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10 California counties see restrictions eased, risks remain

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ten California counties were cleared to ease coronavirus restrictions Tuesday, including some in the Central Valley that saw major case spikes over the summer, but the state’s top health official warned that upcoming Halloween celebrations pose a risk for renewed spread.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state health secretary, said no counties moved backwards in California’s color-coded, four-tiered system for reopening, but Riverside was on the verge of reverting to the most restrictive purple tier. The county of about 2.5 million residents has asked for a review of its data and will stay in the red tier until the state makes a decision on its status later this week.

“Moving back a tier is important,” Ghaly said. “We don’t want to do it without a significant degree of conversation and understanding.”

Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said the county hopes to persuade the state that it can maintain its current status while still slowing the spread of the virus. A slip back to the purple tier would adversely affect small businesses like restaurants and gyms, which could be forced to shut down indoor operations again, the county said in a statement.

Two San Francisco Bay Area counties, Alameda and Santa Clara, will advance to the less-restrictive orange tier, which allows for increased capacity at restaurants, movie theaters and houses of worship — all with modifications to require face coverings.


The lifting of some restrictions in counties that have shown improvement comes as California sees a continued drop in COVID-19 cases. The seven-day positivity rate was down to 2.7%, Ghaly said. The number of hospitalizations is about 2,225 — a significant drop from a peak of around 7,000 over the summer, he said.

Ghaly said overall trends are moving in the right direction, thanks in part to Californians’ increased willingness to wear masks and avoid large gatherings.

“The more that that becomes widespread around the community, we’re going to see these numbers stabilize and come down,” Ghaly said.

But he added “we’re not out of the woods, and we’re seeing a number of increases across the country, and across the world in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.”

Officials are urging families to skip trick-or-treating this Halloween and instead have costume contests and pumpkin carvings online.

“The whole act of going door-to-door in groups ringing doorbells, digging into buckets of delicious candy, create a risk of spreading spreading COVID-19,” Ghaly said. But he stressed that it was a recommendation, not a rule, and trick-or-treaters will not see any enforcement.

California on Friday night also eased restrictions to allow up to three households to socialize outdoors, an expansion of rules aimed at people tempted to have even larger gatherings around Halloween, Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Fresno County stayed in the red tier and four other counties in the central part of the state — Kern, Colusa, Sutter and Stanislaus — advanced from purple to red. Those improvements were particularly gratifying after those counties experienced

California releases guidelines for private gatherings with friends

Ahead of the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly addressed new guidelines the state released this week allowing private outdoor gatherings with friends if specific conditions are met.

Ghaly said attendees must be from no more than three separate households and gatherings should last no more than two hours.

Gatherings “should be and must be done outside,” he added. People are also expected to take safety precautions, including wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and washing hands.

In the past, the state discouraged any gatherings outside of a single household.


Ghaly said the guidelines are meant to recognize that many close friends and relatives have been apart a long time and increasingly want to be together, especially with the holidays ahead.

The intention of the guidelines is not to encourage gatherings, but to inspire people to socialize safely when they do.

“Guidance here does not mean go,” he said. “It does not mean that we’re endorsing or suggesting small gatherings happen. We just want to provide important ways to reduce your risk, so you protect yourselves, your families and your communities.”

“We believe and still really support the messaging that spending time with your household alone is the way we can reduce transmission the best,” he said.

While much of the country and European nations are seeing a resurgence, coronavirus indicators in California are near their record lows. Hospitalizations are at their lowest level since early April and those in intensive care at their second-lowest level since officials began keeping track in late March. The rate of positive tests has been hovering at 2.6% for two weeks.

“We don’t see the surge other parts of the country are experiencing and other parts of the globe,” he said. “We don’t want to see the spike that could rightfully happen.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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California rules now allow for 3 households to socialize

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is easing its coronavirus restrictions to allow up to three households to socialize outdoors, an expansion of rules aimed at people tempted to have even larger gatherings around Halloween, Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Three households can gather so long as they wear masks and follow other safety precautions designed to stem the spread of the virus, under the new guidelines from the California Department of Public Health. State health officials previously discouraged gatherings outside of a single household.

