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A new rule says utility companies have to make sure all critical and vulnerable phone systems have 72 hrs of backup power. It comes after intentional power shutoffs by PG&E over a year ago. The state’s utility regulator, the Public Utilities Commission, voted unanimously there has to be backup battery requirements within a year and a half for landlines and internet phones. AT&T and Comcast have previously said backup power regulations would be expensive and wouldn’t necessarily work. The president of the commission said indeed it would be challenging but they’re more concerned about public safety, especially in communities at risk of being cut off during emergencies.

A law that went into effect on New Years days says state regulated health plans need better mental health coverage. They also have to follow nationally recognized clinical standards to decide which mental health and addiction treatments they’ll cover. So if someone needs rehab or mental health care of another sort they can decide how long and where a patient stays. The new regulations update an old statute in California. Previously there were only nine severe mental health illnesses and federal law has called for better coverage, but it’s not been outlined in a detailed fashion. There are those against the new law, mostly insurers and the Chamber of Commerce who say it’ll be too costly.

More unemployment claims are compiling in the state. Another 132,800 initial claims for unemployment were filed for the week ending Feb. 6th, nearly 24,000 more than a week before. But unemployment claims are down across the nation. The claims were off 19,000 from the previous week. The new data has California with 16% of all of the jobless claims filed across the country. For almost a year the state has had over 100,000 claims.

The Lake County Public Health office says it looks like cases of COVID-19 are coming down finally. Dr. Gary Pace says they’ve been seeing mostly positive trends in case rates and testing positivity, but the virus is still widespread. Pace reported as of yesterday, over 2,940 cases and 36 deaths. There are 5 people in the hospital. The variant in Calif. now the L452R was detected in the county. They’re doing surveillance testing across the state to see where else it might be. Out of 40 samples, Dr. Pace says nine had the strain in Lake County. And Pace says there will be vaccination clinics coming next week. The drive thru sites will be in Lakeport on Mondays and Tuesdays, and in Clearlake on Thursdays and Fridays.

A new ad hoc committee has been put together in Lake County for vaccine equity. Dr. Gary Pace, the county’s public health officer says the state’s been providing guidance on what tiers should get inoculated first, which should be balanced he says, emphasizing those in “disproportionately impacted communities, settings and populations.” Across the country, and in Lake County, Latino and Native American populations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Dr. Pace says agricultural workers should also be a priority. The COVID-19 Ethics Ad Hoc Committee is made up of strong advocates from the Latino and Native American communities, business and agriculture, hospital and primary care medicine, and one “at-large” representative. They had their first meeting this week.

Congressman Mike Thompson is the Chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. He has voted to advance a new COVID19 rescue measure through the Ways and Means Committee which includes another round of direct payments to Americans. This one for $1,400. Thompson says the pandemic continues to hurt working families and small businesses, so they have to do everything they can to help. Some of the other provisions include extending unemployment benefits, more tax credits, affordable and accessible health coverage, protecting residents of nursing homes and helping vulnerable children, workers and families continuing to struggle to make ends meet.

State Senator Mike McGuire will continue as the assistant majority leader for that legislative body. Senate President Toni Atkins nominated McGuire again. He’s had the position for two years. He thanked President Atkins saying he’s grateful to lead during one of the most difficult times in the state and country, due to the pandemic. He’s also the chair of the Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee and vice chair of the Democratic Caucus. He also serves on several committees in the Senate including Budget and Fiscal Review, Environmental Protection and Energy, a Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response, Education, plus he’s also the Chair of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The Ukiah School’s Superintendent has put out a letter to families saying how excited she is that in person learning will begin again. The Superintendent says the Ukiah Unified COVID Safety Plan was approved by both Mendocino County Public Health and California Safe Schools since the coronavirus case rate in the county is below 25 positive cases per 100,000 population. So school for TK – 2, and Special Day Classes, Grade 5 at Eagle Peak, and Grade 6 at Pomolita are opening Tuesday. She says school sites will be in touch with families with more details. The following week will be 3rd – 6th grade. But grades 7 – 12 have to wait until the county is in the Red Tier.  Kids have to wear a mask, they will continue strict social distancing and hand hygiene and ask families to continue screening at home for any symptoms and stay home and get tested if you experience any.

A local restaurant in Ukiah is closed due to a family member of an employee testing positive for COVID19. The restaurant called, The Office, is closed until all staffers are tested, they say, to err on the side of caution. They will reopen after all tests are back and they do a fogging and deep cleaning of the restaurant. Their social media post also said they’re do their best to call anyone who had Valentine’s Day reservations.

A man accused in a triple homicide in Humboldt County has been arrested in Utah. The Sheriff’s Office reports 18-year-old Mauricio Eduardo Johnson of Loleta was busted over state lines and will be held on no bail on homicide charges for the Bear River incident. The Sheriff’s office reported two cars connected to Johnson were thought to be in the State of Utah so they called the Utah Highway Patrol and the Tooele (Too-ill-uh) County Sheriff’s Office to try to capture Johnson, which they did. They found him with a woman too, there was a short chase. Johnson and Von Eric Keener were arrested, Johnson on murder and Keener on a parole violation. The woman was detained with possible charges coming.

If you’d like to get the COVID19 vaccine and you’re in an eligible tier, CVS is now doing the vaccines. Those eligible in Mendocino County can get inoculated at a CVS Pharmacy by going to CVS.com. The two eligible groups are those 65 years of age or older and health care workers. They have both the approved vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, you’ll need two doses of either, about 3-4 weeks apart. You cannot mix and match the shots.

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