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COVID-19 cases rise a bit in El Dorado County

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — With California reopening this past week, coronavirus cases numbers have risen a bit in El Dorado County.

Officials on Monday reported 25 residents have contracted the virus over a three-day period, Saturday through Monday.

On Thursday and Friday of last week officials reported 15 new cases. Over the last five days there have been 40 new cases, which is eight per day.

Of the 25 new cases, just two are from the Lake Tahoe region. There were six assumed recoveries reported.

The total deaths remain at 116.

The county has had 10,396 residents contract the virus overall. There are about 140 active cases and there are no patients in the hospital due to COVID-19.

About 83,665 county residents have been fully vaccinated (43.3%) and another 96,220 (49.8%) have had at least one dose.

California drops workplace mask rule for vaccinated workers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California regulators on Thursday approved revised workplace pandemic rules that allow employees who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus the same freedoms as when they are off the job, including ending most mask requirements.

The revised regulations approved by the governor-appointed California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board come after weeks of confusion. The rules adopted in a 5-1 vote now conform with general state guidelines that took effect Tuesday by ending most mask rules for vaccinated people.

Gov. Gavin Newsom immediately issued an executive order waiving the usual 10-day legal review. The new rules will take effect as soon as they are filed with the secretary of state.

“I have a draft executive order ready to go immediately after they vote to make clarifications public and to provide more certainty,” the Democratic governor said.

The rules apply in almost every workplace in the state, including offices, factories and retailers.

They are intended to ensure that workers are protected while businesses resume normal or near-normal activity, Eric Berg, deputy chief of health for California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, told the board.

Business groups had sought the changes, arguing that rules for businesses should conform with state guidelines patterned after the latest federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

Board member Laura Stock, an occupational safety expert who cast the lone opposition vote, said that even though people are tired of restrictions, the pandemic is not over.

“This has real consequences that people can get sick and die due to exposure in the workplace,” Stock said.

She said the rules go too far by eliminating physical distancing and workplace partitions and allowing workers to self-report their vaccination status.

Mitch Steiger, a legislative advocate for the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, similarly objected that the measures “essentially pretend that the pandemic is over.”

The move comes after the board did a double-twisting backflip in recent weeks when it first postponed, then rejected, then adopted, then rescinded rules that would have allowed workers to forgo masks only if every employee in a room was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Fully vaccinated employees will not need to wear masks, except in locations like mass transit and classrooms, where they are required for everyone, or in the event of outbreaks.

Physical distancing also will end except for certain workers during major outbreaks. Vaccinated employees won’t need to be tested or quarantine unless they show symptoms, even if they have close contact with an infected person.

Employers must document that workers who skip masks indoors are indeed fully vaccinated. But employers have the choice of requiring workers to show proof of vaccination or allowing employees to self-report their status, with the employer keeping a record of who does the latter.

They also could decide to require everyone to remain masked — vaccinated or not. And vaccinated employees will still be able to wear masks if they choose without facing retaliation.

Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, said the rules don’t fully conform to the state’s other standards. Others argued that they still will cause confusion.

That’s because of the requirement that employers provide masks and keep track of employees’ vaccination status, record-keeping that he and others said could create liability and privacy issues.

“They do remain a significant barrier to fully reopening the economy,” Lapsley said.

Katie Hansen, senior legislative director for the California Restaurant Association, said it is unrealistic to expect unvaccinated employees to remain masked until emergency work rules expire early next year, while others generally drop their face coverings.

The California Chamber of Commerce took a milder approach, thanking Newsom for eliminating confusion by pledging to conform workplace rules with the state’s loosened pandemic precautions.

That includes immediately ending social distancing obligations instead of waiting until July 31, as Cal/OSHA had initially proposed.

The chamber also praised a rule change that will require employers to provide the most effective N95 masks for free to unvaccinated employees upon request.

But others objected that the rule still will require employers to stockpile masks and compete with health care workers, despite Newsom’s promise to provide a one-month supply of the masks.

There were 700 California workplace outbreaks and more than 10,000 infections in the last 30 days, Cal/OSHA’s Berg said, but he said the N95s are the best alternative as other protections wane.

Robert Moutrie, a chamber of commerce policy advocate, called the latest proposal a “measured step” that opens too quickly for some businesses and not quickly enough for others.

“But we do think that this is a good step in that direction,” Moutrie said.

With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

In this May 21 file photo, fans sit shoulder to shoulder in a vaccinated section of the stands during the fourth inning of a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in San Francisco. (AP Photo / D. Ross Cameron)

SAN FRANCISCO — California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic.

