SFMOMA Announces Layoffs and Reduced Schedules for 55 Employees

In a public statement issued Tuesday evening, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art announced the layoff or reduced schedules of 55 staff members, to take effect, an employee confirmed, on June 8. This number includes both union and non-union employees, joining the 131 on-call employees SFMOMA laid off April 8. The latest phase of layoffs will impact departments across the museum.

SFMOMA has been closed since March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic and now faces an estimated $18 million deficit. In late March, the museum announced the layoffs of on-call staff and the planned layoff or furlough of an additional 191 regular staff beginning May 1.

But shortly before furlough took effect, the museum received $6.2 million through the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program, Hyperallergic reported, allowing them maintain employment and shift the furlough date to June 30.

Shortly before the museum received the PPP loan, staff issued an open letter calling on the museum to do everything in its power to retain all staff members during the pandemic. Of the loan, the letter states, “While this is a temporary reprieve for SFMOMA workers, we know that this simply kicks the can down the road.”

Employees who received layoff notices today will retain their full salary and benefits through June 30, thanks to the PPP loan. (SFMOMA is eligible for loan forgiveness, per the CARES Act, if 75% of the funds are used for payroll costs during the eight-week period of coverage.)

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The museum’s statement concludes: “We anticipate reopening sometime this summer based on City of SF reopening protocols with reduced hours, a revised exhibition schedule and a streamlined program.”

— Sarah Hotchkiss (@sahotchkiss)

FDA Authorizes Johnson & Johnson's One-Shot COVID-19 Vaccine

A third COVID-19 vaccine is on the way, and this one requires only one shot for immunization.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for emergency use Saturday, a day after a panel of advisers to the agency voted unanimously (22-0) in its favor.

"The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States," said a statement by Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested in an international study of about 40,000 people, half of whom got the vaccine and half of whom got a placebo. The study found the company's vaccine to be 66% effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease. For disease judged severe or critical, the effectiveness was 85%. The study was conducted in the U.S., South America and South Africa.

The main study included in the company's application found that 28 days or more after immunization, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine prevented hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19.

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The overall efficacy figures are lower than Pfizer's 95% in preventing COVID-19 disease and 94% for Moderna. But direct comparisons are challenging because of differences in the clinical trials and emergence of new strains of the coronavirus.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine "is very effective ... at preventing severe disease after a single dose and it induces the kind of response, so-called cellular immune response, that looks like it's going to have fairly long-lived memory, which is all good," Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA's advisory panel, told NPR's Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday. "This certainly provides protection against what you care about, which is hospitalization, ICU admission and death. It's virtually 100% effective at doing that." Offit is also director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

This is a news brief. For the full story, head to NPR, here.

—Scott Hensely, NPR

San Jose Unified Will Resume In-Person Learning on April 21 for Some Students

The largest of the 19 school districts that serve San Jose residents announced this Friday that its classrooms will reopen for some groups of students starting April 21.

Nancy Albarrán, superintendent of the San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD), declared in a letter released yesterday, "We made a commitment to our community that we would offer in-person learning when the county was in the orange tier or when our teachers had the opportunity to complete the vaccine process."

Beginning Sunday, February 28, Santa Clara County will allow education workers to get vaccinated, including teachers. Albarrán said SJUSD teachers and other employees will begin to receive their vaccines early next week.

SJUSD had already begun phasing in students for in-person support and extracurricular activities on Wednesday. Only students whose parents choose to return to in-person classes will be invited back to the classrooms on April 21.

Last Fall, parents had to choose through the District website whether they would allow their children to return to in-person classes when this was an option.

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Families who chose to continue with distance-learning and now changed their minds can still update their preferences online.

SJUSD is now the largest school district in the Bay Area to set an exact date on when in-person education can resume. Others, like the Oakland or San Francisco Unified School Districts, are still in negotiations with teachers' unions and have yet to announce a precise date.

So far, five San Jose school districts have either reopened or have set dates to reopen soon.

"Throughout this pandemic, public health authorities have urged us to follow the science," Mayor of San Jose Sam Liccardo said at a news conference last Thursday.

"Yet when it comes to safely opening our schools, it's politics — not science — that has closed our schools and abandoned our poorest kids, all while opening bars, card clubs, and marijuana dispensaries," he added.

Other San Jose school districts are expected to announce reopening plans this month, depending on the progress of negotiations with teachers' unions and vaccine availability for educators.

Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí and Bay City News

Santa Clara County Expanding Vaccine Eligibility to Farmer Workers Sunday

In a recent study, UCSF researchers looked at occupational risks for COVID-19 and found that agriculture workers were among the jobs with the highest death rates from the coronavirus because of the essential in-person work they do.

Dr. Walt Newman, a family practitioner in San Jose, has been working for months with Santa Clara County and the United Farm Workers Union to get vaccines out to farm workers.

“The problem is that farm workers often don’t have computer access,” Newman said. “So the vaccination rates are very low.”

Newman felt a sense of urgency in getting vaccination efforts started with the group. Researchers from the UCSF study found that Latino and Black populations face additional risks because they disproportionately make up California’s essential workforce. During the pandemic, Latino farm workers saw an almost 60 percent uptick in deaths when compared to before the pandemic started.

Newman worked with the county to devise a plan to make vaccinations more accessible: bringing the vaccines to the workers.

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“We all believe that the uptick of vaccines will be much higher in the workplace, rather than having them make an online reservation, go to a fairground,” Newman said. “I mean, many of these folks are living paycheck to paycheck.”

Starting Sunday, February 28, Santa Clara County will start vaccinating farm workers at Monterey Mushrooms in Morgan Hill, one of the largest agricultural employers in the Bay Area.

