Monday, January 31, 2022 – California Healthline

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California Healthline Original Stories
Colleges Struggle to Recruit Therapists for Students in Crisis
The need for mental health services on campus, which was already rising, has skyrocketed during the pandemic, with many students undergoing grave psychological crises. Colleges say they often lack the means to offer competitive salaries to therapists. (Mark Kreidler, 1/31)
Deadline Looms Today For Single-Payer Health Care Bill: California Democrats must decide Monday whether to advance a bill that would make the government pay for everybody’s health care in the nation’s most populous state. The bill would create a universal health care system and set its rules — but it would not pay for it. There’s another bill that would do that. It has a different deadline and does not have to pass on Monday. Read more from AP and KTVU.
S.F. Residents Who Got J&J Shot Can Now Get A Third Shot: San Francisco residents who got the Johnson & Johnson Janssen coronavirus vaccine and have been boosted with a second shot can now get a third. Regardless of what brand of vaccine people had for their second dose, the city is advising a Pfizer/BioNTech shot for the third. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Below, check out the roundup of California Healthline’s coverage. For today’s national health news, read KHN’s Morning Briefing.
Coronavirus
Los Angeles Times: L.A. County's Daily Coronavirus Cases Continue Dramatic Decline, But Death Rate Remains High 
Los Angeles County’s daily coronavirus case numbers continue to see a dramatic decline, but death rates remain high, health officials said. The county reported 16,835 new daily coronavirus cases on Sunday, down from 26,354 cases recorded a week earlier, on Jan. 23, officials said. There were 40 additional deaths reported Sunday; there were 63 on the previous Sunday. Officials caution that the number of cases and deaths may reflect reporting delays over the weekend. (Lin II, 1/30)
Los Angeles Times: Optimism At L.A. County's Nursing Homes As Coronavirus Surge Declines 
Los Angeles County’s nursing homes have observed an extraordinary increase in coronavirus case rates during the Omicron surge — reaching levels exceeding even last winter’s wave — but that unprecedented torrent of infections hasn’t been matched by a record-high number of daily COVID-19 deaths, county health data show. The county has instead observed a relatively small increase in daily COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes during the Omicron surge, officials said. And new daily coronavirus cases have already started to drop. (Lin II, Money and Alpert Reyes, 1/31)
The Bakersfield Californian: How Prevalent Is Omicron? Backlog, Selective Testing Reveal Incomplete Picture 
While the California Department of Public Health estimates that 97 percent of COVID-19 cases currently sweeping through the state are the omicron variant, you wouldn’t know that by looking at some counties’ data. Case in point: The Kern County Public Health Services Department’s COVID-19 dashboard, an online resource available to the public, reported 255 omicron cases and 2,136 delta cases as of Friday. Kern’s Public Health Department has received sequencing results for only 2,963 cases — which includes other variants than omicron and delta — out of 210,736 cases total since the pandemic began. (Desai, 1/28)
San Diego Union-Tribune: How Will The Winter Surge Change The Path Of The Pandemic? Should We Be Worried? 
A third of all coronavirus cases recorded in San Diego County since the pandemic began in 2020 have occurred since Christmas day, according to the region’s latest public health update. More than a quarter-million positive tests were reported from Dec. 25 through Jan. 25, making up about 37 percent of the pandemic total, which is closing in on 700,000 local cases. But those numbers miss anyone with minor illness who never needed to get tested or who didn’t want to wait in a long line at a testing center and those who confirmed their infections with home testing kits, which are not reported to health departments. (Sisson, 1/29)
CNBC: The Latest Covid Variant Is 1.5 Times More Contagious Than Omicron And Already Circulating In Almost Half Of U.S. States
There are already dozens of cases across almost half of the U.S. of a new Covid subvariant that’s even more contagious than the already highly transmissible omicron variant. Nearly half of U.S. states have confirmed the presence of BA.2 with at least 127 known cases nationwide as of Friday, according to a global data base that tracks Covid variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement Friday, said although BA.2 has increased in proportion to the original omicron strain in some countries, it is currently circulating at a low level in the U.S. (Kimball, 1/28)
CIDRAP: Studies Show Omicron Variant Less Severe But Causes More Reinfections
Two studies published yesterday in Eurosurveillance show the Omicron variant leads to fewer hospitalizations than the Delta variant, but an increased risk of infection in vaccinated and previously infected people. (1/28)
Bay Area News Group: 5 Numbers That Show The Incredible Toll COVID Has Exacted In The Last Two Years