At the stroke of midnight, California lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions and ushered in what has been billed as the state’s “Grand Reopening.”

Starting Tuesday, there were no more state rules on social distancing, and no more limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums or anywhere else.

And masks — one of the most symbolic and fraught symbols of the pandemic — will no longer be mandated for vaccinated people in most settings, though businesses and counties can still require them.

Just in time for summer, California wants to send the message that life in the Golden State is getting much closer to normal. The economy is fully reopen for the first time in 15 months and people can largely return to pre-pandemic lifestyles.

Fans can cheer mask-less at Dodgers and Giants baseball games. Disneyland is throwing its doors open to all tourists after allowing just California residents since it opened in April. People can pack indoor bars and nightclubs from the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles to the Castro in San Francisco.

“With all due respect, eat your heart out, the rest of the United States. There is no state in America that has more,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said on the eve of the reopening. “The state is not just poised to recover, it’s poised to come roaring back.”

To mark the reopening, Newsom will make a few lucky residents millionaires. In a made-for-TV main event, the governor will draw 10 names of residents who have received at least one vaccine dose and award each one $1.5 million.

The drawing is the grand finale to the nation’s largest vaccine incentive, $116 million in COVID-19 lottery jackpots and cash card giveaways. Winners can collect the money once they’re fully vaccinated.

Tourism was among the hardest hit industries during the pandemic and now wants to make up for lost time.

“In terms of our incredible cities, our iconic attractions, the industry is ready to roll out the red carpet to visitors in California, around the nation and even the world,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California.

Pandemic highs and lows saw California go from being a success story to the U.S. epicenter of the virus. As the first in the country to impose a statewide shutdown in March 2020, California’s businesses were just starting to reopen last June when cases started rising and restrictions were imposed again.

By summer’s end, a darker reality set in as California hurtled toward a deadly winter surge. Shutdowns, curfews and harrowing images from overwhelmed hospitals became the norm as the state set new records almost daily for infection rates and staggering death tolls.

More people tested positive for the virus in California (3.8 million and counting) and more people died (63,000 plus) than anywhere else in the country, although the nation’s most populous state had a lower per capita death rate than most others.

California now has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country, below 1%. That dramatic drop in infections combined with an increasing number of vaccinated residents — over 70% of adults have had at least one dose — led Newsom to announce in April that most COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted June 15.

The reopening doesn’t necessarily mean people will immediately flock to places and events they once packed, or that businesses will opt to return to full capacity immediately. But a palpable feeling of anticipation has replaced the anxiety, frustration and sadness that ushered in summer 2020.

For Angie Barragan, who was born in Los Angeles and returned for a visit last week from her home in Las Vegas, so many once-normal things feel new, awkward and amazing: strolling in public without a mask, socializing for the first time in ages.

“It’s kind of learning how to be a human again,” she said as she shopped and strolled on the city’s historic Olvera Street, a restored Mexican marketplace once clogged with tourists. “But it’s great to be among people.”

The reopening doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, Newsom has repeatedly stressed as an explanation for retaining his statewide emergency declaration.

Some public health measures will stay for “mega events.” People attending indoor concerts, sporting events or other large gatherings for more than 5,000 people will have to show proof that they are vaccinated or have a recent negative COVID-19 test. Attendees at outdoor events with more than 10,000 people are “strongly encouraged” to do the same.

Fully vaccinated people will no longer be required to wear masks, including indoors, in most places. Those who are unvaccinated are expected to wear masks, but that won’t be enforced. Businesses have three choices: operate on an honor system; require customers to show proof of vaccination, or they can still require everyone to wear a mask.

Many question if the honor system will work, including the California Nurses Association, which said the new rules essentially call on businesses and essential workers to be the vaccination police.

“This is not a sound public health strategy,” said Sandy Rending, a president of the association, which is calling on residents to keep their masks on indoors and in crowds.

For now, masks will still be required in places like public transit, airports, health care and indoor school classes.

Some business owners have complained that ever-shifting mask rules are confounding, while heartily applauding the reopening.

“We’re excited — and a little confused,” said Tom La Torre, owner of Sabella & La Torre Restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, a tourist haven that transformed into a ghost town during the pandemic.

Until now, his restaurant was limited to 50% capacity. “That will be nice to fill the place up. However, we are still confused about the mask mandate.”

It’s also unclear if people will come.

For Rita Torres, a retired university administrator in Oakland, the last 15 months were “mind boggling.” She has missed dancing at live concerts and hugging her girlfriends at weekly happy hour outings. She’s embraced having groceries delivered, a practice she once considered frivolous. Tuesday’s reopening is, for her, just another day. She will venture out cautiously.