The goal is not to encourage larger gatherings, Newsom said, but to recognize the increasing pressure for get-togethers and provide ways for people to act appropriately. There’s no limit on the number of people within any three households, though state officials say smaller is better.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, said the guidelines are meant to recognize that many close friends and relatives have been apart a long time and want to be together.


All such gatherings should be outdoors, although it’s OK for guests to use indoor restrooms as long as they are frequently sanitized.

While much of the country and European nations are seeing a resurgence, coronavirus indicators in California are near their record lows. Hospitalizations are at their lowest level since early April and those in intensive care at their second-lowest level since officials began keeping track in late March. The rate of positive tests has been hovering at 2.6% for two weeks.

California has recorded about 850,00 positive tests and has seen more than 16,500 deaths. The number of weekly cases has flattened after a precipitous drop from peak levels during the summer. Average daily deaths have been falling and were at 60 for the most recent seven days.

Newsom said officials want to keep the numbers low.

“We are entering into the holidays, but also we’re entering into part of the year where things cool down and people are more likely to congregate back indoors in settings that put their physical proximity and likelihood of transmission and transmitting disease at higher risk,” he said.

Even the less restrictive guidelines advise that it’s best to stick to the same three households over time.

“Participating in multiple gatherings with different households or groups is strongly discouraged,” the department said in the guidance released late Friday.

People can gather under awnings, roofs or shade structures so long as at least three sides are open to outdoor breezes. Gatherings should be two hours or less to reduce the risk of transmission.

Guests who aren’t from the same household must socially distance and food should not be shared. Masks should be worn except when people are eating or drinking. Singing, chanting and shouting “are strongly discouraged” because those activities increase the release of respiratory droplets and fine aerosols. Hand sanitizer or a place to wash hands must be available.

People who are sick or medically vulnerable should not attend. Those who come down with coronavirus-like symptoms within

California regulators launch review of long, deadly delays in L.A. County specialty care

Los Angeles, CA, August 24, 2019 - Majid Vatandoust, a 49-year old heating and air conditioning technician from Canoga Park, who went to LAC clinic Mid-Valley for a check-up in early 2014. He had unintentionally lost about 20 pounds and routine tests found he was anemic and had blood in his stool, all early indicators of potentially deadly colon cancer. His doctor put in a request via eConsult for a colonoscopy but was denied, his medical records show. The gastroenterologist who turned down the request without ever seeing Vatandoust said the test used to detect blood in Vatandoust's stool was "not valid for patients under 50 years old." Thousands of patients in L.A. County's public hospital system who endure long, sometimes deadly delays to see medical specialists, a Times investigation has found. Doctors, nurses and patients describe chronic waits that leave the sick with intolerable pain, worsening illnesses and a growing sense of hopelessness. According to a Times data analysis of more than 860,000 requests for specialty care at the L.A. County Department of Health Services, a sprawling safety-net system that serves more than 2 million, primarily the region's poorest and most vulnerable residents. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Majid Vatandoust died of colon cancer at age 52, three years after a request for a colonoscopy was denied by a specialist working for L.A. County despite tests that showed clear indicators of the disease. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As current and former doctors in Los Angeles County’s public hospital system condemn delays in providing specialist care, California regulators have launched a review of the long, sometimes deadly waits faced by patients who need treatment from one of the nation’s largest public health systems.

The actions come in the wake of a Times investigation that found patients of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services face agonizing delays to see specialists after referrals from primary care providers, leaving many with intolerable pain, worsening illnesses and a growing sense of hopelessness. The Times report included several patients who died of the conditions they waited to have treated.

The California Department of Health Care Services will review whether any managed care plan that offers Medi-Cal — the government-subsidized program that covers low-income Californians and most county patients — violated its contract with the state to provide adequate access to care, an agency spokeswoman said.

“Any untimely death is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to the families suffering the loss of a loved one. The wait times outlined by The Times are unacceptable,” Michelle Baass, undersecretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said in a statement. “Timely access to care is a fundamental patient right.”

The review is the second underway by the state. The California Department of Managed Health Care began an investigation of the county’s wait times this year in response to questions from The Times about delays in specialist appointments.

Baass is overseeing both inquiries after her boss, state Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, recused himself. Ghaly is married to the director of the Los Angeles County safety-net hospital system, Dr. Christina Ghaly.

