January 18, 2022

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133 dead in California; shutdown’s end likely weeks away

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing along a grim trajectory, with government leaders and public health experts saying the worst of it could still be several weeks away.

The virus has killed more than 37,000 people worldwide as of 6:30 p.m. Monday, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University, including more than 3,000 in the United States.

More than 6,400 have contracted the virus across California and at least 133 people have died, according to a Sacramento Bee survey of confirmed coronavirus cases and fatalities, based on county health department numbers, as of midday Monday.

The U.S. leads the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases, with more than 163,000 of more than 780,000 global infections, or more than a fifth of global total. Next are Italy, which has surpassed 100,000 cases and is nearing 12,000 deaths; and Spain, where nearly 88,000 have been infected and over 7,700 have died.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday that the U.S. alone could see between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths among “millions of cases” over the course of the pandemic.

California was the first among a still-growing number of states that have implemented society-wide shutdowns in unprecedented efforts to flatten the pandemic’s growth curve, a measure being taken to keep infection rates to levels that hospital systems can handle.

It may not seem like it given the rapid rate of new developments and societal change, but the state is entering just its second full week since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19 stay-at-home order, which says Californians can only leave their residences for essential reasons.

Businesses deemed non-essential have closed either temporarily or permanently or radically adjusted operations, leading unemployment claims to skyrocket to record highs. Virtually all events have been canceled or postponed, weeks or even months in advance. Californians are required to keep 6 feet of distance from anyone not in their immediate household. And in response to people crowding parks and violating that social distancing requirement, California State Parks will be closing vehicle access at all 280 state parks.

Concern remains high for many, including workers who believe their employers or workplaces have not done enough to protect their health and safety during the ongoing crisis.

‘We need you’: Newsom orders flexibility in medical staffing

Newsom has signed an executive order that gives state officials power to let medical professionals do a wider range of work and nurses oversee more patients at a time. The governor said during a Monday news conference that the order will be in place through June 30, although the order itself does not mention that date.

His administration estimates there are 37,000 people who have recently retired from a medical profession, are close to earning a medical or nursing degree or who are working part time in the field. Newsom urged them to come forward and help the state accommodate a surge in coronavirus patients.

“If you’re a nursing school student, a medical school student, we need you,” Newsom said. “If you just retired in the last few years, we need you.”

California’s total of COVID-19 hospitalizations doubled in four days to 1,432 in California, Newsom said, with 600 of those patients in ICU beds compared with 200 from the previous four days earlier and 410 on Saturday.

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7th death reported in Sacramento County

Public health officials in a Monday update said there are now 224 known coronavirus cases in Sacramento County, double the total reported five days earlier.

There has also been an additional death since last Friday’s update, bringing the county’s death toll to seven. All but one of the county’s deaths have been among patients age 70 and older. That person was older than 60, health officials said.

First confirmed case in Alpine County

The Alpine County Health Department reported its first positive coronavirus case on Monday and declared a local emergency as a response.

The resident was never hospitalized and is recovering at home, according to a news release from the county, which is east of Sacramento and south of Lake Tahoe. The department says that they do not expect the case to present any risk of community transmission.

County employees still going into offices

Public lobbies have been closed, and the libraries and court house are shuttered temporarily, but Sacramento County workers say those deemed “essential” have been directed by supervisors and managers to continue to come into the office.

Sacramento County “prefers” that essential employees telework, “provided that their jobs are conducive to remote work,” county spokeswoman Kim Nava told The Sacramento Bee. Those that can’t telecommute while providing services considered essential “have been educated about social distancing and safe hygiene practices,” she added. Those who wish to stay home can use their regular sick or vacation hours.

Each county department determines who is deemed “essential” and must still come into the office, Nava said. The county has not taken stock of how many are teleworking or on administrative paid leave versus continuing to come into work. And the county has begun offering exceptions for some employees: Anyone 65 and over or with proven existing health issues can ask for administrative paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic to stay safe.

But Ted Somera of United Public Employees said it’s unclear why certain employees must still come into work versus other “non-essential” ones.

“It hasn’t been denied from the department heads, it’s, ‘Are we going to be able to make that happen?’” Somera said.

The county is the region’s third-largest employer, with more than 12,000 workers across 30 departments and offices.

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Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort lays off 275, extends closure

Tribal leaders say Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in Amador County will be closed indefinitely due to public health concerns related to the coronavirus, after originally announcing a two-week closure that would have ended this Wednesday.

The casino also will lay off 275 of its 1,175 employees, according to the Ledger Dispatch newspaper, which is owned by the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians.