“Deep down I want to rejoice,” she said, but she’s going to take it slow. “Because it’s kind of like, is it too soon? Will we be sorry?”

JANUARY 2020

— The Orange County Health Care Agency reports California’s apparent first case of COVID-19, a man who had traveled to Wuhan, China.

FEBRUARY

— The Feb. 6 death of a a San Jose woman is the first known U.S. death from COVID-19.

— A California resident becomes the first confirmed non-travel related case, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— A Solano County woman becomes the first U.S. case involving community transmission, meaning she didn’t have any known contact through travel or with a known infected person.

MARCH

— The number of confirmed cases in California continues to increase. By month’s end, it will pass 7,000. As the caseload rises, Gov. Gavin Newsom declares a state of emergency. Several counties also declare local emergencies. On March 19, Newsom issues the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order, closing all nonessential businesses and restaurant dining. He writes President Trump to say that 25.5 million Californians could be infected within two months. While cases rose dramatically, they never come close to that level.

APRIL

— California’s death toll from the virus tops 1,000 and climbs throughout the month. Confirmed cases are around 40,000.

MAY

— The state has seen more than 50,000 infections but new cases and weekly death tolls fall for the first time. Newsom praises Californians for helping slow the infection rate. Following a decline in hospitalizations, Newsom announces new criteria allowing larger counties to reopen more of their economies if they have the virus adequately in check. Within a month nearly every county in the state is approved to reopen large segments of their economies.

JUNE-JULY

— Virus cases and hospitalizations rise across the state, leading Newsom to issue a mask order and renew some social distancing restrictions as infections spike. COVID-19 cases are now reported in every county in the state. In late July, California has a record daily total of cases, topping 400,000 and overtaking New York for the most cases in the country. More than 7,000 deaths have been recorded.

AUGUST

— Newsom says California is showing improvement in its fight against the virus, citing a lower number of confirmed new cases and a sharp dip in the hospitalization rate. Even so, by the end of the month California has the most confirmed virus cases in the nation at more than 700,000.

SEPTEMBER

— Infection rates fall to their lowest level of the pandemic and by late in the month hospitalizations have dropped to a level not seen since the first week of April. The state is closing in on 800,000 confirmed cases and more than 15,000 deaths. But the declines prompt officials to loosen restrictions in many counties, allowing more businesses to reopen.

OCTOBER

— California has been seeing several thousand new cases a day but by mid-month the number of deaths and hospitalizations drops. Some counties get state permission to ease restrictions. However, infections and hospitalizations begin to inch up again by the end of the month, with the deadly winter surge to come.

NOVEMBER

— Newsom attends a birthday dinner at the exclusive French Laundry with lobbyists. Photos show there are more people than recommended by state guidelines, sitting close together and without masks. Health officials plead with the public to stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday as hospitalizations rise. The governor orders almost all nonessential businesses to close. The state hits 1 million infections and more than 18,000 dead.

DECEMBER

— The crisis prompts Newsom to create a conditional stay-at-home order for different regions of the state based on ICU bed capacity. Vaccine shipments start arriving as hospitalizations and deaths rise. Hospitals treat patients in makeshift tents, auditoriums, anywhere they can find space. California hits a record 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Christmas Eve as nearly the entire state is under a strict stay-at-home order.

JANUARY 2021

— The new year starts on a grim note with funeral homes running out of space and 8,000 people in hard-hit Los Angeles County hospitalized. California hits 3 million cases and reports a one-day record of 764 COVID-19 recorded deaths, but the rate of new infections starts to fall. Newsom lifts the regional stay-at-home home orders.

— Newsom expands vaccine eligibility to the general public, starting with people 75 and older, and taps insurer Blue Shield to operate a new statewide vaccine delivery system.

FEBRUARY

— California surpasses 50,000 dead and the Federal Emergency Management Agency opens its first joint mass vaccination sites in LA and Oakland. San Francisco sues its own school board to reopen classrooms as the governor pushes to get kids back in school. In the U.S., a half-million people have died from the coronavirus.

MARCH

— New case rates continue to plummet but vaccine supply remains extremely tight. It’s clear residents are violating self-certified eligibility rules to get their shot at a confusing array of sites, including mass vaccination centers, pop-up clinics catering to the poor and pharmacies. Newsom announces that 40% of vaccine doses will go California’s hardest-hit neighborhoods. Disneyland announces it will open in April.

