Good evening. Im Karen Kaplan, and its Friday, Nov. 12. Heres the latest on whats happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.
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Last week, as my colleague Melissa Healy covered a meeting of the expert panel that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about vaccines, she caught a brief exchange that pricked up her ears.
It began when Dr. Oliver Brooks, a panel member and chief medical officer of Watts Healthcare in Los Angeles, invited CDC representatives to discuss how rolling out Pfizer and BioNTechs new kid-friendly COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 could bring the country closer to its herd-immunity goal.
At first, Brooks was met with an awkward silence. Then, Dr. Jefferson Jones, a medical officer on the CDCs COVID-19 Epidemiology Task Force, spoke up.
Thinking that well be able to achieve some kind of threshold where therell be no more transmission of infections may not be possible, Jones told the CDC panel. The widespread phenomenon of waning immunity among people who survived coronavirus infections as well as those whove been vaccinated has made the adoption of a clear herd-immunity goal very complicated, he added.
Since the pandemics early days, weve been working toward the collective goal of reaching herd immunity. Experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted that once 70% to 85% of the population was vaccinated against COVID-19, the virus would run out of potential hosts to infect and the outbreak would sputter to an end.
Even at the low end of that range, that target has been elusive. As of Friday, only 58.7% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDCs COVID Data Tracker.
That percentage is sure to rise, but its value will fall.
For starters, the target that was set in the 70%-to-85% range was based in part on the transmissibility of the coronavirus. That ability to jump from person to person has escalated dramatically in the last year, thanks to the rise of the Alpha and Delta variants.
Meanwhile, the protection provided by vaccination or past infection is turning out to be less durable than previously expected. That also affects the accuracy of herd-immunity estimates.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, and its repeatedly challenged us, Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDCs COVID-19 response, told Healy when she called to follow up on Jones comments. Its impossible to predict what herd immunity will be in a new pathogen until you reach herd immunity.
Thats why the CDC is shifting its focus away from a specific vaccination target that, when met, would presage the end of the pandemic. Instead, officials intend to redefine success in terms of new infections and deaths. (The particular goals havent been selected.)
Dr. Oliver Brooks, center, observes a COVID-19 screening station outside the Watts Health Center in Los Angeles. He fears that without a target for reaching herd immunity, it will be more difficult to motivate people to get vaccinated.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Oliver Brooks, the advisory panel member from Watts, said he could understand where the CDC was coming from. But hes nonetheless concerned that backing off a specific target for herd immunity will cause the nations immunization effort to lose some much-needed steam.
Plus, he said, if health officials stop focusing on the herd, Americans may lose sight of the fact that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 isnt just a way to protect yourself but also a means for protecting the community around you.
Theres some risk involved in changing the goal posts, because it could feed into the idea that the CDCs pronouncements on COVID-19 arent all that credible. The agency has already taken fire for its about-faces on the value of masks and how readily the virus spreads in the air.
Unfortunately, thats just how science works.
We want clean, easy answers, and sometimes they exist, John Brooks said. But on this is one, were still learning.
California cases and deaths as of 4:40 p.m. Friday:
Track Californias coronavirus spread and vaccination efforts including the latest numbers and how they break down with our graphics.
What does it take to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19? People like Father Francisco Valdovinos.
Valdovinos was a Catholic priest at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mecca, Calif. During the few years he served the congregation in the Coachella Valley, he organized literacy and legal classes for his working-class parishioners and pressed politicians to improve services for the community.
But the 58-year-old immigrant from Mexico really leaned in when the pandemic arrived. He gave out tens of thousands of face masks, celebrated Mass with social distancing, and used the parish as a coronavirus testing site. He encouraged people to take COVID-19 seriously. And even before the first shots were available, he urged people to get vaccinated.
Valdovinos himself never got that chance. He came down with COVID-19 in December and died in January.
At the time, residents of Mecca promised to honor Valdovinos by getting the vaccine. And as my colleague Gustavo Arellano writes, they sure did.
As of Friday, 54.1% of Riverside County residents are fully vaccinated. But in the 92254 ZIP Code that includes Mecca, that figure is 72%, The Times tracker shows.
