The COVID-19 Pandemic Permanently Damaged Property Rights

Officials used the crisis to impose policies they already supported but couldn’t get through the normal legislative process, like bans on evictions.

I don’t pay particular attention to health scares, so when talk of a spreading pandemic started dominating the news cycle I largely shrugged and went about my business. I was staying at a cheap motel in Calexico, taking photos of the New River and the Salton Sea for my book about California water policy, when my wife called from Sacramento and said, “You better get home. And I mean now.”

That was the weekend when the shutdowns began. I recall stopping at a grocery store near Modesto, when I noticed meandering lines and a run on toilet paper. The rest, as they say, is history. Like most people, I never could have predicted the coming shutdown of the economy, government orders to stay at home, an end to restaurant dining and public gatherings, and profligate “relief” payments.

As that (probably fake) George Washington quotation put it, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence—it is force.” Government officials aren’t wiser than the rest of us, so when they tried to deal with a serious public health problem, they did so in a forceful, ineloquent, and unreasonable manner. Unfortunately, many of its worst approaches leave permanent scars.

In my column last year summarizing lessons from COVID-19, I concluded that it left us as a “nation of rulers, not laws.” American governors—and California Gov. Gavin Newsom in particular—quickly and eagerly used their broad emergency powers to begin issuing edicts. Given the extent of the public-health threat, some of the more modest and temporary ones were understandable, but they bypassed the normal legislative process in cynical and expansive ways.

One Republican lawmaker published a 138-page document detailing the 400 laws that Newsom unilaterally imposed or changed—many of them that only tangentially had anything to do with protecting public health. In particular, officials used the crisis to impose policies they already supported but couldn’t get through the normal legislative process.

The worst example involved anti-eviction orders that have literally destroyed our property rights. Virtually all mom-and-pop landlords depend on the rental income. With one fell swoop, governors (and the federal Centers for Disease Control) declared that tenants no longer had to pay their full rent if they faced a pandemic-related hardship. Sure, landlords could potentially collect rent in the future in civil court, but good luck with that.

In making it virtually impossible to evict non-paying tenants, policymakers imposed the full cost of their public-health plans on individual property owners, who could no longer count on getting a return on their investment. Often, property owners have mortgages—and they always have tax and insurance bills. When a heating system or roof leaks, they’re still required (ethically and legally) to make repairs. But they no longer could count on receiving rent.

Someone posted my column detailing the plight of landlords on a liberal housing-related news group, and you can probably guess the ensuing negative responses. No landlord I know expects any sympathy given that it’s the type of investment they freely chose.

However, I thought that most people—even renters who have had less-than-stellar rental experiences—might understand that if the government deprives owners of their supposed state constitutional right to a fair return on their investment, fewer people will go into the business and even fewer will upgrade their properties. That helps no one.

The result is obvious: fewer available rentals and fewer rentals in tip-top condition. Investing in rental property has always been a prime means for middle-class people to build wealth. My grandfather was an immigrant paperhanger (remember wallpaper?) who invested in Philadelphia row houses decades ago. Now, I talk to many people who won’t dare buy a rental house out of the legitimate fear that the government can suspend rent payments at will.

Tenants often outnumber owners, especially in larger cities such as Los Angeles. We see groups of activists lobbying for rent controls in Costa Mesa (and previously in Santa Ana). By eliminating property rights and shifting decisions to city councils (and tenant-dominated rental boards), the government has made owners’ livelihoods dependent on the political system. As the saying goes, democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

Certainly, many cities (San Francisco, Santa Monica, New York) embraced strict rent control long before the pandemic was a thing. They largely destroyed their housing markets of course, as renters stayed put in under-market units while investors high-tailed it elsewhere. But COVID added a new level of uncertainty. Look at how Los Angeles continually extended its anti-eviction provisions.

Click here to read the full article at Reason

Harsh Responses and Harsh Outcomes of COVID

We’re still struggling with the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic — and what was done to get through it. To cite just one effect, one of my favorite restaurants, the Katella Grill in Anaheim, had a rough time through the total lockdown: tented dining, then trying to reopen indoors, finally closing a year ago after 30 years serving the county’s best liver and onions. I recently drove by there and in the entrance slept a homeless man.

On the global picture, we’re now getting some good national studies. They compare the states, which not only are federalist “crucibles of democracy,” but the crucibles of COVID response.

Let’s look at two areas, mortality and education.

On March 6 arrived “Associations between mortality from COVID-19 and other causes: A state-level analysis,” by Annaliese N. Luck, et al. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the high death toll from COVID-19 was accompanied by a rise in mortality from other causes of death,” it found. The study compared “spatial variation in these relationships across US states.”

