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Los Angeles County is finding fewer cases among health workers as more get vaccinated.

What was once a flood of healthcare workers catching the coronavirus in Los Angeles County has now slowed, largely because the vast majority of them have been vaccinated, local public health officials have said. Reports of new cases of the virus among county health workers have fallen 94 percent since late November, just before vaccination began.

The statistics are encouraging, both in Los Angeles County and across the country. A few Healthcare workers initially expressed reluctance to be vaccinated against Covid-19, often for fear of the safety of vaccines, which were rushed into use under emergency clearances from the Food and Drug Administration .

Workers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which were hot spots during the pandemic, were of particular concern: at one point, these workers accounted for a quarter of all cases among healthcare workers from Los Angeles County.

But at the end of February, according to the county, 69% of health workers at these facilities – including 78% of nursing home and long-term care staff – had received at least one injection of vaccine.

The results were striking: 434 new cases of the virus were reported in the county among nursing home health workers during the week of November 29, but for the week of February 14 there were 10 cases, according to county data.

The same has happened with county health workers in general: New cases fell to 69 for the week of Feb. 14, from more than 1,800 cases during the week of Nov. 29, the county said.

“The high vaccination rates correlate with the lowest case and death rates among nursing home health workers,” the county public health department wrote in a statement on Monday, “and we are grateful to all of you. those who were vaccinated and to the teams who coordinated the vaccinations at each site. “

The county as a whole has made major progress over the same period, with new cases falling overall by 71%. But even so, the risk of catching the virus there remains high.

A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Los Angeles County is ahead of most of the country when it comes to immunizing health workers. The national survey, conducted between February 15 and 23, found that 54% of health workers had already received at least one dose of the vaccine by that time, and a further 10% said they planned to get vaccinated as soon as they can. . Some 15 percent said they “definitely will not” get the vaccine.

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The impact of the storm in Texas could lead to more cases of the virus, experts say.

More than a week after a powerful winter storm hit Texas, some experts say the conditions – which have forced hundreds of people across the state to huddle in homes, cars and shelters to warm – could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.

The devastating storm nearly collapsed the state’s electricity grid, leaving millions of people in dark, unheated homes in some of the freezing temperatures in state history.

Reporting of coronavirus cases dropped precipitously for a week in Texas during the storm and then increased sharply again in the week since, so it is still too early to discern a specific growth or decline in the number of cases there. . But experts say conditions created during the storm have raised concerns.

“It’s possible to see a recovery from the Texas storm,” said Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas. “We had a lot of things against us,” Dr Jetelina said, noting that she, like many others, had to move from house to house when she lost power.

People stood in long queues to buy water and food at grocery stores and food distribution sites, spent the night in warming centers, and crashed with friends and family during that the electricity was going out and that pipes were bursting in their houses.

While it is not known how many people are still displaced by the storm, reports from various cities suggest that thousands of people across Texas may have been forced to seek shelter.

In Fort Worth, nearly 200 people took refuge in a convention center. In Dallas, a convention center housed about 650 people, the Texas Tribune reported, and a site in Houston had nearly 800 people, while 500 people lived in emergency shelters in Austin, officials said. Even in Del Rio, a smaller town, officials reported nearly 40 people were to stay at the city’s warming center.

“There are very real possibilities that the coronavirus had events of wide spread or that it was more easily transmitted because people were congregated inside for long periods of time,” said Dr Jetelina. “It’s a little worrying.”

But cases could also go the other way, she said, as millions of people were forced to stay at home as work and school were largely canceled. With the data reporting delay, it is still too early to tell, she noted, so the full impact of the Texas storm on the number of cases will not be known for at least one. week. Even then, said Dr Jetelina, it will be difficult to say whether an increase in cases is linked to the storm or to new, more contagious variants – or a combination of the two.

Although the average rate of new daily cases reported in Texas has returned to pre-storm levels, it remains about half of what it was in January.

This wider drop reflects the decline in cases nationwide in recent weeks, as the daily average of new cases in the United States hovers around 70,000 – well below its high of 250,000 last month .

Stories of people coming together in desperate search for heat and water were ubiquitous throughout Texas.

In San Antonio, Diana Gaitan had more water and electricity than her relatives. So several of them ended up crashing into her home, she said while waiting in a food distribution line at the San Antonio food bank last weekend. At one point, there were a dozen people spending the night at Ms. Gaitan’s home.

