— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) January 13, 2021
Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
World Health Organization team arrives in Wuhan to study COVID-19
Nine people who are incarcerated charged in California’s unemployment fraud
Unemployment claims last week soared past 960,000 applicants
Las Vegas hospital reached capacity crisis as COVID-19 cases soar in state
SAG Awards moves date to not conflict with rescheduled Grammys
COVID-19 By The Numbers
Thursday, January 14
11:57 a.m.: World Health Organization team arrives in Wuhan to study COVID-19
A team of 13 World Health Organization scientists have arrived in Wuhan, China to study the origins of COVID-19, according to NPR.
Reports from Johns Hopkins University show that globally, nearly 2 million people have died due to complications from the virus, and over 92 million people have been infected. Currently, China has been pushing back against the consensus that the virus originated in humans in Wuhan and have suggested without evidence that the virus was brought into China from other countries instead.
While the team began traveling to China over a week ago, Chinese officials had not given permission for the team to enter the country, leaving them in limbo for a bit in Singapore, but the scientists have now arrived in Wuhan.
Recently, Chinese authorities have issued a stay-at-home order and other restrictions on the 11 million people living in the Hebei province after an upturn in positive tests.
11:44 a.m.: Nine people who are incarcerated charged in California’s unemployment fraud
Nine people incarcerated in San Diego County have been charged with scamming California’s unemployment benefits system.
According to the Associated Press,District Attorney Summer Stephan said on Thursday that those nine people received more than $160,000 through fraud committed between June and September 2020. The group allegedly lied about their eligibility and addresses on the state’s unemployment assistance applications.
At the time, they were all assigned to a program in San Diego that allows certain people in the state’s prison system to finish their sentences in halfway house settings. The state has acknowledged that the department has been scammed out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
11:26 a.m.: Unemployment claims last week soared past 960,000 applicants
The number of people applying for unemployment benefits nationwide skyrocketed last week to 965,000, the largest application spree since late August, according to the Associated Press.
This shows that the resurgent coronavirus has caused a spike in recent layoffs. On Tuesday, the Labor Department issued the latest figures for jobless claims, and they still remain at levels never before seen levels until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the states.
Before the pandemic, weekly applications typically numbered around 225,000. Last spring, after nationwide shutdowns took effect, applications for jobless benefits spiked to nearly 7 million, about 10 times the previous record high. After declining a bit over the summer, weekly claims have hovered above 700,000 since September.
Wednesday, January 13
5:25 p.m.: Las Vegas hospital reached capacity crisis as COVID-19 cases soar in state
St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s San Martin campus in southwest Las Vegas declared a capacity crisis over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.
With nearly half of its 147 beds occupied by coronavirus patients, the hospital had to cancel elective surgeries beginning on Saturday. Other units have been pressed into use for non-COVID-19 patients.
A hospital spokesperson said on Wednesday that patients weren’t turned away, and the capacity plan is set to stay in effect until Jan 22. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that two other St. Rose hospitals in the area haven’t issued disaster declarations but are also strained.
5:21 p.m.: SAG Awards moves date to not conflict with rescheduled Grammys
The Screen Actors Guild Awards will not share the same air date as the Grammys after all.
According to the Associated Press, the two award shows were scheduled to air on March 14, after the Grammys rescheduled their original date of Jan. 31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the SAG Awards announced that the 27th annual ceremony has now been moved to April 4 to avoid conflict.
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to surge across the nation, other award shows, including the Oscars and the Golden Globes, have pushed their ceremonies back as well.
5:15 p.m.: Housing advocates call on Biden administration to extend eviction moratorium
Housing advocates across the country are calling on the incoming Biden administration to extend and strengthen the current federal ban on evictions, according to the Associated Press.
President Donald Trump’s directive, implemented in September by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was extended until the end of January. Given that the pandemic is still ongoing, advocates argue that renters should have protection for the next several months and that protections should be expanded beyond those tenants facing eviction for not paying rent.
Eviction bans were implemented early on in the pandemic by states and cities to keep people housed and avoid a spike in homelessness. Since most of those state protections expired, the federal ban is the only remaining protection in many places. It’s estimated that the eviction ban is preventing more than 23 million renters across the nation from being evicted.
California's eviction ban is set to expire Jan. 31, though Gov. Gavin Newsom called on lawmakers to extend the moratorium.
12:00 p.m.: California opens up vaccination to people 65 and older
California is now allowing residents 65 and older to get a dose of the scarce coronavirus vaccine, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that older adults will be put in the vaccination line before emergency workers, teachers, childcare providers, and food and agricultural workers, even as counties stress they don’t have enough doses to go around yet.
Health care workers and those working in nursing homes and other congregate living facilities can still be vaccinated. State officials are expanding the vaccination pool to those 65 and above because they are some of the people that are at the most significant risk of being hospitalized or dying if infected.
California has seen coronavirus cases and hospitalizations explode since Thanksgiving, though there is a glimmer of hope in the recent days as numbers have flattened.
11:41 a.m.: While vaccination picks up steam, many still face a long wait
More Americans than ever are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but many may still face a wait for their first dose.
According to the Associated Press, states are expanding their vaccination pool to a broader population range and opening up more sites in sports, arenas, and fairgrounds to meet the demand. The latest push is now focused on people deemed most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Who is eligible for the vaccine, where and when they can get it varies by state. CapRadio has a list of what Californians can expect when it comes to the state’s vaccination efforts.
This week the federal government recommended lowering the age threshold to anyone 65 or older. It also began freeing up supplies by no longer holding back the required second dose.
11:36 a.m.: COVID-19 deaths in US reach another single-day high at over 4,300
Coronavirus deaths across the nation have hit another grim one-day high milestone, totaling over 4,300, according to the Associated Press.
As the country shifted its attention to the fallout from the deadly uprising at the U.S. Capitol, the overall death toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, as reported by Johns Hopkins University.