The average wait to see a specialist in the L.A. County system was 89 days, according to a Times data analysis of more than 860,000 requests for specialty care at the county’s Department of Health Services, which serves more than 2 million people, primarily the region’s poorest and most vulnerable residents.

Even patients waiting to see doctors whose prompt care can mean the difference between life and death — neurologists, kidney specialists, cardiologists — endured delays that stretched on for months, according to the data, which consisted of nonemergency requests from primary care providers to specialists from 2016 through 2019.

Several doctors who now work for the county or recently left called for reform, including better communication between primary care providers and specialists as well as a dramatic increase in hiring of specialists.

Dr. Michael Hochman, a primary care physician and associate professor of clinical medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, who has practiced at safety-net health systems on both coasts, said Los Angeles County’s is “the least effective system that I’ve worked at in my 14

Newsom formally allows social gatherings in California for first time during pandemic


California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. | Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

SACRAMENTO — California health officials late Friday released rules allowing social gatherings for the first time since the pandemic began, enabling up to three households to get together outdoors.

Details: The new rules follow general guidance that has emerged over the last several months.

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Participants must stay six feet apart and wear masks except while eating or drinking. Besides requiring gatherings outside, the California Department of Public Health encourages residents to stick to the same three households as much as possible, essentially forming a social bubble. Such occasions can occur at private homes or in parks.

The state says hosts should make sure to log the names of all attendees and their contact info in case of an infection. It says anyone with symptoms should not attend and that anyone who contracts Covid-19 within 48 hours should notify other attendees as soon as possible.

People attending gatherings can go inside to use the bathroom as long as it is regularly sanitized.

Such events should last no longer than two hours to limit exposure. And singing, chanting and shouting are “strongly discouraged,” though if they occur, participants should wear masks and try to keep the volume down.

Context: The state until now has prohibited gatherings of households, though many have gotten together for months.

It comes as California infection rates are on the decline after a summer surge. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has steadily rolled out additional guidelines in the last few weeks for activities that had little clarity until now. In late September, the state released rules enabling playgrounds to reopen.

Newsom and health officials expressed concern this spring about gatherings after some Mother’s Day and graduation get-togethers led to disease spread, particularly those that occurred indoors.

What’s next: The biggest impact is laying out best practices when gathering. Many residents have already formed social bubbles or gotten together outside and faced little risk of enforcement.

The rules come as the weather begins to cool heading further into the fall and winter, potentially testing whether residents will heed the advice to keep social gatherings outdoors.

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Disney Locks Horns With California Over Theme Park Reopenings

Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) clashed today with California’s governor Gavin Newsom about the reopening schedule of the state’s theme parks and similar attractions.

Newsom stated that the California legislature feels “there’s no hurry to put out guidelines” for park reopenings

She went on to say Disney’s COVID-19 safety measures for its parks were worked out with epidemiologists and used guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources. Dr. Hymel added that Disney’s other theme parks “have been allowed to open on the strength of our proven ability to operate with responsible health and safety protocols” both domestically and abroad.

California Attractions and Parks Association Executive Director Erin Guerrero also issued a statement: “California’s amusement parks are ready to responsibly reopen.” Guerrero called Gavin’s statement “unreasonable,” and said that his “‘no big rush’ approach is ruining businesses and livelihoods for thousands who could responsibly be back at work.”

and that he doesn’t “anticipate in the immediate term any of these larger parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data,” as reported by Hollywood news source Deadline.

Disney reacted strongly to the governor’s commentary. Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel tweeted, “We absolutely reject the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a ‘health-first’ approach.”

The backlash over Newsom’s statements comes the same day Disney said it will lay off 8,800 part-time theme park workers. Last Wednesday, Disney said it would lay off 28,000 workers, but union negotiations have since limited the pink slips to part-time workers only and made even those layoffs potentially nonpermanent.

Disneyland Park is the world's second-most visited theme park, normally drawing tens of thousands of visitors each day Disneyland Park is the world’s second-most visited theme park, normally drawing tens of thousands of visitors each day Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / DAVID MCNEW

This article originally appeared in the Motley Fool.

Rhian Hunt has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short October 2020 $125 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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The Latest: California Governor Tests Negative for Virus | World News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has tested negative for the coronavirus.