“We were all stuck inside the house,” she said.

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Tracking Coronavirus Cases in U.S. Colleges and Universities



up31%

Since the end of 2020

Coronavirus cases continued to appear in the tens of thousands this year in colleges, according to a New York Times investigation, after students returned to campuses at a time when the number of cases was skyrocketing in large part from the country.

More than 120,000 cases have been linked to US colleges and universities since January 1, and more than 530,000 cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic. The Times also identified more than 100 deaths involving students and employees. The vast majority occurred in 2020 and involved employees.






Growth rate of on-campus cases since the end of 2020

Each bar represents a school

Campus case growth rate

Since the end of 2020

Each bar represents a school


Small schools

Undergraduate enrollment less than 5,000

Middle schools

5,000 to 15,000

Large schools

Over 15,000


Note: The growth rate is only shown for schools that recorded at least 50 cases in 2020.

Almost a year after most universities abruptly switched online courses and sent students home, the virus continues to disrupt U.S. higher education. When many campuses reopened in the fall, epidemics swept through dormitories and infected thousands of students and staff.

Since the return of students for the spring semester, increased testing, social distancing rules and improved national outlook have helped curb the spread on some campuses. In the state of Ohio, where the test positivity rate once peaked at around 5%, university officials reported a positivity rate of just 0.5% out of 30,000 tests on the campus in a recent week.

Yet major epidemics continue. The Times investigated more than 1,900 colleges and universities for information on coronaviruses and found that at least 17 colleges had already reported more than 1,000 cases in 2021. At the University of Michigan, a highly infectious variant appeared on campus. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where more cases were identified in 2021 than in the fall semester, in-person classes are resuming after a difficult start to the year.

Despite the pushes at some colleges, there are positive signs. In counties with large student populations, coronavirus cases have declined, reflecting a national downward trend in cases.

Case rate in college communities

Coronavirus cases in counties where students make up at least 10% of the population compared to other counties.

University counties

Other counties

0

20

40

60

80 cases
per 100,000 inhabitants

April 2020

July

Oct.

January 2021

Fall semester
(Sept. – Dec.)

Note: Case numbers are aggregated using a seven-day moving average. | Sources: Counties are categorized using data from the 2018 American Community Survey. Case data is from a New York Times database as of February 24.

With no national tracking system and statewide data available only sporadically, colleges have established their own rules for how to count infections. While the Times survey is considered the most comprehensive account available, it is also an undercoverage.

Many universities, hoping to quickly identify cases and prevent larger outbreaks, have aggressively tested for the virus, in some cases detecting cases that might otherwise have been missed.

Of the colleges the Times contacted, most posted case information online or responded to requests for case numbers. The Times obtained data on cases through requests for open cases at several public universities that otherwise would not provide numbers. Most colleges do not publicly report coronavirus-related deaths.

Find a school

The table includes over 1,900 colleges and lists case totals, where applicable. A few schools report only positive test results, which can include multiple tests for a person. Others were not clear whether they had positive test results or unique cases.

14 650

case to

30

schools

14,848

case to

9

schools

9 164

case to

29

schools

17 377

case to

81

schools

10,895

case to

29

schools

5,585

case to

20

schools

28 631

case to

127

schools

19 875

case to

39

schools

19,015

case to

50

schools

21,802

case to

35

schools

9 971

case to

27

schools

6,468

case to

25

schools

13,133

case to

54

schools

9,500

case to

41

schools

4,949

case to

21

schools

10,476

case to

59

schools

19,498

case to

52

schools

11,297

case to

60

schools

5,609

case to

15

schools

14 781

case to

37

schools

2 923

case to

16

schools

7 155

case to

14

schools

2 328

case to

20

schools

5 753

case to

28

schools

1 311

case to

12

schools

21 919

case to

210

schools

20,759

case to

51

schools

4,849

case to

13

schools

24,904

case to

62

schools

7,147

case to

21

schools

3 189

case to

18

schools

23,604

case to

114

schools

17 638

case to

29

schools

14 840

case to

67

schools

42 237

case to

85

schools

15,902

case to

ten

schools

14,429

case to

41

schools

5,243

case to

45

schools

3426

case to

19

schools

18,249

case to

32

schools

* The total is known to include one or more cases from a medical school, medical center, teaching hospital, clinical setting, or other university health science program. † The College only reports positive tests and may double count cases. ‡ The College did not clarify whether the data includes duplicate cases. Schools with no case totals (indicated by -) did not respond to inquiries, declined to provide information, or did not separate cases from 2020 and 2021. Schools reporting no cases or no totals cases only appear during search.

