COVID in California: Prominent UCSF doctor calls for booster shots, universal masking – San Francisco Chronicle
Masked shoppers browse at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco in June. Masks mandates have returned to San Francisco and much of the Bay Area.
With the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases linked to the highly contagious delta coronavirus variant, San Francisco is weighing a mandate that could be similar to one New York City announced on Tuesday requiring people there to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, gyms and concerts. San Francisco schools will not mandate masks for teachers or staff. Half of the U.S., including California, are now in a “very high risk” category based on a number of COVID-19 metrics. Double-masking may be advisable, experts say.
Resources on COVID-19 and California’s reopening: For detailed maps and new city-by-city Bay Area data, check out The Chronicle’s Coronavirus Tracker. To get regular updates on our coverage, sign up for our coronavirus newsletter.
Latest updates:
Health care worker infections rise sharply in Los Angeles County: “After months of reporting fewer than 50 new cases among healthcare workers per week, weekly cases increased to 295 cases for the week ending July 17 and 275 cases for the week ending July 24,” the county said Wednesday.
Sonoma County mandates proof of vaccination for emergency personnel: Citing the sharp rise of COVID-19 cases in the region, Sonoma County officials on Wednesday issued a health order requiring all fire, law enforcement, emergency medical service workers and staff and disaster shelters to show proof of vaccination. Those who are not able to show proof of vaccination will be required to undergo weekly coronavirus testing. The order goes into effect on Sept. 1, expanding on an order from the California Department of Public Health that requires health care and congregate facility staff to be vaccinated or tested if unvaccinated. The Board of Supervisors will on Aug. 17 consider the same policy for 4,470 county workers.
Historically Black medical schools mandate vaccinations for students: The presidents of three historically Black medical schools and the president of Howard University wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post that they would mandate vaccines for medical students. “As leaders of the nation’s only four historically Black medical schools, each of us has arrived at the same conclusion heading into the coming school year: We must do everything in our power to protect the next generation of Black doctors — starting by ensuring they are all vaccinated,” wrote the leaders, who include David Carlisle, president of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.
Breakthrough infections affect tiny percentage of vaccinated people in California: As of Aug. 1, a total of 41,279 breakthrough cases have been reported in California. That's 0.2% of the total vaccinated population. At least 1,379 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 post-vaccination, and 119 have died. Not all of the hospitalizations and deaths were necessarily due to COVID; people who tested positive could have been ill or died from some other cause.
Southern California school board plans to sue Newsom over mask requirement: A Southern California school board has announced plans to sue Gov. Gavin Newsom over a state mandate that K-12 students wear masks in classrooms, the Associated Press reports. The Orange County Board of Education voted 4-0 in a closed session Tuesday in favor of filing a lawsuit against the Democratic governor over the coronavirus mandate, arguing face coverings are harmful to children and the governor is abusing his power. The board did not present any data as evidence of adverse effects of masking on children or acknowledge public health studies that have shown masking reduces the spread of the virus.
Case rates climb, especially for the unvaccinated: According to new data that’s released weekly, case rates for vaccinated people stood at 7 per 100,000 during the week of July 25-31, and 33 cases per 100,000 for unvaccinated people. That’s up from 3.5 per 100,000 (vaccinated) and 20.7 per 100,000 (unvaccinated) during the week of July 14-20.
At least 2,700 San Francisco employees have not been vaccinated: Some are front-line workers and at risk of eventually losing their jobs if they continue to decline shots. Read the story here.
Stern Grove Festival announces free COVID-19 vaccines for attendees: Stern Grove Festival organizers announced they plan to offer free COVID-19 vaccinations to attendees of the summer concert series’ upcoming show on Sunday, Aug. 8, which is set to feature headliner Thundercat, Cassowary and DJ Shortcut. Read the story here.
Los Angeles County mulls requiring vaccination to attend restaurants, gyms, sporting events: The city council is considering a motion to require patrons of those establishments to show proof of at least one shot if they want to come indoors, the Los Angeles Times reported. New York City just announced a similar policy, and San Francisco is considering its own.
Sutter Health to require vaccinations: Sutter Health has become the latest California medical system to require its staff to be vaccinated. Everyone, from doctors to volunteers to vendors — who serves a Sutter facility must be vaccinated by the end of September unless they receive a religious exemption or receive approval for an exemption due to medical needs.
SF schools will not mandate vaccination for teachers, staff: San Francisco public school employees will not be required to get vaccinated to return to the classroom. However, the district has asked employees to submit their vaccination status, officials reiterated at a town hall meant to reassure parents on Tuesday. A few districts, including San Jose and Los Angeles, are requiring teachers to be vaccinated or get tested up to twice a week. No other district in California so far is requiring teachers or staff get vaccinated, although cities and private companies are mandating that employees get the shots. San Francisco is offering remote learning options to a limited number of students. The district will no longer require cohorts nor physical distancing, and classes will not automatically quarantine in case of exposure. School officials are not mandated to conduct daily screenings but can rely on the honor system of parents keeping children who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 at home. "We are using the best science and data to guide the reopening guidance," Dr. Naveena Bobba, the city's deputy director of health. said. "It really is the things we discussed -- masking, vaccination, hand hygiene and really staying home when sick."
Prominent UCSF doctor calls for universal masking, booster shots: Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of UCSF's department of medicine, said the rise of the delta variant has significantly changed the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation measures such as masking should be reinstated. "Even if vax mandates turn the tide, it’ll be months before we get to high enough vaccine rates to tamp down the virus," he said in a thread posted on Twitter. "Until then, anything other than universal indoor masking is simply bonkers." He added that certain groups should be approved for booster shots immediately, including those who are immunocompromised, older, received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or full dosage of any vaccine more than six months ago. "Given the probable benefit for individuals, not surprised we’re starting to see booster-seeking fibbing & wink-winking," he said. "This’ll screw up vaccine tracking, which is bad. Is it unethical? Tough call."
