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I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs …
In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.
COVID-19 vaccine updates: Federal vaccination sites to open in Oakland, East LA
In the hopes of making a difference in two California communities that have been hit hard by coronavirus, the federal government is planning to open vaccination sites in East Oakland and East Los Angeles.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients announced that the sites, which are expected to be open to eligible residents beginning Feb. 16, will launch at the Oakland Coliseum and at California State University, Los Angeles.
Each of the two jointly operated sites will be able to administer up to 5,000 doses a day, said state emergency services spokesman Brian Ferguson.
The facilities will be staffed primarily by officials from the Department of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Zients called those sites “just the beginning” of the Biden administration’s push to speed the pace of vaccinations, particularly in area suffering the brunt of illnesses and death.
“In the fight against COVID-19, partnership is key, especially when it comes to reaching Californians in underserved areas,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a prepared statement. “These new sites will help us get available supply to some of the California communities most in need. I thank the Biden Administration for standing with us as we continue our efforts to safely, swiftly and equitably vaccinate all Californians.”
COVID-19 infections, hospital cases in California are plunging
In other pandemic news, after a deadly, months-long coronavirus surge, the Golden State is starting to see infection and hospitalization rates fall — even as it struggles to ramp up a chaotic vaccination program.
The number of new virus cases reported Tuesday was slightly more than 12,000, the lowest daily figure since November. In early January, daily counts were routinely above 40,000.
In addition, hospital capacity is rising after plunging so low in December that overwhelmed facilities talked about rationing care. If current trends continue, the number of COVID-19 hospital patients are expected to fall by half by early March, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
California has recorded more than 41,000 deaths — putting it only behind New York among states — but even that pace may be starting to slow. After averaging 544 daily deaths last week, the last three daily counts have averaged 371.
However, to put things in perspective, Ghaly said COVID-19 case rates “are down, but they’re not low,” saying “the chance for another surge in California is real” if people drop their guard or if mutations of the virus become prevalent.
He urged people against gathering for large Super Bowl celebrations on Sunday, which could become “super-spreader” events.
Washington State gets green light for high school football. Will California follow?
As high school athletics officials and advocacy groups in the Golden State continue to meet with Gov. Newsom’s office and staff at the California Department of Public Health in the hopes of coming up with a plan to finally kick off high school football, news comes from the Evergreen State that football practices are set to begin in most of Western Washington in the final week of February.
The Mercury News reports that as leagues around California “refuse to budge the mandated April 17 end date for football, this week could prove decisive in their fight for a spring season. If football isn’t moved out of the orange tier — or sports detached from the tiered system entirely, as a collection of coaches and parents are calling for — few schools would be eligible to field a team in time for there to be even an abridged season.”
Members of the Golden State High School Football Coaches Community are planning to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly Thursday afternoon to continue discussions.
Gov. Newsom said Wednesday that he was sympathetic to the cause and was hopeful a compromise could be reached so students could play football this spring.
Report: California leads the nation on electric vehicles
In the effort to transition cars and trucks away from internal combustion engines — i.e., gasoline-powered — California outpaces the rest of the country, according to a report published Wednesday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit focused on clean energy research. “California is far and away the national leader on transportation electrification policy,” the report found.
The report comes just one day after California emerged victorious on another effort to clean up its transportation sector, with carmakers giving up their support for a Trump-era fight against the state’s vehicle emissions standards. Transportation accounts for the largest slice of the Golden State’s climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
As for its top marks for its electric vehicle rollout, California was listed as leading in planning for a transportation transition, incentivizing the purchase of these cars and pushing for zero-emission vehicles to not only end up in the hands of the wealthy. The report specifically cites the state’s adoption of “a target for statewide heavy-duty (electric vehicle) deployment” and a building code that supports electric vehicle infrastructure at various types of homes and commercial buildings.
“Transitioning to electric vehicles is vital for the climate and for reducing costs for households and businesses,” Bryan Howard, the research group’s state policy director and the report’s lead author, said in a statement.
Riverside County: 64 arrested in anti-human trafficking operation
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department announced Tuesday that a multi-agency task force investigating online prostitution in Riverside County made 64 arrests during a four-day operation ending Jan. 28.
Named Operation Reclaim & Rebuild, the task force included officers from the Riverside, Murrieta and other area police departments as well as sheriff’s department staff from across the county.
Members of the task force arrested 62 people for solicitation of prostitution, one person for lewd purposes and one person for aiding a person to commit prostitution, according to the news release.
During the operation, authorities placed decoy advertisements on websites popularly used for soliciting prostitution. Investigators communicated with prospective customers who responded to these ads.
“Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the customers were arrested upon their arrival at a pre-determined meeting location,” said a news release from the sheriff’s department.
The task force also identified two individuals believed to be victims of sex trafficking who were being forced into prostitution. They were referred to victim services for assistance, the sheriff’s department said.
Cockfighting operation investigated outside LA
Elsewhere in crime news, KNX 1070 Newsradio reports that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating an illegal cockfighting ring operating at a property in Llano, east of Palmdale.
Approximately 70 cockfighting roosters were rescued during a search on Jan. 27 and are being inspected by animal care officers.
Cockfighting, as described by the The Humane Society, is a “blood sport in which two or more specially bred birds, known as gamecocks, are placed in an enclosed pit to fight, for the primary purposes of gambling and entertainment. A typical cockfight can last anywhere from several minutes to more than half an hour and usually results in the death of one or both birds.”
Several residents at the property were detained, adds nbclosangeles.com.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: KNX 1070 Newsradio, The Mercury News, nbclosangeles.com, We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with the latest headlines.
As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at [email protected].