Note: The growth rate is only shown for schools that recorded at least 50 cases in 2020. The charts show seven-day moving averages of daily new cases over the past 14 days in the county. Unless otherwise specified, the location of a university’s main campus is shown. In several cases, colleges noted that some cases were linked to secondary campuses or satellite locations.

Given the disparities in size, plans to reopen, and transparency between universities, this data should not be used to make campus-to-campus comparisons. Some colleges subtract cases from their counts once people recover. Some only report tests done on campus. Some did not separate the 2020 case data from the 2021 case data. And some initially provided data but stopped. The calculation of growth rates for 2021 is in some cases skewed by incomplete data provided by colleges.

Infections associated with medical schools and teaching hospitals

University of Alabama at Birmingham

2 856

1,406

262

Birmingham, Ala.

University of California, San Diego

1,473

454

San Diego

University of Connecticut

1,144

90

Storrs, Conn.

University of South Florida

1211

85

Tampa, Florida.

Washington University

1,287

196

Seattle

University of California, San Francisco

454

305

163

San Francisco

University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus

110

81

Aurora, Colorado.

The Times counts reported cases among students and university employees in all fields, including those whose roles as doctors, nurses, pharmacists or medical students put them at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Some universities have a wide range of programs, including medical units, and have reported dozens of healthcare-related cases. These cases are listed above as a subset of their university-wide totals.

Some universities did not provide data on cases in their medical schools, hospitals or clinics. Some included these cases in their campus-wide counts, but did not specify how many there were. Other universities that focus primarily on medical education, or that have reported a small number of cases related to clinical programs, are listed in the main table on this page with an asterisk.

Coronavirus monitoring


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Supreme Court hears cases on abortion and immigration referrals

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to rule on two initiatives by the Trump administration: one placing limits on a federal health program in an attempt to restrict access to abortion, and the other denying green cards to immigrants considered likely to make occasional use of public benefits like food stamps.

According to the court’s regular schedule, cases will be debated in the fall. But they might be moot by then, as President Biden has signaled that his administration is reconsidering both measures.

The abortion referral case concerns a program known as Title X, which helps poor women pay for birth control, preventive health screening for breast and cervical cancer, and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.

The program, established under a law enacted in 1970, prohibits federal grants from being “used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” The precise meaning of these words is disputed and, over the years, it has been the subject of various interpretations by different administrations.

The Trump administration announced in 2019 that clinics receiving money under the program could not refer patients for abortions at other facilities. Leading medical associations have said this “gag rule” violates medical ethics, and Planned Parenthood has withdrawn from the program.

Several states, the American Medical Association and others have filed a lawsuit challenging the measure, and federal appeals courts in San Francisco and Richmond, Va., Have rendered conflicting decisions. These divisions often lead to review by the Supreme Court.

The cases the court agreed to consider – Cochran v. Mayor and Baltimore City Council, # 20-454, American Medical Association v. Cochran, # 20-429 and Oregon v. Cochran, # 20-539 – may become irrelevant if the Biden administration revises restrictive regulations of the Trump administration.

The Immigration Case, Department of Homeland Security v. New York, # 20-449, concerns the so-called public charge rule, which seeks to discourage some immigrants from using public services.

The Trump administration announced in 2019 that it would revise the rule, which allows officials to deny permanent legal status, also known as a green card, to immigrants who may be in need of public assistance. In the past, only substantial and sustained financial aid or long-term institutionalization counted, and less than 1% of applicants were disqualified for reasons of public office.

The administration’s revised rule broadened the criteria to include “non-cash benefits meeting basic needs such as accommodation or food” used every 12 months over a 36-month period. Using two types of benefits in a single month counts as two months, and so on.

Mr Biden called for a quick review of the measure. One of its goals, he said, was “to reduce fear and confusion among affected communities”.

In August, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City ruled against the Trump administration, saying the new program would cool participation in public services for those who are eligible.