The “other causes” is important because lockdowns increased other pathologies, such as an drug use and overdoses.

In the March 2019 to February 2020 year, immediately pre-COVID, California’s All-Cause mortality was 521.4 per 100,000. In the first COVID year, March 2020-February 2021, that rose to 659.3, an increase of 137.9. Which was a mortality increase of 26%. COVID deaths alone were 110.9, or 80% of the total increase.

As the pandemic dug in, on March 18, 2020, U.S. News ran a story, “10 States With the Most Aggressive Response to COVID-19.” Aggressive meaning heavier lockdowns, mask mandates and school closures. “Washington and northeastern states, which have implemented lockdowns and bans, score best in a new report evaluating states’ efforts to control the virus.” The top 10, in order: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, Vermont and District of Columbia.

The story also listed “the 10 states with the least aggressive responses to the virus.” In order: Wyoming, Mississippi, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Missouri, Hawaii, Kansas, Tennessee and Indiana.

I combined the two data sets and found: For the 10 “most aggressive” COVID responses, all cause mortality increased 20%. For the 10 “least aggressive,” it was 19%. Lower, but not by much. Moreover, the “least aggressive” group was heavily influenced by Hawaii’s increase of just 2%.

The “most aggressive” states all were Democratic, while the “least aggressive” were Republican, except for Nevada (21%) and the exemplary Hawaii. “Most aggressive” also was made worse by the District of Columbia, an almost entirely Democratic demographic, with a 26% increase in deaths. This is the nation’s capital that tells the rest of us what to do.

On education, last October’s release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed sharp declines from 2019 to 2020 in all categories. For 4th-grade math, California students dropped 4 points from 2019 to 2020. That led Gov. Gavin Newsom to boast in a press release, “California Outperforms Most States in Minimizing Learning Loss in National Student Assessment, with Record Investments to Improve Education.” How’s that for spin?

The worst state was President Biden’s home of Delaware, dropping 14 points to 226.

Sticking with math for 4th graders, let’s look at how the states we used above have fared. The average of the 10 “most aggressive” states was -7.6 points. For the “least aggressive” states, it was -4.8. Definitely a correlation there. Keeping the kids out of school, especially as they were the least likely to die from the plague, was a big mistake.

There are caveats. The “most aggressive” category again was weighed down by D.C., with -12 points, second worst, and Biden’s current residence. And Hawaii, again exemplary, was one of the states with “no significant score change in 2022.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Twitter Files: The ‘Great Covid-19 Lie Machine’ Worked to Censor ‘True Stories’

In the latest Twitter Files report published on Friday, journalist and author Matt Taibbi revealed that Twitter partnered with the Virality Project, which warned the social media platform that “true stories that could fuel hesitancy,” complained that “anti-vaccine” accounts were retweeting the CDC, and ironically ran searches for the term “surveillance state” while looking for more information to censor.

“The release of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s spring 2020 emails via the Freedom of Information Act has been used to exacerbate distrust in Dr. Fauci,” the Virality Project lamented in June 2021.

The Virality Project is “a sweeping, cross-platform effort to monitor billons of social media posts by Stanford University, federal agencies, and a slew of (often state-funded) NGOs,” Taibbi noted.

Taibbi went on to say that Friday’s Twitter Files revealed “Reports of vaccinated individuals contracting Covid-19 anyway,” “natural immunity,” suggesting Covid-19 “leaked from a lab,” and even “worrisome jokes” were all characterized as “potential violations” or disinformation “events” by the Virality Project.

“We’ve since learned the Virality Project in 2021 worked with government to launch a pan-industry monitoring plan for Covid-related content,” Taibbi said. “At least six major Internet platforms were ‘onboarded’ to the same JIRA ticketing system, daily sending millions of items for review.”

The journalist added that the Virality Project had “knowingly targeted true material and legitimate political opinion, while often being factually wrong itself.”

“As Orwellian proof-of-concept, the Virality Project was a smash success,” he said. “Government, academia, and an oligopoly of would-be corporate competitors organized quickly behind a secret, unified effort to control political messaging.”

The Virality Project had also “accelerated the evolution of digital censorship, moving it from judging truth/untruth to a new, scarier model, openly focused on political narrative at the expense of fact,” Taibbi said.

The Twitter Files also revealed that on February 5, 2021, right after President Joe Biden took office, Stanford wrote to Twitter to discuss the Virality Project. Shortly after that, Twitter agreed to receive weekly reports on “anti-vax disinformation.”