Thats high enough to put Mecca in the top quartile of California ZIP Codes for which vaccination rates are available, according to data from the states Department of Public Health.
An undated photo of Father Francisco Valdovinos with two of his parishioners.
When Father Valdovinos died, he awakened the consciousness of the people in our community to go out there and get the shot, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) told Arellano. For their health, yes, but also out of respect for his life.
Maria Machuca, a longtime community organizer, added that getting the shots was a way of securing Valdovinos legacy.
He was just building momentum, Machuca said. Its just a big loss we dont know what he couldve done. So we need to continue what he did.
See the latest on Californias vaccination progress with our tracker.
Whats on your wish list for the holidays? Maybe you havent made up your mind yet, but the state of California has and it wants you to get a booster shot.
Health officials are hoping to head off a second fall-and-winter COVID-19 surge by encouraging as many booster-eligible adults to get an extra dose as soon as possible. So far, only 14% of fully vaccinated adults here have done so, including 34% of fully vaccinated senior citizens.
The CDC says adults are eligible for a booster shot if they got their Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago or if they got their second Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot at least six months ago and face an increased risk of severe COVID-19 due to age, health status, living conditions or job requirements.
But state and local officials are urging pharmacies, medical centers and vaccine administrators to take a more expansive view. As long as people have met the time requirement, they should not be turned away, according to Dr. Tmas Aragn, the state health officer and public health director.
The CDC recently expanded its list of underlying medical conditions that would qualify someone for a booster. Its now so broad that pretty much everybody is eligible, said Dr. Sara Cody, the health officer for Santa Clara County. We really encourage everyone to get out and get their booster shot.
Back to your holiday wish list: Odds are good that youll be visiting a mall at some point in the coming weeks. The city of Los Angeles wants to make that easier by dropping shopping centers from the list of places that require proof of vaccination to serve people indoors.
The City Council voted 10-0 Friday to request new language for the vaccine ordinance that went into effect Monday. Tweaks suggested by the city attorney will have to be approved in another vote.
Council members didnt say what prompted their request. In earlier debates, there were questions about who would be responsible for enforcing the vaccine-verification rule, since there are so many ways for customers to enter a mall.
Elsewhere in the U.S., a federal judge in Austin has cleared the way for Texas schools to institute mask mandates if they so choose.
The judge ruled Wednesday that Gov. Greg Abbotts controversial ban on mask mandates violated a federal law that protects disabled students who want access to public education. That means the Texas attorney general cant sue school districts for requiring masks in the name of student safety. Fifteen such suits have been filed so far.
Globally, the World Health Organization reported that COVID-19 deaths in the Americas declined by 14% over the last week, and new cases fell by 5%. In Southeast Asia and Africa, deaths fell even more by about one-third.
In Europe, on the other hand, COVID-19 deaths increased by 10% over the last week. New coronavirus cases there also rose by 7%, making Europe the only region in the world where both numbers grew, according to the WHO. It was the sixth-straight week that cases and deaths were up across the continent.
The situation has officials turning to measures that are sure to be unpopular. In some parts of Austria, for instance, people who are unvaccinated will soon be asked to stay home unless they have an essential reason to leave, like going to work or the grocery store. And in the Netherlands, it looks like bars and restaurants will be asked to close early for the next three weeks. Sporting events will ban spectators, too.
Things are especially dire in Eastern Europe, where vaccination rates are generally low. As in the U.S., the people who are becoming seriously ill and dying tend to be ones who have eschewed the vaccine.
Theres another similarity with the U.S.: Breakthrough infections and other signs of waning vaccine immunity are providing ammunition to vaccine resisters.
The situation in Europe is worth watching, since surges there are often followed by surges here. And this time around, the vaccination rate in the U.S. is lower than in Western Europe.
Todays question comes from readers who want to know: Does the Biden administrations new vaccine mandate apply to me?
That depends on if you are employed, whom you work for and how many co-workers you have.
First, a little background. Last week, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration released its long-awaited rules for implementing Bidens vaccine mandate for private employers. The tens of millions of Americans who are subject to the rules have until Jan. 4 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or else submit to weekly coronavirus testing.
