Five Bay Area counties move to ‘low’ COVID tier

Nearly 300 Google employees infected in Los Angeles outbreak

Google’s Los Angeles-area campuses are experiencing one of the largest COVID-19 workplace outbreaks in the state, with nearly 300 employees currently infected with the virus, according to the L.A. County Public Health dashboard. The tech company’s Playa Vista complex added 135 new cases over the weekend, Deadline reports, adding to the 145 infections reported at its Venice office on Friday. The combined 280 infections constitute the largest current tally for any employer in the county, the report says. By comparison, 274 TSA employees at Los Angeles International Airport are infected, and 234 American Airlines workers have COVID-19. Google has 2,000 employees in Los Angeles, based on a report last year from Los Angeles Business Journal. That means 14% of its workforce is currently impacted by the virus.

5 Bay Area counties move into ‘low’ community tier

Five out of nine Bay Area counties Monday advanced into the “low” COVID-19 community level tier based on hospitalization rates, for the first time since the summer BA.5 surge, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, San Mateo and Alameda counties were in the agency’s lowest tier. Napa, Solano, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties moved out of “high” and into “medium,” determined by the rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions and inpatient beds used by those patients, based on the current level of new cases. However, according to the CDC’s coronavirus transmission map, all counties in the region remain in the “high” virus transmission category, based on the rates of new cases and positive tests — a category that comprises 92% of the U.S. population.

BA.5 and BA.4.6 tighten grip on U.S.

The highly transmissible BA.5 strain of the omicron coronavirus variant made up about 89% of the sequenced coronavirus cases in the United States last week, according to data published Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The newest sublineage of the variant, BA.4.6, made up 6.3% of cases nationally, and BA.4 regressed slightly to appear in 4.3% of sequenced cases. All other variants of the virus have effectively faded away. The U.S. is averaging about 88,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases per day, down from about 129,000 a month ago.

Children’s COVID-19 cases remain critically high as school resumes

There were 79,525 confirmed child COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last week, according to data published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. Cases among children under 18 in the U.S. have stabilized over the past two weeks following the summer surge but remain stubbornly high after dropping to around 25,000 a week in April. With the academic year starting, many schools have dropped virus mitigation measures in alignment with updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which no longer requires masking, testing or quarantining for asymptomatic students and staff.

Los Angeles County offers free COVID-19 testing for pets

Public health officials in Los Angeles County are offering free coronavirus testing for pets that were exposed to a human or animal with COVID-19 or have symptoms of the disease. The tests will be offered through select veterinarians and animal care facilities. “This project will help us to learn more about COVID-19 from a one health perspective, meaning that we can learn more about the significance of COVID-19 in human, animal, and environmental relationships,” Los Angeles County’s Veterinary Public Health department said. “Our goal is to test many different species of animals including wildlife (deer, bats, raccoons), pets (dogs, cats, hamsters, pocket pets), marine mammals (seals), and more.” Symptoms of COVID-19 in animals may include fever, coughing, lethargy, sneezing and loss of appetite.

Royal Caribbean to allow more unvaccinated people on cruises

Royal Caribbean has updated its COVID-19 protocols to allow more unvaccinated people to sail on their ships, according to an announcement Monday on the cruise company’s blog. “The time has come for us to welcome all adventurers back onboard,” Royal Caribbean said in an email to travel agents, adding that the change in protocols are “to more closely align with the broader travel industry.” Beginning September 5, all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, can board Royal Caribbean cruises departing from Los Angeles, Galveston, and New Orleans, as well as any port in Florida or the company’s European home port.

Jill Biden tests negative 

First Lady Jill Biden left COVID-19 isolation on Sunday after twice testing negative for the coronavirus and reunited with President Joe Biden at their Delaware beach home. She had been isolating in South Carolina, where she tested positive for the virus as the couple wrapped up a vacation there last week, the Associated Press reports.

The president made a brief stop at the White House before going to Wilmington, Del. He arrived in Rehoboth Beach on Saturday night. The White House announced Tuesday that the 71-year-old first lady had tested positive for the virus. She first had symptoms last Monday. Like the president, she has been twice-vaccinated and twice-boosted with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer seeks authorization for updated COVID vaccine booster

Pfizer asked U.S. regulators Monday to authorize its combination COVID-19 vaccine that adds protection against the newest omicron relatives — a critical step toward opening a fall booster campaign, according to the Associated Press.

The Food and Drug Administration ordered vaccine makers to tweak their shots to target BA.4 and BA.5, which are better than ever at dodging immunity from earlier vaccination or infection.

If the FDA quickly clears the combo shots made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, boosters could be offered within weeks. The U.S. has a contract to buy 105 million updated Pfizer doses as soon as health authorities greenlight them, and the company said doses are ready to ship. Moderna was expected to file a similar application soon, and the U.S. has a contract to buy 66 million doses of its updated vaccine. “It’s going to be really important that people this fall and winter get the new shots. It’s designed for the virus that’s out there,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said last week.

Fauci to retire 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts and among the most prominent faces of America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, plans to retire after more than 50 years in public service, the Washington Post reported. 

Fauci plans to step down in December. 

Here’s what you need to know about long COVID right now

Coronavirus cases have been on a steady decline recently in the Bay Area, but for the many who caught COVID-19 this year during the successive waves caused by omicron and its subvariants, the prospects of long COVID may be a new concern.

While experts said there is still much to learn, here is what we know about long COVID at this stage in the pandemic, including how it is diagnosed, who is more susceptible to it and whether there are any treatments.

If my partner and I both have COVID, will we make each other sicker?

The Chronicle’s Pandemic Problems advice team tackled a question from a reader who asked whether it was safe for a couple living together — both of whom have COVID at the same time — to interact closely with one another without masks. 

Could the ailing couple retransmit the virus to each other, prolonging their respective infections?

Bay Area school calls police in dispute over whether 4-year-old must wear a mask

A Bay Area parent is considering suing over his 4-year-old son being barred from his public school classroom after the child refused to wear a mask. Staff called a school-based police officer when the father declined to leave the campus.

In one California county, just 4% of pre-teens are vaccinated against COVID

Twenty-five of California’s 58 counties have less than a quarter of their 5- to 11-year-olds fully vaccinated, including Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. In Lassen County, just 4% of 5- to 11-year-olds are vaccinated. Most of those same counties also have fewer than half of their 12- to 17-year-olds fully vaccinated.

Novavax COVID vaccine authorized for children 12-17 

Biotech company Novavax said the FDA granted its COVID vaccine emergency use authorization for children ages 12 to 17. It was already granted emergency approval for adults 18 and over.