The new death total is closing in fast on reaching the same number of Americans killed in World War II, which is about 407,000. At the same time, the country is simultaneously facing a political and economic crisis as there continues to be more threats of violence from far-right extremists.
Tuesday, January 12
4:29 p.m.: Greater Sacramento region expected to exit stay-at-home order
Counties in California’s Greater Sacramento region expect the state to lift the stay-at-home order in the region Tuesday, ending a six-week period where many businesses had to stop or severely limit operations.
Counties in the region will be reentering the “purple tier,” which allows businesses including restaurants, hair salons and more to reopen with modifications. A source with Sacramento says the county could have a new public health order that would allow the reopening of these businesses by midday Wednesday.
The state typically announces changes in county restrictions once a week, based on the four-week projections for ICU capacity in each region. At the Tuesday midday announcement, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said all regions would remain under the stay-at-home order, but that the state is actively calculating new information and might be updating the status of certain regions late Tuesday or on Wednesday.
You can find more information on the stay-at-home order lifting here.
NEW: We’re seeing stabilization in ICUs & positivity rates. Greater Sacramento is coming out of the Regional Stay-at-Home & going back to purple tier effective today.We must continue to wear a mask & stay home as much as possible.
There is a light at the end of this tunnel. pic.twitter.com/zHFxiZQqqW
3:44 p.m.: Some states refuse to impose new restrictions to stop COVID-19 spread
As the U.S. finds itself in the most lethal phase of the coronavirus outbreak yet, governors and local officials in hard-hit parts of the country are showing little willingness to impose any new restrictions on businesses to stop the spread.
According to the Associated Press, both Democratic and Republican leaders are signaling their opposition to forced closings and other measures, expressing their fears of compounding the economic damage inflicted by the crisis.
Others see little patience left among their constituents for more restrictions 10 months into the crisis. It also comes as they are trying to focus on the rollout of vaccines, since Americans will be well into the second half of 2021 before enough people are inoculated enough to stop the virus, according to some estimates.
3:38 p.m.: Nevada plans to change state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan
Nevada officials are changing the state’s vaccine plan to speed up mass vaccination, according to the Associated Press.
Four weeks after receiving its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, about two-thirds of the doses are still in their vials, waiting to be used. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that six states have administered fewer vaccines per capita than Nevada.
The state released a new plan on Monday outlining how it will direct providers to administer doses to Nevadans with underlying health conditions and specific groups of essential workers since the state finishes vaccinating front-line health care workers and nursing home residents.
3:34 p.m.: Millions sign up for Covered California amid coronavirus surge
Nearly 1.6 million people have signed up and purchased health insurance through Covered California so far this year, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday, state officials said that nearly 200,000 more people have signed up for insurance this year, compared with the same time period last year. The deadline to purchase coverage is Jan. 31.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee estimates about 2.7 million Californians don’t have health insurance, and of those, 1.2 million are eligible for financial assistance or Medicaid. About 718,000 of people in that eligibility group live in Southern California, where the coronavirus outbreak is at its worst.
1:15 p.m.: Northern California region ICU capacity drops dramatically
The Northern California region reported a steep drop in intensive care unit capacity from 35% Monday to 17.6% Tuesday, the largest single-day decrease seen so far by any of the state’s five regions.
This region is the only one of California’s five COVID-19 regions that isn’t under a stay-at-home order. Tuesday's drop is the closest Northern California has been so far to hitting the 15% capacity mark to trigger such an order.
If the region falls below 15% ICU capacity, the stay-at-home order would close businesses such as nail salons and barber shops. Restaurants would be restricted to takeout only and retail stores would be limited to 20% capacity. Once the order is invoked, the region must stay under the restrictions for at least three weeks.
Northern California is made up of Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties, and is home to many rural communities that already have limited healthcare capacity.
12:19 p.m.: San Jose area hospitals fined $184,000 for hiding employee coronavirus infection
State and local officials have fined two Kaiser Permanente Bay Area hospitals more than $184,000 in recent months for failing to report COVID-19 infected employees, according to the Associated Press.
The Mercury News reported that Cal/OSHA fined the health care giant’s San Jose facility more than $85,000 after it kept quiet when one of its employees was hospitalized with the virus early in the pandemic.
Cal/OSHA also fined a Kaiser hospital in Antioch $56,000 after the hospital failed to immediately report that two employees were also hospitalized with COVID-19. Santa Clara County officials also fined the San Jose hospital $43,000 after it kept quiet about a coronavirus outbreak that’s infected 60 employees, including one who died.
12:18: p.m.: Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I was previously infected? Experts say yes.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
Health experts say that people who have previously been infected with the coronavirus should still plan on getting a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available to them.
After someone recovers from a COVID-19 infection, their immune response should protect them from getting reinfected with the virus right away, according to the Associated Press.
However, scientists don’t know precisely how long this immunity lasts or how strong it is. Without that knowledge, experts recommend everyone get a vaccine to boost whatever immunity they might already have from a previous infection.
12:17 p.m.: Mass vaccination campaign shifts to speed up process
Less than a month into the mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19, the Trump administration has unexpectedly shifted gears to speed up the delivery of shots.
According to the Associated Press, a slow start to the process triggered a widespread concern from states and public health officials, but Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced two significant changes on Tuesday.
- The government will no longer hold back the required second doses of vaccines, practically doubling the supply
- States should immediately start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older, along with younger people with certain health problems.
This change aligns the Trump administration with President-elect Joe Biden’s plans, who earlier said he would not hold back second doses.
Monday, January 11
6:03 p.m.: Several gorillas at San Diego Zoo have tested positive for the coronavirus
Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first known cases among such primates.
The park's executive director says eight gorillas at the park are believed to have the virus and several have been coughing.