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The state of the virus: a notable decline in new cases

The state of the virus: a notable decline in new cases

Mitch smith

Mitch smithCoronavirus Reports

The New York Times

Deaths remain consistently high, with more than 100,000 announced already in 2021. Disturbing overseas variants continue to emerge in more states. And case levels, while dropping, remain higher than at any time before election day.

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Coronavirus cases in the US are down but the eclipse’s spring and summer peaks


The worst of the current wave of coronavirus infections appears to be behind us, with the seven-day moving average of new cases trending down in almost all parts of the country. Nationally, this average peaked on Jan. 8 at nearly 260,000 new cases; February 3, 136,442 is equivalent to a 47% drop from this peak.

Some areas of the country, including the Upper Midwest, are seeing larger declines in new cases than others. Four states in the region – Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa – have seen average daily cases drop by 80% or more.

The places where the declines are greatest are typically small counties where the overall number of cases is relatively small, resulting in wild fluctuations in the data. Restricting the data to around 600 counties which had at least 100 daily cases at their recent peak shows that cases have fallen by 60% on average.

Most of the areas on this map showing smaller declines experienced their winter peaks later, meaning they didn’t have as much time to come down. For example, the Midwest peaked in mid-November, while the east coast peaked in mid-January.

The current decline remains most pronounced in the Midwest. In Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, daily cases fell to about 200 from 1,200. Wayne County, home to Detroit, saw a similar drop, from 1,200 to 220.

Even though cases in the United States are on a downward trend overall, parts of the country are still reporting new cases at a higher rate than in the worst peak of last year. This map compares current rates to past peaks, defined here as the highest daily average before October 1. For some states that experienced peaks at the start of the pandemic when widespread testing was not yet available, those early peaks may be underestimated.

Most of the places on the map above experienced a relatively small increase in reported cases during the first wave of the pandemic early last year. Although on a downward trajectory now, the current number of new cases is higher than anything they have experienced in the first six months of the coronavirus crisis.

Maine, for example, saw a relatively low number of cases until November, when cases began to increase before peaking in late January at nearly 12 times the state’s peak level per year. latest. Even so, the current daily case count in Maine is tame compared to other parts of the country – like Texas, which is triple that of Maine after adjusting for population.

In upstate New York, areas outside of New York weren’t as badly affected as the city in the spring of last year, but faced a brutal second wave this winter. Hawaii is the only state in the country where the first wave was more severe than the second wave in terms of reported cases.

Average daily cases in the United States

Calif.

16,269

–64%

+ 62%

Miss.

1 236

–49%

–11%

Note: The winter peak is the highest daily average in each county after October 1. The previous peak is the highest daily average in each county before October 1. Some parts of the country peaked in spring, summer, or both.·Source: New York Times database of national and local health agency reports.

It remains to be seen whether new variants of the coronavirus circulating in different parts of the country will trigger a new outbreak of cases. The most contagious variant first identified in the UK has now been detected in more than half of the states. On the other hand, as more people are vaccinated, transmission rates could drop, preventing an outbreak. While the two vaccines currently approved in the United States require two injections, studies show that even one dose offers strong protection against the virus.

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Daily Covid toll in the United States remains huge, but cases drop

The past few weeks in the United States have been the deadliest for the coronavirus pandemic, and residents of most counties remain at extremely high risk of contracting the virus. At the same time, transmission appears to be slowing across the country, with the average number of new cases being 40 percent lower on January 29 than the U.S. peak three weeks earlier.

Other indicators reinforce the current downward trend in cases. Hospitalizations are down significantly from the records in early January. The number of tests per day has also decreased, which may mask the true toll of the virus, but the positivity rate of these tests has also decreased, indicating that the slower spread is real. Still, the average daily death rate reported over the past seven days remains above 3,000, compared to less than 1,000 per day in September and October.

Hospitalizations

Improve.

100,000

October 1st

29 january

-24%

New tests per day

With less testing, more cases are missed.

2 millions

October 1st

29 january

-11%

Positivity rate

Improve.

ten%

October 1st

29 january

-5 pct.

pts.

Note: Tests are presented as seven-day averages. Positive test rates are calculated using cumulative counts for the past seven days and exclude peaks prior to the time period shown. The positivity rate was highest in the spring, when testing capacity was extremely limited.·Source: The Covid monitoring project.