APRIL

— California reports the lowest average COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. Major League Baseball welcomes a limited number of fans back to outdoor stadiums. The governor announces that indoor concerts and sporting events will reopen with limited capacity April 15, the same day everyone 16 and older becomes eligible for vaccination. Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco begin welcoming students back into classes after more than a year of distance learning. The state sets a statewide reopening date of June 15.

MAY

— With continuing record-low cases, the governor aligns with CDC guidelines saying that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks outdoors unless in crowds. But he declines to adopt federal guidelines allowing fully vaccinated people to go mask-free in most indoor settings.

— State officials confirm on May 21 that they will drop social distancing and nearly all other restrictions when the state reopens June 15. More than 62,000 people are dead from the virus.

— With millions still unvaccinated, California announces it will give away the country’s largest pot of vaccine prize money — $116.5 million in lottery jackpots and cash cards — to tempt more people into getting shots before the state fully opens.

JUNE

— Most of California’s population is now living under the least restrictive COVID-19 guidelines. Out of 58 counties, all but three are in the lowest two of the state’s four color-coded tiers.

— On June 15, California fully reopened its economy. The color-coded tiers are dropped. Restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, and most other places can open without capacity limits or social distancing requirements. Fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear a mask in most places, although the unvaccinated must still mask up in public settings.

El Dorado remains orange; State expected to drop Blueprint next week

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — El Dorado County will remain in the orange tier until next week when the state plans to retire its Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

State officials announced Tuesday that six counties were moving to lesser restrictive tiers, but El Dorado remained where it has for several weeks.

Overall in the state, there are three counties still in the red “substantial” tier, 31 are in orange (moderate) and 24 are in yellow.

Just four new cases were reported by county officials on Tuesday with 17 assumed recoveries and no additional deaths (115).

More than 40% of the county is fully vaccinated, which is 78,330 out of approximately 193,098 total residents, and more than 48% have had at least one dose.

The state is expected to fully reopen on Tuesday, June 15, which means the Blueprint will no longer be in effect and capacity and social distancing restrictions will be lifted for most businesses and activities. Most sectors may resume operations in compliance with the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards, public health guidance, and other statewide agency guidelines and standards. Large-scale indoor events will have vaccination verification or pre-entry negative test requirements through Oct. 1.

The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on June 3 readopted Cal/OSHA’s revised COVID-19 prevention emergency temporary standards.

Last year, the board adopted health and safety standards to protect workers from COVID-19 but the standards did not consider vaccinations and required testing, quarantining, masking and more to protect workers.

The revised standards are the first update to Cal/OSHA’s temporary COVID-19 prevention requirements adopted in November 2020. The revised standards are expected to go into effect no later than June 15 with some provisions starting on July 31.

“The changes adopted by the board phase out physical distancing and make other adjustments to better align with the state’s June 15 goal to retire the Blueprint. Without these changes, the original standards would be in place until at least Oct. 2,” said an OSHA press release. “These restrictions are no longer required given today’s record low case rates and the fact that we’ve administered 37 million vaccines.”

When it comes to face coverings, when indoors, the revised standards said fully vaccinated workers without COVID-19 symptoms do not need to wear face coverings in a room where everyone else is fully vaccinated and not showing symptoms. However, where there is a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons in a room, all workers will continue to be required to wear a face covering.

Outdoors, fully vaccinated workers without symptoms do not need to wear face coverings. However, outdoor workers who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear a face covering when they are less than 6 feet away from another person.

As for physical distancing, the standards say employers can eliminate partitions/barriers for employees working indoors and at outdoor mega events if they provide respirators, such as N95s, to unvaccinated employees for voluntary use. After July 31, physical distancing and barriers are no longer required (except during outbreaks), but employers must provide all unvaccinated employees with N95s for voluntary use.

Employers are still required to maintain a written COVID-19 prevention program and must review the California Department of Public Health’s Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.

Fully vaccinated workers who do not have COVID-19 symptoms no longer need to be excluded from the workplace after a close contact.

COVID-19 prevention training must now include information on how the vaccine is effective at preventing the virus and protecting against both transmission and serious illness or death.

For more information, visit https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/ETS.html.

El Dorado County loses residents 2 to virus; Remains in orange tier

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Two El Dorado County residents on Thursday lost their battles with the coronavirus.

The residents, a man and woman both 65 years of age or older, lived in the greater Placerville area.

The county has lost 115 people to the virus and has had 10,311 cases overall, including eight new cases on Thursday, county officials announced. There were three people in the county’s two hospitals fighting the virus, all three were in intensive care.

The county this week remained in the orange “moderate” tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy while eight other counties moved to lesser restrictive tiers.