“The facility employs about 400 employees. So we’re really excited. We moved the mountain,” Newman said.

The County plans to deliver and vaccinate more than a thousand farm workers at the facility between Sunday and Wednesday, March 3. In another month, the county will be back to administer the second round of vaccinations.

Adhiti Bandlamudi

California to Hand Over Vaccine Distribution Keys to Blue Shield on Monday

California is attempting to streamline how people receive coronavirus vaccines by transitioning the state to a single network managed by the Oakland-based health insurance company Blue Shield.

The move begins on March 1, when California will begin the process, which will unfold in several phases. By the end of March, the company will fully manage the state’s vaccine network.

Counties have expressed concerns that the transition will disrupt their current operations just as they are getting online. And they worry Blue Shield doesn’t have existing community relationships.

In a call with reporters, Paul Markovich, the company's CEO, asked Californians to “give us a chance to make this work.”

“I think there's been a lot of speculation of all the things that could potentially go wrong,” he said. “It's our job to get this to work, and work for everybody.”

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San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda and most Bay Area counties will join the network on March 7.

Another change: Counties will no longer have control over vaccine eligibility, which will be determined by the state beginning March 1. Officials say that anyone who is currently eligible will remain so.

Over time, health care providers and county clinics will be required to use, or connect into, My Turn, the state's tool that allows Californians to see if they're currently eligible for the vaccine and to sign up for notifications about eligibility and scheduling.

Health officials hope the move will give the state greater visibility into who is getting vaccinated and how to “better fine tune equity-focused allocation and outreach efforts,” according to a health department press release.

Officials say California will start the month with the capacity to administer 3 million vaccine doses each week, although supplies remain limited.

Kevin Stark

Four Bay Area Counties Cut Off COVID-19 Doses to One Medical

Four Bay Area counties are no longer sending COVID-19 vaccine doses to One Medical after recent revelations that the San Francisco-based boutique health care provider allowed some well-connected patients to skip ahead in line, despite not yet being eligible.

Public health officials in San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Marin counties this week all said they’ve suspended deliveries of vaccine doses to the company.

On Monday, the San Francisco Public Health Department ordered the company to return over 1,600 hundred doses of the vaccine.

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney says he plans to follow up with the city attorney about investigating the company’s actions.

“We need all of the providers who are receiving the vaccine to share demographic information about who is receiving it and what category they fall into,” he said.

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One Medical denies it knowingly disregarded eligibility guidelines, and says it was transparent with San Francisco about its process, and similarly, acted in good faith when it vaccinated teachers in San Mateo County.

— Julie Chang

Newsom: Third Vaccine Could Speed Up State's Rollout

An expert panel convened by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday endorsed the coronavirus vaccine produced by the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.

Speaking earlier in the day during a visit to Fresno County, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the availability of that third vaccine could speed up California’s timeline for providing shots.

Following strong criticism from disability advocates, the state said that starting March 15, people ages 16-64 who have disabilities or health conditions that put them at higher risk, will be eligible for vaccinations based on the "clinical judgment" of health care providers.

Speaking to reporters, the governor indicated that date may now be moved up even farther.

"I'm not sure we want to wait till March 15th,” Newsom said. “The reason we're feeling we can do that is we have a preview into increased allocations, particularly J & J, that give us confidence in that ability to be more flexible in terms of moving that date forward to accommodate those unique needs of unique individuals that are struggling with those comorbidities.”

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California has administered more than 8 million coronavirus vaccine doses, and Newsom said the state is rapidly increasing its capacity. Eleven new vaccination sites opened in the Central Valley this week.

Newsom said he expects more than 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to arrive in California next week.

“Take the shot when it’s your turn,” he said. “Get any of these shots, it’s going to save lives.”

— Kevin Stark

Santa Clara County Relaxes Restrictions on Outdoor Gatherings and Youth Activities, Indoor Dining May Follow

Santa Clara County lifted several of its COVID-19 restrictions Friday. The county relaxed restrictions around outdoor gatherings and youth recreation activities amid a drop in COVID-19 cases.

Additionally, a new vaccination site is opening in East San Jose at the Valley Health Center East Valley, also known as the East Valley Clinic.

The new site is aimed to lessen disparities in vaccination availability to communities of color, according to Dr. Gerardo Solorio-Cortes, a primary care physician at Valley Health Center in Gilroy.

“East side residents know the toll of COVID-19 all too well,” Solorio-Cortes said. “Your community has faced amongst the highest infection rates. And particularly the Latino, Latinx population has been disproportionately affected.”

Emmanuel Baptist Church and Gilroy High School are the two other vaccination sites open in the county targeting communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

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Currently, 177,000 people in Santa Clara County have received their first vaccine dose through county sites, and around 9,000 people a day are expected to be vaccinated within the next week.

Their biggest obstacle is still limited supply, said Dr. Jennifer Tong, the county’s associate chief medical officer.

However, the newly approved Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine will expand inventory.

“Due to the fact that it’s one dose and has less intense cold chain storage requirements, it gives us more flexibility to reach the highest-risk communities who might have difficulty being reached for their second dose,” Tong said.

The county is expected to enter the state’s red tier next Wednesday, March 3, which would lift restrictions on indoor dining and other businesses.

Even so, health officials continue to recommend taking the same basic precautions to limit COVID-19 exposure.

“Please remember as we wait to vaccinate the whole population, continue to wear a mask, maintain social distance, get tested regularly and get vaccinated when your time is up,” Solorio-Cortes said.

Gabriella Frenes