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The California Department of Public Health has reportedly found a mutated version of the coronavirus. So Santa Clara County and the University of California San Francisco announced the L452R variant of COVID-19 was identified. It’s been in other countries and states and has apparently spread to several counties. The state is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local public health departments and others to understand more about it and why it spreads faster than other variants. The state Epidemiologist says it further cements the need for all Californians to wear masks and not to gather with those outside your immediate household. And for anyone who may have been exposed to the virus to isolate. The variant found in various clusters in Santa Clara County, and now in Humboldt, Lake, Los Angeles, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Luis Obispo counties.

Police in Fort Bragg have arrested a man they say was threatening another man with a gun. Police got a call last Wednesday to a couple fighting and yelling at another person, who says he was leaving a business and they confronted him. The victim told police he didn’t know the pair, they drove away while the victim was being questioned. The victim pointed them out to police who went after them, pulling over driver Jeremiah Rapp and passenger Stephanie Coatney Miller, both of Lake County. A records check showed Rapp was wanted on a felony warrant out of Marin County for Assault with a Deadly Weapon, False Imprisonment, and Intimidating a Victim. They say he claimed to be a member of both the “MS-13” and Sureños criminal street gangs. He challenged them to a fight, but then he surrendered and was arrested on several charges. He’s booked into Mendocino County Jail where he awaits extradition to Marin County.

Lake County’s Public Health Officer says it seems the steep post-holiday surge of cases of COVID-19 are leveling off, but there are still cases being identified, people being hospitalized, and 3 people died over the last week. There are also less ICU beds in the Northern Calif. region that includes both Lake and Mendocino Counties. The trigger is 15% or less capacity, where the entire RANCHO region is near. That could mean a new lockdown as the virus spreads across the state. Dr. Gary Pace says there are widespread vaccinations happening, but not nearly enough to meet the demand. Since Lake County started to get the vaccine about a month ago, they’re offered it to most in the tier 1A. The county trying to get more shots and hope to get tier 1B vaccinated this week. That includes teachers and school staff, and those over 65. The Public Health Dept. isn’t offering any public appointments as supply has been unpredictable and very limited notice is being given.

A man from Ukiah’s been arrested for car theft and doing it during a state of emergency. The Sheriff’s office reports Marco Antonio Alarcon Flores was seen in the Alexander Estates area last Wednesday after a dump trailer typically used at construction sites was stolen. Apparently one of those Ring doorbell cameras caught the whole thing. The video posted on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page which led to multiple tips. Alarcon Flores was found and interviewed, deputies then arrested him, and booked on $15,000 bail. But they say he got out on bail quickly. They’re also asking for the public’s help finding the trailer, which has still not been recovered.

The Mendocino County Public Health Officer responding to that massive turnout to get the vaccine last week at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. Dr. Andy Coren typically gives a public talk on what’s happening with the virus on Fridays. As we reported there was a mass turnout at the Fairgrounds after calls went out to those over 75 telling them they could get the vaccine. The public health dept. reports as many as 1,200 people got the vaccine. And nearly 6,000 people so far in the county have received the vaccine, not including those inoculated through hospitals, pharmacies or Indian Health Centers, about 10% of the population in the county. Coren says they’ve gotten many calls and they’re working to answer every call and email. They’re hiring more people at their call center and have put up a new vaccine webpage with the most up-to-date information about vaccination events. Eventually residents will be able to register to get the vaccine on the website.

That new coronavirus variant has been detected in the Bay Area. State health officials have connected clusters of outbreaks to the so-called L452R variant, this is not the one from the UK, but was linked to several outbreaks in Santa Clara County. Last year it was detected in other states and countries too. The Santa Clara County Public Health Officer says it shows the virus continues mutating and adapting and the need for everyone to follow all prevention measures and get vaccinated as soon as they are offered the vaccine. Another variant, the B.1.1.7 was first detected in the United Kingdom.

