In California: COVID spreading fastest here. And anti-mask protests break out across state
Plus: Dodger Stadium reopens for testing, and actress Tanya Roberts is not dead
Welcome to a brand new year! I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, and I hope you had a terrific holiday weekend. We're back with California's latest headlines.
In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.
COVID-19 cases fall in California, but it's still the fastest spreader
In the week ending Saturday, the state of California reported 267,947 new cases of coronavirus, down 3.6% from the previous week. Then, 278,053 new cases were reported.
According to a USA TODAY Network analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, California ranked No. 1 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis. In the latest week, the United States added 1,435,654 reported cases of coronavirus, an increase of 8.2% from the week before. Across the country, 35 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.
However, due to testing changes around the holidays, making comparisons is not easy. Because of the closure of testing sites and people traveling, some counties and states haven't reported data as quickly as they normally do.
In California, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Lassen, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. In addition, 2,324 Californians were reported to have died of COVID-19 in the week ending Saturday. In the week prior, 1,636 people were reported dead.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 2,391,261 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus and 26,538 have died from it as of Sunday, according to state officials. Throughout the United States, 20,566,479 people have tested positive and 351,233 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins data.
Expiring COVID vaccines given to people outside of high-priority groups
While some Southern California hospitals have admitted to giving doses of the coronavirus vaccine to family members of staff and physicians, they say it was only because they didn't want to waste doses that had been removed from refrigeration and were rapidly expiring after being declined by health care workers.
"This is like liquid gold right now," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County's public health director, quoted by abc7.com. "At times they've vaccinated a group of health care workers at the hospital that weren't in what we call tier 1."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 4 million doses have been administered in the United States, a number far below the government's goal to vaccinate 20 million people before the new year.
But there is new hope that a half-dose of the Moderna vaccine might trigger the same immune response in people between the ages of 18 and 55. If so — the FDA is meeting this week to discuss the possibility — that could immediately double the number of available doses.
Also in vaccination news, it was reported today that some California doctors and nurses have received the second dose of their vaccination. In fact, the first Southern California health care worker to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine found herself in line once again to receive her second dose.
Mask protests continue throughout the state over New Year's weekend
Anti-mask protests and videos of altercations over face mask requirements across California continue to go viral, even as coronavirus cases surge.
On Saturday, "Burn the Mask" protesters blocked the entrance of a Fresno Trader Joe's, causing the grocer to close in the afternoon, The Fresno Bee reported.
In Los Angeles County, where nearly 1 in 5 people is testing positive for the virus, a group of protestors stormed a Ralphs grocery store Sunday and argued with customers over masks. One protester even called a fellow shopper a "mask Nazi,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Elsewhere in L.A., chaos broke out at a mall in Century City Sunday night after anti-mask protesters tried to force their way into several stores. Some workers even seemed to be barricading themselves inside stores to keep out protesters, reports abc7.com.
Mask compliance has sparked debates throughout the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said for months that wearing masks slows the spread of COVID-19, but some politicians, including President Trump, have been called out for not wearing one.
Dr. David Abrams, professor of social and behavioral science at New York University, told USA TODAY in October after Trump got COVID that there should be consequences for not wearing masks when required like seat belt rules and needing a shirt and shoes to enter a business.
"This is a life-and-death issue," he said. "Masks, physical distance and hand-washing are the three things we have to reduce the spread of the virus in the absence of a vaccine."
President-elect Joe Biden has said he plans to ask all Americans to wear masks during the first 100 days of his administration.
Bite-sized news bits:
- Despite Sunday reports to the contrary, actress Tanya Roberts is not dead, according to her rep. A report from abc7.com says that Roberts, 65, has been in the hospital since Dec. 24 after she collapsed while walking her dogs. On Sunday, her publicist said he had been told by Roberts' boyfriend that she had died. He now says that information was incorrect. Meanwhile, krtv.com reports that Roberts' condition is dire but not related to COVID. Beginning her career as a model, Roberts made a name for herself playing Julie Rogers in the final season of the 1970s television series "Charlie's Angels." She went on to play Stacey Sutton in the James Bond film "A View to a Kill" and she appeared on "That '70s Show" from 1998-2004.
- U-Haul weighs in on San Francisco's pandemic exodus. In 2020, more people moved out of California via rental truck than residents of any other state, according to migration trends reported by U-Haul, with San Francisco serving as is "the epicenter of the Bay Area’s pandemic exodus." Last year, California reported the largest net loss of one-way U-Haul trucks crossing its border, accounting for 58% of all one-way U-Haul traffic from March to June. (U-Haul said the numbers would probably have been higher had there been more trucks available for rent.) By comparison, in the previous year, slightly more U-Haul trucks arrived in the Bay Area than left.
- Coach Anthony Lynn was fired from the Los Angeles Chargers after failing to make playoffs again. According to the Los Angeles Times, it was "blown leads, the game mismanagement and the losses" that led to the parting of ways Monday following the team's 7-9 season. Owner Dean Spanos respectfully said in a statement released by the team: “As we all know, this is a results-driven business and, simply put, the results of the past two years have fallen short of expectations.”
- Dodger Stadium resumes COVID-19 testing. The nation's largest coronavirus testing site — aka Dodger Stadium — reopened in Los Angeles Monday after being closed for the weekend so officials could address traffic issues. A report from abc7.com says the site now uses two parking lots and has added six additional lanes, changes that will hopefully allow 600 to 800 more vehicles into the parking lots and keep them off neighboring streets. Since May, more than 1 million COVID-19 tests have been administered there.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: abc7.com, The Fresno Bee, krtv.com, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle.
As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.