The country’s peaks were extremely high: nearly 1% of the U.S. population tested positive for the virus in the two weeks to January 8 alone. This high starting point means that even after the sharp drop, Covid-19 hospitalizations remain at levels seen in early December, as intensive care units were already nearing capacity in much of the country. They are currently almost twice as high as previous highs in spring and summer.

Experts believe the decrease could mark a turning point in the epidemic after months of rising numbers of cases. But new, more contagious variants threaten to disrupt progress and could even propel case rates to a new high if they prevail, especially if the nationwide vaccine rollout faces obstacles.

Variants discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa have both been found in the United States. Vaccine makers have said their drugs appear to be less effective against the South African variant. Other variations are also appearing: researchers have discovered a Californian variant, and a Brazilian variant that shares similarities with the South African variant appeared in the United States for the first time.

The variants may have already caused new outbreaks in the UK, Brazil and South Africa, and federal officials have warned that the faster-spreading UK variant could become the dominant variant in the US by now March. But at least for now, their presence in the United States does not appear to have significantly compromised a general downward trend. Although transmission remains dangerously high in most countries, every state is seeing a decrease in new cases. Hospitalizations are also on the decline across the country.

Evolution of new cases and hospitalizations since the peak

Note: Shows data from October 1 to January 29. Observations are presented as seven-day averages. The peaks in the graph reflect the relative peaks during the time period shown. A few states had a higher number of hospitalizations or new cases in the spring or summer.·Sources: New York Times database of national and local health agency reports; the Covid monitoring project.
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The state of the virus: cases decline, but death rates remain high

State of the virus: cases decline, but death rates remain high

Mitch smith

Mitch smithCoronavirus Reports

The New York Times

Caroline from the south, where authorities have found two cases of the variant first detected in South Africa, adds cases to the country’s second-highest rate. But even there, reports of new infections began to decline.

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A decrease in virus cases

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The United States has never seen a sharp, sustained drop in new coronavirus cases – until maybe now.

Last year, new cases in the United States have seen cycles of rapid increase and then stabilization or only modest decline. This differs from the situation in many other countries, where large declines sometimes occur. Look at how steeper the declines were in Western Europe last spring and fall than in the United States:

But now the situation can change.

New cases in the United States have fallen 35% in the past three weeks. Hospitalizations have also declined. The deaths were not, but they have stabilized – and the trend of deaths is generally lower than the trend of cases by a few weeks.

“I like the trends we’re seeing and I personally hope things will improve,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told me. “But there are a number of things that could also go wrong.”

Let’s start with two possible explanations for the recent improvement:

1. We may be in the very early stages of collective immunity. About 100 million Americans appear to have had the virus. (For every person who tests positive, three more have gone undiagnosed, studies show.) An additional 24 million people have received a vaccine.

Put these two groups together, and you realize that about a third of all Americans have at least some degree of immunity to the virus. This may be enough to get started – to start – slow down the spread, as my colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr. explained in “The Daily”.

2. More Americans can wear masks and remain socially distant. Many still aren’t, as I saw on my recent 1,600 mile road trip. But any increase in safe behavior is important.

And there are signs of change. Several states tightened restrictions late last year. The country has just elected a president who echoes scientific advice rather than flouting it. Some Americans can also take inspiration from the light at the end of the tunnel.

“A lot of people tell me that one of the reasons they’re really crouching now is that it would be a shame to catch a serious case of Covid while waiting to get vaccinated,” Dr Lee Harrison, chairman of a local health board, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week.

Dr Mark Escott, who runs a local health agency around Austin, Texas, told the CBS affiliate there: “People are changing their behavior. People are wearing masks, people are staying at home, and that translates into a decrease in the number of cases. “

Dr Alex Garza, a member of a pandemic task force in St. Louis, told The Associated Press: “The fact that this happens in the winter, when respiratory viruses usually spread the most, shows us how effective all preventive measures really are. when we use them. “

I want to stress that the pandemic has not entered an inexorable decline.

The main reason for concern is the new infectious variants that could cause the number of cases to spike again, especially if people become jaded about masks and distance – or if the Biden administration fails to speed up. vaccinations. And the current death rate from Covid-19 remains horrendous.

But the United States has the power to turn this month into a turning point.