The Virality Project also warned Twitter that “true stories that could fuel hesitancy,” including stories such as “celebrity deaths after vaccine,” as well as the closure of a central New York school due to reports of post-vaccine illness.

The organization suggested that stories like these be considered “Standard Vaccine Misinformation on Your Platform.”

In one email to Twitter, the Virality Project mentioned what it called the “vaccine passport narrative,” saying “concerns” over such programs “have driven a larger anti-vaccination narrative about the loss of rights and freedoms.”

The organization also framed this as a misinformation “event.”

The Virality Project routinely framed real testimonials about vaccine side effects as misinformation — from “true stories” of blood clots from AstraZeneca vaccines, to a New York Times story about vaccine recipients who contracted the blood disorder thrombocytopenia, Taibbi said.

The Virality Project also warned against people “just asking questions,” suggesting it was a tactic “commonly used by spreaders of misinformation.”

Twitter employees eventually mimicked Virality Project language, describing “campaigns against vaccine passports,” “fear of mandatory immunizations,” and “misuse of official reporting tools” as “potential violations.”

“While this account posts legitimate and accurate COVID-19 updates — it posts content that attacks Italian politicians, the EU, and the United States,” the Global Engagement Center complained to Twitter in an email.

The Twitter Files also reveal an email in which the Virality Project implored Twitter to “hone in” on an “increasingly popular narrative about natural immunity.”

But the organization was “repeatedly, extravagantly wrong,” Taibbi said, noting one example in April 2021, when the Virality Project mistakenly described “breakthrough” infections as “extremely rare events” that should not be inferred to mean “vaccines are ineffective.”

Later, after the CDC changed its methodology for counting cases of the Chinese coronavirus among vaccinated people to only include those resulting in hospitalization or death, the Virality Project complained that “anti-vaccine” accounts were retweeting the information.

Click here to read the full article in BreitbartCA

California Won’t Require COVID Vaccine to Attend Schools

Children in California won’t have to get the coronavirus vaccine to attend schools, state public health officials confirmed Friday, ending one of the last major restrictions of the pandemic in the nation’s most populous state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the policy in 2021, saying it would eventually apply to all of California’s 6.7 million public and private schoolchildren.

But since then, the crisis first caused by a mysterious virus in late 2019 has mostly receded from public consciousness. COVID-19 is still widespread, but the availability of multiple vaccines has lessened the viruses’ effects for many — offering relief to what had been an overwhelmed public health system.

Nearly all of the pandemic restrictions put in place by Newsom have been lifted, and he won’t be able to issue any new ones after Feb. 28 when the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration officially ends.

One of the last remaining questions was what would happen to the state’s vaccine mandate for schoolchildren, a policy that came from the California Department of Public Health and was not impacted by the lifting of the emergency declaration.

Friday, the Department of Public Health confirmed it was backing off its original plan.

“CDPH is not currently exploring emergency rulemaking to add COVID-19 to the list of required school vaccinations, but we continue to strongly recommend COVID-19 immunization for students and staff to keep everyone safer in the classroom,” the department said in a statement. “Any changes to required K-12 immunizations are properly addressed through the legislative process.”

The announcement was welcome news for Jonathan Zachreson, a father of three who lives in Roseville. Zachreson founded the group Reopen California Schools to oppose many of the state’s coronavirus policies. His activism led to him being elected to the Roseville City School District board in November.

“This is long overdue. … A lot of families have been stressed from this decision and worried about it for quite some time,” he said. “I wish CDPH would make a bigger statement publicly or Newsom would make a public statement … to let families know and school districts know that this is no longer going to be an issue for them.”

Representatives for Newsom did not respond to an email requesting comment.

California has had lots of influence over the country’s pandemic policies. It was the first state to issue a statewide stay-at-home order — and other states were swift to follow.

But most states did not follow California’s lead when it came to the vaccine mandate for public schools. Officials in Louisiana announced a similar mandate, but later backed off. Schools in the District of Columbia plan to require the COVID-19 vaccine starting in the fall.

Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Kiley, a former member of the state Assembly who challenged Newsom in a failed recall attempt in 2021 over his pandemic policies, published a blog post declaring: “We won. To Gavin Newsom: You lost.”

Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist representing most of the state’s school districts, said he did not think the policy change was the result of political pressure by Republicans, but instead a reflection of the virus’s slowing transmission rates.