The park tested the fecal matter from the troop. It appears the infection came from a member of the park's wildlife care team who also tested positive for the virus but has been asymptomatic.
Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas who are altogether in their habitat at the park.
6:01 p.m.: Cal Expo one of three California sports venues becoming vaccination sites
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that three sports venues around the state will temporarily become large-scale vaccination sites.
Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium, PetCo Park in San Diego and Sacramento’s Cal Expo will be transitioned this week .The locations have been serving as testing locations.
Newsom said that the new inoculation centers will help ramp up the state’s lagging vaccination effort.
“We recognize that the current strategy is not going to get us to where we need to go as quickly as we all need to go,” Newsom said. “And so that’s why we’re speeding up the administration, not just priority groups, but also now opening up large sites to do so.”
The vaccination sites aren’t open yet to the general public. Right now, only health care workers and other front-line employees will be eligible to get shots there.
2:30 p.m.: California needs volunteers, medical workers but can’t find help
Under the current surge of COVID-19 cases, California is desperately looking for more medical workers for facilities swamped by coronavirus patients, but almost no help is coming from a volunteer program that Gov. Gavin Newsom created at the start of the pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, 95,000 people initially came forward to promise to volunteer for the California Health Corps, but currently there are just 14 working in the field. Very few of the original volunteers actually met qualifications met the qualifications set by the state, and only a fraction of that group had the high-level experience needed to assist with the most severe coronavirus cases.
Only about a third of the original set of volunteers had valid professional licenses, and of those, only about 4,600 people qualified. That number trickled down to only 850 people who signed up, remaining static, despite the governor often pleading for more people to participate.
Originally, the California Health Corps plan was to use volunteers to fill treatment gaps at health care facilities using retired or inactive doctors, nurses, and respiratory care practitioners. They would also be paid what the state calls “competitive wages.”
2:27 p.m.: Nevada records one-day record high of additional deaths
Nevada on Saturday reported 2,648 additional known COVID-19 cases and 56 additional deaths, making it one of the state’s highest daily fatality increases during the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
Nevada now has 246,309 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,450 deaths since the pandemic started a little under a year ago. The state on Wednesday reported a one-day record high of 60 additional deaths.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that these additional deaths on Saturday gave the state a new pandemic-high. Officials anticipate a spike in cases and deaths in the coming weeks following extensive holiday gatherings and travel.
Seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths both increased during the past two weeks in the state.
2:26 p.m.: Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show goes online due to pandemic
Every January, huge crowds arrive in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, a convention that focuses on technology with 1,960 vendors scheduled for this year. The huge event is often an extravaganza of tech and glitz, intended to set the tone for the coming year in consumer technology.
However, according to the Associated Press, the tech event will now be done entirely online. CES has been reborn as a virtual show, taking place online, where attendees will only be able to view new technology by using technology, aka video streams and chats.
In-display this year, there will be COVID-fighting “coronabots,” a “COVID-19 State of the Union,” and more about digital health. Health care industry speakers will be represented by CVS, the Department of Health Services, and others.
11:44 a.m.: Sacramento County reaches 1,000 COVID-19 deaths
On Monday, Sacramento County passed 1,000 deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the county, 1,015 residents have died from COVID-19.The county has seen 74,101 total cases and an additional 2,260 cases throughout the pandemic, with a case rate of 43.4 per 100,000 residents getting infected with the virus.
Residents aged 20 to 29 have the highest number of cases at 15,501 over the course of the pandemic, while those 80 or older total most of the deaths at 487. Elk Grove has the highest rate of cases across the county, reporting over 7,000 infects in the past ten months.
As of Monday, 497 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus, and 115 are in the intensive care unit.
10:31 a.m.: California reaches 30,000 total deaths from COVID-19 pandemic
California has hit another grim coronavirus milestone — more than 30,000 total deaths from COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, data from Johns Hopkins University showed that the nation’s most populous state has recorded this staggering death total since the pandemic started nearly a year ago.
Deaths have exploded in the state since a COVID-19 surge began spreading in October. While it took the state nearly six months to record its first 10,000 deaths, in barely a month, the total rose from 20,000 to 30,000. Over the weekend, the state reported a two-day record of 1,163 deaths.
Hospitalizations have also reached dizzying levels as many hospitals are stretched to the limit. Health officials have warned that the worst is still yet to come later this month.
10:29 a.m.: Los Angeles County will stop using Curative COVID-19 tests
L.A. county will stop using the Curative COVID-19 tests at pop-up testing sites, according to the Associated Press.
Curative is a company that produces testing kits that people use to swab their mouth to test for COVID-19 at testing sites, instead of performing a deep nasal swab.
The Food and Drug Administration recently alerted patients and health care providers that the test could produce false negatives. The county’s Department of Health Services said they will be switching over to Fulgent Genetics tests later in the week. These tests also come in nasal and oral swabs.
The department said the Curative tests used at pop-up sites between Dec. 13 and Jan. 2 made up about 10% of all COVID-19 tests administered at county-supported test sites during the same time frame.
10:27 a.m.: US ramping up COVID-19 vaccination efforts
As the U.S. enters the second month of the most extensive vaccination effort in the country’s history, football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers are all being opened to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.
According to the Associated Press, after a frustratingly slow rollout involving primarily health care workers and nursing home residents, states are moving onto the next phase before the first phase has even been completed.
Shots are being made available to groups such as older adults, teachers, bus drivers, police officers, firefighters, and people with underlying medical conditions. As of Monday morning, about 2.7% of the U.S. population, or 9 million Americans, have gotten their first dose of the vaccine. Experts say as many as 85% of the population will have to be inoculated to achieve the “herd immunity” needed to stamp out the outbreak.
In California, one of the deadliest hot spots in the country, a drive-thru “vaccination superstation” opened in the parking lot near the San Diego Padres ballpark. About 584,000 doses have been administered in the state, totaling about 1.5% of the population.
