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Omicron in California: Officials Push Booster Shots to Stem Rise in Variant Cases 

“Yesterday, California reinstituted – in counties and in sections of the state where we don’t currently have any indoor masking requirement – a one-month masking requirement indoors in public settings. This is intended to lean in, as we all have for a long time in California, to keep our guard up in a period of uncertainty and unknown with Omicron,” said California Health & Human Services Agency’s Dr. Mark Ghaly. 

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California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris took to Twitter to calm Californians’ fears regarding the state’s response to this new variant. 
California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris took to Twitter to calm Californians’ fears regarding the state’s response to this new variant. 

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

As of Monday, there were 39 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in California, according to the California Department of Public Health. That number represents a 140% increase in new variant cases since Thanksgiving.

As authorities monitor and work to stem the spread of the new strand of COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to promote booster shots for eligible Californians: Adults 18 and older — or teens who are 17 or 16 – who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months.

Additionally, the state has reinstated mask mandates in several counties that have been without them during the pandemic.

“Yesterday, California reinstituted – in counties and in sections of the state where we don’t currently have any indoor masking requirement – a one-month masking requirement indoors in public settings. This is intended to lean in, as we all have for a long time in California, to keep our guard up in a period of uncertainty and unknown with Omicron,” said California Health & Human Services Agency’s Dr. Mark Ghaly.

“Requiring the indoor masking as California continues to learn more about Omicron gives us a chance to keep our guard up in a very purposeful and meaningful way during these critical weeks of celebration without needing to do what some other countries have had to do which is put further limitations on the things that we all miss,” Ghaly elaborated.

Ghaly says once the federal government approves the booster shot for children, the state will issue a vaccine mandate for students in the state, adding to other immunizations California requires.

At a recent press conference, Newsom said it is unlikely that there will be another lockdown due to the new variant.

According to the governor, the first confirmed case of the variant in California, which was reported in San Francisco two weeks ago, was someone who was not eligible for a vaccine booster shot. He expects the person to “fully recover.”

Across the United States, there are now over 43 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in at least 25 states.

Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci says the booster shot is the surest method to combat the threat of the Omicron variant.

“There’s every reason to believe that if you get vaccinated and boosted that you would have at least some degree of cross-protection,” Fauci said in reference to the variant.

Last week, Fauci said he expects the official definition of “fully vaccinated” to change from the current two-vaccination requirement to including the third booster shot. He said it’s a matter of “when, not if.”

On December 10, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a five-page report sharing the results of study that focused on the 43 people across the country who have contracted the Omicron variant.

Only one of them was hospitalized and most experienced mild symptoms like coughing or a runny nose. More than 75% of them were fully vaccinated and nearly 33% had received booster shots.

California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris took to Twitter to calm Californians’ fears regarding the state’s response to this new variant.

“While we are still learning about the Omicron variant, our focus remains on protection and prevention. Our best protection is getting vaccinated, wearing masks, getting tested if you have symptoms, and staying home if sick,” Burke Harris tweeted.

“When these four interventions are taken by all Californians, we help slow the spread of COVID-19 – including the Omicron variant”” her tweet continued.

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Alton Thomas Stiles

Booster Shot Required to Battle Omicron Variant Effectively, Gov. Newsom Says

“After our kids have enjoyed the holiday with family and friends … we want to make sure they come back in as good a shape as they left meaning we want to make sure that we are testing our kids and preparing them to come back to in-person instruction,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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@CaliforniaBlac2 @tommyofasgard @BlackPressUSA @NNPA_BlackPress @GavinNewsom @CaliforniaDep11
Omicron’s swift spread alarms experts who are encouraging Californians to get vaccine booster shots.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Last week, speaking at a press conference at the Native American Health Center in Oakland, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that Californians will have to take booster shots as the state adopts new COVID-19 measures to fight the Omicron variant.

He specified that California healthcare workers will be required to get booster shots by Feb. 1, 2022.

“There is nothing more important when we’re experiencing a surge in growth of case rates than protecting our frontline heroes and employees, and that’s why we led as the first state in the nation to require all healthcare workers to be vaccinated,” Newsom said.

