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Arizona Corporation Commissioners (ACC) Jim O’Connor and Justin Olson want to hold a meeting to vote on whether utilities, known as Public Service Corporations (PSCs), can force their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They sent a letter to their fellow commissioners on November 18 expressing their concerns.

O’Connor and Olson cite the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on November 12 putting a stay on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees. They quoted the opinion where it said the mandate “raises constitutional concerns” and “grossly exceeds [its] statutory authority.”

Since “the decision to receive a COVID-19 vaccination is an ‘intensely personal decision[]’ that should be made ‘according to [one’s] own convictions’ — as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized — employees of PSCs should not be vaccinated to keep their jobs. This is especially true when the federal government is intimidating companies to develop, implement and enforce such mandatory vaccine policies,” they said in the letter.

However, the part of Biden’s mandate applying to federal contractors has not been put on hold, and O’Connor and Olson said it applies to public utilities since they “have legally enforceable agreements with the federal government, including military bases in Arizona.”

The pair concluded, “Ultimately, employees of PSCs should not have to decide between violating their convictions and keeping their job.”

O’Connor previously sent a video by Dr. Ryan Cole about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine to management at the utilities, asking them to view it “before ‘encouraging’ another employee to submit to this experimental vaccine.” Cole is a board certified pathologist trained at the Mayo Clinic, and the CEO and medical director of Cole Diagnostics.

O’Connor told The Arizona Republic, “If people are willing to individually choose to get the shot, God bless them. For those who aren’t, I don’t want people to lose a job, lose income.” He added, “I’m also aware through other information that many people who have taken the shot, many thousands of people here in the U.S. are deceased.”

If the ACC passes a rule implementing the ban on public utility mandates, the Arizona Constitution provides in Article 15, Section 16 that violations of the ACC’s rules can result in fines of up to $5,000. Article 15, Section 19 gives the ACC authority to enforce its own rules. Once passed, it would set the stage for a legal clash of federalism between the federal government’s authority versus Arizona’s.

The ACC has five commissioners, and one of the others is Lea Márquez Peterson, who leans to the right and ran for the office as a team with O’Connor, so there is a good chance the rule will pass.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sued the Biden administration over the vaccine mandates after they went into effect, including their applicability to federal contractors. He also called on Gov. Doug Ducey to take three steps to stop the mandates.

Over 10 states sued the Biden administration over the mandate for federal contractors. Twelve states currently ban businesses from implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. However, 22 states have laws mandating the vaccine for certain types of people, such as healthcare employees and government workers, including teachers.

Last December, Biden said the COVID-19 vaccine should not be mandatory. He also said masks should not be mandated. “No, I don’t think it should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory,” Biden said of vaccines at a press conference in Delaware.

The ACC’s next meeting, which is open to the public, is on December 15 and 16.

– – –

Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Justin Olson” by Arizona Commission Corporation and photo “Jim O’Connor” by Jim O’Connor.






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COVID-19 live updates: VTA adds vaccine mandate for employees

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A surge in coronavirus cases has been reported in the Bay Area and across California as well as the country due in part to the emergence of the highly-contagious omicron variant.

The latest number of confirmed cases in the U.S. can be found at the CDC's 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the U.S. page. (The CDC updates the webpage on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.)

Join anchor Kristen Sze for ABC7's daily, interactive newscast about the coronavirus outbreak in the Bay Area and around the world. You can check here to stream the show Monday-Friday at 3 p.m.

  • MAPS: Check out the latest maps of COVID-19 cases, deaths in the US, world

  • CORONAVIRUS IN CA: Get resources and information about COVID-19

  • LATEST LOCAL CASES: Updated number of COVID-19 cases, deaths in San Francisco Bay Area

  • CORONAVIRUS TIMELINE: Tracking major moments of COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area

Jan. 28, 2022
8:15 a.m.
VTA adds vaccine mandate for employees
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is adding a vaccine mandate for its employees. They have until April 29 to prove they're fully vaccinated. Boosters are not required. Employees will have the option to request an exemption for medical or religious reasons. If approved, the unvaccinated employees would then be tested weekly for COVID-19.

