California still has only 39 known omicron infections, but that could change quickly — and what it portends is very much in question. Amid concerns about the omicron variant and rising case rates, a statewide mask mandate — with some exceptions — goes back into effect today for public spaces, regardless of your vaccination status. Here’s what’s changing. San Francisco offices and gyms where everyone is fully vaccinated will not need to return to masking after California on Tuesday granted last-minute exemptions from its face mask rule.
Apple delays return-to-office plans indefinitely: Citing ongoing pandemic concerns, including “rising cases in many parts of the world and the emergence of a new strain of the virus,” Apple announced on Wednesday that it is delaying the return of employees to the office indefinitely, according to a memo sent by chief executive Tim Cook and obtained by Bloomberg News. Cook said the staff return date is now “yet to be determined.” The company had previously asked employees to prepare to return to in-person work on Feb. 1. Apple will also provide employees $1,000 each to purchase office equipment for use in their homes. “These funds are intended to help you with your home workspace and can be used as you see fit,” Cook wrote. Google also delayed its mandatory office return to an unspecified date earlier this month.
Separately, Apple stores were closed in Miami, Annapolis, Md., and Ottawa due to COVID outbreaks, according to the New York Times.
Omicron cases in California continue to climb: The state reported 48 cases of the fast-spreading new variant on Wednesday, up from 39 the day before. In its daily coronavirus and COVID-19 update, the California Department of Public Health noted that the state has had 4,896,401 confirmed cases of the virus to date (of all variants, including the far more pervasive delta) and currently has an average daily case load of 5,499, averaged over the past week. The testing positivity rate is 2.3%. The department’s COVID-19 dashboard records 74,794 deaths so far in California and a partial vaccination rate for residents 5 years and over of just below 80%.
COVID infections in U.S. jump 40% in a month: New coronavirus cases in the United States are rising steadily, with a nationwide 7-day average of around 118,000 new cases each day, according to data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That marks a 40% increase since mid-November, with COVID-19 related hospital admissions rising by 44% in the same period. Seven-day death counts have fortunately risen at a far slower rate of 10.3%, the CDC says.
San Francisco expects a budget surplus despite COVID: Record high pension investment returns, a real estate tax windfall and federal aid contributed to an expected $108 million surplus for the next two fiscal years, despite the numerous strains on the city’s budget due to the coronavirus pandemic. The city also expects a lower four-year deficit of $149 million, less than prior estimates. Read the full story here.
Omicron variant grows 70 times faster than delta in laboratory study: The highly mutated coronavirus variant multiplied about 70 times more quickly than the original and delta strains of the coronavirus in bronchial tissue samples studied by researchers at the University of Hong Kong. The staggering rate of growth could explain the variant’s rapid spread in the United Kingdom, the Guardian reports. The researchers also found that omicron grows 10 times more slowly in lung tissue, which could be an indicator of less severe disease. But the report’s lead author …….