June 18, 2024

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36 dead in California; Sacramento mayor weighs in on testing

Coronavirus infection and death totals continue to climb sharply worldwide, including in California, where President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a major disaster declaration.

That declaration will increase food assistance and financial help for people who have lost work or faced business losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and came as Trump activated the National Guard in California, Washington and New York, three of the states hit hardest by the crisis.

Trump also approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s earlier request to deploy the Navy medical ship Mercy to Los Angeles to help relieve strain on the hospitals there.

California remains essentially locked down to public life, as Newsom last Thursday mandated the closure of all nonessential businesses and ordered all of the state’s 40 million residents to only leave their homes for essential reasons, such as shopping for groceries, staple supplies or to go to work at a business deemed essential.

As of late Monday morning on the West Coast, more than 365,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed globally and more than 16,000 people have died, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

The United States has surpassed 40,000 cases as the highly contagious virus spreads and as testing increases, the third-highest total in the world. China has remained steady at just over 81,000 cases while Italy has seen its total infections boom to about 64,000. More than 6,000 coronavirus deaths have been reported in Italy.

Sacramento County up to 88 cases, 4 deaths

Public health officials in a Monday update said there are now 88 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, an increase of 35 since Friday.

The death total also increased from three to four. Sacramento County officials have not identified any of the deceased except to say that so far, those who have died are older than 70 and had underlying health conditions.

California updates official coronavirus numbers

California’s Department of Public Health has officially tallied 1,733 confirmed coronavirus cases and 27 deaths as of its most recent update, released Monday with numbers accurate as of 2 p.m. Sunday.

More than 450 cases have been confirmed as being transmitted, nearly 1,000 more are under investigation and the remainder are either travel-related or involve person-to-spread with a known COVID-19 case, according to the state.

A Bee survey of coronavirus case numbers released by county health departments showed at least 1,854 confirmed infections and 36 total deaths across California as of 1:20 p.m. Monday, the most recent death coming in Sacramento County. Data by Johns Hopkins showed 35 fatalities in the state.

Health workers, first responders should get first tests, Sacramento mayor says

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said during a Monday morning press conference that a widespread testing system is critical to returning to “some form of normalcy,” but that by the end of the week, testing still likely won’t be ready for everyone in the city.

“We are gonna have to triage who gets tested,” he said. “It has to be the first responders and healthcare workers who get tested first in my opinion.”

Steinberg added that those who test positive should then be quarantined and that those who test negative can resume some form of regular work.

“As the county, state, region and city balance all this, testing is a crucial piece of allowing society to return to some level of normal.”

Steinberg and other city leaders also on Monday unveiled a fundraising effort, Donate4Sacramento, to help homeless, small business, families and others hit hard by the pandemic’s impact on the economy.

Google Verily’s Project Baseline launches in Sacramento

Sacramento County residents experiencing mild to moderate symptoms and who are age 18 or older can now fill out Project Baseline’s “COVID-19 screener” to see if they are qualified for in-person testing.

The physical locations of the testing site or sites have not been shared publicly, but previous testing sites established by the project have been set up as drive-throughs.

The project launched with pilot programs in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties on March 15, but has since expanded to include the Lake Elsinore area in Riverside County and now Sacramento.

According to a blog post on the Project Baseline website last Thursday, the project last week established at least three sites in the two Bay Area counties, including “two large expo centers that facilitate drive through screening and sample collection.”

“In the first days of on-site testing, more than 130 individuals were tested,” the post said.

More than 12,000 people in the Bay Area had used the online screening tool as of the Thursday post.

Sacramento County public health chief Peter Beilenson last week told The Sacramento Bee that the federal government has been “woefully inadequate” in delivering critical test materials, and called the testing failures “ridiculous.”

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Hawaii to quarantine, resulting in canceled flights

State officials in Hawaii say a mandatory 14-day quarantine of the islands will begin Thursday. Hawaiian Airlines will continue flights through Wednesday to get residents and non-residents back home but cancel all later flights.

Hawaiian Airlines flies to Oahu and Maui from Sacramento International Airport. Hawaii has reported 56 cases of coronavirus as of Sunday, most on Oahu.

Neither Southwest Airlines, the number one carrier to and from Sacramento International Airport, nor Alaska Airlines had announced cancellations between Hawaii and Sacramento as of Monday morning.

Inmates, prison workers test positive for coronavirus

At least five employees and at least one inmate within California’s large prison system have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Sunday evening, state corrections officials said.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement late Sunday that an inmate at California State Prison, Los Angeles, near Lancaster has tested positive. CDCR also confirmed that two workers at CSP Sacramento, also called New Folsom; another at the next-door Folsom State Prison; and two more at the California Institution for Men in Chino had all returned positive tests.