Jan. 27, 2022
11:30 a.m.
SF to change indoor mask rules
Beginning on February 1, San Francisco office workers, gym members and other "stable cohorts" of people may remove masks indoors again, reinstating the mask exemption that was in place before the latest omicron surge.

6:15 a.m.
Deaths increasing to highest point in nearly 1 year
Daily COVID-19-related deaths -- which are a lagging indicator -- are steadily increasing to their highest point in nearly one year, according to federal data. The U.S. is reporting an average of more than 2,100 new fatalities each day, surpassing the average from last summer's delta surge. However, the nation's death toll remains significantly lower than last winter when the U.S. peaked at about 3,400 deaths per day.

Jan. 26, 2022
11:15 a.m.
East Bay teachers to meet over COVID safety
Teachers and the West Contra Costa County Unified School District will meet today to try and prevent a strike over COVID safety measures. The teachers union is demanding mandatory COVID testing, plans in case of an outbreak, and more substitute teachers. They also want KN95 and N95 masks provided to students and staff daily something the district says is already happening. While the demands are being negotiated, the district says more students need to be vaccinated to contain this surge. 54% of students 12 and older reported being vaccinated - a low rate compared to other local school districts.

Jan. 25, 2022
8:45 a.m.
The World Health Organization is sounding the alarm over rising cases of a new omicron sub-variant. In an updated post to its website on Monday, the WHO said the new sub-variant, called BA.2, is a descendant of omicron, the now-dominant, highly contagious variant of the novel coronavirus. Unlike omicron, BA.2 is currently not considered a "variant of concern." But because it is spreading in many countries, the WHO is asking governments and scientists across the globe to monitor the situation and study the new sub-variant, as many have already been doing.

Jan. 24, 2022
9:10 a.m.
Conditions 'ideal' for more variants WHO warns
The head of the World Health Organization warned Monday that although people across the globe must learn to live with COVID-19 "for the foreseeable future," we cannot "give this virus a free ride."

"There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how the acute phase could end," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, said in opening remarks at an executive board meeting in Geneva. "But it's dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame."

"On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge," he added.

Jan. 21, 2022

11 a.m.
Santa Clara Co. offering free at-home antigen tests with signups

Santa Clara Co. is offering a limited number of free at-home COVID-19 antigen tests to those who live, work, or attend school in the county. You can sign up through to obtain four at-home tests.

Those able to secure an appointment may choose from one of the distribution locations for pick up at a chosen time. Each person will be assigned a unique QR code which must be displayed to receive the tests. Tests are not available on a drop-in basis without an appointment.

6 a.m.
2-year anniversary of 1st COVID case in US

Today marks two years since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S. It happened in Washington state and came just two weeks after the novel coronavirus was first identified in China.

Since that initial case, more than 68.5 million people have tested positive across the U.S. The infection has claimed more than 855,000 lives in the nation.

The pandemic has also impacted almost every aspect of American life since sweeping across the country soon after that first case two years ago.

Jan. 20, 2022

SF mayor, health officials give COVID-19 update on cases, hospitalizations due to omicron variant

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and SF Director of Public Health, Dr. Grant Colfax, spoke on Thursday about COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Mayor Breed started the news conference with some optimistic news: "Well, the good news is things are starting to plateau."
She said the city is still seeing additional cases and hospitalizations are still high, but "we have the capacity to handle what is coming our way."

San Francisco public health director Dr. Grant Colfax says San Francisco has seen COVID-19 cases drop "relatively rapidly in the city."
"We can now confidently say that we are on the beginning of a downward trajectory with regards to this search. Our latest data show that our cases peaked on January 9, with a seven day average of 2,164 cases per day and have steadily dropped each day since then to 1,705 cases per day on January 12."

"This is good news," he said.

