For Statewide COVID-19 Testing at Nursing Homes, Officials Look to Alameda and San Francisco

State officials say it will take some time to develop a plan to test workers and patients at California’s 1,224 nursing homes, and they’re looking at the efforts of three counties to help inform its implementation.

Nearly half of the state’s reported coronavirus cases are located in assisted living and nursing homes.

In California, “I think we’re a couple of weeks away from having this all ironed out, and it comes down to ensuring that we not only have the supplies but also the people power to get the testing done,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, who runs the state’s Health and Human Services Agency.

Ghaly noted that San Francisco, Alameda and Los Angeles counties are developing their own testing programs. “We're working with those counties to ensure that it can be implemented and done well, and then we'll expand to the rest of the state in the days to come,” he said.

San Francisco has ordered testing for the virus among workers and patients at the city’s 21 nursing homes, whether they’re showing symptoms or not. Alameda County now is recommending that clinicians test everyone in care homes when the results can be useful; for example, testing results could help separate patients into cohorts.

Counties and the state say the hope is to establish and repeat care-home testing until the pandemic slows.

Molly Peterson (@Mollydacious)

San Francisco on Track to Vaccinate All Residents by June 30

At a committee hearing with San Francisco supervisors on the city’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Thursday, health officials said the city is on track to reach its goal of vaccinating all residents by June 30 and that the city will expand eligibility to children as early as next month.

So far, 65% of eligible people in San Francisco ages 16 and older have been vaccinated, health officials said. Over 56% of the city's total population has received at least one dose, higher than state and national averages. Vaccine eligibility has been open to anyone 16 and older since last week and the city plans to open up vaccine eligibility to 12- to 15-year-old children by mid-May, and to younger children by early summer.

But while more people are searching for vaccine appointments, vaccine supply has decreased. Naveena Bobba, the city's deputy health director, said supply has been the biggest barrier to reaching the goal.

“The supply has been very unstable, so these are projections that are coming out of the federal government and that’s what we’ve been relying on,” Bobba said at the hearing.

The city receives its supply from the state, but supply has decreased by 35% in the last month. That's partially due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration’s joint pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week. The state has also allocated more vaccines for pharmacies to administer, meaning the allocation to the city has gone down.


“We are uncovering every stone possible to get more vaccines into the city and county, we are making sure that every dose that we have gets utilized,” Bobba said.

The city has the staff and infrastructure to vaccinate 20,000 people per day, but has only vaccinated an average of 10,000 per day, 16,000 on the highest day. The limited supply has slowed efforts of the city’s mobile units that had planned to primarily use the J&J vaccine. The mobile units vaccinate residents who cannot access mass vaccination sites, including people who are homebound.

An advisory board for the CDC is scheduled to discuss the use of the J&J vaccine Friday. Based on that recommendation, city health officials said they would consider resuming use.

- MJ Johnson

Visitacion Valley Vaccine Site Open for Drop-ins and Appointments

San Francisco officials and community partners have launched a newly expanded COVID-19 vaccine site in the city’s Visitacion Valley – an area hit hard by the pandemic.

The site is located at 1099 Sunnydale Ave. and is prioritizing residents ages 18 and older who live within the city’s District 10.

FACES SF, the J & J Community Resource Center, the Samoan Community Development Center and Visit Healthcare partnered with the city in the effort.

District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton said the site offers vaccines to a neighborhood that is home to a large population of essential workers and residents who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

“If you look from the city as a whole, the ZIP codes with the highest number of individuals who have contracted the virus in San Francisco were in the Southeast Center and in District 10,” Walton said.

FACES SF Workforce Development Program Director Susan Murphy said the city hopes to open a third vaccination site, also on Sunnydale Avenue, by the end of April.

“Because this is a marginalized, disenfranchised community, the accessibility for them to be able to receive the vaccine is vitally important,” Murphy said.

To make an appointment at the Visitacion Valley site, residents can call FACES SF at (415) 239-8705 or email The current site is open by appointment or drop-in Monday through Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A satellite location at 1652 Sunnydale Ave. is also open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The 1099 Sunnydale Ave. site is near the Muni T-Line and the 9 San Bruno bus, which are providing free rides for anyone traveling to and from COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Emily Hung

Marin Narrowly Misses Qualifying for Least Restrictive COVID Tier

Marin County had anticipated receiving permission to increase the number of people allowed in stores, restaurants and other places Tuesday, when it had hoped to become the first Bay Area county to reach the least restrictive, yellow tier since San Francisco made it there last October. But those bragging rights are now on hold because the state kept Marin at its present orange tier status.

The county said an uptick in COVID-19 cases narrowly prevented it from qualifying to move up and will keep it in the orange "a while longer." The earliest Marin can move to the yellow tier is now May 4.

“This is what the Blueprint was designed to do, to ensure a county moves forward only when we see a reliable trend of decreased transmission," Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said in a press release, referring to the state's color-coded system of moving counties in and out of different categories that dictate the level of COVID-related restrictions. "When a small uptick in cases is enough to keep us where we are, it’s a sign we’re not ready.”

The county attributed the increase in cases to travel over spring break.

As of Wednesday, around 77% of Marin residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Fifty-two percent have been fully vaccinated.

Despite the high number of vaccinations, Willis warned residents the crisis is not yet over.

“If people see relatively high community vaccination rates as a reason to let down their guard, they’re mistaken,” he said. “Children under 16 still remain unvaccinated and it takes about six weeks for newly vaccinated people to develop immunity. The fact is, we remain vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission and if we want to move forward, we have to be vigilant together.”

Marinites can make a vaccine appointment on the county's vaccination website. Members of the public should continue to cover their face, keep physically distant, and consider a free same-day COVID test and quarantining after travel outside the Bay Area.