He pointed out, “that led to extraordinarily high vaccination rates for our healthcare workers, kept staff working, kept the morale strong and kept their immunity strong. But we recognize now that just being vaccinated, fully vaccinated, is not enough with this new variant. We believe it is important to extend this requirement to getting that third dose.”

Newsom also announced that the state will be ordering 6 million free home tests for children in school.

The governor said the state is also ratcheting up its efforts to keep kids safe and schools open.

“We will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities by making at-home testing kits available to every K-12 public school student as they head back to the classroom from winter break,” Newsom continued.

At the press conference, Newsom made clear his intention to continue in-person schooling.

“After our kids have enjoyed the holiday with family and friends … we want to make sure they come back in as good a shape as they left meaning we want to make sure that we are testing our kids and preparing them to come back to in-person instruction,” Newsom said.

In addition, the governor announced that the state will be extending hours of operations for testing sites.

He said California has over 6,000 testing sites, about 30% of all the nation’s testing sites.

“California continues to lead,” Newsom said. “As of today, we have the lowest positivity rate in America.”

As of Sunday, December 26, California had a 5.4% test positivity rate for the last eight days. That number is up about 2.4% from the last week, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

“We continue to lead the nation in terms of administered doses of the vaccine and we continue to do more than most other states in promoting not only the safety and efficacy of our vaccines but promoting boosters,” he continued.

The CDPH reports that 78.9 % of all Californians have been vaccinated.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

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Advice

Despite Recent Storms, Expect Warmer, Drier Winter Weather

The last water year, which stretched from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, was among the driest ever recorded in California, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources. A year ago, just 12% of California was mired in extreme drought and 15% was drought free, according to data from the federal drought monitor. But as of Oct. 19, about 87% was experiencing at least extreme drought, with over 45% of the state in the most severe “exceptional” category. And no part of the Golden State is without drought.

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The winter storms across the state won’t have as much effect on long-term drought as once hoped, experts say.
The winter storms across the state won’t have as much effect on long-term drought as once hoped, experts say.

By Edward Henderson | California Black Media

In 1990, Tony! Toni! Toné!, the R&B trio from Oakland, released their hit song ‘It Never Rains in Southern California.’

For decades now, the words in the hook of that timeless R&B song have become a sort of a go-to jingle (or photo caption) for some proud Southern Californians. They use it to hype up their typically mild winter climate, playfully taunting East Coast or Midwestern family and friends — whether they are grilling outdoors for Thanksgiving or taking a selfie on a beach in the fall.

The “never rains” thing is an exaggeration for sure. On average, Southern California gets about 16 inches of rainfall each year. It is much less than the national annual average (about 38 inches), of course.

And if you were to look at the recent rain and snowstorms across the state over the last month, you would probably bet on wet, cold weather for the rest of winter.

But from now through March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is warning that a warmer and drier winter is ahead, not just for Southern California but for the greater part of the state – from the Mexican border all the way up to just above the Bay Area.

That region includes the top 10 counties, by population, where Black Americans live.

Less rain will worsen the already-serious drought conditions in California, especially near the southern border where it has been driest. About 85% of the state was facing drought in June, reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to NOAA, La Nina, an oceanic atmospheric pattern, is the cause of the anticipated dry and warm winter conditions.

However, the sparsely populated stretch of California that reaches up to the Oregon border is expected to get wetter and colder weather winter weather.

“The Southwest will certainly remain a region of concern as we anticipate below-normal precipitation where drought conditions continue in most areas,” said Jon Gottschalk, chief Operational Prediction Branch at the NOAA.

The outlook does not project seasonal snowfall accumulations as snow forecasts are not predictable more than a week in advance.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center updates the three-month outlook each month. Their latest seasonal precipitation outlook for the first three months of 2022 predict that Southern California will see a 40-50% chance that precipitation will be below normal. The seasonal temperature outlook remains the same.

Seasonal outlooks help communities prepare for what is likely to come in the months ahead and minimize weather’s impacts on lives and livelihoods. Their goal is to empower people with actionable forecasts and winter weather tips to build a nation that is ‘weather-ready.’

“Using the most up-to-date observing technologies and computer models, our dedicated forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center produce timely and accurate seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for the months ahead,” said Michael Farrar, Ph.D., director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

The last water year, which stretched from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, was among the driest ever recorded in California, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources. A year ago, just 12% of California was mired in extreme drought and 15% was drought free, according to data from the federal drought monitor. But as of Oct. 19, about 87% was experiencing at least extreme drought, with over 45% of the state in the most severe “exceptional” category. And no part of the Golden State is without drought.