Exactly two years ago, Santa Clara County’s top public health officials huddled in a conference room and began listing everything they knew and didn’t know about the mysterious deadly virus circulating the globe. “The first column was rather short and the last column was very long,” said Public Health Director Sara Cody, reflecting on the day when her calendar officially switched from B.C. – Before COVID. The Bay Area’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus had been detected in Santa Clara County on that day – Jan. 31, 2020 – in a man who had recently traveled back from Wuhan, China, where the virus was originally found. (DeRuy, 1/31)
The Washington Post: Covid May Have Seasons For Different Temperature Zones, Study Suggests 
Covid-19 transmission may have seasonal spikes tied to temperature and humidity, increasing at different times of the year for different locations, a new study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene suggests. Colder regions, such as the U.S. Northeast, may experience more cases during winter, while warmer regions, such as the southern United States, may see higher transmissions in the summer. More-temperate zones could experience two seasonal peaks. (Patel, 1/28)
More on the Coronavirus
Modesto Bee: Stanislaus County Offers N95 Masks To Cities To Slow Omicron
A well-fitted N95 mask is another layer of protection against catching the omicron variant of COVID-19 and is safer than a cloth mask that might have been sufficient against delta, health experts say. Patterson will distribute N95 masks to its residents Tuesday at a drive-through at the Hammon Senior Center, at 1033 W. Las Palmas Ave. (Carlson, 1/30)
WGCU: Mask Litter Is A Worldwide Problem With Serious Environmental Ramifications, Study Shows
Discarded cigarette butts, cans and bottles have been fouling Florida’s beaches, preserves and parking lots for as long as people have been using such items, and now there is a new scourge being mixed in: discarded masks used to protect the wearer from COVID-19. Masks come in many shapes and sizes, but one commonality is too many of them are being discarded everywhere except in a trash can. Some were white but have been trampled by dirty sneakers and driven over by car tires so many times the masks are spotted brown, flattened and stuck to the pavement. Others were light blue, but now white fibers from the inside show through. Red ones shine so brightly they can be seen from far away. Masks dropped to the ground are a threat to wildlife, and when washed into sewers they have the potential to clog sewage systems. (Bayles, 1/30)
CalMatters: Omicron Surge Strains California Police Agencies
The call-ins were steady. Deputies were out sick. So were dispatchers. Even the sheriff was forced to stay home for five days. In a month’s time, the small Sierra County Sheriff’s Office became a revolving door of isolating and returning staff. When Sheriff-Coroner Mike Fisher was elected in 2018 in this county of 3,200, community policing and recruiting talented officers were high on his priority list. But on a recent Tuesday afternoon, he had to settle for a less ambitious role: driving a jail inmate to a doctor’s appointment about 90 miles away in suburban Sacramento. (Lyons, 1/30)
CalMatters: What Happened When Omicron Forced City Halls To Close Doors? 
While there’s no good time for a town to be hit by a worldwide pandemic and successive waves of highly-contagious variants, Eastvale in Riverside County has been cruelly hammered at just the wrong moment. On the cusp of new commercial development, when Eastvale sought to attract business to its modest main street, omicron threw a smothering blanket over the city’s bureaucracy. In the state’s second-youngest city, encouraging growth is a high priority. That means streamlining the creaky and byzantine civic process of approving permits, scheduling inspections and issuing business licenses. (Cart, 1/28)
CalMatters: Gavin Newsom, COVID-19 & Omicron: Grading The Response 
​​While COVID-19’s omicron wave appears to have crested, it leaves in its wake sick nurses and burnt out bus drivers, short-staffed hospitals and canceled surgeries, school districts scrambling for substitute teachers and grocery store cashiers forced to choose between their health and their finances. Other countries met this variant with fresh lockdowns. Other states authorized state bureaucrats to moonlight as teachers. In New York City and Washington D.C., businesses are now required to check the vaccine status of their customers.  (Christopher and Gedye, 1/28)
Los Angeles Times: Joe Rogan Responds To Spotify Misinformation Controversy
Popular Spotify podcaster Joe Rogan on Sunday night responded to allegations of misinformation on his audio program, pledging to do a better job of balancing different perspectives and putting more time into researching topics. “I’m going to do my best, but my point of doing this is always just to create interesting conversations, and ones that I hope people enjoy,” Rogan said in a nine-minute video statement released on Spotify and on his Instagram page. “So if I piss you off, I’m sorry and if you enjoyed the podcast, thank you.” (Lee and Pearce, 1/30)
Vaccines
Stat: Early Data Indicate Vaccines Still Protect Against Omicron’s Sister Variant
New data show that vaccines still protect against a spinoff of the Omicron variant, a welcome sign as the world keeps a close eye on the latest coronavirus iteration. BA.2, as the sublineage is known, is part of the broader Omicron umbrella. Scientists are paying more attention to it as it begins to eat into the dominance of the more common Omicron strain, which is technically called BA.1. (Joseph, 1/28)
Southern California News Group: Why These Vaccine Holdouts Finally Decided To Get Their First Jab