Related: We asked The Morning readers to share their vaccine-related questions with us – and reporters at The Times answered them, covering the registration process, side effects and more.

A morning reading: The victims of telemarketing scams in the United States lose a few billion dollars each year. Who is making all these fraudulent calls?

From the review: Linda Greenhouse on the Future of the Supreme Court and Michael Tomasky on the Future of the GOP

Lives lived: Cloris Leachman won an Oscar for playing a neglected housewife on “The Last Picture Show”. But she was probably best known for making people laugh, especially in Mel Brooks’ films “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Malcolm in the Middle”. Leachman died at the age of 94.

Orchestras are among the least racially diverse cultural institutions in the United States. Black musicians made up 1.8% of the country’s orchestral musicians in 2014 (and there hasn’t been much data since). Some large institutions are trying to change the situation, and the sustained efforts of small local organizations are a good place to learn, writes Joshua Barone in The Times.

A crucial element is the widening of the pool of musicians of color by encouraging young artists. In Detroit, the Sphinx Organization mentors emerging artists and manages networking programs. The president of Sphinx recommends that organizations devote 15% of their budget to diversity initiatives, for at least 10 years.

Another challenge: the diversification of the ranks of composers. Over the past year, some orchestras have programmed more music by composers of color. Others produce recordings of under-represented composers. “If you don’t capture these things in real time in order to promote them, they will happen and go,” said a Chicago Sinfonietta executive.

Then there’s the audience – who also skewed the white. To attract new fans, events need to become more accessible, Toyin Spellman-Diaz, member of the Imani Winds wind quintet, told The Times. “Is there an easy means of transportation to the venue? Are there daycare centers? Is there any food that everyone can afford? ” she said. “You have to design events rather than concerts.”

The documentary series “Pretend It’s a City” tells the story of the bitter Fran Lebowitz through the lens of his longtime friend Martin Scorsese. Their pre-pandemic walks in New York give the episodes a melancholy, bittersweet quality.

From show business biographies to Elizabeth Kolbert’s environmental treatise, here are 13 books to be published in February.

Late-night hosts spoke about Biden’s Covid plan.

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was megabyte. Today’s puzzle is above – or you can play it online if you have a Games membership.

Here are today’s mini crosswords, and a hint: “Mind. Breath. ”(Five letters).


Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David

PS Cliff Levy, Metro editor-in-chief of The Times, has been appointed associate editor. He will initially help supervise the audio department of the newspaper.

You can see the first printed page of the day here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about filibuster. On “Sway”, Kara Swisher interviews Ralph Macchio, the first Karate Kid.

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California Ends Strict Virus Restrictions As New Cases Drop

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OAKLAND, Calif .– Faced with mounting political pressure and numerous lawsuits from companies forced to shut down, California Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted a strict stay-at-home order on Monday and gave local authorities greater control on restaurants, other businesses could reopen.

The rate of new coronavirus cases in the state has slowed dramatically, but experts fear the respite will be brief if the most contagious variants of the coronavirus plaguing Europe become prevalent in the United States.

The easing of restrictions comes as large parts of southern California continue to experience high death and hospitalization rates, and many Los Angeles County hospitals continue to be inundated with Covid-19 patients.

Monday’s changes in no way remove all virus restrictions in the state. The overturning of the stay-at-home decision, which had already been lifted in the Sacramento area almost two weeks ago, brings the state back to a tiered rule system tied to the prevalence of the virus in each. county.

Dr Mark Ghaly, secretary of the National Agency for Health and Social Services, said Monday that the December vacation had not overwhelmed the health system “as far as we feared”.

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous wave in this pandemic to date, which is the light at the end of the tunnel that we were hoping for,” said Dr Ghaly.

But the latest adjustments were unlikely to appease the large segment of California’s population suffering from the economic effects of the pandemic, as well as those frustrated and confused by the state’s red-and-green approach to dealing with it.

Driven in large part by restaurant and hotel closings, California’s unemployment rate rose to 9% in December, up nearly a percentage point from the previous month. It was the first increase in the unemployment rate since April.

Mark Geragos, a lawyer and restaurant owner in Los Angeles who has filed lawsuits against the county and state on behalf of businesses forced to shut down, said Monday he had reopened his restaurant, Engine Co. No.28.

