Plus: What to do with your COVID-19 vaccination card. A staffing crisis hits San Francisco restaurants. And a tiny town will cut water use by 74%.
I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, bringing you today’s California headlines.
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California reports 25% fewer COVID-19 cases as virus spread remains slow
California reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, adding 17,739 new cases. That’s down 24.8% from the previous week’s toll of 23,598 new cases.
California ranked 48th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Across the state, cases fell in 27 counties, with the best declines in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties.
In the week ending Sunday, California reported administering another 3,337,845 vaccine doses, compared to 2,791,743 the week before that. In all, the Golden State reported it has administered 26,092,008 doses in a state of about 40 million people.
California ranked ninth among states in the share of people receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine, with 43.2% of its residents at least partially vaccinated. The national rate is 39.5%, a USA TODAY analysis of CDC data shows.
A total of 3,718,210 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 61,038 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States, 31,670,031 people have tested positive and 567,217 have died.
What to do with your COVID-19 vaccination card
Now that you’re vaccinated, what should you do with your COVID-19 vaccination card? The Los Angeles Times has some do’s and don’ts for what it refers to “the most exciting piece of paper you’ll get this year.”
Among the do’s: Take a photo of the front and back of your card as a backup.
Among the don’ts: Don’t laminate your card. If at some point you need a vaccine booster, this will need to be added. It’s better to protect your card with a clear plastic sleeve, like a badge ID holder.
And don’t post an up-close photo of your card on social media. Reason No. 1: It contains your personal information. Reason No. 2: There are plenty of people trying to create fake cards. Why make it easier for them by providing a recent vaccine lot number? More succinctly: Don’t be like this guy.
And what should you do if you’ve lost this precious piece of paper? Your first step should be to reach out to the place where you received your shots to see if they can provide a replacement. Alternatively, you can reach out to the California Immunization Registry (CAIR) to request a copy of your record.
California allows golf fans for US Opens if vaccinated or tested
After consulting with California health officials, the USGA announced that a limited number of spectators will be allowed at the U.S. Women’s Open in San Francisco and the U.S. Open in San Diego — provided they are vaccinated or can show proof of a negative test for the coronavirus. The USGA did not indicate how many fans would be allowed at either championship.
While the U.S. Opens will not be the first majors to allow fans, they will be the first to hold spectators to a standard of health through the COVID-19 vaccine or testing.
Per the USGA’s guidelines, face coverings and social distancing will be required for fans, staff and volunteers, even if they have been vaccinated. And spectators who live in California must show proof they have been vaccinated at least 14 days before the tournament or that they have tested negative.
“Last year, we missed the energy that fans bring to our U.S. Open championships,” said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA. “We are grateful to our local and state health and safety officials in California to be in a position to welcome some fans back this year.”
Oscar attendees will not have to wear face masks while on camera
While we’re on the subject of COVID and events, Variety reports that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will not require Oscar attendees to wear face masks while they’re on while camera during the live ceremony taking place April 25.
The information was presented Monday morning during a Zoom meeting with Academy representatives, nominees and others. The ceremony — taking place at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles — is being treated as a TV/film production, which means masks are not required while cameras roll.
When not on camera, however — for example, during commercial breaks — attendees are being asked to wear masks.
Other safety precautions include mandatory temperature checks and limiting the audience capacity to 170 people. In addition, attendees must take at least three COVID tests in the days prior to the ceremony and stand seven feet away from red carpet reporters.
Steven Soderbergh, the event’s co-producer, did not comment directly on face-mask protocol during a press conference with co-producers Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher, saying only that masks would play “a very important role in the story.”
“If that’s cryptic, it’s meant to be,” he said. “That topic is very central to the narrative.”
In other Oscars news, last September the Academy announced it would implement new diversity and inclusion standards for the best picture race, starting in 2024.
How well do this year’s best picture nominees meet these standards? USA TODAY provides an interesting analysis.
To ensure survival, tiny Borrego Springs agrees to huge water cuts
Borrego Springs, a small desert town at the entrance to California’s Anza-Borrego State Park, has won a judge’s approval for an agreement under which large farmers, resort owners and its own water district will slash water use by 74% by 2040. Officials say the cuts are needed to keep the town of 3,000 alive.
Unlike Los Angeles or the Coachella Valley, there are no huge pipes or canals shipping imported water to the area, just a rapidly shrinking aquifer below their feet.
As a result, more than a dozen major landholders, including ranchers and developers who’ve long grown crops and created lush golf greens in the parched desert by pumping large amounts of water from the aquifer, signed on to the settlement agreement. Together with the town, their share of water rights total more than 75% of an estimated 24,000 acre-feet of water pumped annually out of the desert floor. Within 19 years, that is required to be reduced to about 5,700 acre-feet.
Under the agreement, all large users will be required to ratchet down by 5% each year the amounts of water they take from the “critically over-drafted” aquifer that is gradually replenished with rainfall that flows down from surrounding mountains to Coyote Creek and below the Borrego Valley. By 2030, all will have halved their baseline amounts.
Bay Area restaurants have trouble hiring staff
Restaurant owners in the Bay Area are finding themselves in the middle of a staffing crisis.
Even before the pandemic, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the labor market was tight due to “San Francisco’s notoriously high cost of living and relatively low wages.” Then when COVID hit and restaurant workers lost their jobs, many left the area or found jobs in other industries.
And even though the Golden State recently passed a law that guarantees laid-off hospitality workers their former jobs, restaurant owners say few people actually want them.
In order to lure workers back, many owners are faced with raising salaries, re-examining benefits and focusing on workplace culture. And if this doesn’t result in more hires, some restaurants say they won’t be about to fully reopen in June, when limited capacity restrictions are expected to be lifted.
Another concern is the shortage of international workers who typically come to the United States on a J-1 visa in order to gain experience. Fine-dining restaurants often rely on foreign cooks for low-level kitchen roles, but when the pandemic hit, many of these people returned home.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.