Click here to read the full article in the AP News

Ceaseless CA Dept. of Public Health Commercials Push Covid Boosters, Testing, Masking Up

The federal government has spent more than $30 billion on COVID-19 vaccines

UPDATED BELOW: The California Department of Public Health is running ceaseless commercials on radio repeatedly telling listeners, “Boost your immune system with the Covid booster and flu shot… wash your hands… and cover your mouth when you cough… take a Covid test… call your doctor if you feel sick… mask up indoors…”

It’s as if that family busybody Great Aunt Agatha is directing the public health agency. “Wash your hands. Cover your mouth. Say ‘thank you.’”

This is particularly rich given that public health officials keep pushing Covid vaccines, even after the CDC acknowledged that healthy children have a 99.998% recovery rate from COVID-19 with no treatment. Honest physicians across the country asked what the rationale was/is for vaccinating this demographic? Many of these doctors were cancelled on social media, and some were even fired from their jobs for stating the obvious and questioning the aggressive protocols.

The Covid-hysterical Oakland City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to bring back mandatory masking at all indoor public facilities in order to fight rising cases of COVID, flu, and RSV, the Globe reported. The mandate will require masks for all those ages 6 and up going into indoor government buildings, which include libraries and courthouses.

Lockdowns, masks, business and school closures had no significant effect on the spread of Covid, study after study found. Instead the damage done by lockdowns and masking, particularly to children, many medical experts say is worse than the virus.

How and why do public health officials and public health doctors continue to push masks, isolation and pharmaceuticals instead of vitamins and minerals to “boost your immune system?”

And why would doctors recommend vaccinations against a disease that there is treatment for?

It is well known that our immune systems can be weakened by hundreds of different
immunodeficiency disorders, poor diet, lack of sleep, and adverse reactions to various vaccines.

Less than 30% of the U.S. population even take an annual flu shot. So why would these same people rush out to take a Covid mRNA shot or booster?

The common sense advice that has been suppressed is the immune system booster combination of Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Zinc and Quercitin, which helps fight off Covid.

If you research these supplements you’ll find that vitamin C is anti-viral and anti-bacterial and if taken in multiple dosages daily when ill can really help the body out. During Covid, Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, Dr. Harvey Risch, and Dr. George Fareed reported that Zinc is vital for immune system function. They discovered and implemented early treatment with zinc, low dose hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin, the treatment for Covid-19 responsible for saving millions of lives worldwide.

Dr. Zelenko discovered that the natural supplement Quercetin could serve the same function as did Hydroxychloroquine in assisting zinc to attack the still developing virus inside the cell.

“The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are impaired smell and taste, fever, cough, sore throat, general weakness, pain as aching limbs, runny nose, and in some cases diarrhea,” Dr. Zelenko said. “In the subsequent chapters, we will associate most of those symptoms with altered zinc homeostasis and explain how zinc might prevent or attenuate those symptoms, as summarized in Figure 1, and thus should be regarded as promising cost-effective, globally available therapeutic approach for COVID-19 patients, for which minimal to no side effects are known.”

The study found Zinc protects the human body from entering of the virus.

View the full study here at the National Center for Biotechnology Information and National Institute of Health.

All of that healthy talk aside, why is the government pushing the mRNA boosters so hard? Why all of the advertising and spending for the pharmaceuticals, rather than affordable and readily available vitamins and minerals?

Kaiser Family Foundation news explains:

The federal government (taxpayers) has spent more than $30 billion1 on COVID-19 vaccines, including the new bivalent boosters, incentivizing their development, guaranteeing a market, and ensuring that these vaccines would be provided free of charge to the U.S. population. However, the Biden Administration has announced that it no longer has funding, absent further Congressional action, to make further purchases and has begun to prepare for the transition of COVID-19 vaccines to the commercial market. This means that manufacturers will be negotiating prices directly with insurers and purchasers, not just the federal government, and prices are expected to rise.

The federal government has so far purchased 1.2 billion doses of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines combined, at a cost of $25.3 billion, or a weighted average purchase price of $20.69 per dose. (emphasis

Even under much lower vaccine uptake scenarios (e.g., 50% of adults getting a booster), the total cost to purchase COVID vaccines at the commercial price would still exceed the cost of purchasing enough vaccines for everyone at the federal bivalent booster price.

The government is concerned about the glut of Covid vaccines.

A scientist friend sent the Globe a link to a medical group website with information from several physicians about the COVID vaccines – physicians who had the temerity to question the government protocols.

Notably, the doctors say, “We don’t typically vaccinate against a disease that we have treatment for.”

