we emerge from the pandemic and prepare to return all students to in-person learning in the fall, we are prioritizing programs for our highest-need students,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. “We are very glad for the federal stimulus and state grants as our costs have continued to rise. This is a much-needed short-term remedy to support and stabilize our students as they return from distance learning and pandemic-related challenges.”

California’s “Vax for the Win” incentives drove vaccinations in low-income areas: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s cash prizes of up to $1.5 million and other prize incentives helped slow the drop in COVID-19 vaccinations in the lowest income areas of the state, according to Erica Pan, the state epidemiologist. She told a briefing Wednesday that in the week ending June 14, those living in communities classified with the least healthy conditions received 29% of all vaccine doses administered, representing an increase of 1% in each of the previous four weeks. Weekly vaccination rates in those areas have now outpaced all others for four weeks in a row. “We are continuing to assess the effectiveness of this program, and early evidence suggests that incentives are a contributing factor for some individuals to get vaccinated,” Pan said.

Lisbon surge blamed on delta variant: A COVID-19 surge in Lisbon has pushed Portugal’s daily new cases to a four-month high. The nation’s 14-day cumulative COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people has risen to 130 — over double what it was three weeks ago. The government has already banned travel into and out of the Lisbon region on weekends. Experts blame the delta variant, estimating it accounts for more than 70% of cases. The government is widely expected to announce new restrictions for Lisbon after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

High-profile S.F. school mom turns to private education after son’s pandemic learning loss: A mom who has spent the better part of 11 years volunteering in San Francisco school classrooms and the front office, serving as PTA president and leading the Parent Advisory Committee is abandoning the public schools to enroll her son in private school. The move comes after she and her husbanc saw their son fall behind during distance learning, and his school appeared to have no specific plan to address learning loss in the fall. Read the full story from Jill Tucker here.

Vast undercount of U.S. cases last year, new study says: Nearly 17 million coronavirus cases went undiagnosed in the United States by mid-July 2020, suggesting the virus was much more prevalent — nearly five times more so — than was believed, according to a new study from the National Institutes of Health. Researchers estimated that for every diagnosed case during spring and summer of 2020, there were 4.8 undiagnosed cases. A statement from Bruce Tromberg, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, said Tuesday that the study “helps account for how quickly the virus spread to all corners of the country and the globe.”

“We will be the canary”: Missouri is becoming a cautionary tale for the rest of the U.S. as the pandemic eases: It is seeing an alarming rise in cases due to the fast-spreading delta variant and stubborn resistance among many people to getting vaccinated. Intensive care beds are filling up with surprisingly young, unvaccinated patients. “If people elsewhere in the country are looking to us and saying, ‘No thanks’ and they are getting vaccinated, that is good,” said Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at Mercy Hospital Springfield, inundated with patients as the delta variant rips through the largely non-immunized community. “We will be the canary.”

Delta variant spurs delay in Israel reopening to tourists: Israel has postponed the planned reopening of the country to vaccinated tourists over concerns about the spread of the infectious delta variant of the coronavirus, the Associated Press reports. Israel was set to reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors on July 1. It had already started allowing groups of vaccinated tourists to enter in May. But after a rise in infections in the past week, the government said Wednesday that it would be pushing the reopening date until Aug. 1.

Wall Streeters told to vax up and show up: Wall Street’s big investment banks, known for prizing in-person meetings, are sending a message to their employees this summer: Get back into the office and bring your vaccination card. Morgan Stanley said this week that all employees must attest to their vaccination status. The unvaccinated will have to work remotely, though the bank’s top executives say they want everyone back in the office by September. It is among several big banks requiring employees to return to the office and also provide documentation or make a formal declaration confirming vaccination.

Government begins study on pregnancy and vaccination: A government-funded study is evaluating immune responses from COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant or postpartum people, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced Wednesday. Researchers will measure the development and durability of antibodies against the coronavirus in those vaccinated during pregnancy or the first two postpartum months. The study will assess vaccine safety and look into antibody transfer to infants across the placenta and through breast milk. The study by the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium will fill “gaps in our knowledge” and inform personal and policy decisions, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID. CDC research shows vaccination rates have lagged among pregnant women.

