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COVID-19 restrictions may have played a role in San Francisco firefighter’s death

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCT. 7: Family and friends of deceased SF firefighter and paramedic Jason Cortez head to SFFD vehicles for a procession to Medical Examiner's office from SF General Hospital in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Cortez died Wednesday morning during a training exercise. (Scott Strazzante/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
Family and friends of deceased firefighter and paramedic Jason Cortez prepare for a procession from San Francisco General Hospital. (Scott Strazzante / San Francisco Chronicle)

The San Francisco Fire Department has revealed the circumstances leading to the death of a firefighter during a training exercise last week, noting that restrictions implemented to stem the spread of the coronavirus might have played a role.

Jason Cortez, 42, was knocked off a third-floor fire escape Wednesday by an inadvertent water blast, the report said. He was alone on the fire escape of a training facility at 19th and Folsom streets when he opened the gate of a hose adapter that did not have a hose lined attached, and the stream of water struck him in the chest and pushed him backward.

Although accidental in nature, Cortez’s death could be linked to COVID-19 restrictions, according to the report. His engine company, Station No. 3, was conducting a solo training exercise that typically requires multiple firefighters from two stations.

“Because of COVID 19 concerns, multi-company drills are suspended,” the report said. Engine 3 “was forced to conduct a pump operation drill alone. … Each [firefighter] was required to carry out tasks individually which are normally done as part of a team.”

San Francisco Fire Department firefighter paramedic Jason Cortez.
San Francisco Fire Department firefighter paramedic Jason Cortez. (San Francisco Fire Department )

The San Francisco Fire Department was one of the first in the nation to implement aggressive COVID-19 guidelines in accordance with recommendations from doctors, hazardous-industry specialists and epidemiologists, according to spokesman Lt. Jonathan Baxter. The social distancing measures are meant to ensure the safety of fire crews and the communities they serve.

“We don’t want to cross-pollinate those crews unless we absolutely have to,” Baxter said. “Cross-pollination does occur during actual emergencies, but those are uncontrolled. When we have controlled sessions, such as a training session, we try to limit the exposure as much as possible.”

Baxter said it was likely that those guidelines would be reevaluated in light of Cortez’s death, but he said training and community safety must remain top priorities.

“We can’t put training on hold during COVID-19 because emergencies aren’t going to go on hold,” he said. “We have to be prepared, especially when we have so many new and young firefighters that need to be trained and tested on skill sets. … But one fatality, one injury, is one too many.”

Cortez was a father of two and the son of a retired San Francisco firefighter. He was treated for critical injuries at the scene and transported to San Francisco General Hospital shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday. He died from his injuries less than an hour later.

Station No. 3, in the Tenderloin neighborhood, is regularly ranked one of the busiest in the country, often with up to 40 calls during a 24-hour shift.

“If you looked at Jason at 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning, he had a positive attitude, smile on his face, excellent customer service,” Baxter said.

UC San Diego ends up with 5,000 fewer dorm students than projected, primarily because of coronavirus

UC San Diego has 9,655 students living in campus housing this fall, a figure that’s nearly 5,000 less than the campus has been projecting since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

a group of people walking down the street: Students move their belongings into dormitories at UCSD on Saturday, Sept. 19. (Sandy Huffaker / San Diego Union-Tribune)

© (Sandy Huffaker / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Students move their belongings into dormitories at UCSD on Saturday, Sept. 19. (Sandy Huffaker / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The university also disclosed last week that it expects to lose about $200 million for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. The school had been saying the losses would range from $350 million to $450 million.


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The huge cut in student housing represents a largely unpublicized effort to staunch the spread of the virus. Campus housing executives weren’t available for comment, said Leslie Sepuka, a spokeswoman.

UC San Diego began fall 2019 with 15,500 students living on campus, a figure that was expected to rise to 17,600 this year as new housing came online.

When the pandemic began to hit hard this spring, the university adjusted its estimates to 14,500 students who would be were living in campus housing in the fall.