What these doctors say about the COVID vaccines and boosters has been suppressed and is what has gotten doctors fired, cancelled and under the threat of losing their medical licenses:

The current “vaccine” for COVID is new technology never used on humans before and it is called “Antibody Dependent Enhancement” or ADE. It is a piece of genetic material, messenger RNA (mRNA) being injected. How do mRNA technologies work?

The doctors said the “vaccine” is not a vaccine. “A vaccine uses a weakened or attenuated version of a virus that is administered to drive an immune response in the host. The mRNA injection offers no viral components, it in fact is a genetic signal that triggers your cells to make what is called a “spike” protein.”

“This genetic material, the mRNA enters every cell of your body and does not leave. It is driving your cells to make proteins, the full range of which we are not sure. There are too many unknowns because we have never used this type of immunologic technology on human beings before.”

“This mRNA technology does nothing to reduce transmission of the virus.”

The doctors also recommend Hydroxychloroquine, Ivermectin, Colchicine, Zithromax, and others.

As for the safety, the doctors said “this technology has been tried on animals but in all animal studies done the animals all died, not immediately from the vaccine (mRNA injection) but from other immune challenges that followed, months later.”

“There has never been a successful long term animal study using this technology. The animals all died from either sepsis or cardiac failure.”

Who determines what is “misinformation” and what isn’t? Politicians? Government doctors invested in experimental vaccines? A Facebook or Twitter employee?

Never before has federal or state government pushed the population so hard to take a medication as we are experiencing right now, while at the same time suppressing alternative therapies and remedies. It’s frightening and disheartening. But the information is available for anyone who takes the time to search.

Health reporter Alex Berenson just reported:

“People who have received mRNA Covid vaccines are at least twice as likely to be infected with the coronavirus as unvaccinated people, according to two new papers from researchers in Indiana and Ohio.

Worse, the newer of the two studies, which covered Omicron this fall, found risk actually rises with the number of shots.

“The public has already largely rejected the bivalents. The Biden Administration spent $5 billion on 171 million bivalent doses this summer. But despite aggressive government marketing and media pressure, about 80 percent of eligible American adults have not taken the new mRNA shots.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Why Is The State Giving Your Health Data to Political Consultants?

In May 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a “Vax for the Win” sweepstakes that would give away $116.5 million, with big cash prizes awarded in random drawings to dozens of lucky winners. Everyone who received a COVID vaccine was automatically entered.

“We have your information in our system,” Newsom said. The Mercury News reported that he was “referring to the millions of vaccination records in the California Public Department of Health’s confidential, digital Immunization Information System.”

The state “maintains a confidential registry of all vaccine recipients,” CalMatters reported, noting the governor’s assurance that the names of the winners would be kept confidential unless the individuals volunteered to have their information released.

But the confidentiality of the information in the state’s vaccine registry has a big loophole in it through which the confidential data is flowing to a political consulting firm called Street Level Strategy, LLC.

“I’m being stalked by the state of California,” one Los Angeles resident told me recently. “I just got a call from a guy who told me he has my file and he sees I got the Pfizer vaccine, but not a booster.” The caller identified himself as being with “Street Level Campaigns” and said they had a contract with “public health” to help people make appointments to get boosters.

Here’s how Street Level Campaigns describes itself on its website: “Street Level Campaigns, LLC (SLC) is a grassroots consulting firm specializing in community organizing, voter contact, and coalition building. Our clients include candidates, ballot measures, issue campaigns, non-profit organizations, and trade associations. SLC is an affiliate of our sister organization Street Level Strategy, LLC a national public affairs consulting firm.”

That description appears on a page listing a job opening for “Directors to lead teams of Community Organizers for political and public affairs campaigns.”

Responding to questions about the contract, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said this in an email: “MyTurn, the state’s vaccine appointment program launched by CDPH, shares a list of booster eligible California residents with Street Level Strategy, LLC that includes names, age, gender, ethnicity, contact information and vaccination history in order to prioritize equity, with a focus on reaching communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, the person who contacted me about the phone call from Street Level Campaigns did not make an appointment through MyTurn, choosing instead to go to a walk-up vaccination site. The next day, the person received a text from the California Department of Public Health. “Hi, congratulations on getting your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” it began, and then listed the type of vaccine, the lot number and the date and time it was received.

MyTurn, in other words, collected data from people who did not visit the MyTurn site and voluntarily provide it. Instead, the staff operating the walk-up vaccination site reported the data to the state. And now the state “shares” that data with Street Level Strategy, LLC.

In its emailed responses to questions, CDPH said the contract “includes terms and conditions that outline information privacy and security requirements,” and “provisions which limit the use and retention of individual’s confidential information,” and “specific information security controls Street Level Strategy must have in place to maintain and protect the security of the data.”