Marin schools will require vaccinations or negative COVID tests for staff: Marin County schools will require teachers and staff to present proof that they’ve been vaccinated or the results of a weekly negative COVID-19 test when the school year resumes. Ken Lippi, deputy superintendent for the Marin County Office of Education, said the requirements were in keeping with federal and state guidelines, and that proof of vaccine status would be kept confidential.
Delta variant now makes up more than 93% of U.S. cases: The highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus now accounts for about 93.4% of sampled cases in the United States, according data published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The alpha strain of the virus now accounts for less than 3% of the cases in the nation.
Microsoft says workers must be fully vaccinated: Microsoft said employees must be fully vaccinated to enter the company’s U.S. offices and other worksites, starting next month, the Associated Press reported. The tech giant told employees Tuesday it will require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors, and any guests entering Microsoft buildings in the U.S. The company also says it will have a process to accommodate employees “who have a medical condition or other protected reason, such as religion, which prevent them from getting vaccinated.”
Nearly 72,000 U.S. children were infected with COVID-19 last week: There were 71,726 cases of coronavirus infection in children and teens between July 22-29, according to data published Tuesday by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The rate marks a “substantial increase from the prior week, when about 39,000 cases were reported,” according to the report. Children represented about 19% of the weekly cases recorded in the U.S. last week. Nearly 4.2 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, with children accounting for 1.3% to 3.5% of hospitalizations in reporting states.
Beatle Sir Paul McCartney urges fans to ‘get vax’d’: The 79-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician finally got his shot on Monday, and encouraged his fans to do the same in social media posts referencing the Beatles’ classic tune, “Get Back.” Posting a photo that shows him donning a beanie and face mask while rolling up his sleeve to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Sir Paul simply said, “Be cool. Get Vax’d.”
BE COOL. GET VAX'D - Paul pic.twitter.com/33PtIyub5X
FDA could grant Pfizer vaccine full approval by September: The Food and Drug Administration reportedly sped up its efforts to grant a full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by September, The New York Times reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the agency’s plans. Multiple public institutions — including the city of San Francisco — are requiring employees to be vaccinated once the FDA grants a COVID-19 vaccine full approval, in contrast to the emergency-use authorization now in place.
WHO calls for pause on COVID booster shots, citing global disparities in vaccine access: The World Health Organization called for a moratorium on supplementary COVID-19 booster shots through at least September, citing the fact that poorer countries still lack access to initial doses of the vaccine, The Washington Post reported. A small but growing group of wealthier nations are planning extra vaccination doses to increase protection against the virus. Using vaccine supplies on booster shots while poor countries remain less protected was something the WHO “cannot and should not accept,” said WHO director Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Half of U.S. now in COVID ‘very high risk’ category. Here’s where California stands: The surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the delta variant has quickly propelled California into the COVID “very high risk” category, joined by nearly half the states in the U.S. Just a week ago, California was in the “high risk” category — the middle tier of the five-tier risk scale calculated by the nonprofit COVID Act Now. Read the full story here.
This is how little California rent relief programs have paid out to struggling Bay Area tenants: Across the Bay Area, some 148,000 households are behind on rent, according to an estimate by the National Equity Atlas. For lower-income renters Gov. Gavin Newsom has vowed to use $5.2 billion emergency funding to pay 100% of pandemic rent debt from April 2020 to September 2021. But seven months after the federal government first announced the unprecedented aid effort, state and local rent relief programs in the Bay Area have paid out just $88.5 million as of mid-July. Read the full story here.
S.F. to allow booster shots for those who received Johnson & Johnson vaccine: San Francisco residents who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine against the coronavirus are now able to get a supplemental mRNA dose at city-run clinics. Read the full story here.
Would you support a vaccine mandate for indoor restaurants, gyms, and other venues? On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a mandate requiring city residents to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before entering indoor restaurants, gyms, and other entertainment venues. Should Bay Area officials do the same here? Vote in our reader survey.
These charts show just how fast COVID cases are rising in California and the Bay Area: Coronavirus data for the Bay Area and California from July shows just how severely cases have spiked due to the highly contagious delta variant.
Marin public schools may mandate vaccines for employees: Marin County’s health department will discuss the option to issue a vaccination mandate for Marin public school employees during an online forum Wednesday, officials confirmed. The webinar will include comments from Dr. Matt Willis, the county public health officer, Dr. Lisa Santora, deputy health officer and Mary Jane Burke, the county superintendent of schools. Some private schools in Marin County have already said they will require vaccine verification.
For weary San Franciscans, the masks are back: Masks — those off-again on-again things — were back on again in San Francisco Tuesday. Even the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in the Academy of Sciences was getting with the program. Read the full story here.
Biden tells mandate-barring governors to “get out of the way”: President Joe Biden on Tuesday blasted governors, like those of Florida and Texas, who have barred local jurisdictions from instituting requirements for face masks or vaccination against the coronavirus. “If you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of people who are trying to do the right thing,” he said in a White House briefing. “COVID-19 is a national challenge,” he said. He added that Florida and Texas account for one third of new cases and noted the rise of cases is particularly significant where vaccination rates are low.
Dominic Fracassa is an assistant metro editor overseeing breaking news and criminal justice in San Francisco. He previously covered San Francisco City Hall as a staff writer.

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