The inmate was tested Friday and the result came back Sunday, according to the news release.

“The agency will restrict movement at the institution while a contact investigation is underway and quarantine those deemed at-risk for an observation period,” the news release said. “The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has been notified.”

Family members, staffers and lawyers for the inmates have become increasingly concerned about an outbreak spreading quickly through the overcrowded facilities. Inmate advocacy groups are calling for older inmates near projected release dates who are not considered a threat to be released early.

CSP Los Angeles had 3,201 inmates as of March 1, well above its design capacity of 2,300.

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State tax offices close across California

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration announced Monday in a news release that public counters in all of its field offices statewide will be closed temporarily due to the coronavirus and physical distancing measures.

“Taxpayers requiring an office visit to make a tax payment should contact the department to schedule an appointment,” the news release said, adding that these one-on-one appointments are done through phone or video.

CDTFA administers California’s taxes on sales and use, fuel, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis, as well as a variety of other taxes and fees.

Call centers and online services by the department also remain active.

Last week, California and the United States each extended this year’s state and federal income tax return filing deadlines to July 15, three months later than the original April 15 deadline.

Deaths in Yolo, Sacramento reported over weekend

Yolo County on Sunday afternoon announced that an older patient, the sixth confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county, has died of the virus.

The patient, who became Yolo County’s first coronavirus death, had underlying health issues, health officials said.

In Sacramento’s Pocket neighborhood, Faith Presbyterian Church announced a second death within its congregation. Pastor Jeff Chapman announced that 85-year-old Don Sperling died Saturday.

The first death was a substitute kindergarten teacher who served as a children’s choir instructor at the church. She died March 15.

Five members of the church in total have tested positive for COVID-19. Chapman has tested negative, but the church has been shuttered temporarily.

Sperling’s death appears to be at least the fourth in Sacramento County, with public health officials having previously confirmed three deaths and 53 total cases as of early Friday afternoon before updating the totals Monday to four dead and 88 infected.

Massive CalPERS losses: $69 billion

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s fund balance stood about $335 billion Thursday, down from a record high of $404 billion one month ago, according to CalPERS officials.

The $69 billion loss comes as the coronavirus and concerns related to the pandemic have devastated global markets, and marks the biggest decline in the pension fund since the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System has likely experienced similar losses, but the system doesn’t publicly report its value as frequently as CalPERS does. Its value stood about $243 billion at the end of February.

The losses will impact local governments, schools, taxpayers and some state and local public workers. Cities, counties and schools will have to pay CalPERS more in the years to come to help make up for the losses, putting pressure on them to raise taxes or reduce public services.

Golden 1 offering loan payment deferrals, waiving some fees

Sacramento-headquartered Golden 1 Credit Union is offering loan payment deferrals of up to three months on “auto, credit card, home equity, personal loans, and lines of credit” and up to six months for mortgage payments, according to an email sent Sunday to its members.

Finance charges will continue during the deferral period, the credit union says, but there is no fee or negative credit report impact associated with requesting a deferral, according to Golden 1.

“It is important to understand deferral of payments will increase finance charges over the life of the loan, and may increase the number of payments required to pay off the loan, your final payment may also change,” a note at the bottom of the email explains.

Golden 1 is also waiving some fees, including late fees for auto, mortgage, home equity loans and lines of credit payments.

The measures come as an emergency COVID-19 financial relief effort, the credit union’s email says.

Latest US coronavirus numbers: Totals grow, NY cases skyrocket

More than 20,000 of the U.S. coronavirus cases and over 150 of the nation’s more than 400 fatalities have come in New York state. New Jersey has more than 2,800 confirmed cases and 27 deaths, while Washington state (95 deaths) and California (36 deaths) are closing in on 2,000, according to the Johns Hopkins map and the Bee survey as of 11 a.m. Pacific Time on Monday.

After Italy’s 64,000 cases and 41,500 in the United States, Spain has reported 33,000 cases and just over 2,200 deaths; Germany has confirmed 29,000 cases and close to 120 deaths; Iran has seen 23,000 confirmed cases and 1,800 deaths; and France has recorded moew rhn 20,000 and more than 850 fatalities.

Reminder: What is COVID-19? How is 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 Tony Bizjak, Sophia Bollag, Theresa Clift, Dale Kasler, Vincent Moleski, Sam Stanton, Wes Venteicher and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks contributed to this report.

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