Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
COVID-19 By The Numbers
Tuesday, January 24
In the three years since the pandemic began, the number of Americans on Medicaid and CHIP swelled to 90.9 million, an increase of almost 20 million pre-pandemic.
However, as NPR reports, signing up for Medicaid correctly is about to become an important step for enrollees again after a three-year break from paperwork hurdles.
In 2020, the federal government recognized that a pandemic would be a bad time for people to lose access to medical care, so it required states to keep people on Medicaid as long as the country was in a public health emergency.
The pandemic continues and so has the public health emergency, most recently renewed on Jan. 11. However, the special Medicaid measure known as “continuous enrollment” will end on Mar. 31, no matter what.
It’s part of the budget bill Congress passed in Dec. 2022. Even if the public health emergency is renewed in April, states will begin to make people on Medicaid sign up again to renew their coverage.
That means between 5 to 12 million Americans could lose their Medicaid coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, due to issues such as paperwork complexity, difficulty in finishing applications due to lack of access to computers and more.
Monday, January 23
The Food and Drug Administration is considering a major shift in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy.
As reported by NPR, the goal is to simplify vaccination against COVID and perhaps adopt an approach similar to what is used for the flu vaccine, with annual updates to match whatever strain of the virus is circulating.
This is according to a federal official who spoke under the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
NPR reported the proposed shift early Monday morning, and later Monday, the FDA outlined it publicly in a set of documents released in advance of a meeting Thursday of the agency’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.
Currently, those who want to be fully vaccinated against COVID must first get their primary vaccinations — two shots of the original vaccine spaced weeks apart. That’s followed at least two months later by a booster, currently the bivalent shot that’s tailored to protect against omicron.
Under the new approach, most would be advised to simply get whatever the latest version of the vaccine is annually each fall, like the flu vaccine.
Friday, January 20
12:18 p.m.: Your questions on at-home testing kits, answered
As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its fourth year, a negative result on a little plastic at-home test feels a bit less comforting than it once did to some.
The virus has mutated and then mutated again, with the tests offering at least some sense of control as the variation counts pile up. However, some experts caution against putting too much faith in a negative result.
Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about at-home testing kits from NPR.
Thursday, January 19
Wednesday, January 18
If you know someone in your family or social circle is sick right now, they likely have either COVID, the flu, a cold or RSV. With rolling waves of sickness hitting many households, some are wondering: Could I have caught more than one of these germs at the same time?
The answer is yes. As reported by NPR, there’s plenty of evidence of people testing positive for COVID and the flu, or something like the flu and RSV simultaneously.
The risk for multiple infections is especially high this year because so many viruses have been surging together.
It’s unclear how often this happens because most testing of this sort is done on hospitalized patients who probably aren’t representative of the general public. However, some studies have found coinfections in up to 20% of those patients.
Tuesday, January 17
The World Health Organization has appealed to China to keep releasing information about its recent wave of COVID-19 infections.
As reported by the Associated Press, this comes after the government announced nearly 60,000 virus-related deaths since early December following weeks of complaints China was failing to tell the world what was happening.
The announcement gave the first official numbers since the ruling Community Party abruptly dropped anti-virus restrictions despite a surge in infections that flooded hospitals.
A WHO statement said the information “allows for better understanding” of the epidemic and asked China to continue sharing this type of detailed information.
Friday, January 13
The Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces just hit a record: nearly 16 million people have signed up for the insurance, as reported by NPR.
That’s about a million more people than signed up for ACA health insurance last year. Enrollment is still open in California on healthcare.gov until Jan. 31.
What’s driving the upward trend? The big reason is that plans are cheaper than they used to be. The federal government has pumped billions of dollars into subsidies to keep costs down for consumers.
Health officials say 4 out of 5 of those enrolled qualify for plans that cost $10 a month or less, and 5 million people who are uninsured would qualify for zero-dollar premium plans.
Thursday, January 12
As the new year begins and the depths of winter approaches, U.S. infectious disease experts monitoring the “tripledemic” stew of viruses that’ve been plaguing the country say there’s good news — and bad.
NPR reports that the worst appears to be over from the RSV surge. Cases have been falling steadily since the end of November, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The flu also seems like it’s finally receding in most places after it surged earlier this fall.
However, in bad news, COVID-19 is once again concerning health experts. The rate at which coronavirus is being detected in wastewater has tripled or quadrupled in parts of the U.S.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have jumped 70%, and 300 to 400 people die daily from COVID.
To make matters worse, all of this is happening as another new, even more transmissible variant has taken over — XBB.1.5. New estimates from the CDC say XBB1.5 now accounts for almost a third of new infections and is the dominant variant in the Northeast.