UC San Diego told the Union-Tribune in mid-August that it was standing by that estimate. But the campus was actually moving to reduce the number of dorm students due to health safety guidance from the state, according to an email Sepuka sent last week to the U-T.

By early September, UC San Diego shifted, saying it would have about 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students in housing this fall. The number reflected further efforts to “de-densify” dorms in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The dorm population was 9,655 on Oct. 1, the university says.

UC San Diego also has said its COVID-19 financial losses could total as much as $450 million, with nearly half of the costs affecting the UC San Diego Health system.

, Sepuka said last week that the campus expects to have $140 million in unexpected costs in 2020 and 2021, and that the health system would take a $60-million hit in 2020. The total: $200 million.

“The earlier high-level estimates are no longer accurate because they were exactly that: estimates based on the best assumptions at the time,” Sepuka said in email Thursday.

UC San Diego Health originally expected to lose $200 million alone. The estimate fell to $100 million, then to $60 million after the university received some government support.

“We have very good financial people. But this was a difficult situation, which made it hard to make estimates,” said Dr. David Brenner, vice chancellor for health sciences. “This is the first time we’ve ever had an estimate that was this far off.”

The university has fared much better in forecasting COVID-19 infections. The school said in August that it expected 20 to 40 students in campus housing this fall would get infected the virus. So far, the number of positive tests has been in that range.

The university is trying to prevent an outbreak by regularly testing students for COVID-19, and

San Diego schools remove Trump letter from food boxes due to mask statements

Volunteers stand with boxes of produce at a drive-up produce giveaway | AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Volunteers stand with boxes of produce at a drive-up produce giveaway | AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The San Diego Unified School District is removing letters from President Donald Trump that his administration placed inside food boxes as part of a federal coronavirus relief program for families in need.

Superintendent Cindy Marten, who oversees one of the nation’s largest school districts, told POLITICO on Tuesday that she has directed her food and nutrition services department to remove all letters from food boxes that have not already been distributed “in order to protect local families from being misled on how to protect themselves from becoming infected.”


The USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program redirects meat, dairy and produce to low-income families instead of the restaurants and other food-service businesses that normally receive them. The Trump administration has been criticized for mandating that a letter from Trump taking credit for the program be included in the food boxes weeks before Election Day.

Critics have accused Trump of politicizing poverty and using the food relief program as a campaign tool.

The letter, on White House stationary, is signed by Trump and says, “As part of our response to coronavirus, I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”

Marten specifically took issue with the virus prevention advice in Trump’s letter, which advises people to “consider” wearing masks in public rather than telling them to do so. The letter landed right as Trump and various associates were diagnosed in the past few days with the disease.

“Science is clear: wearing masks works to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Marten said in a statement Tuesday. “Wearing masks is required in California and on every San Diego Unified school campus. It is not optional, as the president wrote in his letter.”

Marten also cites the letter’s focus on people over 80 years old, pointing out that more than 60,000 school-age children in California have been diagnosed with the virus.

About 58 percent of San Diego Unified’s more than 122,000 students in the state’s second-largest district qualify for free and reduced price meals. Statewide, nearly 60 percent of California’s 6 million-plus K-12 students qualify.

San Diego Unified Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said the letter is especially egregious because it goes to low-income people of color, who have comprised an outsized share of Covid-19 cases in California.

“The COVID-19 virus has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Not only are we facing higher rates of infection and mortality from the coronavirus, we have also been the hardest hit in terms of unemployment and hunger. To take advantage of that suffering by distributing misleading medical information is appalling,” Whitehurst-Payne said.

Some schools have received the boxes via local food banks. Several California school districts said they are not participating in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, including Los Angeles Unified, Fresno Unified and San Francisco Unified. The food box program is separate from the National School Lunch Program that districts rely

Free Flu Shots In San Ramon And At CoCo COVID-19 Testing Sites

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA — As of Thursday, Contra Costa County will offer free flu shots to residents who are getting tested at a COVID-19 testing site.

The county will also conduct seven vaccination clinics in October, bringing free flu shots to San Ramon, Concord, Richmond, Antioch and Brentwood.