Vaccination benefits outweigh risks of rare heart condition, CDC researchers say: The Food and Drug Administration will likely add a warning about a risk of myocarditis and pericarditis to information sheets for COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, an agency official said Wednesday. But cases of the heart inflammation are so rare that the benefits of COVID vaccination far outweigh risks linking it to the vaccines, CDC researchers told the agency’s advisory committee on immunization Wednesday. The cases linked to vaccines are milder and easier to resolve than typical cases, they said. CDC says 323 cases have been confirmed among vaccinated those under 30, a tiny percentage among the millions of shots administered — for instance, 79 myocarditis or pericarditis cases were reported among 16- and 17-year-olds receiving nearly 2.3 million doses. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, said Wednesday at Milken Foundation event that data “will overwhelmingly demonstrate that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.” Read more here.

It’s root, root, root for the vax shots: Starting Friday people who get vaccinated at one of San Francisco’s designated COVID vaccination sites will receive two free tickets for a Giants game between July and September, the city and the Giants organization announced Wednesday. The tickets will be first come, first served, while supplies last. The promotion is part of Major League Baseball’s “Vaccinate at the Plate” national effort to increase vaccination rates. “While we’re proud to have been the first major city in the country to administer at least one dose to 80% of our eligible residents, we’re not going to slow down our efforts to reach each and every San Franciscan,” said Mayor London Breed.

They rejected vax rule and were fired or resigned: More than 150 health-care workers who did not comply with a Houston-based hospital system’s vaccine mandate have been fired or resigned, more than a week after a federal judge upheld the policy, the Washington Post reports. Houston Methodist — one of the first health systems to require the coronavirus shots — terminated or accepted the resignations of 153 workers Tuesday, spokeswoman Gale Smith said.

“Would you like fries with that shot?” McDonald’s gives free food with vaccinations: Pop-up clinics at McDonald’s restaurants in California started offering free COVID-19 vaccines this week at some locations, giving a coupon for one free menu item to those who get shots at the fast-food spots. No appointment or health insurance is required and walk-ups are welcome at all locations, McDonald’s said in a post. The promotion, a partnership with California’s health department, will be available at restaurants in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Solano, Yolo and Monterey counties.

Delta making inroads in unvaccinated regions: The rapid spread of the coronavirus delta variant is poised to divide the United States again, with highly vaccinated areas continuing toward post-pandemic freedom and poorly vaccinated regions threatened by greater caseloads and hospitalizations, the Washington Post reports. Delta cases are taxing hospitals in a rural, lightly vaccinated part of Missouri and hospitalizations are on the rise in states such as Arkansas, Nevada and Utah, where fewer than half of those eligible have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to data compiled by the Post.

Trust in news industry in U.S. is lowest of 46 countries: Trust in the news has grown globally during the pandemic — by an average six percentage points, with 44% of people saying they trust most news most of the time, a report published Wednesday finds. The United States is far below that, however, with the lowest levels of trust, 29%, among 46 countries surveyed by the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021. Finland has the highest levels of trust, 65%. “Political divides fuel much of this mistrust in the United States, with those who self-identify on the right being more than twice as likely to distrust the news compared with those on the left,” the report said.

New York to sunset state of emergency Thursday: New York’s state of emergency will end Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a news conference Wednesday. “Fighting COVID and vaccinating New Yorkers are still top priorities, but the emergency chapter of this fight is over,” the governor tweeted. CDC guidance will remain in effect, requiring masking on public transportation and for unvaccinated individuals in public places, among other guidelines. Local jurisdictionscan enforce stricter restrictions. “Get out of the house!” Cuomo said in a briefing. “Go experience New York. Go to a movie. Go to Radio City Music Hall!”

Pandemic alters plans of nearly 8 in 10 high school juniors, seniors: Nearly 80% of American high school juniors and seniors say the pandemic has affected their post-graduation plans, and 72 percent of those age 13-19 have had mental health struggles, a nationally representative survey of 2,400 youths by the nonprofit America’s Promise Alliance shows. Among those changing plans, one-third said they would attend college closer to home; one-quarter said they would attend a two-year instead of four-year institution; 17% said they would attend college remotely; and 16% were postponing college, the New York Times reports.

