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Morning Brief: Record-Breaking COVID Numbers, STI Testing, And NASA

Two young men wearing medical masks stand behind a table with documents, small boxes, and what look like hand sanitizer bottles. A woman at the table looks down at a document in her hand.
COVID tests being distributed at Daniel Webster Middle School in Mar Vista.
(Suzanne Levy
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Jan. 10.

As many experts predicted, COVID-19 continues to surge post-holidays. Yesterday, local officials announced a record-breaking 45,584 new cases in L.A. County. 

Those numbers come on the heels of more than 34,000 new cases on Saturday, and over 43,000 new positives on Friday.

The effects of the surge are being felt around the state. California state prisons suspended in-person visits beginning on Saturday after a wave of positive cases, including more than 1,700 incarcerated people and more than 3,000 staff members. Visitors will be allowed to speak to friends and family for one hour via video, over the weekends.

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L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Friday said people working in the healthcare industry were also — again — being disproportionately affected. Nurses made up over 27% of Friday’s new cases, and among all health care workers, 39% reported being exposed to a known case in their facility from a patient or co-worker.

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“I know so many are mourning the loss of a loved one and send my heartfelt condolences and wishes for healing,” said Ferrer. “Keeping health care workers safe is critical to maintaining functionality across our health care facilities when surges lead to staffing shortages and rising rates of hospitalizations.”

At the same time, though, booster numbers are concerningly low: just 38% of Californians have received a booster shot in addition to the initial doses of the vaccine; the number is lower in L.A County, as well as Kern, Santa Barbara and 28 other counties.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A., and stay safe out there.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go ... When Scientists Cheer, We All Cheer

The mirror of the James Webb telescope in a large warehouse room is a series of yellow hexagons that form a circular shape. People in full white protective suits work on the floor below it.
Technicians lift the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in April 2017. On Saturday, the telescope completed its final deployment in space.
(Desiree Stover

A NASA telescope known as the James Webb Telescope completed its final major step of deployment.

Bill Ochs, the Webb project manager at NASA Goddard, said that the events are “truly amazing.” He added that team members were relieved after the deployment, cheering and doing the wave in the operations center.

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