Wednesday, January 11
Early on in the COVID pandemic, the city of Sacramento allowed temporary dining on sidewalks and parking spots, but now the city is encouraging restaurants to build permanent patios with the Al Fresco Dining Grant Program.
City Council unanimously approved the new program Tuesday night. Restaurant owners can apply for up to $20,000 from the city through this June. However, the outdoor dining areas need to be built before June 2024.
Funding for the grants comes from COVID-relief funds in the American Rescue Plan act. The council ultimately approved a total of $1.7 million for the outdoor dining grant program.
You can learn more about the city’s Al Fresco Dining Program and apply for the patio grants on the city’s website.
Monday, January 9
6:02 p.m.: Sacramento drivers still spending less time in traffic than before the pandemic
Commuters in the Sacramento region were stuck in traffic for an average of 36 hours during 2022, an increase over last year but still less than before the pandemic, according to a new report.
That fit in with most other cities in the United States, where time in traffic congestion is still down almost half from 2019, according to the 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard by the mobility analytics firm INRIX. The average driver in the U.S. spent 51 hours in traffic in 2022, up 15 hours from 2021.
Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, told NPR that the rise in gas prices helped slow the increase back to pre-pandmeic commute levels.
“2022 was shaping up to be a year of re-emergence and a return to a new, post-pandemic behavioral norm, but that halted with the rise in oil prices, supply chain disruptions, and inflation,” Pishue said.
In Sacramento, average congestion time was up 44% from 2021, but down that same amount from 2019. Those 36 hours of traffic ranked 25th in the U.S.
Chicago topped the U.S. list at 156 hours lost, with Los Angeles and San Francisco sixth and seventh at around 90 hours.
First international travelers are arriving in China without the mandatory quarantine that had been imposed at the start of the pandemic three years ago.
According to the Associated Press, the easing of border restrictions comes even as the virus continues to spread in China amid what critics say is a lack of transparency from Beijing.
More foreign governments are imposing testing requirements on travelers from China — most recently Germany, Sweden and Portugal.
On Sunday, thousands of travelers from semi-autonomous Hong Kong crossed into mainland China, some having been separated from their families since the pandemic.
Like other passengers from abroad, they still have to show a negative test result taken within 48 hours — a measure China has protested when imposed by other countries.
Friday, January 6
Sacramento City Unified School District students will not be required to wear masks when they return from winter break on Monday after Sacramento County avoided the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest COVID-19 risk level.
On Dec. 22, the CDC placed Sacramento County into the “high” community level, a measurement of COVID-19 risk that considers the number of cases in an area and the capacity of local hospitals. SCUSD policy states that when the county’s risk level is high, students and staff must wear masks indoors.
District officials did not require masks for students on Dec. 23, the last school day before the winter break, but said they would if the county remained at the highest risk level when students returned.
Last week the CDC moved Sacramento County to the “medium” level and it remained there Thursday, according to new figures released by the CDC showing cases and hospitalizations continuing to decline, though remaining elevated. The CDC releases new rankings every Thursday.
No California counties remain in the highest COVID-19 risk level after Los Angeles and Imperial were moved to medium this week. At the medium level, health officials recommend anyone who is immunocompromised or at increased risk of becoming sick wear a mask or respirator in indoor public spaces.
Thursday, January 5
The COVID-19 outbreak is stretching China’s public health facilities.
At the Chuiyangliu hospital east of Beijing on Thursday, beds ran out by midmorning, even as ambulances continued to bring more people in, the Associated Press reported.
Hard-pressed nurses and doctors rushed to take information and triage the most urgent cases. Last month, China abandoned its most severe pandemic restrictions after nearly three years of lockdowns, travel bans and school closures.
Those actions have taken a heavy toll on the economy and prompted street protests not seen since late 1982. The European Union has “strongly encouraged” its member states to require COVID-19 testing of passengers from China, which responded by warnings of “countermeasures” if such policies were imposed.
Tuesday, January 3
The Chinese government has sharply criticized COVID-19 testing requirements being imposed on passengers from China and is threatening countermeasures against the countries involved.
According to the Associated Press, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a daily briefing that China believes the entry restrictions adopted by some countries targeting passengers from China lack scientific basis.
She said some excessive practices are “even more unacceptable.”
It’s unclear what steps China might take. The country abruptly eased strict anti-virus measures in December, leading to a surge in cases.
Countries including the U.S., U.K., India, Japan and several European nations have announced stricter measures on travelers from China. Many are worried about a lack of data from China and fear that new variants may spread.
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