Let’s hope that’s enough, because the state of California has given this political consulting shop $12.7 million in contracts and access to a confidential digital registry of every California resident who has received a COVID vaccine. The contract was awarded without competitive bidding under the authority of the governor’s emergency declaration of March 4, 2020, even though work under this contract did not begin until July 16, 2021.

Who is Street Level Strategy, LLC?

The president and founder of Street Level Strategy is Pat Dennis. His profile on the company website says that before he founded the firm, he “directed grassroots operations for labor and independent expenditure committees in over 50 congressional races throughout the country and worked as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).”

Others on the team have resumés that include organizing and advocacy work for progressive groups and labor unions. The company markets the service of “building authentic, engaged, and active grassroots coalitions of everyday people” to “shape policy outcomes at the local, state and national levels.”

CDPH said the contract’s “Exhibit F,” titled the “HIPAA Business Associate Addendum,” contains “multiple provisions that limit and restrict retention or use of data provided to Street Level Strategy.” But shouldn’t this contract have gone to a company in the health care industry, one with experience handling confidential medical data?

In a June 2021 story headlined, “California Vaccination Records Raise Data Privacy Concerns,” the Mercury News reported that some experts had “fresh privacy concerns about Californians’ health data” as the state surpassed 50 million vaccine doses delivered.

Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Freedom Foundation, noted that the California Information Practices Act and HIPAA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, impose confidentiality obligations on health care providers and on state agencies, such as the California Department of Public Health, but he worried about the data security of local health agencies, where he said those laws don’t apply.

ecca Cramer-Mowder agreed with Dixon that the federal waivers might make it easier for patient information to seep into the hands of data brokers.

“Other legal experts, however, are less concerned,” the Mercury News reported, citing Stanford Law School professor Michelle Mello, who said California “will have no direct involvement in furnishing companies with medical data.”

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

L.A. Urges Return to Mask-Wearing Amid Winter Covid Spike

Los Angeles is urging that residents wear masks again in all indoor public settings amid a Covid-19 spike that’s expected to intensify in the winter months.

The county announced Thursday that it is once again “strongly recommending” people resume masking, although it is not requiring it in most indoor venues. However, masks are still mandated at health care and congregate-care facilities, for those infected in the last ten days, and in establishments that have imposed their own restrictions, county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said according to ABC7 News.

Los Angeles and many other progressive cities finally lifted their masks mandates a few months ago amid a decrease in Covid-19 contraction nationwide. Children enrolled in public pre-school and daycare in New York City, who were not vulnerable to the disease and not likely to spread it, were among the last groups to be freed of masks.

Last January, Los Angeles forced students to wear high-grade, non-cloth masks indoors and outdoors in K-12 public schools and be tested as a condition of returning to class.

On Thursday, the local seven-day average of daily new Covid-19 infections in Los Angeles increased to 100 per 100,000 citizens, up from 86 per 100,000 a week ago. The rate the previous week was 65 per 100,000 citizens, the outlet noted.

“Now it is strongly recommended that all individuals wear a high-quality mask that fits well in the following settings: in public indoor spaces; when using public transit, including buses, ride-shares, taxis and medical transport; correctional and detention facilities; and homeless and emergency shelters,” Davis said.

Davis warned that the number of reported cases is probably an undercount as many people test for the virus at home and don’t report a positive diagnosis to health officials. The number of Covid-positive patients being hospitalized is also growing in the county but reportedly only about 40 percent of them have been admitted because of Covid-related complications.

The county health officer told residents to be careful ahead of the holidays and when attending large gatherings.

While there is some evidence to suggest that wearing a well-fitting N95 mask might help curb transmission around the margins, research showsthat cheap cotton surgical masks, the kind the most commonly worn throughout the pandemic, are ineffective at preventing transmission.

Click here to read the full article at the National Review

CDC’s Move Paves Way for California to Require School COVID Vaccines — But Lawmakers Have Given Up for Now

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination advisors voted last week to recommend all children get the COVID-19 vaccine, a move that does not change California’s list of vaccines required for children to attend school. 

The addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to the CDC’s recommended vaccines for kids is not a mandate for states’ school attendance requirements. Any additions to California’s list must be made by the state Legislature or the state Department of Public Health. In the last 12 months, the Newsom administration and the Legislature separately tried to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for kids to attend school, and both failed.

People involved in those efforts said they do not expect the Legislature to consider a mandate for children again next year, barring a big spike in hospitalizations or deaths.

