STATE BOOSTS 'TEST AND TREAT' CAPACITY, URGES BOOSTER VACCINES: COVID-19 testing capacity will expand across the state in the coming weeks as public health officials aim to make it easier to access both testing and prescription treatments, state health officials said Wednesday. Read more below.
FDA APPROVES BOOSTERS FOR CHILDREN AGES 5-11: Children ages 5-11 are now eligible to receive a booster COVID-19 vaccine dose following the approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 17. Read more below.
FDA OKS FIRST NONPRESCRIPTION COVID TEST: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its approval Monday of the first nonprescription at-home COVID-19 test that also detects the flu. Read more below.
HEALTH OFFICERS URGE RETURN TO COVID PRECAUTIONS: Health officials in 11 counties urged residents across the greater Bay Area Friday to once again take COVID-19 precautions like masking as cases and hospitalizations rise across the region. Read more below.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY COVID CASES SURPASS HEIGHT OF DELTA SURGE: COVID-19 cases are rising again to higher levels than last summer's surge, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said May 10. Read the full story.
MOUNTAIN VIEW'S COVID VACCINATION SITE IS SHUTTING DOWN: For more than a year, the Mountain View Community Center has been a crucial outpost for providing COVID-19 vaccines in the north county. Now the plan is to shut it down later this month. Read the full story.
YOUR COVID-19 VACCINE QUESTIONS — ANSWERED: We've compiled a list of who can currently get vaccinated in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, plus answers to common questions and links to resources. Read the full Q&A.
COVID-19 TESTS AVAILABLE BY APPOINTMENT: Santa Clara County is operating appointment-only COVID-19 test sites on a rotating basis. View the full list.
COVID-19 testing capacity will expand across the state in the coming weeks as public health officials aimt to make it easier to access both testing and prescription treatments, state health officials said Wednesday.
The California Department of Public Health and OptumServe Federal Health Services plan to launch 146 "test and treat" sites that will allow those who test positive to consult with a health care expert and receive a prescription for antiviral medication like Paxlovid or molnupiravir, if necessary.
State officials said the test and treat sites will improve health care access for the state's uninsured residents and for those who live in areas that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
"Our goal is to help Californians recover if they get COVID-19 and ensure high-risk patients have access to treatments that can keep them out of the hospital," CDPH Director and state Public Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon said.
State officials have urged residents in recent weeks to test more often for the virus as COVID-19 cases have increased statewide, largely due to the omicron subvariant BA.2, which health experts have said is even more contagious than the original omicron variant that pushed cases to record highs during the state's winter surge.
Officials have also urged residents who completed their initial vaccination series at least five months ago to get a booster vaccine dose to bolster their immune response to the virus.
Those who are 50 and older, immunocompromised or who initially received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are also eligible for a second booster dose.
"Vaccines have saved tens of thousands of lives in California, and with COVID-19 still prevalent, we can't afford to let our guard down," said Gov. Gavin Newsom, who received his second booster Wednesday at a clinic in Bakersfield. "The best protection against serious illness and hospitalization is getting vaccinated and boosted."
According to a study published last month in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, COVID-19 vaccinations prevented an estimated 1.5 million cases, 72,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths through mid-October 2021.
According to state data, unvaccinated residents have been nearly five times more likely to contract the virus than those who are vaccinated and boosted, six-and-a-half times more likely to be hospitalized and nearly eight times more likely to die.
Californians are encouraged to visit the state's vaccination appointment scheduling tool, myturn.ca.gov, or call 833-422-4255 to determine where to get vaccinated.
Vaccination and testing information can also be obtained via a person's local health department.
Children ages 5-11 are now eligible to receive a booster COVID-19 vaccine dose following approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 17.
With the approval, all vaccine-eligible age groups are now also eligible for at least one booster vaccine dose. Kids ages 5-11 will become eligible for a booster if they completed their initial vaccination series at least five months prior.
Health experts have said that boosters are necessary to bolster a vaccinated person's immune response to the virus, as protection from the initial vaccine series wanes after four to six months.
"While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, the omicron wave has seen more kids getting sick with the disease and being hospitalized, and children may also experience longer term effects, even following initially mild disease," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said.
Federal regulators authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 last October after trial data found that the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was nearly 91% effective at preventing the virus among children in that age group.
That trial included roughly 3,100 children and found no serious side effects among those who received the vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID vaccine authorized for emergency use for children under age 16. Federal regulators have given their full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, marketed under the name Comirnaty, for people ages 16 and up.
As of May 17, 35% of children ages 5-11 in California have completed their initial vaccination series, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
Overall, 75.2% of California residents ages 5 and up have completed their first series.
"Vaccination continues to be the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 and its severe consequences, and it is safe," Califf said. "If your child is eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and has not yet received their primary series, getting them vaccinated can help protect them from the potentially severe consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its approval Monday of the first nonprescription at-home COVID-19 test that also detects the flu.
The test allows users to swab the inside of their nose and send the sample to the test's manufacturer, Labcorp, for analysis. In addition to influenza A and B and COVID-19, the test can also detect respiratory syncytial virus, more commonly called RSV.
Those who test positive for any of the viruses are subsequently contacted by a health care expert, according to the FDA.
"The rapid advances being made in consumer access to diagnostic tests, including the ability to collect your sample at home for flu and RSV without a prescription, brings us one step closer to tests for these viruses that could be performed entirely at home," said Dr. Jeff Shuren, the director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Labcorp Seasonal Respiratory Virus tests can be purchased online or in retail pharmacies and can be used by anyone ages 2 and up.
Health officials in 11 counties urged residents across the greater Bay Area Friday to once again take COVID-19 precautions like masking as cases and hospitalizations rise across the region.
Officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties said in a joint statement that the Bay Area now has one of the state's highest infection rates.
The current surge has been spurred by an extremely contagious subvariant, known as BA.2, of the already highly contagious omicron variant.
"If you've chosen not to wear a mask in indoor public places recently, now is a good time to start again," said Santa Clara County Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han said in a statement.
The health officials also called on those who have not yet gotten vaccinated to do so and urged people who test positive for the virus to seek over-the-counter medications like Paxlovid that reduce the risk of developing serious complications from the infection.
Even with one of the highest case rates in the state, the pure number of COVID-positive residents across the Bay Area is likely much higher than currently measured, according to the health officials, since rapid at-home tests are widely available and their results are generally not reported to local health departments and the state.
"There's a lot of COVID out there right now, so it's time to take more precautionary measures to protect yourself and your loved ones," Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli said.
Bay Area residents are encouraged to contact their health care provider or visit the website for their local public health department for information about the virus.
View an archive of previous updates here.