Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that all Californians 50 and older will be eligible to be vaccinated on April 1, while everyone 16 and older will qualify two weeks later.
The governor also said that starting Thursday, the state will loosen requirements for doctors and other health care providers to use their discretion to vaccinate anyone they think should get one, regardless of age or medical condition.
The state expects a surge in supply next month: approximately 2.5 million first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccinations per week in the first half of April, and more than 3 million in the second half of the month.
That is a substantial increase from the 1.8 million doses the state receives per week. Health officials have long said supply was the biggest constraint and that the state has capacity to administer about 3 million vaccines per week and should be able to administer up to 4 million by the end of April.
As of Wednesday, California had administered 15.5 million doses. About 5.4 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Even with this expansion in eligibility and supply, it will take several months to vaccinate everyone who wants a vaccine, health officials warn.
—Ana B. Ibarra
Schools to reopen 5 days a week
For the first time in a year, Palo Alto Unified elementary school students will be able to return to school five days a week in person starting in April, Superintendent Don Austin announced on Tuesday evening.
His announcement followed several critical changes driving school reopenings. Santa Clara County moved into the state's orange tier of public health restrictions on Tuesday. The California Department of Public Health adopted over the weekend new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that halved the recommended spacing between masked students in classrooms from 6 to 3 feet, allowing schools to increase capacity. And in the district, 90% of employees are either fully vaccinated or have received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot, Austin said.
Third through fifth graders will return first on April 19 and kindergarten through second graders on April 26. This only applies to students who are already attending school for hybrid learning. Students in full distance learning will continue taking classes remotely for the rest of the school year. A handful of elementary classrooms have since February been piloting a five-days-a-week model.
Currently, about 600 students each are at Palo Alto and Gunn high schools each week, Austin said. He anticipates more students will be interested in coming back to school after spring break and in light of the county moving into the less-restrictive orange tier.
The principals of Palo Alto and Gunn high schools also announced Tuesday that, with Santa Clara County in the orange tier, they will again be open campuses starting this Wednesday, March 24. This means students will be allowed to leave campus during prep periods and lunch.
Police investigate spray-painted hate message
Police are investigating a spray-painted racial ephithet discovered in Heritage Park on March 21 as a hate crime. Officers found the blue spray paint in several areas of the downtown Palo Alto park, including the bark of a tree.
"Of most concern was a short sentence that included a racial epithet written in about 5-inch-tall letters on a concrete curb set in the ground that separates grass from dirt," police said in a statement on Tuesday.
The racial slur was directed at African Americans. On a nearby wall with decorative tiles, police found images of male genitalia. Two first names were also painted — one on the tile, one on the ground. Police also found 15 to 20 empty cans of alcohol that had been spray painted. They collected the discarded cap of a blue spray-paint can as evidence. A Public Works crew removed the paint, police said.
The crime likely occurred overnight from Saturday into Sunday, police said. Investigators don't have any suspects at this time. The department said the city will not tolerate hate crimes in the city toward any group.
"In the wake of recent national events and increased attention on hate crimes, the personnel of the Palo Alto Police Department continue to show their commitment to thoroughly investigating any reported hate crimes in Palo Alto," the department stated.
The city of Palo Alto strongly is encouraging members of the community to promptly report incidents like these by calling the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413, or 9-1-1 if it is an emergency.