All can come regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status — and flu shots are not included in public charge assessments. people do not need appointments, an ID or social security number, but they must wear masks and be at least six months old.

Getting a flu shot has never been more important, Contra Costa Health Services said Wednesday in a news release.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to get their flu shots this year,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s health officer, in the news release. “Offering [the] flu vaccine at COVID testing sites will let people cross two things off their to-do list at once.”

The announcement comes as many in public health have sounded the alarm about a so-called twindemic due to a possible double surge in flu and COVID-19 cases. People can fall ill with both the flu and coronavirus, the county said.

The Bay Area’s flu season tends to peak in January or February, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people get flu shots by the end of October.

Flu vaccines should be received in advance of flu season, since it takes people about two weeks after vaccination to develop antibodies, according to the CDC. But getting vaccines too early can lead to decreased efficacy later in flu season.

Flu symptoms are similar to COVID-19 symptoms and can include congestion, cough and fever, the county said. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 and Contra Costa residents are urged to get a free test if they exhibit such symptoms during flu season.

See a list of Contra Costa COVID-19 testing sites here.

Free flu shot clinics will run through the month of October at the following areas:




  • Wednesday, Oct. 14, 9 a.m. to noon: Monument Crisis Center (1990 Market St.)

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Loma Vista Adult Center (1266 San Carlos Ave.); drive-thru site


  • Thursday, Oct. 8, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Shields Reid Community Center (1410 Kelsey St.)

  • Sunday, Oct. 18, noon to 4 p.m.: Tibetan Association of Northern California (5200 Dalai Lama Ave.)

San Ramon

  • Friday, Oct. 30, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Alcosta Senior & Community Center (9300 Alcosta Blvd.); drive-thru site

Get more details about the free flu shot clinics here.

This article originally appeared on the San Ramon Patch

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San Mateo County Reports 53 New Coronavirus Cases, No Deaths

SAN MATEO COUNTY, CA — San Mateo County Health reported 53 additional coronavirus cases Tuesday.

The latest report brings the countywide case count to 9,950.

The county reported no additional coronavirus-related fatalities Tuesday, leaving its COVID-19 death toll at 150.

There were 32 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in San Mateo County as of Tuesday, of which nine were being treated in intensive care units.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area and beyond, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday enacted new protections for commercial rental tenants who can prove financial hardship directly tied to COVID-19-related causes, but opted to not expand existing protections for residential renters beyond those already in place.

The supervisors unanimously approved adding commercial renter protection to a Sept. 22 urgency ordinance that already provides some protection for residential renters who have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic and can prove it.

San Mateo County’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a resolution to contract for up to $5 million to increase COVID-19 testing.

Since March, the county has partnered with Verily, Alphabet Inc.’s life sciences research organization that launched the Project Baseline program to provide free COVID-19 testing.

The original resolution, adopted March 24, allowed the county to contract with entities providing COVID-19 related services for a maximum of $500,000, paid from the county’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

The amended resolution increases the agreement threshold to $5 million as the county aims to increase testing to over 1,000 tests daily, up from the previous daily average of 600 to 700 tests.

Contra Costa County moved out of the state’s most restrictive coronavirus reopening tier Tuesday, allowing some businesses like gyms and restaurants to resume operating indoors with limited capacities.

Contra Costa was one of the last remaining counties in the greater Bay Area remaining in the in the Widespread tier, also frequently denoted as Tier 1 or the purple tier, due to an elevated rate of new cases.

“The credit really belongs to the residents of Contra Costa, who have adapted to the new normal and modified their lifestyles to reduce the spread of COVID in the county,” said county Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano.

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There have been 814,062 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 15,717 coronavirus-related deaths in California as of Tuesday afternoon according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The United States had 7,180,411 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 205,774 coronavirus-related fatalities as of Tuesday afternoon.

There have been 33,484,488 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,004,129 deaths reported globally as of Tuesday afternoon.

— Bay City News contributed to this report

This article originally appeared on the San Mateo Patch

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