When it comes to the coronavirus vaccine, it may seem like minds are firmly made up for or against them. But that’s not entirely true. Vaccinations are well below levels seen in the first half of 2021, but since Thanksgiving when the highly contagious omicron variant was first identified, a steady number of people, averaging more than 30,000 per day, have been rolling up their sleeve for a first dose in California. From Jan. 1 to Jan. 25, almost three-quarters of a million people got their first dose in the Golden State. That’s about 9% of the population that was eligible but unvaccinated when the year began, according to an analysis of data from the California Department of Public Health. (Johnson, 1/30)
Covid Testing
San Francisco Chronicle: Why It’s Suddenly Easier To Get A COVID Test In The Bay Area
The long lines outside testing sites have shortened. Appointments have opened up. Results are coming back faster. The winter coronavirus testing crisis is over. The omicron surge peaked in early January just at the moment when people needed coronavirus tests the most: back from the December holiday season, surrounded by friends who had caught the bug, returning to school and work — and often needing proof of a negative test result. (Johnson, 1/29)
Covid Mandates
Voice of OC: Disneyland Moves To Implement Vaccine Mandate For Workers
Disneyland is pushing ahead with a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for all employees as negotiations with unions break down according to a new post from one of the theme park’s largest unions. The Workers United Local 50 Union, which represents food and beverage cast members at Disneyland resort, posted on their Facebook page that management is moving forward with a vaccine mandate for union members as well as other unions not currently under a mandate. (Biesiada and Elattar, 1/28)
CapRadio: California Will Once Again Become A Battleground For Vaccine Laws 
California is poised to become a battleground over strict vaccine laws, an issue that has become even more inflamed since 2019, when anti-vaccine protesters were arrested and a state lawmaker assaulted. State Sen. Richard Pan (D–Sacramento) this week introduced Senate Bill 871, which would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required school vaccines, eliminating personal or religious exemptions for the immunization on Jan. 1, 2023. (Nixon, 1/28)
Schools and Universities
Modesto Bee: How Modesto Keeps Classrooms Open In Omicron COVID-19 Surge 
Over the past few weeks in Modesto City Schools, associate superintendents have stepped back into instructing classrooms. A senior district official spent a week as a principal, followed by stints leading middle and elementary school classes. It’s all part of the district’s approach to keeping classrooms open amid the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is helping out to avoid closing schools, Superintendent Sara Noguchi said. (Isaacman, 1/30)
Los Angeles Times: UC Riven Over In-Person Vs. Online Classes Amid Omicron 
As the University of California returns to in-person instruction Monday, conflicts are brewing across the system over whether to continue offering remote learning options amid lingering fears about health and safety risks during the continuing pandemic. After a largely in-person fall term, the UC system’s nine undergraduate campuses shifted to remote classes through January as a precaution against the highly contagious Omicron variant. But the return to mostly in-person classes — encouraged by high vaccination rates and signs that the surge has peaked — is anything but smooth. (Watanabe, 1/31)
Drug Use and Pharmaceuticals
San Francisco Chronicle: The Pandemic Exacerbated S.F.’s Overdose Epidemic. 2021 Data Shows Just How Much
In 2021, preliminary data shows 650 people died of accidental drug overdoses in San Francisco. That’s about 60 fewer than in 2020, when overdose deaths spiked across the U.S. as measures to curb the virus isolated people and shut down or disrupted services for those dealing with substance use. Last year was also a time of a new level of urgency and awareness surrounding the overdose epidemic in San Francisco, with the city implementing new approaches to curb it. It’s not yet clear if the small decline in deaths — about 60 fewer in 2021 than 2020 — is proof that the city’s various response programs are making a dent. (Jung, 1/30)
NBC News: Marijuana Use May Cause Cognitive Impairment Even When No Longer High
A recent analysis of previous research on the impact of cannabis on young’s people’s cognition found that many of the known learning and memory difficulties — such as slowed processing speed, and difficulties in focusing — could linger for weeks. Verbal learning, retention and recall were especially affected for longer periods when the person was no longer high, researchers from the University of Montreal found. (Carroll, 1/30)
The Mercury News: Popular ’80s Party Drug Slowly Gains Respect As PTSD Treatment
The successful treatment of PTSD patients such as Lubecky is catapulting MDMA and other psychedelics into the medical spotlight as promising therapeutic tools. Long stigmatized, MDMA is proving to be effective in easing PTSD in rigorous clinical trials conducted at UC San Francisco and other respected medical centers around the globe. Although some scientists remain skeptical, a growing number of researchers say the treatment could potentially help the more than 300 million people worldwide who suffer from the psychiatric disorder. (Prillaman, 1/30)