Crystal Jack, CEO of Jackson Rancheria, told the Ledger Dispatch that the 275 who are being let go will receive severance payments, and that the casino’s remaining employees will be paid wages and benefits through at least April 12. Jack also said the casino “will reassess the situation in mid-April and reopen when it is safe to do so.”

Other greater Sacramento-area tribal casinos, including Red Hawk Casino in Placerville and Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, also remain closed until further notice due to the coronavirus, according to their websites.

When might stay-at-home orders end?

While many local jurisdictions have issued mandates for coronavirus response measures that are set to last “at least” through a certain date, leaving open the likely possibility of extending that end date, Newsom issued his stay-at-home order with no set end, saying in an early news conference that he did not want to inspire false hope.

Still, remarks made by Newsom — as well as rough estimates given by public health officials and other government leaders at local, state and federal levels — suggest that California and the nation at large are at a bare minimum several weeks away from any potential relief from social distancing.

Newsom last week said that the stay-at-home order won’t end in April, and that he could see it extending as long as 12 weeks, which would be mid-June. Earlier this month, Newsom deemed it unlikely that schools would resume before their scheduled summer breaks; however, Sacramento and Placer counties’ offices of education last week extended their all-campus closures through just May 1.

Sacramento County’s public health chief, Dr. Peter Beilenson, told The Bee last week that he believes residents have overall been doing a good job of “physical distancing” over the past two weeks, but that the county has not yet reached its peak in cases. The county issued its stay-at-home order March 19, hours before Newsom issued his statewide order; Sacramento County’s is set to expire April 7 but will almost certainly be extended.

Beilenson urged county residents to double down on their distancing efforts, and added that “another month and one-half probably makes a lot of sense.” For restrictions to be eased or lifted, he said, availability and speed of testing for the virus must improve considerably.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Sunday said the federal guidelines for social distancing have been extended through at least April 30, after previously being set to expire Monday.

Sacramento jails to release hundreds of inmates Monday

An order from Sacramento Superior Court has directed the Sheriff’s Office to release any inmates who have less than 60 days remaining on their sentences and who are not serving time for domestic violence, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or any offense that requires registration as a sex offender. The order is a measure to allow for greater physical distancing within the jails as the highly contagious virus continues to spread.

The order will result in 421 total inmates being released Monday from the downtown Main Jail and the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center near Elk Grove. The sheriff’s office released 120 inmates from the jails earlier this month.

Macy’s to furlough nearly all employees

Macy’s Inc. said in a statement Monday that it will “be moving to the absolute minimum workforce needed to maintain basic operations,” after having closed all stores March 18.

“This means the majority of our colleagues will go on furlough beginning this week,” the company said in a news release, adding that employees will be brought back “on a staggered basis as business resumes.”

The retailer is continuing online business, with fewer furloughs in its distribution centers and call centers so that orders can be fulfilled.

Macy’s Inc. says it will also continue to provide health benefits to those enrolled through at least May. The company employs about 130,000 people.

Macy’s has four department stores in the Sacramento area: at the Downtown Commons in Sacramento; at Arden Fair mall; at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights; and at Roseville’s Westfield Galleria.

Latest numbers: US cases still skyrocketing

New York state remains the nation’s current epicenter for the coronavirus, with more than 66,000 cases reported and over 1,000 deaths. Almost 800 of the fatalities have been in New York City, according to Johns Hopkins.

New Jersey has surpassed 16,000 cases and has reported nearly 200 fatalities, and 11 other states have between about 2,000 and 5,500 infections, including Michigan (about 5,500 infected, 132 dead); Washington state (4,900 infected, 204 dead); and Louisiana (3,500 infected, 151 dead).

The global total had surged to just over 775,000 as of 2 p.m. Pacific time, with 159,000 cases in the U.S. and another 101,000 in Italy. China has reported 82,000 cases and more than 3,000 fatalities, but has seen the reported growth of both rates slow significantly. Germany has confirmed more than 66,000 cases, with 600-plus dead; Iran and France each have just over 40,000 cases, with about 2,750 fatalities in Iran and more than 3,000 in France; and the United Kingdom is over 22,000 cases with more than 1,400 dead, according to Johns Hopkins data.

What is COVID-19? How does the coronavirus spread?

Coronavirus is spread through contact between people within six feet of each other, especially through coughing and sneezing that expels respiratory droplets that land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The CDC says it’s possible to catch the disease COVID-19 by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching your own face, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

Symptoms of the virus that causes COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which may occur two days to two weeks after exposure. Most develop only mild symptoms, but some people develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The disease is especially dangerous to the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.

Sacramento Bee reporters Cathie Anderson, Tony Bizjak, Sophia Bollag, Mack Ervin III, Vincent Moleski, Sam Stanton and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks contributed to this report.

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