The OSHA rules are separate from an earlier vaccine mandate that covers workers employed by the federal government or one of its contractors. The new rules are also distinct from a vaccine mandate that applies to roughly 17 million people who work at hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The new vaccine mandate covers workers whose employers are under OSHAs jurisdiction a broad category that includes almost all private-sector organizations in the U.S., including Puerto Rico and several other U.S. territories. (Exempted from OSHAs scrutiny are people who are self-employed, people who work on their own family farms, and people whose job-safety risks are regulated by another part of the federal government.)
To be subject to the vaccine mandate, your employer must have at least 100 employees. OSHA doesnt care whether those workers are in the same place or spread out among multiple facilities. Also, for this math, part-time and seasonal employees count the same as regular full-time employees.
There are a few exceptions. The mandate does not apply to people who work outdoors all of the time. (If you ride to your job site with co-workers in a company vehicle, that counts as working indoors and the vaccine mandate covers you. However, if you only come indoors to use a restroom, it doesnt.)
If you work from home exclusively, the mandate does not apply to you. Ditto if you are the only one in your workplace and dont interact with customers or colleagues. But youll still count toward toward the 100-employee threshold.
Workers may request an exemption to the vaccine mandate on medical or religious grounds, and employers will have to take reasonable steps to accommodate valid requests and let people get weekly coronavirus testing instead. But if its not possible to work around someones unvaccinated status, failure to get the shots can cost them their jobs.
Not surprisingly, the vaccine mandate has its critics. More than half of the states have challenged the rules in court, and on Saturday, the federal appeals court based in New Orleans granted an emergency stay. Officials in the Biden administration say theyre confident theyll prevail, in part because federal safety rules take precedence over state ones.
In fact, OSHA is already looking into the feasibility of extending the vaccine mandate to companies with fewer than 100 employees.
We want to hear from you. Email us your coronavirus questions, and well do our best to answer them. Wondering if your questions already been answered? Check out our archive here.
MaKensi Kastl greets boyfriend Thierry Coudassot upon his arrival from France at a Newark, N.J., airport on Monday. The couple hadnt seen each other in person for over a year due to pandemic travel restrictions.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)
Its been a week for emotional reunions now that the U.S. has lifted the COVID-19 travel restrictions that were in place for more than 20 months.
The rules came down early in the pandemic to keep the coronavirus out of the country. Unfortunately, that kept loved ones out of the country, too. U.S. citizens and permanent residents could return from trips abroad, but foreign citizens were forced to play a waiting game.
That meant this was the week for long-separated spouses to make their way back into each others arms, and for grandparents to embrace toddler grandchildren theyd never met.
Im going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him, said Gaye Camara, who lives in France and was making her way through Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to visit her New York-based husband, whom shed last seen in January of 2020.
Dual U.S.-Canadian citizen Traysi Spring and her American husband, Tom Bakken, welcome people heading into Blaine, Wash., from Canada on Monday. The U.S. reopened its land borders to nonessential travel after almost 20 months of COVID-19 restrictions.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
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Practice social distancing using these tips, and wear a mask or two.