Despite 82% of people in San Francisco being fully vaccinated, Mayor Breed sends a reminder that essential workers have been impacted by omicron. "A lot of our police officers, our firefighters, our Muni drivers, our Department of Public Health Workers and those at San Francisco General are out with omicron."

"The surge is not over yet," Dr. Colfax said. "Hospitalizations which trail the peak in cases will still continue to go up. Fortunately, for now, we expect to meet capacity within the healthcare system to take care of people both with COVID and with other health care needs in our hospitals. We are urging people to remain particularly vigilant for a little bit longer cases are still very high."

Full story here.

7:50 a.m.
SJPD hit hard with infections

San Jose's Police Department is being hit hard with COVID infections. The department is filling nearly 50 absences using voluntary overtime shifts.

Jan. 19, 2022
6:15 a.m.
Data shows fewer COVID cases in Bay Area

UC Berkeley researchers are seeing a decrease in COVID cases based on wastewater samples. Data from 2.5 million people shows fewer cases in San Francisco, Marin County, and the eastern portions of Contra Costa County.

Jan. 18, 2022

7:30 a.m.
Stanford to resume some in-person learning today

Stanford will resume some in-person learning today. All undergrad classes that can't be conducted online, like labs and art practice, will go back in-person and so will all graduate courses, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The rest of the other undergrad classes, like lectures, are scheduled to resume in-person on Monday.

Jan. 17, 2022

5 a.m.
US still waiting for omicron peak as cases skyrocket

The U.S. is still waiting for the omicron peak. COVID cases across the country are still skyrocketing, and hospitals are being pushed to the brink.

The CDC says the country is averaging more than 780,000 new cases a day.

As omicron continues to spread, more hospital staff are getting infected. Others are getting burnt out and leaving.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy says a national peak of omicron likely won't happen for weeks.

Jan. 14, 2022

Santa Clara County health officials discuss priority COVID testing

In a Friday news conference, Dr. Sara Cody says the county is showing decrease in the amount of omicron detected and but is currently seeing a rise in hospitalizations.

"So we know that in our community as in many places across the country, our current demand exceeds the supply of tests that we have," Dr. Cody said.

She addresses when you should you use an antigen test.

"Those are the ones that you can buy over the counter. Those tests are best used to quote test out early from isolation. So if you already know you have COVID and you're just wondering when am I no longer infectious? When am I no longer a risk to others? An antigen test is the best test to use there."

Dr. Cody says using an antigen test applies to people who already had COVID in the last 90 days who need to test again.

So when should you use a PCR? Dr. Cody says the PCR is still the optimal test. "If you have been exposed to somebody and you're wondering whether you're going to develop the infection however, an antigen test can also be used for that as well."

6 a.m.
Tentative agreement reached between SFUSD, union employees over safety

In San Francisco, a tentative agreement has been struck between the school district and several of its employee unions over COVID safety conditions. Last week, hundreds of San Francisco teachers called for a sickout to demand more on-the-job protections. The deal calls for the distribution of "high-quality face masks" such as N95s and KN95s to students and staff -- 73,000 are in the process of being distributed. The district will provide an additional 10 days of COVID sick leave for employees and weekly coronavirus testing will continue to be offered to students and staff.

Jan. 13, 2022
8:25 a.m.
SF cancels MLK march and parade

San Francisco's annual tribute to Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. has been canceled for 2022. The spike in COVID cases has shut down this year's MLK march and parade, which was scheduled to take place on Monday. Organizers say all indoor events will be moved online. The cancellation comes just days after organizers of the MLK Parade in Hayward said their event is being postponed.

Jan. 12, 2022
4:20 p.m.
Oakland Unified reaches tentative COVID-19 safety agreement with teacher's union

Oakland Unified School District has reached a tentative agreement with the Oakland Education Association Wednesday that focuses on improving COVID safety as well as compensation. The latest agreement includes a non-work wellness day offered to teachers on Jan. 14 and providing an extended sick leave for those who contract COVID or are quarantined by the District due to exposure, through the end of the year. OUSD say the district is actively engaging in negotiations with all other bargaining units and hopes to conclude such negotiations this week.