The Wall Street Journal: Drugmakers Raised Prices By 6.6% On Average Early This Year
Drugmakers raised list prices by an average of 6.6% in the first few weeks of this year on cancer, diabetes and other prescription medicines, sticking with more moderate increases while lawmakers scrutinize pricing practices. In all, about 150 drugmakers raised prices on 866 products in the U.S. through Jan. 20, according to an analysis from Rx Savings Solutions, which sells software to help employers and health plans choose the least-expensive medicines. (Walker, 1/30)
Theranos Trial
Bay Area News Group: Elizabeth Holmes: Judge Has Given Long Sentences, Baby May Help
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes fraud conviction has raised two big questions: Will she go to prison? And if so, for how long? Holmes faces up to 80 years behind bars and a $1 million fine after her conviction on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud related to defrauding investors. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. (Baron, 1/29)
Housing Crisis
Sacramento Bee: Sacramento Has Housing Vouchers; Many Are Still Homeless 
About 1,250 Housing Choice Voucher holders in Sacramento do not have housing, according to the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. The number ticked up from 1,000 two years ago, despite a new state law aimed at making it easier for voucher holders to find housing. That law, which went into effect in January 2020, prohibits California landlords from writing “no Section 8” in rental postings. The month it went into effect, 60 Sacramento postings had that phrase, The Bee reported at the time. As of this month, only two did. (Clift, 1/30)
Public Health
KQED: 'Acts Of Great Love': How The Marijuana Minister Of The Castro Helped His Flock Endure The AIDS Epidemic 
When you think of gay activists and icons in San Francisco history, leaders like Supervisor Harvey Milk and Sally Miller Gearhart or recording artist — and Castro staple — Sylvester might first come to mind. These pioneers did their work in the public eye and are recognized for their achievements, but they weren’t the only ones on the front lines fighting for the rights of the city’s queer community. In a small church a few blocks away from the Castro — during the height of the AIDS epidemic — a much lesser-known activist was fighting to provide comfort to a dying congregation of LGBTQIA Christians. (Beale, 1/28)
Fox News: Alcohol Consumption Can Directly Cause Cancer, Study Says
The consumption of alcohol is a direct cause of several kinds of cancer, according to researchers. In a recent large-scale genetic study led by Oxford Population Health and published in the International Journal of Cancer, a team from Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, worked to investigate gene variants linked to lower alcohol consumption in Asian populations. To do so, the team used DNA samples from more than 150,000 adults – the majority of whom were women – in the China Kadoorie Biobank study. (Musto, 1/29)
The Washington Post: Bed Rest After Hospitalization May Hamper Recovery For Older Patients 
Hospitalization often spells the beginning of the end of older patients’ mobility. Bed rest could be to blame — and in-hospital exercise programs could provide the jump-start older patients need to maintain their functionality at home, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests. (Blakemore, 1/30)
NPR: Researchers Find Alzheimer's Link To Overactive Microglia Cells
It all started with genetic data. A gene here, a gene there. Eventually the story became clearer: If scientists are to one day find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, they should look to the immune system. Over the past couple decades, researchers have identified numerous genes involved in various immune system functions that may also contribute to Alzheimer's. Some of the prime suspects are genes that control humble little immune cells called microglia, now the focus of intense research in developing new Alzheimer's drugs. Microglia are amoeba-like cells that scour the brain for injuries and invaders. They help clear dead or impaired brain cells and literally gobble up invading microbes. Without them, we'd be in trouble. (Stetka, 1/30)
Health Care Survey The 2022 CHCF California Health Policy Survey
This recent statewide survey found that one in four Californians had trouble paying a medical bill in the last 12 months. The survey also captures Californians' health care priorities for the governor and legislature to address.
Listening to Black Californians Black Californians on Racism and Health Care
CHCF commissioned interviews with 100 Black Californians to understand their views on health and well-being, their perceptions of discrimination and bias in the health care system, and their views on what a quality health care system looks like.
CalAIM CalAIM Explained: Overview of New Programs and Key Changes
Pending federal approval, CalAIM (California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal) would add new programs and make important reforms to many existing programs, bringing in significant federal matching dollars in addition to the millions allocated from the general fund. This explainer provides an overview of all the changes proposed.
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California Healthline is a service of the California Health Care Foundation produced by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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