Jon Brooks

Santa Clara County Vaccine Shortage Eases

Santa Clara County no longer has a shortage of coronavirus vaccine, a significant change from a month ago.

In February and March, health officials frequently sounded the alarm about a lack of vaccine supply. But Santa Clara County recently qualified for a federal program aimed at underserved communities, and last week the county received 300,000 doses on top of what it gets from the state.

Dr. Ahmad Kamal, who directs health care preparedness for the county, says that even though thousands of new appointments have become available, officials are still working to get the word out in vulnerable communities through sign-up fairs and other means.

"We have door-to-door outreach efforts going, knocking on people’s doors, offering them appointments," Kamal said.

Around 60% of county residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine and about 33% have been fully vaccinated, according to official statistics, though the county says the number of vaccines administered are undercounted because of issues with the state immunization information system.

Polly Stryker

Legislature Revives Multibillion-Dollar Tax Break for Businesses

California lawmakers on Monday revived a multibillion-dollar tax break for some businesses after the Biden administration assured them the proposal would not jeopardize the state's own federal coronavirus aid.

The federal government has given California companies about $97 billion in loans during the pandemic, the majority of which business owners won't have to pay back. Congress already lets business owners deduct expenses associated with those loans from their federal taxes. But California business owners still owe state taxes on that money.

California lawmakers wanted to change that, and they were prepared to do it earlier this year. But they put it off because they were afraid the proposal could force them to lose some of their own federal coronavirus aid.

That's because Congress barred states from using coronavirus relief money to pay for tax cuts. Since the proposal would reduce how much money business owners pay in state taxes, Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration worried it would count as a tax cut and would put some of the state's $26 billion in federal aid at risk.

The U.S. Treasury Department assured the state it could pass the bill without forfeiting billions of dollars in federal aid. Monday, the state Senate voted 37-0 to do just that. The bill now heads to the state Assembly, where Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, called it “one of the biggest proposed tax cuts in California history.” The California Department of Finance says the tax break will cost the state between $4.4 billion and $6.8 billion over the next six years.

Rendon's office said the Assembly plans to vet the proposal in committee and then take it up “as soon as possible.”

“The large number of co-authors on this bill indicate its wide support in the Legislature,” he said.

The proposal is a relief for tax preparers, who have been advising clients to delay filing their state taxes while they await the bill's fate in the Legislature. Now that the bill is moving again, it will set off a flurry of activity as accountants rush to determine its implications, which will hinge on how regulators interpret it.

But not every business will benefit. The tax break only applies to companies that are not publicly traded and those that reported a loss of at least 25% of gross receipts during at least one quarter in 2020.

Read the full story

Adam Beam, Associated Press

Some San Francisco Libraries to Begin Reopening in May

Some — but far from all — of San Francisco's public libraries will start reopening for in-person reading in May.

The San Francisco Main Library's first floor will reopen May 3, and the Chinatown/Him Mark Lai and Mission Bay branches will reopen the week of May 17, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday.

But when San Franciscans return to libraries in person, it won't be for long stretches. The San Francisco Public Library has developed what it calls its "Browse and Bounce" program for folks to browse books with an expectation of brevity.

No chairs will be available for sitting to read or to study, Breed's office said. No studying or meeting in library branch meeting rooms will be allowed.

Computers will be available for 50-minute stretches, however, with printers and photocopiers also available. Library staff will also be available to answer questions.

“We’ve missed each and every one of our library patrons, just as much as they’ve missed us and we are so proud to start welcoming them back inside,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert in a statement.

Other branches will reopen "as staffing permits," Breed's office said.

So where are the staff now? Many are helping to fill up grocery bags instead of book bags.

Since March of last year, hundreds of librarians and other library staff have elected to work with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank as city "disaster service workers," a program that reassigns city staffers when needed in emergencies. They’ve also volunteered at shelter-in-place hotels to help people who are housing insecure to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, or have been helping kids navigate their online classes at community learning hubs.

Still, others are helping patrons borrow books at 15 libraries and four bookmobile locations throughout San Francisco, which will continue to allow folks to borrow books in a San Francisco Public Library To Go front door service program.

“I want to thank all of the Library staff, along with all the other City workers, who have been serving San Francisco’s COVID response for more than a year now,” Breed said in a statement. “I know that people have really been missing the library, and though we’ve adapted to provide more to-go options and online resources, there’s nothing quite like getting to browse the shelves and pick out your next book.”

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Marin 'on Cusp' of Becoming First Bay Area County in State's Least Restrictive Reopening Tier

Marin County may be headed into California's yellow, least restrictive reopening tier as early as Tuesday, when state health officials announce weekly changes.

The county would join just three others in the state — Lassen, Alpine and Sierra — currently in the yellow tier, allowing most indoor businesses to reopen. That includes indoor bars that don't serve food, which could reopen at 25% capacity. It would also allow for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings.

The county is "right on the cusp" of the state's threshold to advance into the "minimal" tier, said county spokesperson Laine Hendricks on Monday.

"We're considering it too close to call because we are literally riding that threshold with very little wiggle room," she said. "So we are waiting with bated breath to hear what the state has to say about the decision."

That threshold includes positive test rates under 2% for two weeks and a rate of fewer than two cases per 100,000 residents. As of last week, Marin met both of those criteria, but the numbers are still being crunched, Hendricks said.

More than 75% of people ages 16 and up in the county have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to health officials.

If current statewide trends continue, with hospitalizations remaining low and vaccine availability high, California plans to drop all coronavirus restrictions – including its color-coded tier system — by June 15.

Polly Stryker