Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
COVID-19 By The Numbers
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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