The governor’s office said Newsom was tested on Wednesday after someone in the governor’s office tested positive. The staff member who tested positive had not interacted with Newsom or anyone else who often sees the governor.

The governor’s office said Newsom took the test out of “an abundance of caution.”

Newsom said Wednesday that he has been tested many times and has always been negative. California has reported more than 834,000 coronavirus cases and more than 16,300 deaths.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Washington DC health department asks Rose Garden attendees to get tested

— Paris hospitals on emergency footing as ICUs fill with coronavirus patients

— Am I immune to the coronavirus if I’ve already had it?

— President Trump says he’s ready to hold campaign rallies, credits an experimental drug treatment with helping recovery from COVID-19.

— Coronavirus infections in Ukraine began surging in late summer, hospitals are ‘catastrophically short of doctors.’

— The NFL’s Tennessee Titans had another positive test, bringing the team’s outbreak of COVID-19 to 23.

— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BEIJING __ China, which has four coronavirus vaccine candidates in the last stage of clinical trials, announced Friday that it is joining the COVID-19 vaccine alliance known as COVAX.

The country signed an agreement with GAVI, the co-leader of the alliance, on Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Initially, China did not agree to join the alliance, missing the global deadline to join in September.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement that “we are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX.”

The alliance is designed so that richer countries agree to buy into potential vaccines and help finance access for poorer ones. The Trump administration in the U.S. had declined to join the alliance.

The exact terms of the agreement and how China will contribute are not yet clear. .

HARTFORD, Conn. — Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force says she is concerned about the uptick in coronavirus cases in the Northeast.

She said Thursday at the University of Connecticut’s Hartford campus that a “very different” kind of spread is happening now.

She says it’s not happening in the workplace so much because people are taking precautions. She says more people are becoming infected because of indoor family gatherings and social events as the weather cools.

She says that was a lesson learned in the South during the summer when people went indoors for air conditioning.

BOISE, Idaho — The number of Idaho residents collecting unemployment dropped for the 22nd consecutive week as the state’s reopened economy continues recovering, while at the same time coronavirus pandemic deaths hit 500.

The Idaho Department of Labor said Thursday that the number

Northern California evangelical school tied to ‘very large’ spike in virus cases

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Northern California county will face greater restrictions as it grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases, many of them tied to an evangelical college where more than 120 students and staff have tested positive in the last two weeks, health officials said Tuesday.

Shasta County health officials say that an outbreak of cases among students and staff at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry contributed to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases that bumped the county on Tuesday into a new level of regulations on restaurants, bars, theaters and businesses.

“We have been fortunate enough to have a relatively low number of cases throughout the course of the pandemic,” said Kerri Schuette, spokeswoman for Shasta County Health and Human Services. “But we’ve had a very large increase in cases over the past two to three weeks, with 123 being associated with the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.”

A school spokesman declined to comment Tuesday but forwarded a statement from earlier this month saying that the school was aware its students and staff accounted for “a portion” of Shasta County’s new cases and the school was taking “swift action” to minimize further spread.

In its statement the school said it shifted to online instruction last week and canceled in-person church services for Oct. 4 and Oct. 11 that have been held outdoors on a sports field. It also asked anyone who came in contact with someone who contracted COVID-19 to quarantine at home.

“This has led to a large number of people staying home as a precaution,” the statement said, adding that staff and students have been required to wear face coverings, socially distance on campus and do daily temperature checks at the door since classes started in early September.


On its website, the school describes itself as “a ministry training center” that is not an accredited university “where our students embrace their royal identity, learn the values of the kingdom, and walk in the authority and power of the King.”

The school does not provide housing for students, saying on its website that it welcomes hundreds of international and U.S. students each year and “it is our hope that our students ‘infiltrate’ the neighborhoods of Redding.”

Shasta County recorded more than 500 new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, pushing its total number of cases since March to 1,158.

Another cluster was traced to an assisted living facility, called the Windsor Care Facility, where 60 residents and 20 staff have tested positive for the virus since the start of the outbreak, with most of those cases occurring in the past three weeks, Schuette said.

State health officials announced Tuesday that Shasta County was getting bumped to the “red tier” of a color-coded framework for business and school reopenings. It means that restaurants, churches and other businesses can open with limits on the numbers of people allowed inside. Other nonessential businesses like bars must close.