His lawsuits channeled the frustrations of business owners who felt many of the orders were arbitrary. In a commonly cited example, film productions were allowed to continue, with the cast and crew eating out while neighboring restaurants were closed.

“It was the government’s worst effort,” Geragos said of the business closures. He repeated an argument he had used in his lawsuits: “It was not motivated by any data or science,” he said.

Mr Newsom said he was quick to lift the restrictions as quickly as possible once the figures indicated it would be safe. He described accusations that he was making politically-based pandemic response decisions as “complete and utter nonsense.”

The new rules were a welcome move for many.

In the Bay Area, officials said restaurants may reopen for alfresco dining again. In Silicon Valley, officials from the Santa Clara Department of Public Health announced that in addition to outdoor dining, professional, college, and adult and youth sports would be allowed to resume.

When the stay-at-home order was announced in early December, some Californians expressed a mixture of anger and futility. Weeks after the order, cases exploded and hospitals were overwhelmed.

In the spring, summer and early fall, officials were able to make a convincing claim that the closure of schools, restaurants and hair salons was keeping the virus at levels well below those in other states. But the winter wave turned the tide – and, for many, clouded assumptions about how the virus is spread.

In November, Mr Newsom and Dr Ghaly held a briefing in which they showed California ranked 39th in the country on a seven-day average of confirmed cases per capita. Dr Ghaly singled out four states – North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Minnesota – as having much higher seven-day case rates than California.

Two months later, the picture is radically different: California has fallen from 39th to 7th by the same measure, and its one-week average of cases has surpassed those four states when adjusted for population. The British variant, estimated to be around 50% more transmissible, was first detected in California in December and researchers are tracking the spread of another variant that may have played a big part in the winter wave.

California has also slipped under larger states with more laissez-faire virus precautions approaches like Texas and Florida. These two states now have fewer per capita cases during the pandemic than California, according to a New York Times database.

Dr Bob Wachter, professor and director of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said these parameters can be misleading because they depend on the number of people tested.

A better comparison, he said, was the number of deaths. And according to this metric, California fared better: Florida had 24% more deaths per capita and Texas 27% more.

Dr Wachter said the differences in death rates in those states account for thousands of lives saved in California.

California officials, he added, are under tremendous pressure to reopen more quickly, and some measures such as restricting outdoor dining are difficult to justify in the absence of scientific evidence that transmission often occurs in these circumstances.

“But for me in this compromise, when you are not sure, you lean towards safety and save lives,” he said.

Although praised by many public health officials, the state’s response to the pandemic has put Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, in a more vulnerable political position, even in this extremely democratic state.

The governor has faced increasing political pressure due to a recall effort. Experts said the vaccine rollout, along with efforts to reopen, was a key test for its administration.

“The governor’s biggest weakness is with the pandemic,” said Mark Baldassare, chief executive officer of the Public Policy Institute in California. “Both in terms of the spread of the disease and the rollout of vaccinations – and that has been pretty grim.”

Monday morning, criticism came from all directions.

The California Public Interest Research Group, a left-wing consumer advocacy organization, said Newsom acted too soon, especially with new variants threatening to accelerate the spread of the virus. “We shouldn’t risk going back in recent progress against this virus just to allow people to eat out or have their hair cut again,” said Emily Rusch, executive director of research group.

Jessica Millan Patterson, president of the California Republican Party, described the reopening movement as a “sad and pathetic” attempt to counter those pushing for its ouster. “The decisions of this governor were never based on science”, she tweeted.

Critics from Mr Newsom have also pointed to the slow rollout of vaccines by the state. With 4.7 percent of California’s population having received at least one dose, the state is below the national average of 5.6 percent and near the bottom of the vaccination progress list.

On Monday, Newsom clarified the state’s vaccine prioritization framework: Along with healthcare workers and anyone 65 and over, the state will prioritize emergency medical workers, emergency medical workers food and agriculture, teachers and school staff.

After that, he said, the state will “switch to age-based eligibility” and focus on providing vaccines to communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

Mr Newsom said delays in reporting contributed to what he described as misconceptions about the relative slow pace of vaccine deployment. He compared California to a huge ship.

“It takes a little while to change course,” he says. “But when it changes course, it creates a tremendous dynamic.”

Thomas fuller reported from Oakland, and Jill cowan from Los Angeles.