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Coronavirus Today: Shifting the focus from herd immunity - Los Angeles Times
- New York Reports Five Omicron Cases - The New York Times - December 3rd, 2021
- Pfizer COVID pill benefited from research on SARS : Shots - Health News - NPR - December 3rd, 2021
- San Francisco Followed Covid Rules. Will Omicron Change the Playbook? - The New York Times - December 3rd, 2021
- COVID-19 survivors have higher risk of death 12 months after infection - Medical News Today - December 3rd, 2021
- Omicron could be tougher against the COVID-19 vaccine than other variants, Rice research shows - Houston Public Media - December 3rd, 2021
- CDC director says recommendations for protection the same, 'regardless of the variant': COVID updates - USA TODAY - December 3rd, 2021
- COVID-19 in South Dakota: 512 total new cases; Death toll rises to 2,357; Active cases at 7,572 - KELOLAND.com - December 3rd, 2021
- Coronavirus in Ohio Thursday update: Over 9,000 new cases - NBC4 WCMH-TV - December 3rd, 2021
- Northeast Ohio sees highest COVID hospitalization levels in the state - fox8.com - December 3rd, 2021
- Omicron and other coronavirus variants: What you need to know - Wink News - December 3rd, 2021
- Patriots again experience the disruptive power of Covid-19 - Pats Pulpit - December 3rd, 2021
- First Omicron case reported in the US: Live updates - CNN - December 2nd, 2021
- COVID-19: Top news stories about the coronavirus pandemic on 1 December | World Economic Forum - World Economic Forum - December 2nd, 2021
- How worried should we be about Omicron, the new coronavirus variant? - CNN - December 2nd, 2021
- Greece imposes monthly fines of 100 euros on the over-60s who refuse a Covid vaccine - CNBC - December 2nd, 2021
- UC San Diego hustling to find Omicron variant of coronavirus to help assess threat to public health - The San Diego Union-Tribune - November 29th, 2021
- Coronavirus variants: Here's what we know - CNN - November 29th, 2021
- OMICRON: Cases of new coronavirus variant are confirmed around the world - News 12 Bronx - November 29th, 2021
- South Africa informed the world of omicron. Then it was hit with travel bans : Coronavirus Updates - NPR - November 29th, 2021
- Will the Covid Vaccines Stop Omicron? Scientists Are Racing to Find Out. - The New York Times - November 29th, 2021
- Gov. Murphy got his COVID booster shot and says you should too - nj.com - November 29th, 2021
- Stocks and oil prices drop as the world reacts to new coronavirus variant omicron - NPR - November 27th, 2021
- World is put on high alert over the Omicron coronavirus variant - CNN - November 27th, 2021
- Active coronavirus cases surge in Ulster; Dutchess reports one new death - The Daily Freeman - November 27th, 2021
- The highest COVID death rate in the world is in Peru. How did that happen? : Goats and Soda - NPR - November 27th, 2021
- Daily coronavirus data for Colorado, BVSD and the University of Colorado Boulder, reported Nov. 26, 2021 - The Daily Camera - November 27th, 2021
- COVID-19 skeptic barely survives 102 days in hospital: Oregon man thought it was all a lie - oregonlive.com - November 27th, 2021
- CPW keeping eye on research documenting coronavirus in deer - The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel - November 25th, 2021
- Why are coronavirus cases and hospitalizations on the rise in the US? - ABC News - November 25th, 2021
- Serious concern as South Africa detects new coronavirus variant - Aljazeera.com - November 25th, 2021
- 548 more coronavirus cases have been reported across Maine - Bangor Daily News - November 25th, 2021
- Coronavirus: NYC families will get paid time off to have kids vaccinated - silive.com - November 25th, 2021
- These 7 N.J. ZIP codes have been hit hardest by COVID - nj.com - November 25th, 2021
- Coronavirus researcher Cameron Myhrvold is using 'spectacular' new technologies to seek and destroy viral pathogens - Princeton University - November 25th, 2021
- Coronavirus in Ohio Wednesday update: Another day of more than 6,000 new cases reported - NBC4 WCMH-TV - November 25th, 2021
- How Is COVID Testing Still This Confusing? - The Atlantic - November 25th, 2021
- COVID-19: Unvaccinated mother, 27, dies with coronavirus as her father calls for fines for people who refuse jab - Sky News - November 25th, 2021
- U.S. has already seen more COVID deaths in 2021 than 2020 before vaccines were available, as experts again warn pandemic is not over - MarketWatch - November 25th, 2021
- Active coronavirus cases in Wyoming up by 202 | Coronavirus | wyomingnews.com - Wyoming Tribune - November 25th, 2021
- City of Fresno | Corona Virus (COVID-19) - November 23rd, 2021