Sunday, January 10
2:11 p.m.: California closes in on 30,000 deaths during pandemic
California is closing in on 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic as hospitals scramble to find beds for severely ill patients during a continuing spike in COVID-19 case numbers.
The state reported 468 deaths Sunday, a day after setting a record one-day total of 695. California’s death toll since the start of the virus outbreak rose to 29,701.
A surge of cases following Halloween and Thanksgiving produced record hospitalizations, and now the most seriously ill of those patients are dying in unprecedented numbers.
Hospitals warn they may need to ration care as intensive care beds dwindle.
2:09 p.m.: Virus, housing issues await returning California lawmakers
Families and a small-business economy ravaged by the coronavirus and a state agency torn by a related fraud that could exceed $2 billion are at the top of California lawmakers’ fixit list as they return to the state Capitol.
They have already introduced numerous bills responding to the pandemic before they convene Monday in Sacramento. Those range from extending protections for renters to attempting to regain some decision-making authority that they had delegated to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
They pushed back their usual start by one week because of the coronavirus surge. Among their most urgent priorities, lawmakers are racing to extend eviction protections that otherwise will soon expire.
Saturday, January 9
3:02 p.m.: California reports record 695 virus deaths in a day
California health authorities reported on Saturday a record high of 695 coronavirus deaths as many hospitals strain under unprecedented caseloads.
The state Department of Public Health says the number raises the state's death toll since the start of the pandemic to 29,233. A surge of cases following Halloween and Thanksgiving produced record hospitalizations in California, and now the most seriously ill of those patients are dying in unprecedented numbers.
Already, many hospitals in Los Angeles and other hard-hit areas are struggling to keep up and warned they may need to ration care as intensive care beds dwindle.
Friday, January 8
4:41 p.m.: Gov. Newsom admits vaccine rollout has been delayed
California Gov. Gavin Newsom faced some tough questions about the state’s vaccine rollout while unveiling his budget proposal Friday.
He admits it’s been delayed. So far only about a quarter of the vaccine doses allotted to the state have been administered.
But the rules changed this week to allow more flexibility around the order of vaccinations, to prevent doses from going to waste.
“There’s no one that showed up in line or this person decided last minute not to take it, then there’s this 64-year-old senior who’s there … by definition we want to support that flexibility. So, common sense,” he said.
Newsom says the state will crack down on people who are trying to cut in line for the vaccine, and that he and his family are waiting to get their shots until it’s their turn.
2:59 p.m.: Record California budget proposal includes new stimulus checks, small business grants
The coronavirus pandemic is as bad as it’s ever been in California, but Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $227 billion budget reflects a healthy economic recovery thanks in large part to wealthier earners.
In his record-high state spending plan unveiled Friday the governor wants to use some of that revenue to help those hit hard by the pandemic. That includes additional grants for small businesses, and a new round of stimulus checks to low-income Californians.
“To basically make those $600 checks that people are starting to receive from the federal government to get them to be $1,200,” he said. “We want to get roughly four million checks out within three weeks of me signing this package.”
The budget also includes more than $350 million dollars for vaccine distribution, though Newsom’s administration says that’s just an estimate.
The governor says his budget includes a record $85 billion for public schools. That does not include an additional $2 billion Newsom wants lawmakers to approve immediately to reopen schools in February.
2:58 p.m.: Las Vegas Mayor optimistic about bringing tourists back
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she hopes to welcome everyone back later this year and expressed optimism after a challenging year, according to the Associated Press.
She gave her annual state of the city address virtually Thursday, acknowledging the struggles the city faced but remained positive in her outlook on the new year. She praised city efforts to help small businesses and provide housing assistance to people who are unhoused and residents struggling to pay their rent or mortgages.
The Las Vegas Sun reported that the city was forced to cut $124 million from its budget last year due to economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
2:57 p.m.: Nevada breaks daily record for COVID-19 cases
Nevada officials are reporting the most new coronavirus cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
On Thursday, state officials reported 3,402 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 249,795 cases. Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage anticipated the spike earlier in the week and said it mirrored other post-holiday peaks the state has experienced.
Nevada has consistently rewritten its record books for coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations throughout the months-long surge that has spared no county — urban or rural. Gov. Steve Sisolak’s tightened restrictions on business capacity and private gatherings are set to expire on Jan. 15 unless he extends them.
10:21 a.m.: San Jose hospital fined $43,000 for failure to report post-holiday outbreak
Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center has been fined $43,000 for failing to report a deadly coronavirus outbreak that may have been linked to an inflatable holiday costume worn by an unknowingly infected staffer on Christmas Day.
According to the Associated Press, Santa Clara County’s public health department said that the outbreak has affected 60 staffers, leading to one death. County officials have also said the department learned of the infections through press statements issued this week by the Oakland-based hospital chain.
Kaiser is responsible for timely reporting of cases, the county said. The hospital's spokesperson said it’s reviewing the penalty notice that breaks down to a $1,000 fine for each of the initial 43 cases. County officials have said that this outbreak is not related to the more contagious U.K. strain.
10:15 a.m.: US reaches 4,000 daily deaths from coronavirus
The United States topped 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus for the first time, according to the Associated Press.
This breaks a record of 3,900 deaths set just yesterday. The surge is being seen in several Sun Belt states, where spikes of the virus caseload were noted over the summer. Johns Hopkins University shows that the U.S. had 4,085 deaths Thursday, along with nearly 275,000 new coronavirus cases reported.
The numbers are another stark reminder of the worsening situation following the holiday and family gathering travel mixed in with more time indoors with others during the winter months. More than 365,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.
10:08 a.m.: Pfizer, BioNTech vaccines may work against COVID-19 mutation
New research suggests that the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine can still work against a mutated coronavirus strain, according to the Associated Press.