The Center for Disease Control has outlined resources for communities preparing for potential droughts. Visit here for more information.

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Activism

Lecrae, Rapper with San Diego Ties, Shares Wealth-Building Ideas

Before knowing that his passion for financial education would grow into what he calls a “new-age Teen Summit” (referring to the early 1990s BET weekly show that dealt with issues facing young African Americans), Lecrae says he was working to expose those around him to the benefits of good money habits.

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Lecrae provides guidance on healthy spending habits in a series called “Protect the Bag.”
Lecrae provides guidance on healthy spending habits in a series called “Protect the Bag.”

By Kassidy Henson | California Black Media

Lecrae, a Grammy Award-winning Christian hip-hop artist, is on a mission to increase financial literacy among African Americans.

Growing up in a “marginalized” community in San Diego, Lecrae says he was exposed to incredible wealth and opportunity when he visited communities along the Pacific coastline or neighborhoods nestled in the hills overlooking the city.

But life was different in his predominantly Black neighborhood. Less possibility. Much more poverty.

“You begin to wonder ‘how do I acquire that?’ How do you change the narrative?” Lecrae told California Black Media.

“Returning to a community that faced marginalization, brutality and the effects of poverty was a reflection — excluded from the gleaming SoCal Hills.”

Recalling those childhood experiences, Lecrae — who now lives in Atlanta — said he decided to launch an effort to create opportunities for African Americans that would help to close the wealth gap between Blacks and whites.

Using his own production company, 3 Strands Films, Lecrae developed a short-form financial education show called “Protect the Bag.”

The six-part web series provides viewers with a “blueprint” for financial wellness by delving into topics like saving, retirement, investment, budgeting, and identity protection, according to the rapper who released a new album with fellow artist 1K Phew titled “No Church in a While” on December 3.

Lecrae, who won a Grammy for Best Gospel Album in 2012, says he hopes the show helps to restore stability and hope in a new generation of young Black people.

The concept for “Protect the Bag” was developed during the COVID-19 lockdown last year. During that time, Lacrae says he partnered with the credit scoring company Experian to come to the aid of 21 families facing foreclosure due to financial hardship.

“Protect the Bag” is a series of short, roundtable conversations. During each one, Lecrae explains the basics of building a financial legacy. In discussions with financial professionals, community members and guests like Denver Nuggets forward Michal Porter Jr., the panelists address obstacles to building wealth that large numbers of African Americans face.

By the end of each episode, Lecrae says his goal is to equip viewers with the knowledge, exposure and confidence to create better financial habits.

Before knowing that his passion for financial education would grow into what he calls a “new-age Teen Summit” (referring to the early 1990s BET weekly show that dealt with issues facing young African Americans), Lecrae says he was working to expose those around him to the benefits of good money habits.

A self-described “doer,” Lecrae explained that at his label he met with artists and hosted financial literacy classes exploring buying power, disparities in the stock market, and the value of the Black dollar.

“Those are all important pillars of good financial stewardship,” says the artist who joined other lecturers to teach a six week “pop-out course” at Stanford University.

“One of the struggles that we had in academia is that academics often speak through a backwards megaphone. They speak through the wide end. To them, the information is easy to grasp when it comes out the smaller side,” he said.

“How do we turn that megaphone around? How do we take these narrow concepts and make them more broad and applicable for everybody listening? How do we speak the language of the community and allow it to be less complicated than everyone makes it sound?”

Lecrae also talked about the many benefits that can be reaped when African Americans decide to invest in their communities.

“It creates a network. Like that old game, Barrel of Monkeys: when someone reaches down to give you a hand the next step is to reach your hand down to help the next person up,” he says. “This practice puts funds and resources back into the community, which is an essential part of a financially stable economy.”

Lecrae said young people should ditch the mindset that you only live once.

“You can really lose a movement over a moment. I think we chase pleasure over happiness. Think about what you want long-term because your decisions today can work to ensure that your 60-year-old self is living in a way that is liberated and free.”

New episodes of “Protect the Bag” are released each week on Lecrae’s YouTube channel.

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