Another death linked to COVID19 has been reported in Mendocino County. On the Public Health Office coronavirus dashboard on Saturday, the 32nd death was posted along with several more cases of the virus. The public health dept. reports the death this time was a woman, over 68-years-old from the North Coast. They say she had been transferred to an out-of-county hospital and passed away there. There were nearly 40 more cases over the weekend, for a total so far of 3,114 positive cases in the county. The county reports vaccinating almost 6,000 people so far.

We could get some fire weather in January. The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning for higher elevations across Central and Northern California. The warning starts this afternoon for areas higher than 1,000 feet and says there could be damaging winds of 60-70 mph from Big Sur to the North Bay mountains. Forecasters have also issued a fire weather watch, pretty rare for this time of year. They do say however that since more rain is expected in the North Bay, there’s not as much of a risk. The main area of concern seems to be the Santa Cruz Mountains. There were also record breaking warm temperatures yesterday, not summer like, but still many places reaching into the low-mid 70’s, matching records set in 1920.

The unemployment claim fraud debacle is starting to crystallize. The state may have paid out as much as $10 billion in fake coronavirus unemployment claims, two times as much as previously thought. And some of the cash being sent to far flung places, like to Russia, China and other countries, as part of organized crime rings. The state Employment Development Department got swindled and until they found the fraud and put controls in place last fall, they say about 10% of all claims were not from unemployed Californians. Reports of people in 20 other countries collecting billions in benefits. The state has processed over 16 million claims since last March, sending $43 billion from a federal expedited assistance program for independent contractors, gig workers and the self-employed that was less secure.

The Lakeport Unified School District Board has met over Zoom and limited in person at the start of the new year. They discussed how to get back to in person learning. Students commented that the distance learning has been a struggle and brought ideas to the board. One student spoke as a representative of the California Association of Student Councils saying they should send out an anonymous survey to students to see how they’re faring with distance learning. She said that would allow student administrators to understand students’ mental health, their home environment, life workload and overall performance as compared to before times. The Superintendent of schools says they’re changing over to a different testing system and will start vaccines for those who want them, 40 people said no to the shots.

A man from Napa has been arrested on mass explosives and weapons charges. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office arrested 44-year-old Ian Benjamin Rogers who they say was in possession of illegal assault rifles, automatic weapons and explosives. He’s held on $5 million bail. Deputies armed with search warrants went to his home and business after getting a tip. They found over 50 guns (several unregistered and/or illegal), more than 15 thousand rounds of ammo and several pounds of gun powder. They found 5 pipe bombs in a safe at his place of business. He was arrested Friday and booked on multiple charges including possessing an assault weapon, possessing explosive materials, transporting an assault weapon and several misdemeanors.

The Governor and the LA Mayor are out with the word that Dodger stadium will be the next mass vaccine site. They hope to ramp up the site so it’s capable of administering 12,000 shots a day, even though it’s anybody’s guess as to when or how many more vaccine doses the state will get. The Gov. says they’ll be able to communicate more fully with the public after they get more information about why reserve doses of the vaccine were no longer available from the federal government, but in fact, were already sent out across the country. The Governor of Oregon and a US Senator from the state of Washington tweeted last week about the failure and frustration of getting more vaccine as promised.

The vaccine has been distributed to hundreds of Ukiah Unified School District employees. The Daily Journal reports the Covid-19 vaccinations were administered last Friday at one of at least two large events held in Ukiah. This one conducted at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center. The school superintendent says over 600 UUSD staff members will have received the vaccine, which was almost all their staff.  Adventist Health also announced walkins were available last Friday for those over 75 years old and for healthcare workers.  The Public Health Office reported getting almost 2,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, administering all but 900 were left. The county also got 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine, all of which were administered.

The state’s Epidemiologist says they had to dump some Moderna vaccines because they were causing an inordinate amount of allergic reactions. One lot number had a higher than usual number of reactions according to Dr. Erica Pan who recommended pausing the inoculations yesterday. Dr. Pan says that particular lot was at a vaccine clinic and less than 10 people needed medical attention. She says out of an extreme abundance of caution, while also acknowledging an extremely limited supply of vaccine, they were recommending providers use other available vaccine inventory and pause the administration of that Moderna Lot (041L20A) until there was an investigation by the CDC, FDA, Moderna and the state.

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