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COVID-19 Update: Holiday 'Surge Upon A Surge' Still Coming; $300 Million For Vaccines In Proposed Budget

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Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on COVID-19 in California. Watch the full video above and read highlights below.

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

There were 29,633 new COVID-19 cases in California in the latest reporting period from Sunday, but Gov. Newsom noted that they appear to be low, a potential result of delays caused by the holiday season. The seven-day average is still at 37,845 new COVID-19 cases per day.

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The average number of daily tests conducted dropped to 285,500 over the past week, but there were 421,000 tests conducted on Saturday and 314,000 on Sunday. The positivity rate is at 12.4% over the past two weeks.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are growing more slowly, with an 18% increase over the past two weeks. However, Newsom noted that this is likely a lull before a "surge on top of the surge" due to new cases and hospitalizations associated with the holidays. There's been a 22% increase in ICU admissions over the past two weeks.

Newsom noted that, over the past two months, hospitalizations have increased by a multiple of seven, while ICU numbers have gone up by a multiple of six.

Meanwhile, ICU capacity remains at 0% in both Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, meaning that these areas are using their surge capacity.

There were 97 deaths due to COVID-19 in the latest reporting period, but that's likely low due to weekend and holiday reporting delays. There have been an average of 336 deaths per day over the past week, with 3,959 COVID-19 deaths in the past two weeks. The disease is currently more deadly than it has been at any previous point in this pandemic, Newsom said.

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There have been nearly 1,300 state and federal staff deployed to local areas across the state to help with the response to COVID-19.

COVID-19 VACCINES PLAN

The governor said that California is aggressively working to accelerate the pace of vaccine administration. The plan to do this is by more directly engaging the health care system.

The plan includes having the vaccine distributed by:

  • Dentists
  • Pharmacy techs
  • National Guard members
  • Pharmacies
  • Clinic and doctor partnerships

The state has received nearly 1.3 million doses of vaccine so far, with another 611,500 doses arriving this week. The state has given 454,306 of those vaccine doses to people so far.

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Newsom said that the state has had more difficulty with distributing the Moderna vaccine than the Pfizer vaccine.

The state continues to work through Phase 1A of vaccinations, which is about three million people, which includes health care workers and long-term care residents. Phase 1B includes about eight million people, while Phase 1C is expected to be a much larger group.

Phase 1B Tier One includes people who are age 75+, workers in education and child care, emergency services, food and agriculture. Further details of this next tier will be announced Wednesday.

Phase 1B Tier Two includes those 65+, along with workers in transportation/logistics, industrial, residential & commercial sheltering facilities/services, critical manufacturing, incarcerated individuals, and the homeless.

Phase 1C includes those 50+, those 16-64 with underlying medical conditions and/or disability, along with workers in water/waste management, defense, energy, communication & IT, financial services, chemicals/hazardous materials, and government operations/community service. While this phase will be discussed Wednesday, complete details will not come until later.

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The Community Vaccine Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting on Wednesday to discuss Phase 1B, the 1C roll out, and operational details of the vaccine's administration. You can find that discussion at covid19.ca.gov.

COVID-19 VACCINE BUDGET

Newsom said that the state's current budget includes a proposed $300+ million for vaccines. This includes funding for:

  1. Information technology: CALVAX end-to-end vaccine management
  2. Logistics & commodities: Transport containers, dry ice, freezers, and more
  3. Public education campaign: Engage public & key stakeholders through "culturally competent" campaign

Newsom noted that dry ice storage continues to be an issue both for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, despite Moderna not needing to be stored at as cold a temperature in distribution facilities.
Newsom is set to send his 2021-22 budget to the Legislature this week, with more details to come Friday.

ENFORCING THE STAY-AT-HOME ORDER

Mobility over the New Year's Eve weekend was down 23% compared to traffic volume in 2020 prior to the pandemic. It was similar to numbers seen in late March after the original stay-at-home order.

But the state is also stepping up enforcement of the regional stay-at-home order, particularly in L.A. County. The goal is to reduce super-spreader events/parties and to make sure bars and restaurants are in compliance with the orders. In L.A. County, the efforts have been focused on shutting down residential gatherings.

MORE CONTAGIOUS COVID STRAIN IDENTIFIED IN CALIFORNIA

The new strain has been detected in California, with four people identified in San Diego, with one hospitalized. There were two others identified with the strain in San Bernardino. Contact treacing and disease investigation are currently underway. Newsom said that others are expected to be identified by this afternoon, thanks to genomics testing being conducted.

Early data shows that this new strain may be more contagious, but is not more severe. The CDC believes that current COVID-19 vaccines will still protect against the new strain.

Newsom emphasized that the same tactics that are already being used need to continue with this new strain: masking, not mixing, not traveling, keeping your distance, and washing your hands.

CALIFORNIA'S OXYGEN STRATEGY

Gov. Newsom said that there are five parts of the state's oxygen strategy, needed due to potential shortages from the large amount of oxygen required to help COVID-19 patients:

  1. Mitigation/Awareness
  2. Technical Assistance
  3. Bulk Oxygen Support
  4. Home Oxygen Support/Hospital Discharge Support
  5. System Procurement

The state has created a state oxygen team as part of its efforts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been deployed to help with oxygen in several areas, including five facilities in Los Angeles County.
CALIFORNIA PHONE EXPOSURE NOTIFICATIONS

So far, eight million Californians have activated the CA Notify service on their phones, indicating that 20% of the state is participating. Newsom encouraged Californians to add your phone to the effort.

SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS

Newsom said that thousands of small businesses have already applied for state funding to support them through the pandemic, with $500 million in small business grants. The first application round has been extended through Jan. 13, with grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 and daily webinars available in multiple languages. You can apply at CAReliefGrant.com, with the grants open to small businesses, which Newsom noted includes nonprofits and cultural institutions.

More details on support for small businesses is set to come out Friday, such as waiving fees.

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