3 p.m.
Oakland to require proof of vaccination at some indoor businesses

The City of Oakland will require proof of vaccination for people 12 years and older to enter some indoor public locations, beginning Feb. 1. This includes all establishments where food or drink is served, entertainment venues, gyms, senior adult care facilities, City Hall and large indoor events. City officials say the vaccine card must be cross-checked with the individual's photo ID for those18 years and older. Patrons entitled to a qualified medical exemption must provide verification of their exemption and proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

6:55 a.m.
CDC plans to update mask guidance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it plans to update its mask guidance to "best reflect the multiple options available to people and the different levels of protection they provide."

In a statement provided to ABC on Wednesday, the agency said the goal is for Americans to have "the best and most updated information to choose what mask is right for them."

CDC would not say how soon it planned to update its online guidance, although one administration official said the goal was by week's end.

In the meantime, the CDC says, "CDC continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask, and we encourage Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

6:45 a.m.
Google offering employees free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests
Google is offering full-time employees free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, but according to a Google engineer, not everyone has the same access. The Chronicle spoke to that engineer, who is also a member of the Alphabet Workers Union. He describes access to COVID tests as "unequal" for the company's contingent workforce, including thousands of contractors and temporary workers. The company is saying something else. According to the Chronicle, a Google spokesperson said in an email the company has free, at-home, and in-person testing options available to employees as well as temps and vendors.

Jan. 11, 2022
11 p.m.
San Jose passes booster mandate for large events

You'll now need a booster shot to attend an event at San Jose's SAP Center. City council tonight approved a mandate that requires people to provide proof they had a booster shot in order to attend big events at city-owned facilities, including the SAP Center and the San Jose Convention Center. City staff tells us it goes into effect immediately. The new rule also applies to venue staff, and it requires city employees to get a booster, if eligible.

4 p.m.
Napa County's rate of new COVID cases highest since pandemic began, health official says

Napa County's rate of new COVID-19 cases is now the highest it has been since the pandemic began, the county's top health official said Tuesday. The county has confirmed as many as 866 cases in a seven-day period since the omicron variant arrived in Napa, Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning. That figure outpaces the county's previous one-week peak of 788 cases during last winter's surge. The county has also confirmed as many as 337 cases in one day, more than double the previous peak of 143 set roughly one year ago.

10:30 a.m.
San Francisco issues new testing guidelines for health care providers

New San Francisco guidelines require all large health care facilities to provide access to COVID-19 testing for people with symptoms and people who have been a close contact within 24 hours of a request from a member patient. Under the new order, the largest health systems will now be required to produce documentation twice a week to the SF Department of Public Health with proof of meeting patient testing needs in a timely manner.

The city also announced more support for SFUSD, including providing more masks for students and teachers, and adding to the District supply of rapid antigen tests to support educators who are in quarantine being able to test back into the classroom.

An average of 1,386 San Francisco residents a day are testing positive for COVID-19 at testing sites, which is more than four times that of last winter's peak at 373 cases per day.

5 a.m.
Hayward Unified returns to remote learning

Today the Hayward Unified School District is going back to remote learning for one week. More than 500 students have tested positive for COVID and there are fewer teachers available, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Making the switch to online learning means the district risks losing $2.5 million a day in funding. Students received Chromebooks yesterday. The district has set up learning hubs for students who need access to virtual learning from a school facility.

Jan. 10, 2022

5 p.m.
Sonoma Co. to temporarily ban large indoor, outdoor gatherings

Sonoma County health officials issued a temporary restriction Monday banning large gatherings as omicron variant spikes in the community. Large gatherings of more than 50 people indoors, or more than 100 people outdoors (where social distancing is not feasible), are prohibited for the duration of the order. The order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 12 until Feb. 11.