“Our goal should be getting the immunization rate up,” said Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician Sacramento Democrat, whose bill last session would have mandated the vaccine for children to attend school, with only a medical exemption. “We have work to do on outreach, making sure people have access and educating people about the vaccine.” 

Since the federal government approved vaccines for children on an emergency use basis, children have received the COVID-19 vaccine at much lower rates than adults. So far, 67% of 12-to-17-year-olds have received the first series of the vaccine, 38% of children 5 to 11 have received the first series and of those under 5 years of age, 5% have received the shots, according to state data.

The state Department of Public Health refused to say whether it plans to add the vaccine to the required list. Instead the agency referred to its previous statement from April in an email: “…upon full approval by the FDA, CDPH will consider the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians prior to considering a school vaccine requirement.”

The role of the Centers for Disease Control

It suggests that children ages 6 months and older receive a vaccination for COVID-19 with shots approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or approved for emergency use.

“It’s a step in the right direction for protecting the public’s health but I understand there is a lot of anxiety about vaccines in general and the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Alice Kuo, professor and chief of the Pediatrics/Preventative Medicine Division at UCLA. “It’s one step at a time.”

Dr. Naomi Bardach, a professor of pediatrics at the UCSF School of Medicine, said the CDC recommendation is a sign that COVID-19 is here to stay. She said the addition of the vaccine to the childhood schedule also normalizes the vaccine because pediatricians’ offices that already use the CDC’s list as guidance will fold the COVID-19 vaccine into patient care.

Under state law, children must receive a series of shots for 10 diseases to attend child care centers, family child care homes, preschool and kindergarten through 12th grade. If children are not vaccinated or are behind based on the state’s schedule, they can be barred from school until they receive their shots. 

Infants are given their first vaccine before they are an hour old and the shots continue through adolescence. Most of the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control are required by California to attend school. They are: diphtheria, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), poliomyelitis, rubella, tetanus and varicella (chicken pox).

Prior to 2016 parents were able to opt out of vaccines for their children through a personal belief exemption. Sen. Pan authored the controversial law that eliminated the personal belief exemption for vaccines on the state’s list and left only medical exemptions that must be signed off by a physician. At that time, about 3% of new kindergartners entered school with a personal belief exemption for some or all vaccines. 

The law applied only to the vaccines already on the list for children. Any new vaccines added to the list in the future by the state Department of Public Health would offer personal belief and medical exemption options. If the Legislature votes to add a vaccine to the list legislators would choose which exemptions to offer. 

Vaccine rates for these childhood diseases have slipped during the pandemic. In August, the Department of Public Health said 1 in 8 children were not up to date on their vaccinations, due to skipping routine doctor visits during the last couple of years.

Failed efforts

In October 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom said his administration would require the COVID-19 vaccine for school attendance for students 12 and older as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the vaccines for children. At the time, the mandate was to go into effect in July of 2022. Since the Department of Public Health would have implemented the plan, the requirement would have allowed parents to opt out of the vaccine for their children through personal belief or medical exemptions. 

In January 2022, Pan authored a COVID-19 vaccine bill to go further, eliminating the option for a personal belief exemption.

In April, lacking the votes needed to pass the bill, Pan pulled it and said the vaccine needed to be more accessible to families and vaccination rates needed to be higher before a mandate could be successful. The same day, the Department of Public Health postponed to July 2023 its plan to require students get the COVID-19 vaccine.  

On Monday, Pan said he does not expect the Legislature to respond any differently than it did last year to the idea of a mandate. Pan won’t be leading the effort if there is one, as he is termed out in November.

Pan said if the state considers adding the vaccine to the list it has to take into account all the recent developments about the vaccine and boosters, like how many times it’s going to be needed. If it is required multiple times like the flu vaccine, which is not required for school attendance, it could be a burden for schools to track. Pan said the Legislature has focused on vaccines that children receive as a series and then don’t have to take again, like measles and chickenpox. 

“It will depend on how it develops and what the overall burden is,” Pan said. 

Last year, Pan founded a legislative Vaccine Working Group that proposed numerous bills regarding COVID-19 and vaccines. Most of them failed, including proposed mandates for all employees and children to be vaccinated to work or attend school as well as a bill to allow teenagers to get the vaccine without parental consent.

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“It was a rough year for vaccine legislation in the Legislature,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, who authored the teen vaccination bill and is a member of the working group. “I don’t know if that dynamic will change before next year but it is something to consider because it should be part of the regular schedule for schoolchildren.” 

