wealth inequality

California coronavirus updates: Omicron could become dominant strain in US, UC Davis

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Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.

Latest Updates

Omicron could become dominant strain in US, UC Davis infectious disease expert says

Nevada gambling revenues return to pre-pandemic levels

President Biden urges concern, not panic over omicron

California says it is closely monitoring the omicron COVID-19 variant

Here’s what we know or don’t know about the omicron variant

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Tuesday, November 30

9:56 a.m.: Omicron could become dominant strain in US, UC Davis infectious disease expert says

Over Thanksgiving weekend, many of us learned about the latest COVID-19 variant, omicron. Countries worldwide are scrambling to contain its spread by restricting air travel while also urging people not to panic.

However, at the same time, many cautioned that omicron is likely already in the U.S. Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health,, spoke with Insight host Vicki Gonzalez about what we know and don’t know about the variant.

While news of other countries banning flights has already begun, Blumberg stresses that these bans probably won’t make a difference.

“I bet [omicron is] in the U.S. I bet it’s already in California, and if it’s truly more contagious, then it’s going to end up being the dominant strain, more dominant than delta,” he said.

In the Sacramento region, hospitals appear to have adequate capacity, including in their ICUs.

“But the situation is being closely monitored, and obviously, if this becomes out of control, then you’d have to see some restrictions in place like we saw earlier in the pandemic,” he said.

Blumberg said models were already predicting a surge in cases as coronaviruses are winter respiratory illnesses, meaning that the weather, temperature, and humidity are favorable for their transmission.

However, not all hope is lost — Blumberg said being vaccinated counties to be the best way to protect yourself and that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very flexible.

“These [vaccines] are extraordinarily easy to update, these are plug and play vaccines basically,” he said. “You get the gene for the spike protein, for the omicron variant, you just plug that into the platform.”

New versions of the vaccine are tested to ensure a good antibody response.

9:42 a.m.: Nevada gambling revenues return to pre-pandemic levels

Nevada casinos matched a record streak of eight straight months of $1 billion or more in-house winnings in October, showing that hospitality and tourism have returned to pre-pandemic levels in a state dependent on gambling revenues.

According to the Associated Press, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported Tuesday that casinos statewide won a little more than $1.2 billion last month. That matched an eight-month mark set before the Great Recession in 2007 and was up 19.5% from pre-pandemic October 2019.

A board analyst says the key “gaming win” figure for 2021 is now 9.2% above calendar year 2019.

9:14 a.m.: President Biden urges concern, not panic over omicron

President Joe Biden is urging Americans to get vaccinated, including booster shots, as he seeks to quell concerns over the newly identified COVID-19 variant named omicron.

According to the Associated Press, Biden said he wouldn’t be seeking any severe business or other widespread lockdowns. The new variant is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” the president said in televised remarks from the White House.

He was accompanied by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Fauci said Monday that there are as of yet no cases of the variant identified in the U.S., but that it’s “inevitable” that it’ll make its way into the country.

Monday, November 29

10:15 a.m.: California says it is closely monitoring the omicron COVID-19 variant

State Public Health Officer and California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomás J. Aragón issued a statement yesterday on the new COVID-19 variant, omicron.

“California is closely monitoring the new omicron variant, which has not yet arrived in California or the U.S. Vaccines continue to be our best way through the pandemic by safely protecting us against severe illness from COVID-19 and its variants,” he said. “We are doubling down on our vaccination booster efforts to ensure that all Californians have access to safe, effective and free vaccines that can prevent serious illness and death.”

CDPH says it’s closely monitoring the new variant of concern, B.1.1.529, better known as omicron, as labeled by the World Health Organization.

The state has a public-private partnership called COVIDNet working on attempting to understand the genomic sequencing of omicron. CDPH also says it’s in communication with federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the latest advice for public health departments and health care providers.

Travelers who have been in South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, or Zimbabwe within the last 14 days should follow the CDC’s recommendation to get tested within 3 – 5 days after arrival, quarantine for seven days even if testing negative, and isolate for ten days if any COVID-19 symptoms crop up.

10:05 a.m.: Here’s what we know or don’t know about the omicron variant

The World Health Organization said it could still take some time to get a complete picture of the threat posed by the new omicron coronavirus variant as scientists worldwide scramble to assess its multiple mutations.

According to the Associated Press, stock markets swooned, some public gatherings were canceled, and countries across the globe suspended flights after South African scientists identified the new variant that appears to have been behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in the country’s most populous province.

The U.N. health agency issued a statement on omicron that boiled down to, “We don’t know much yet.”

9:54 a.m.: Vaccine inequity becomes more glaring under new COVID-19 variant

The emergence of the new omicron variant and the world’s desperate and likely futile attempts to keep it at bay are reminders of what scientists have warned us all about for months — COVID-19 will thrive as long as parts of the world still lack vaccines.

According to the Associated Press, a major contributor to vaccine inequity is the hoarding of limited COVID-19 shots by rich countries, creating essentially “vaccine deserts.” This ultimately threatens to prolong the pandemic for everyone, and that’s because the more the virus spreads among unvaccinated populations, the more possibilities it has to mutate and potentially become more dangerous.

Perhaps nowhere is the inequality more evident than in Africa, where less than 7% of the population is vaccinated. South African scientists identified the new omicron variant, and researchers are now rushing to learn more about it.

Thursday, November 26

1:46 p.m.: US plans travel restrictions because of new omicron variant

The United States will implement travel restrictions to eight southern African nations, NPR reports

The nations are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

U.S. citizens and permanent residents will not be affected by the restrictions, according to senior officials with the Biden administration.

The World Health Organization also announced Friday that it is calling the new variant omicron, labeling it a “variant of concern.”

10:01 a.m.: Sacramento awarding $500,000 in grants to local artists

Sacramento County artists will be the beneficiaries of $500,000 in new grant money aimed at helping a population hard-hit by the pandemic. 

Previous local allocations targeted arts groups hurt by the pandemic, but these funds from the National Endowment for the Arts will be awarded to individual artists.

“Individual…

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