Schuette said the county has been working closely with Bethel

California sees no link from school openings to virus spread

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has not seen a link between the reopening of K-12 schools for in-person learning and increased coronavirus transmission, the state’s top public health official said Tuesday.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, told reporters that officials have been closely watching the return to classrooms in counties where it has been allowed. He said it can take time for trends to emerge, but so far, the results are encouraging.

“We have not seen a connection between increased transmission and school reopening or in-person learning,” Ghaly said. “We’re looking at the information to see if there is a connection, and so far we have not found one.”


California requires counties to report coronavirus levels and infection rates below certain thresholds before they can allow K-12 schools to broadly reopen for in-person instruction. On Tuesday, 32 of the state’s 58 counties were deemed eligible to do so — up from 28 a week earlier.

Counties must meet the threshold for at least two weeks before schools are allowed to reopen. Yuba County, about 140 miles northeast of San Francisco, met the threshold for the first time on Tuesday.

The county is preparing to reopen schools by limiting the number of students in each classroom to make sure people can stay at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from each other, Yuba County Superintendent of Schools Francisco Reveles said.

Reveles said students would likely come to school in groups, with some groups attending in the morning while others attend in the afternoon.

“We’re in a different environment now,” he said. “Even though we can open up, there’s certain precautions we need to continue taking.”

The state has seen a broad decline in the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. While some areas are seeing an increase in infections, the state’s overall case numbers have fallen since a surge over the summer following the initial reopening of various business sectors.

California reported a seven-day average of 3,005 new virus cases on Tuesday and a seven-day positivity rate of 2.6%, Ghaly said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Schools have been allowed to reopen in many smaller California counties as well as more populated ones such as Orange and San Diego. In those counties still barred from resuming broad in-person instruction, some schools have obtained special waivers from the state to let elementary students return to classrooms, and many campuses throughout the state have resumed in-person special education classes and day care programs.

Los Angeles County, which has the largest population in the state, still can’t broadly allow for in-person instruction, but this week began taking applications for limited waivers to reopen transitional kindergarten through second grade classrooms.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to

California governor’s office tells diners to wear masks “in between bites”

The California governor’s office put out a tweet on Saturday advising that restaurant-goers keep their masks on while dining. “Going out to eat with members of your household this weekend?” the tweet reads. “Don’t forget to keep your mask on in between bites. Do your part to keep those around you healthy.”

In California, masks are required for anyone going outside their home, as well as workers in customer-facing businesses, offices, factories, and health care professionals, among others, according to the state’s COVID-19 guidance.

While children under 2 years old and those with breathing troubles or medical exemptions do not need to wear a mask, everyone else is required to wear them in all indoor public places — and also outdoors if keeping 6 feet of social distance with others isn’t possible.

The official guidance does say that masks can be removed for a number of reasons, including eating or drinking. However, the tweet from Governor Gavin Newsom’s office offered somewhat different advice, which confused some Twitter users.

“I’m very confused by this tweet. The image suggests you should only take your mask off once when you begin a meal but the text suggests you should put it back on between bites,” journalist Matthew Fuhrman wrote, referring to the graphic shared in the tweet. 

“Should we wash our hands after touching our mask each time we remove it between bites? What if I’m eating chips and salsa and I go for a double dip? Is that technically two bites since it’s the same chip?” another person asked.

“This violates the @WHO ‘Dont’s of Mask wearing,'” another person tweeted, including a graphic from the World Health Organization which advises people to avoid touching their mask as much as possible, and to wash their hands before touching their mask and after discarding it. 

CBS News has reached out to the governor’s office for more information on the guidance in the tweet.

In California’s published guidance for dining in restaurants, wearing a mask in between bites is not mentioned. Physical distancing to the maximum extent possible, the use of face coverings by workers and customers, frequent hand-washing and regular disinfecting are among the elements of the COVID-19 prevention plan. Many counties in California currently limit indoor restaurants to 25% of normal capacity, or are allowing outdoor dining only, depending on local infection rates. 

In New York, which also has a statewide mask mandate and has reopened limited indoor and outdoor dining, the rule is to wear face coverings at all times — except while seated at a restaurants. In Georgia, where masks are “strongly encouraged” but not required, there is an exception “when eating, drinking, or exercising outdoors.” 

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