Another member of the Vaccine Working Group, San Diego Democratic Assemblymember Akilah Weber, said she is not considering legislation that would mandate the vaccine.

“At this time, I’m not involved in any legislation that would mandate vaccinations, but I’m actively involved in education and outreach to encourage and provide community access for more parents to have their children vaccinated,” Weber said in an email.

In the past, proposed vaccine-related legislation has attracted protesters to the capitol en masse. They have disrupted hearings, yelled at legislators and even assaulted them. During one memorable protest, what looked like a menstrual cup full of blood was tossed over the gallery railing onto the Senate floor below.

If the administration, or the Legislature, pursues a vaccine requirement again critics are already planning to push back. They argue that this should be a family decision and that it raises questions about the number of breakthrough cases — when a vaccinated person tests positive for the coronavirus — efficacy and safety for children.    

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters   

Governor to End California Coronavirus Emergency in February

California’s coronavirus emergency will officially end in February, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday, nearly three years after the state’s first confirmed death from the disease prompted a raft of restrictions that upended public life.

The decision will have little practical impact on most people’s lives, as most of the nearly 600 pandemic-related orders Newsom has issued since the start of the pandemic have already been lifted. And it won’t affect public health orders — including a pending statewide vaccine mandate for schoolchildren that could take effect next summer.

But it does signal a symbolic end for some of the most restrictive elements of the pandemic, as it will dissolve Newsom’s authority to alter or change laws to make it easier for the government to quickly respond to the public health crisis.

“The State of Emergency was an effective and necessary tool that we utilized to protect our state, and we wouldn’t have gotten to this point without it,” Newsom said in a news release, adding that the declaration will formally end on Feb. 28.

Newsom declared a state of emergency for the coronavirus on March 4, 2020, shortly after an elderly patient was the first confirmed death from the disease in California. At the time, there were just 53 cases of COVID-19 in California, and state officials were holding a cruise ship off the coast so it could test passengers before allowing them to disembark in the state.

Since then, Newsom used his authority under the emergency declaration to issue 596 pandemic-related orders. Some were small, like giving people more time to file their taxes or renew their driver’s licenses. But others were life changing, including a statewide stay-at-home order that caused millions of people to lose their jobs.

At first, there seemed to be broad support for Newsom’s actions in the face of a mysterious and frightening new disease. But as the virus lingered, anger and frustration over the restrictions began to build. Two Republican state lawmakers challenged Newsom’s authority to issue pandemic orders — only to lose in court.

“It is past time to end the State of Emergency and focus on the enormous hardships Californians are facing in their daily lives: soaring gas and grocery prices, surging crime, and a homelessness problem that gets worse by the day,” said Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, who was one of the two lawmakers to challenge Newsom in court.

Of the 596 pandemic-related orders Newsom has issued, just 27 are still in effect, according to the governor’s office. All of them will be gone once the emergency declaration is lifted — but Newsom said he will ask the state Legislature to make two of them permanent. One would continue to let nurses order and dispense COVID-19 medication and another would let lab workers solely process coronavirus tests.

The Newsom administration is waiting until February to end the emergency declaration, saying it wants to give state and local officials time to prepare. The administration could reverse itself, should a new variant of the disease emerge or hospitals again become overwhelmed with patients.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California Appeals Court Rejects COVID-19 Fines for Church

A California church that defied safety regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic by holding large religious services won’t have to pay about $200,000 in fines, a state appeals court ruled.

Calvary Chapel San Jose and its pastors were held in contempt of court and fined in 2020 and 2021 for violating state and county limits on indoor public gatherings. The rules were aimed at preventing the spread through close contract of the virus, which has caused more than 10 million confirmed cases and more than 93,500 deaths since the pandemic began in mid-2020, according to state public health figures.

But on Monday, California’s 6th District Court of Appeal reversed those lower court decisions, citing a May 2020 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2021 that a ban by Gov. Gavin Newsom on indoor worship services in counties where COVID-19 was surging violated freedom of religion.

The decision by a newly conservative majority court came less than a year after the high court previously ruled the ban was justified on health and safety grounds.

The appellate court noted that the restrictions on indoor gatherings also applied to secular gatherings but were stricter for worship services than for secular activities such as going to grocery stores.

The ruling “is a great win for the sake of liberty and displays the justification for the courage shown by this church” and its pastors, Robert Tyler, a lawyer for the church, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Despite the ruling, Santa Clara County said it will continue to seek $2.3 million in penalties against the church for violating other COVID-19 rules that weren’t affected by the decision, such as requiring face masks during services in late 2020.

Click here to read the full article at AP News