Two new easier-to-spread variants of the virus popped up and have put the world on edge. One was first discovered in England, while the other in South Africa. Despite the distance, the viruses share a common mutation.
Pfizer researchers have said that laboratory testing shows that this kind of mutation doesn’t block the mechanism of the vaccine. More tests are still needed to see if any additional mutations that may evolve could be a cause for concern.
The preliminary study was posted on an online research site late Thursday and has yet to be reviewed by other experts.
Thursday, January 7
6:51 p.m.: State, hospital association at odds over responding to patient surge
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and the state’s hospital association are at odds over how best to create space for critically ill coronavirus patients, according to the Associated Press.
The disagreement comes as health officials warn that already strained medical facilities will soon be overwhelmed by a new surge from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
California health authorities reported Thursday a record two-day total of 1,042 virus deaths, with many people infected during the surge after Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The California Hospital Association says the state is moving too slowly to find ways to handle so many cases. State officials counter that moves made this week to limit nonessential surgeries and transfer patients to hospitals with more available beds will save lives.
5:56 p.m.: Short on resources, hospitals prepare for possibility of rationing care
California hospitals are trying to prepare for potentially having to ration care due to a lack of staff and beds, the Associated Press reports.
The state is grappling with a skyrocketing coronavirus surge, with the second-highest number of daily virus deaths reported Wednesday at 459. More than a quarter-million new cases are being reported each week.
Authorities say Thanksgiving holiday gatherings vastly spread infections, leading the virus to rage out of control across the country. Only Arizona tops California in cases per resident.
In Los Angeles County, Methodist Hospital of Southern California formed an in-house triage team to decide how to distribute resources, although it isn't yet rationing care, the AP reports.
3:24 p.m.: California seeing two-day record of COVID-19 deaths
California health authorities have reported a record two-day total of 1,042 coronavirus deaths as many hospitals strain under the unprecedented caseloads.
According to the Associated Press, the state Department of Public Health’s website on Thursday lists 583 new deaths a day after 459 coronavirus-related deaths. The previous two-day total was 1,013 deaths at the end of December.
California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic now stands at 28,045. On Wednesday, a travel advisory was issued “strongly discouraging” people from out-of-state visiting or entering the state. Californians are also told to avoid traveling more than 120 miles from home except for essential purposes.
3:01 p.m.: California congresswoman tests positive for COVID-19
Newly elected California Rep. Michelle Steel has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
The Orange County Republican was sworn in just three days ago and recently discovered on Wednesday that she was in contact with somebody who was COVID-positive. While she had no symptoms, she was tested as a precaution, and the results came back positive.
The 65-year-old congresswoman said she would quarantine at her doctor’s advice. Steel — who previously headed the Orange County Board of Supervisors — defeated Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda for the position in November.
Last spring, Steel questioned the need for a countywide mask mandate but later changed her mind and endorsed face coverings in public.
2:33 p.m.: California suspends 1.4 million unemployment claims to battle fraud
To battle the state’s runaway unemployment fraud, California has frozen 1.4 million claims, according to the Associated Press.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported at the state Employment Development Department said on Wednesday that it had examined existing claims from people who said they lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and found about 3.5 million claims were “potentially fraudulent.”
Nearly 2 million claims have already been disqualified, and payment was suspended for about 1.4 million people pending verification. The state has acknowledged that the department was bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID-19 unemployment funds that went to fraudsters.
10:31 a.m.: US records highest death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic
The U.S. registered its highest number of deaths yet from the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
On Jan. 6, the same day the Pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, the country recorded nearly 3,900 deaths. The attack on the Capitol highlighted some of the same deep political divisions that have hampered the battle against the pandemic. Trump and his followers have resisted efforts to social distance or wear masks to slow the spread of the virus.
Virtually no state has escaped the latest viral surge, but California has been hit particularly hard, with skyrocketing deaths and infections threatening to force hospitals to ration critical care. As of Jan. 6, 28,045 Californians had died from COVID-19.
10:30 a.m.: How long can I wait between COVID-19 vaccine doses? US and UK debate the timeline.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
The first COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. and the U.K. require two doses to be taken a few weeks apart.
But according to the Associated Press, the two counties have differed on how closely those guidelines should be followed. While people should get some kind of protection from the vaccine within the first two weeks of receiving it, the pharmaceutical giants also differ on the waiting period before the second shot.
The Pfizer and BioNTech shot regiment should follow up with a second shot three weeks after the first, while for Moderna, the second shot can be administered four weeks later. Despite this, the U.K. says it’s OK to delay the booster shots for as long as 12 weeks to speed up the number of people receiving their first shots.
Regulators in the U.S. have skipped that plan since it’s unknown how long the first dose's partial protection can last.
10:29 a.m.: 787,000 Americans still applying for unemployment benefits
While the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell slightly to 787,000 applicants, these numbers still show evidence of a job market stumbling in the face of a viral pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, as we enter month 10 of the pandemic in the U.S., figures from the Labor Department showed that many employers are still cutting jobs as the pandemic tightens business restricts and leads anxious consumers to stay home.
Before the recession, roughly 225,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits weekly. Now, the renewed viral surge has changed the habits of millions of consumers as they avoid eating out, shopping and traveling.
TD Securities economists estimate that more than half of all states are now limiting gatherings to 10 people or less, which is up from a roughly quarter of states that enacted these restrictions back in September.
Wednesday, January 6
3:44 p.m.: Newsom proposes $4 billion economic recovery plan
After a year of small businesses closing and reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his proposed $4 billion in state spending to keep them afloat in 2021.
According to the Associated Press, Newsom was the first U.S. governor to impose a statewide stay-at-home order due to the pandemic, but a recent swell of cases have caused various forms of restrictions to linger into 2021, impacting many retail stores during the year’s typically busiest shopping season.