Nearly every new COVID-19 death is preventable, CDC chief says: Most recent COVID-19 deaths have been in unvaccinated people, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday. Vaccines “are nearly 100% effective against severe disease and death — meaning nearly every death due to COVID-19 is particularly tragic, because nearly every death, especially among adults, due to COVID-19 is at this point entirely preventable,” Walensky said at a White House briefing. She urged holdouts to get their shots, especially with the increasing threat of the highly transmissible delta variant.

Virus continues hammering South America: Colombia reached 100,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 this week, the tenth country in the world to do so. The nation of 50 million it had the world’s third-highest per capita death rate from COVID-19 over the past seven days, according to Oxford University data. The country’s president blamed anti-government protests. More contagious virus variants are also seen as contributing. Fatigue with safety steps like face masks, and crowded living conditions and fewer restrictions on gatherings have also fueled contagion in South America, where 5% of the world’s population has seen almost a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths.

Steepest drop in U.S. births in nearly 50 years: Births in America declined 4% last year over 2019, a pandemic baby-bust that exacerbated a trend already occurring, a new report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found. It was the steepest annual decline since 1973. Birth rates dropped in every month of 2020, compared to 2019, with most of the largest declines in December, November and October, a sign that the pandemic may have delayed some parents’ decisions to have children. The largest declines for the second half of 2020 were seen in New Mexico (11%), New York (9%), and California, Hawaii, and West Virginia (8% each), the report said.

Pandemic job loss worst for older men: Men 55 and older showed some of the steepest declines in labor force participation during the pandemic as rates dropped among all demographics, AARP reports. In May, labor force participation among men ages 25-54 was down 1.3 percentage points from February 2020, just before the pandemic began. Men 55 and older experienced a 2.3 percentage point decrease. Labor force participation is the percentage of the population that is working or actively seeking work. Age discrimination played a role along with other factors, AARP said.

Olympics not looking too fun: The pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics are not looking like much fun— for athletes, fans, or the Japanese public, the Associated Press reports. They are caught between coronavirus concerns, with few people vaccinated on one side — and on the other, politicians hoping to save face by holding the games and the International Olympic Committee with billions of dollars on the line. The decision to proceed with the Olympics has shredded Japan’s famous consensus culture.

Pandemic real estate twists: Home values increased in most of the Bay Area during the pandemic, while dipping slightly in San Francisco as working from home negated the need to endure city expenses. But both San Francisco and San Jose have ended up among the top U.S. large cities with the most houses valued at over $1 million, according to a new study. San Jose was No. 1 among the 50 largest cities, with almost half of its owner-occupied, single family homes valued at $1 million or more. Read the story here.

Why did some Bay Area businesses get PPP loans, but not others?: A Chronicle analysis of data compiled by Reveal shows that, in the Bay Area, businesses in higher-income or predominantly white census tracts were far more likely to have received a PPP loan than businesses in areas that are lower-income or have a higher share of Black and Hispanic residents. Read the full story here.

COVID cases jump in Arkansas: Arkansas saw the highest one-day increase in reported coronavirus infections since March on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, with 485 new cases. Vaccines in the state are open to anyone at least 16 years old. So far, about 41% of the state has received one vaccine dose, and 33% are fully vaccinated.

CDC head says adult deaths “entirely preventable” with vaccines: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a White House briefing that adult deaths from COVID-19 were “entirely preventable at this point” thanks to the efficacy of vaccines, Axios reported.

S.F. to extend eviction moratorium as negotiations over state rent protection continue: San Franciscans struggling to pay rent in the pandemic will have another six-month reprieve after the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to extend a city eviction moratorium that mirrors the state’s protections. Read the full story here.

CDC panel to examine heart inflammation cases in young people after COVID vaccinations: Advisers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are set to meet Wednesday to consider possible changes to COVID-19 vaccinations of adolescents and young adults as a result of reports of heart inflammation among a small number of younger vaccine recipients. Read the full story here.

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