The county also issued an appeal to residents to stay home as much as possible for the next 30 days and limit interactions with those outside of their immediate household.

5 a.m.
West Contra Costa Co. Unified schools closed today

Schools in West Contra Costa Unified will be closed today because of the spike in omicron cases. When classes resume tomorrow all staff will be required to wear a medical grade KN-95 mask. Each person will be provided one new mask every week through the end of the school year. All schools got a deep cleaning on Friday. Students and staff are asked to get a COVID test before returning to class, although this is not a requirement.

Jan. 8, 2022

UC Berkeley to start semester remotely, plans to resume in-person learning Jan. 31

UC Berkeley announced it will begin the semester with most classes being offered remotely.
Some students and staff had expressed concern that Berkeley was the only University of California undergraduate campus not planning to offer virtual learning.
Remote classes will begin January 18, and plans to go full in-person instruction will resume on January 31.
You can read the university's statement here.

Campus update: UC Berkeley will begin spring semester with mostly remote instruction

— UC Berkeley (@UCBerkeley) January 8, 2022

Vallejo City Hall Closed until Feb. 28

Vallejo City Hall will be closed to the public until at least March because of a spike in COVID cases.
City Council, Board, and Commission meetings will still happen in-person for now.

City Council will consider switching to completely virtual meetings in its next session on Tuesday.
If you need to reach a certain department, it's taking virtual appointment meetings Mondays through Thursdays.
Drop boxes for bill payments are open.

Jan. 7, 2022

Hayward Unified to remote for 1 week

The Hayward Unified School District voted on Friday go back to remote learning for a week starting Monday.
The debate went on for several hours and the majority of the discussion and public comments focused not so much on whether to go back to distance learning, but if one week was actually too short.
There were several parents and even board members urging the kids be kept out of class for two weeks or even until the start of February.
The school board will revisit the decision and its next meeting and consider an extension for remote learning.

Gov. Gavin Newsom sends CA National Guard to help with state's COVID-19 testing capacity

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday he has sent the California National Guard to help communities throughout the state with additional testing sites as COVID-19 cases continue to grow.

In a statement by the governor, "the National Guard plan will deploy more than 200 Cal Guard members across 50 Optum Serve sites around the state, providing interim clinical staff while permanent staff are hired adding capacity for walk-ins, assisting with crowd control and back-filling for staff absences - all in an effort to conduct more tests for more Californians. "

The COVID-19 testing site in Antioch located at 4703 Lone Tree Way, Antioch, CA 94531, started receiving aid from the National Guard on Friday, the governor's office said.

"On Monday, the site will double the number of testing windows to four and double the number of appointments per day. The site is open Saturday from 11a.m. - 7p.m. Additional sites in Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties will also receive assistance from the National Guard beginning today and through the coming days."

Additional members of the national guard will be deployed next week in similar capacities.

"California has led the country's fight against COVID-19, implementing first-in-the-nation public health measures that have helped save tens of thousands of lives," said Governor Newsom in written statement. "We continue to support communities in their response to COVID by bolstering testing capacity."

The activation of the CA National Guard is on top of the additional 6,000 testing sites across the state as well as the nearly 10 million tests given to schools since early December, the governor said.

12 p.m.
CA reports more than 100,000 new COVID cases

The state of California released new coronavirus numbers on Friday. See the breakdown below:

103,606 new cases
5,634,357 total cases
292 new deaths
76,341 total deaths
7 day test positivity rate = 21.7%
9,279 hospitalized patients
(up 608)
1,500 icu patients
(up 70)

San Jose City Council set to approve booster mandate
Next week, San Jose's city council is set to approve an update to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. If approved, it would require people who visit city-owned facilities like SAP Center, where the Sharks play and the San Jose Convention Center to provide proof that they have received a booster vaccination. The proposal would also require city employees to get a booster, if eligible, or prove that they have received one.

VACCINE TRACKER: How California is doing, when you can get a coronavirus vaccine

Having trouble loading the tracker above? Click here to open it in a new window.


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