While people with often higher incomes were more likely able to keep their jobs and work from home, many people with lower incomes, like retail and restaurant workers, either lost their jobs or were put on unpaid furlough. Frustration has overwhelmed many, leading to a recall effort against Newsom.
The state spending he announced on Tuesday will be split up a few ways. Close to half the money, totaling $1.5 billion, will go towards people purchasing electric cars and construction jobs to set up more charging stations across the state as a part of the ban on the sale of all new gas-powered cars by 2035.
Small businesses are earmarked $575 million, with grants of up to $25,000 available to small business owners. Newsom and the state Legislature has already given $500 million to the program, so if the new proposal is approved, more than $1 billion will be available to small business owners.
3:43 p.m.: Over 6,000 unemployment benefits claims came from out-of-state prisons and jails
A recent report says that more than $40 million in California unemployment benefits earmarked for people left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic probably went to out-of-state jails and prisons.
According to the Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times reviewed an analysis commissioned by the state’s Employment Development Department and found that the EDD approved more than 6,000 claims involving people who were probably incarcerated out of state.
At least 2,000 of those claims came from Florida jails and prisons. The EDD has acknowledged it paid about $400 million to Californians incarcerated in-state, including some on death row.
12:22 p.m.: Patients could transferred across California as doctors search for available ICU beds
Hospitals in California are so swamped by the mounting coronavirus cases that the state has ordered those with available space to accept patients from others that have run out of intensive care beds.
According to the Associated Press, the public health order issued Tuesday could result in patients being shipped to Northern California from Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. Within those regions, 14 counties were also ordered to delay nonessential and “non-life-threatening” surgeries.
For much of the year, California has managed to avoid a catastrophe, but now the virus is raging, and California remains at or near the top of states with the newest cases per capita.
12:19 p.m.: Nevada State of the State address will be pre-recorded
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak will pre-record his second State of the State address due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
As a health precaution, the pre-recorded address will go online on Jan. 19. The governor announced Tuesday that he would also release his proposed budget the day before his address. The speech will also emphasize the governor’s priorities before the state’s legislative session begins in February.
The state is facing a substantial deficit because of the pandemic. In November, Sisolak had told state agencies to prepare for 12% budget cuts in each of the next two fiscal years. A special session last summer had made $1 billion in cuts from the previous budget.
12:18 p.m.: California extends an extra $600 payment to low-income residents
Millions of low-income Californians would get a $600 payment from the state under a new budget proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom, according to the Associated Press.
The proposed payment announced Wednesday would go to residents with annual incomes of less than $30,000 a year. The pool of eligible people includes some immigrants who are undocumented and file taxes with the state. Roughly 4 million people would be eligible for the payment for a total state cost of $2.4 billion.
Newsom is asking lawmakers to approve the proposal quickly, so people can get their funds starting in February. The governor is also asking the Legislature to extend a moratorium on evictions.
Tuesday, January 5
5:43 p.m.: Too soon to know impact of Granite Bay New Year's party, health officials say
Health officials say it’s too early to tell whether a highly-criticized New Year’s Eve celebration in Granite Bay was a super-spreader event.
The largely-maskless event that has drawn the ire of many, including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
For those who attended the party, health officials suggest one thing.
“Anybody who was at that party should be quarantining right now," said Susie Welty, an epidemiologist at UC San Francisco.
Welty says slow testing turnaround times and a lack of public trust make contact tracing a large social gathering more difficult, especially as COVID-19 cases spike during the holidays.
“It’s just the scale of this. The number of cases," she said. "The number of contacts we have. We’re not equipped for this sort of public health response.”
Officials suggest getting tested after five days of isolating in response to an exposure. So it’s too early to know whether the gathering will result in confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Welty said contact tracers are doing their best, but there is little they can do when people aren’t heading health advice.
5:22 p.m.: Ukiah hospital delivers 800 vaccine doses in two hours after freezer failure
The freezer holding 850 doses of the Moderna COVID vaccine failed at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center Monday. So did the alarm that would have warned of the failure, leaving the hospital just two and a half hours to vaccinate that many people or watch the doses spoil.
Adventist gave shots based on Monday's priority list, set up four mobile vaccination pop-up locations and put out the word in the Mendocino County community of 16,000. Mendocino College math professor Leslie Banta got the call just after 1 p.m.
“Hurried over to the church, did not have to wait in line very long, and had my shot at 1:30," Banta said. "The dosages expired at two o’clock. So they were able to vaccinate nearly 800 people in about two hours, It was amazing work on their part. It took a heroic effort for their staff.”
All the doses were administered before the deadline. Those who got the vaccine will be contacted in the next three weeks or so to come back for the follow-up second dose.
3:24 p.m.: Grammys will be postponed to March due to coronavirus surge
Music fans will have to wait a bit longer for this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony. According to the Associated Press, the 2021 Grammy Awards will no longer be held this month and will ultimately be broadcast in March due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in California.
The Recording Academy told the AP on Tuesday that the annual show would shift from its original Jan. 31 broadcast to a yet-to-be-announced date in March. Beyoncé is a leading contender this year with nine nominations.
The award show will still be held in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, despite the county being the epicenter of California's crisis.
L.A. County has surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths, totaling about 40% of the total deaths statewide.
3:06 p.m.: Nevada officials plan to start vaccinating people age 75 and older
Nevada Health officials are planning to begin COVID-19 vaccinations for people aged 75 and above, according to the Associated Press.
The inoculation effort could begin at pharmacies in Clark County as soon as next week. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Monday that a Southern Nevada Health District spokesperson said the start date could be as soon as Jan. 11.
Vaccination efforts in the state have focused so far on front-line health care workers, staff, and residents in long-term care facilities. A Nevada Health and Human Services spokesperson said multiple counties could “soon” begin vaccinating people in the state’s second-tier priority group, which includes older adults.
Both health agencies have said that more information will be released as details are confirmed.