- As Thanksgiving Approaches, U.S. Virus Cases Tick Upward Once More - The New York Times - November 23rd, 2021
- With coronavirus on the rise again, what will another pandemic winter look like in Oklahoma? - Oklahoman.com - November 23rd, 2021
- State's COVID-19 Positive Rate Remains Above 3% Ahead of Thanksgiving Weekend - NBC Connecticut - November 23rd, 2021
- California has one of lowest coronavirus rates in US heading into holidays, but could surge again - Stockton Record - November 23rd, 2021
- N.J. reports 1,330 COVID cases, 7 deaths. Positive tests rising ahead of Thanksgiving holiday. - nj.com - November 23rd, 2021
- UK employers step up demand for workers vaccinated against Covid - The Guardian - November 23rd, 2021
- Mesa cancer survivor nearly dies from COVID-19 breakthrough infection - Arizona's Family - November 23rd, 2021
- Clashes break out in Brussels in protests over coronavirus restrictions - Reuters - November 23rd, 2021
- Protests have broken out across Europe in response to tightened COVID-19 restrictions - NPR - November 23rd, 2021
- Coronavirus tally: Global cases of COVID-19 top 258.3 million and Germany minister offers stark warning to unvaccinated - MarketWatch - November 23rd, 2021
- Doctor shares what to do so you don't 'bring COVID to your Thanksgiving dinner' - News 5 Cleveland - November 23rd, 2021
- On This Day: COVID-19 patient zero reportedly diagnosed in China in 2019 - The Jerusalem Post - November 23rd, 2021
- Coronavirus in Ohio Monday update: More than 4,300 cases reported - NBC4 WCMH-TV - November 23rd, 2021
- Could coronavirus stay on surfaces and infect you? New study - The Jerusalem Post - November 21st, 2021
- COVID live updates: All the coronavirus news you need to know - ABC News - November 21st, 2021
- Coronavirus in Oregon: 1,090 new cases, 28 deaths as feds recommend boosters for all adults - oregonlive.com - November 21st, 2021
- In South Sudan, Vaccines Are Overshadowed by Pressing Needs - The New York Times - November 21st, 2021
- Kalispell's hospital finds innovative method to fight COVID-19 - KPAX-TV - November 21st, 2021
- Coronavirus FAQ: What is long COVID? And what is my risk of getting it? - NPR - November 18th, 2021
- 'Sadly, this virus will never leave our society': Weekly new infections again surpass 600,000. COVID-19 updates - USA TODAY - November 18th, 2021
- Coronavirus spreads in deer and other animals. Scientists worry about what that means for people - CNN - November 18th, 2021
- COVID-19 Q&A: Should I invite non-vaccinated family to Thanksgiving dinner? - mlive.com - November 18th, 2021
- Netherlands Is Maxing Out Its Covid Testing Capacity - The New York Times - November 18th, 2021
- Hospitals across KELOLAND seeing increase in COVID-19 patients - KELOLAND.com - November 18th, 2021
- COVID cases are rising worldwide, is next variant on its way to Israel? - The Jerusalem Post - November 18th, 2021
- During 2021 NBA Finals, at least 12 people close to Bucks and Suns tested positive for COVID-19, per report - CBSSports.com - November 18th, 2021
- Researchers find way to filter coronavirus particles out of the air - Sky News - November 16th, 2021
- Is the COVID over? Dr. Fauci reveals the end of coronavirus is near - Deseret News - November 16th, 2021
- COVID in Georgia | COVID case, death, and hospitalization data Nov. 16 - 11Alive.com WXIA - November 16th, 2021
- U.S. COVID cases start to rise again as the holidays approach - NPR - November 16th, 2021
- Alaska reports 1,089 new coronavirus infections and two COVID-19 deaths over weekend - Anchorage Daily News - November 16th, 2021
- Why Dont We Have a Covid Vaccine for Pets? - The New York Times - November 16th, 2021
- Some Ways to Have COVID - New York Magazine - November 16th, 2021
- 'We are gravely concerned.' Henry Ford health officials warn of rising COVID hospitalizations - WXYZ - November 16th, 2021
- Treating severe COVID-19: Study assesses risks of dexamethasone - Medical News Today - November 16th, 2021
- 'We really don't know how they got it': Some Oklahoma deer have coronavirus antibodies - Oklahoman.com - November 14th, 2021
- Europe and Russia battle a new wave of COVID-19 - NPR - November 14th, 2021
- Broad Institute researcher wants to fade into obscurity, but first she hopes her COVID book is a bestseller - The Boston Globe - November 14th, 2021
- A farm winery in Colchester thrived during the coronavirus pandemic. But COVID-19 took its toll and the owner is selling. Asking price: $3.2 million... - November 14th, 2021
- COVID-19 cases in Aroostook County schools have surpassed last year's total - Bangor Daily News - November 14th, 2021