In California: Work-for-vaccine volunteer program launches; Newsom recall moves ahead

In California: Work-for-vaccine volunteer program launches; Newsom recall moves ahead

March 9, 2021

Plus: New CDC requirements for vaccinated individuals, and a push for gender-neutral children’s sections at large retailers

I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs. I hope your week has started on a good note. Here are some of today’s headlines from this great state of ours.

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

COVID-19 cases fall in California

Patients receive a dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Tustin, Calif. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)

California reported 32,775 new cases of coronavirus in the week ending Sunday, down 6.5% over the previous week.

California ranked 39th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. In the latest week, the United States added 420,773 reported cases of coronavirus, a decrease of 10.7% from the week before.

Across California, cases fell in 30 counties, with the steepest declines in San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.

A total of 3,599,689 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 54,225 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States, 28,999,273 people have tested positive and 525,036 people have died.

California could face a fourth COVID-19 wave

Don’t throw away your face mask just yet. While this news is encouraging, KTLA 5 reports that the state could still experience a fourth wave of infection.

According to Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco, approximately 67% of a population needs immunity to COVID-19 before the spread of disease between people is unlikely.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert, has previously said around 70% to 85% of a population needs immunity.

About 40% of Americans are believed to have immunity to COVID-19, says Rutherford, either from vaccination or because they’ve been previously infected and have survived.

In other COVID statistics, ABC 10 reports that health officials in the Northern California county of Butte say they have diagnosed one case of the UK coronavirus variant, bringing the total cases of the UK variant in the Golden State to 250, as of March 4.

CDC: Vaccinated Americans can gather inside without masks or social distancing

Desert Care Network pharmacist Pisey Long prepares second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Mizell Center in Palm Springs, Calif., on Feb. 27. (Photo: Taya Gray/The Desert Sun)

Have you received both of your COVID-19 vaccination doses? If so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some new guidelines for you.

The agency says those who have received a full course of the COVID-19 vaccine may get together with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups inside their homes without masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from one other household who are at low risk for severe disease.

In addition, fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test if they’ve been exposed, unless they’re symptomatic.

The pace of vaccinations has ramped up so more than two million Americans are getting vaccinated per day.

The Biden administration said Tuesday there will be enough vaccine for every adult in the U.S. by May thanks to a deal brokered between pharmaceutical giants Merck and Johnson & Johnson, but health experts say the U.S. could reach that milestone by mid-April.

Work-for-shot volunteer program launched in California

A nurse holds a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Mizell Center in Palm Springs, Calif., on February 27, 2021. (Photo: Taya Gray/The Desert Sun)

How eager are you to get vaccinated? Enough to help vaccinate others? NBC Bay Area reports that the state of California has created a work-for-a-shot program for volunteers.

Working together with California Volunteers, the governor’s office announced on Monday the launching of MyTurnVolunteer, where people who sign up to work volunteer shifts at vaccination sites will become eligible for a shot.

A California Volunteers spokesperson told SFGate that anyone who works four hours or more can get a shot, even if they do not yet qualify under state guidelines.

According to officials, opportunities are limited, but if you sign up on the website, you will receive a notification when a volunteer slot opens up.

Newsom recall leaders say they have enough signatures to trigger an election

Janice Foster, left, and Lynda Baker collect signatures on Friday, March 5, 2021 in Visalia to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom. They said they and others have collected approximately 30,000 signatures. (Photo: Ron Holman / Visalia Times-Delta)

Leaders of the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom said this weekend they’ve collected 1.95 million signatures, a number they believe will be more than enough to trigger a special recall election.

County and state elections officials still need to verify that nearly 1.5 million are valid signatures from registered California voters before the recall can qualify for the ballot. But recall supporters said Sunday that they’re confident they’ve collected enough.

The most recent signature verification numbers from the Secretary of State’s Office found that about 83% of the signatures counted by early February were valid. There’s no guarantee that validity rate will hold for the remaining signatures, but if it does, proponents would reach the threshold needed to trigger a special recall election.

Opponents of the recall have argued Newsom does not deserve to be removed from office and have dismissed the effort as a Republican scheme to challenge Newsom in a special election, when lower voter turnout tends to favor more conservative causes and candidates.

California considers bill requiring gender-neutral children’s sections at large retailers

Hasbro, the maker of Mr. Potato Head toys, said the toy is going gender neutral. (Photo: Getty)

Last week, we reported that Mr. Potato Head had officially dropped the honorific “Mr.” and would be known henceforth as “Potato Head.” And now comes news that proposed legislation might require California retail stores to become more gender-neutral.

State lawmakers are debating a new bill that would prohibit department stores with more than 500 employees from dividing products for children by gender.

The restriction would ban separate areas and signage and mandate online retailers that have a physical location in the state use gender-neutral terms to label children’s items in a section of their websites. It would apply to toys and other kids’ items but not clothing at this time, the bill’s co-author, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, told USA Today. 

If passed, the measure would go into effect in Jan. 1, 2024, and would come with a fine of $1,000 for violations.

“It’s really important that toys and kids’ sections be neutral in order to give kids as many opportunities to flourish and develop and be creative,” said Garcia, a Democrat who leads the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “We should allow our kids to explore and try different things and let them come to their own conclusion of how they will identify themselves.”

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: ABC 10, KTLA 5, NBC Bay Area. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with the latest headlines.

As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at [email protected]

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