3:03 p.m.: Sacramento region hospitals remain below 15% ICU capacity
ICU capacity in Sacramento area hospitals has been hovering below 15% in the past several days.
On Monday, the capacity fell to 12%, according to Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye. The region will remain under California's regional stay-at-home order until state projections show ICU capcity above 15% capacity four weeks out.
"We're still in that situation where it's tenuous; we have to be cautious," she said on CapRadio’s Insight. "We're not out of the danger just yet."
Health officials are still waiting to see if there will ultimately be any post-holiday COVID-19 surge. Meanwhile, Kasirye said she's disheartened to hear about people not taking California's regional stay-at-home orders seriously, especially in the light of the Granite Bay New Year's Eve party attended by hundreds.
"I think it is saddening to find that people are still choosing to ignore the warnings that we are putting out."
10:26 a.m.: Only about 1% of Californians vaccinated amid COVID-19 vaccine campaign
Distribution hiccups and logistical challenges have slowed the initial coronavirus vaccine in California, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the current pace is “not good enough” as virus caseloads continue to spike across the state. Out of California’s 30 million residents, only about 1% of the state has been inoculated.
About 454,000 doses have been administered, but that’s just a quarter of the 1.3 million the state has received so far. On Monday, the state’s death toll topped 26,500, and confirmed cases soared near 2.4 million since the start of the pandemic. State hospitals are swamped with more than 22,000 COVID-19 patients.
10:22 a.m.: Is it possible to be reinfected with COVID-19? Yes, but unlikely.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
If you’ve already had the coronavirus, it’s possible you could get reinfected, but these cases seem to be rare, according to the Associated Press.
While some reinfections have been confirmed, two new studies suggest that it would be unusual to get the virus again for at least several months, and maybe longer. In one study, only 0.3% of U.S. people who were previously infected tested positive again over the next several months.
A similarly low rate of reinfections was found in a study of U.K. health workers. The findings seem to bode well for current COVID-19 vaccines, which trigger the kind of immune responses that the studies found protective.
10:10 a.m.: Granite Bay New Year’s Eve party attendees encouraged to get coronavirus tests, self-isolate
Placer County health officials are encouraging the hundreds of partygoers who attended a New Year’s Eve party at the posh Granite Bay home formerly owned by actor Eddie Murphy to get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate.
Placer County Sheriff spokesperson Angela Musallam said the deputies did respond to a noise complaint coming from the house party but said it would have been unconstitutional for them to enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s public health orders.
“You know, while it was disappointing to see that, this is not within law enforcement’s purview to even enforce,” Musallam said.
The county couldn’t confirm social media reports that some party attendees have begun experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. The interim health official said people who attended any large gathering over the holidays should get tested for the virus and avoid others.
Monday, January 4
5:22: Sacramento to discuss protections for renters
Sacramento City Council will discuss the city’s Tenant Protection Program Tuesday as the deadline for paying back-rent approaches.
The program was put in place in 2019 and amended last year to protect renters from evictions during the pandemic. But Councilmember Katie Valenzuela said the program is not providing the protections it should for tenants struggling to pay rent.
Valenzuela says she hopes more innovative solutions to strengthen protections for renters can be considered.
"Converting back rent owed into consumer debt, so I still owe you as my landlord, but it can no longer be grounds for eviction and the repayment schedule can be negotiated based on what the tenant can afford and what the landlord needs," Valenzuela said, as one option that could assist renters.
The California Apartment Association representing landlords said their members have been in compliance with rental programs. But they’ve noted in the past that stronger tenant protections could push out small mom and pop landlords.
5:19 p.m.: California to open up who can administer COVID-19 vaccine, Newsom says
Gov. Gavin Newsom is promising to speed up the process of getting Californians vaccinated against COVID-19.
The governor says the state has received 1.29 million doses, with another 611,000 on the way. But so far, only 454,000 doses have been administered in California. Part of his solution is to allow vaccinations to be given by more than doctors and clinic workers.
“We are already working this last number of days to increase the number of distribution sites and more importantly to accelerate the efforts of who can distribute the vaccine," Newsom said during a press conference Monday. "Dental administration — so dentists administering the vaccine — pharmacy techs, National Guard, more of our National Guard deployed to begin the distribution and administration.”
Newsom says another $300 million will be put toward public awareness of the vaccine and where to get it. He’ll release details of that on Friday.
12:01 p.m.: California hospitals swamped as COVID-19 numbers rise
California’s COVID-19 death toll topped 26,500 this weekend, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Since the start of the pandemic, the state’s confirmed cases have neared 2.4 million. Hospitals in the state are treating more than 22,000 COVID-19 patients, including nearly 4,700 in ICUs, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Authorities in California have warned of a potential huge surge on the horizon due to travel and gatherings for the December holidays and New Year’s.
11:58 a.m.: 2021 men’s March Madness to take place in bubble in Indiana
All 67 of the 2021 men’s March Madness games will be played in a bubble in Indiana in an effort to stage the college basketball tournament after last year’s was canceled due to the pandemic, NPR reports.
Some of last year’s 2020 March Madness games were originally set to take place at the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento before being canceled due to the virus. Golden 1 Center last hosted March Madness in 2017, which had a $4 million economic impact on the city.
The NCAA says it’s still determining whether fans can attend the games. The organization also announced plans to hold the women’s tournament in March, with Final Four games in San Antonio, Texas. It said it was in talks to hold the whole women’s tournament in that same region to reduce team travel.
11:52 a.m.: Inflatable holiday costume could be tied to San Jose hospital staff outbreak
One employee is dead and dozens of workers are infected with COVID-19 at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center after an employee appeared at the hospital wearing an inflatable holiday costume on Christmas Day, the Associated Press reports.
Since Dec. 27, 44 staff members in the emergency department have tested positive for the virus, according to Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center Senior Vice President and Area Manager Irene Chavez.
Inflatable costumes like the one used by the employee usually rely on battery-operated fans to suck in air to keep its shape, which could have spread COVID-19-infected droplets in the air. Investigators are looking into the functioning of the fan.
6:40 a.m.: New California law gives workers new COVID-19 protections
California now has strict new rules meant to protect workers from contracting COVID-19 on the job under AB 685, a new state law which took effect Jan. 1.
If you can’t work remotely and have spent any time at work the past couple months, you may have received an email from HR telling you that a colleague tested positive for the coronavirus, or was exposed to someone with it.
Starting this year, employers will have to do that. The new law requires written notification of potential exposures in the workplace.
Labor attorney Caroline Donelan says employers have an ethical duty to keep their workers safe, and many have already been doing this.
"These processes are probably already in place for most employers. But now in addition to this ethical duty, they now have a legal duty to do," Donelan said.
The law also requires companies to report outbreaks — defined as three or more cases at a jobsite — to their local public health department.
Donelan says workers who don’t feel they’re getting those protections have a few options. She says it’s a good idea to start by speaking with your employer first. But if that doesn’t change anything, head to Cal/OSHA’s website.
"They have a hotline to call if employees have questions on things like paid sick leave, retaliation protections," Donelan said. "And if they feel like they’ve gotten to the point where they want to file a complaint, that can be done completely online as well."
The last thing AB 685 does is give Cal/OSHA the authority to shut down work sites that aren’t following these new coronavirus rules. But Donelan says the agency is already overwhelmed, and how much it actually uses that power remains to be seen.
Learn more about new California laws for 2021 in our interactive guide here.
6:35 a.m.: LA County recording new COVID-19 case every six seconds, mayor says
The mayor of Los Angeles says the pandemic is getting worse as the coronavirus spreads rapidly within households and Californians let their guard down, according to the Associated Press.
Mayor Eric Garcetti says LA County is recording a new COVID-19 case every six seconds. Garcetti said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he’s concerned news of a vaccine rollout “has made everybody so hopeful” that they wrongly feel they can relax their behavior. He said they must stay vigilant.
California hospitals stretched to their limits will get help from the state's Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, which is usually used in response to wildfires, floods and other natural disasters.
Sunday, January 3
10:55 a.m.: Greater Sacramento region remains under regional stay-at-home order
Stay-at-home orders for the Sacramento region will be extended, state officials announced Saturday, as intensive care unit capacity is projected to remain low.
The region fell under the state's regional stay-at-home order Dec. 10, after ICU capacity dropped below the state's 15% threshold to remain open. Under the orders, businesses such as barbershops and nail salons must close, while retail stores can stay open at 20% capacity and restaurants are limited to takeout-only.
Regions must stay under the orders for at least three weeks, but can come off once projections show ICU capacity rising above 15% four weeks in the future. The Greater Sacramento region would have been able to leave the order as soon as Jan. 1. But on Saturday, the state reported that the region’s four-week ICU capacity projections do not meet the criteria to exit the order.
The Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions also remain under the order. The Bay Area will remain under the order until at least Jan. 8 when it has a chance to exit based on ICU projections.
10:23 a.m.: U.S. COVID-19 death toll tops 350,000
More than 350,000 people in the United States have been killed by the coronavirus, NPR reports.
The devastating milestone is according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
A new variant of the virus continues to spread across dozens of countries, including the U.S., where it has been found so far in California, Colorado and Florida.
The U.S. could see a particularly deadly January, after a record number of infections in December.
President-elect Joe Biden said this week that "the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, a very tough period for our nation — maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic."
10:11 a.m.: New director appointed to California unemployment department
California's governor has appointed Rita L. Saenz to oversee the state’s unemployment benefits department, which has been overwhelmed by claims during the coronavirus pandemic and also has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in phony claims.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the appointment Wednesday of Saenz, a former director of the state Department of Social Services.
She replaces Sharon Hilliard, who was appointed by Newsom in February but retires this week.
The department has been struggling to deal with a huge backlog of unemployment claims because of the COVID-19 outbreak that shut most nonessential businesses and cost millions their jobs.
Saturday, January 2
12:28 p.m.: Pharmacist arrested, accused of destroying more than 500 Moderna vaccine doses
A pharmacist from Milwaukee was arrested Thursday on suspicion of intentionally removing hundreds of coronavirus vaccines from refrigeration, leading to their destruction, according to NPR.
Police officials from Grafton, Wisconsin, said in a statement the pharmacist, who has been fired from the Advocate Aurora Health hospital system, was arrested on recommended charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.
Health care workers were forced to throw out about 570 doses of the Moderna vaccine that had been removed from required refrigeration. However, 57 patients were given the medicine that had been left out. Bahr said those vaccines were rendered potentially less effective or altogether ineffective. The patients were notified and are not at any risk of adverse health effects, he said.
Officials said that in a written statement to Aurora Health officials, the pharmacist responsible admitted "to intentionally removing the vaccine knowing that if not properly stored the vaccine would be ineffective."
11:09 a.m.: United States surpasses 20 million confirmed cases on New Year’s Day
More than 20 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the United States, NPR reports.
The country reached the grim milestone on Friday, the first day of 2021, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University.
With 10 million cases recorded Nov. 9, the U.S. more than doubled the number of infections in less than two months. It accounts for nearly a quarter of all cases in the world and a fifth of all deaths.
California leads the U.S. in cases, with a new single-day record in deaths recorded on Friday.
10 a.m.: California reports a record 585 virus deaths in single day
California started the new year by reporting a record 585 coronavirus deaths in a single day.
The state Department of Public Health said Friday there were more than 47,000 new confirmed cases reported, bringing the total to more than 2.29 million.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says California will begin collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate and upgrade outdated oxygen delivery systems at six Los Angeles area hospitals.
California this week became the third state to exceed 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
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