Four counties moved from red to orange including Nevada, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Solano and four moved from orange into yellow including Marin, Monterey, San Benito and Ventura. No counties moved to a more restrictive tier, none are in the purple (widespread) tier, four remain in the red (substantial) tier, 35 in the orange tier and 19 are in the yellow.

The county’s analytics across the board are all within the orange tier. The adjusted daily case rate is 4.0, the positivity rate is 2.5% and the health equity quartile positivity rate is 2.8%. To be in the yellow tier, the county needs to have less than two new cases per day, less than 2% positive tests for the entire county and less than 2.2% positive tests for health equity quartile.

The tier system is about to go by the wayside with California fully reopening on June 15.

According to county statistics, 39% of 193,098 residents (75,417) have been fully vaccinated with both doses while another 48% (92,076) have had at least one dose.

In California, there have been 3,686,689 confirmed total cases and 62,092 deaths.

California to offer $116M in coronavirus vaccine prize money

In this May 21 file photo, socially distanced people wait in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Providence Edwards Lifesciences vaccination site in Santa Ana, Calif. Provided
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

LOS ANGELES — California is giving away the country’s largest pot of vaccine prize money — $116.5 million — in an attempt to get millions more inoculated before the most populous U.S. state fully reopens next month.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced the prizes, which also include the nation’s highest single vaccine prize: $1.5 million. People who have already been vaccinated will be eligible.

“We’re putting aside more resources than any other state in America and we’re making available the largest prizes of any state in America for those that seek to get vaccinated,” Newsom said from a vaccination site in Los Angeles.

The state estimates about 12 million Californians 12 and older have not been vaccinated. About 63% of the 34 million eligible have gotten shots, though the pace has slowed markedly in recent weeks as infection rates have plummeted to record lows.

California’s reopening is pegged for June 15, and on that day a drawing will be held to award 10 vaccinated people the top prize. Newsom said he hopes the prizes will help the state ensure more than 70% of eligible people are vaccinated by the time the state reopens.

“This is all in an effort to incentivize and build momentum,” Newsom said.

Another 30 people will win $50,000 each, with those drawings starting June 4. Anyone 12 and older who has received at least one shot will be eligible. And the next 2 million people who get vaccinated will get $50 gift cards. Newsom said he hopes to give out all of those gift cards by June 15.

Ohio this week announced the first $1 million winner of its “Vax-a-Million” contest, as well as the first child to win a full college scholarship. Colorado and Oregon also offered $1 million prizes.

New York is raffling 50 full scholarships to children 12 to 17 to public universities and colleges in the state, selecting 10 winners each of the next five Wednesdays.

That California is turning to cash prizes to encourage vaccinations marks a major turnaround from earlier this year, when Californians clamored for shots, with some driving or waiting in line for hours to get one.

“Some Californians weren’t ready to get their COVID-19 vaccine on Day One, and that’s OK. This program is designed to encourage those who need extra support to get vaccinated and help keep California safe,” Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, director of the state’s department of public health, said in a statement.

Newsom’s office said the program would be aimed at reaching people in communities hardest hit by the pandemic — mainly low-income, Black and Latino people — though it wasn’t immediately clear how the money would be tailored to fit that goal.

California uses a “vaccine equity metric” to track vaccination progress that splits zip codes into four groups from least to most advantaged. Nearly half of people in the least advantaged neighborhoods still haven’t been vaccinated, according to the state.

By contrast, less than a quarter of people in the most advantaged areas haven’t been vaccinated.

Among all Latinos, 57% are not yet vaccinated. That’s the highest percentage of any racial or ethnic group. State figures show 40% of white Californians are not vaccinated.

Supervisors urge residents to direct mask wearing complaints to state

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors last week received some angry public comments regarding mask guidelines. Some pleaded for the county’s health officer to relax the guidelines of kids wearing masks at school and some told the supervisors to ditch the masks altogether, that they were performing COVID theater.

The board trying to change the narrative issued a press release in response saying the state determines the masks guidelines and restrictions and that those not happy with the rules should contact the Governor’s Office.

“There has been significant confusion among the public about the role of County Public Health and its breadth of decision-making abilities in this pandemic,” said Board Chair John Hidahl in the release “which has led to misdirected criticism at best and verbal and physical hostility at worst toward county employees who are simply acting at the direction of the state to help ensure the health and safety of our residents.”

Individual counties have always had the discretion to make more restrictive guidelines but not take a more lenient approach to safety measures, the release said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has set a June 15 deadline for the state to fully open its economy.

“From the beginning of this pandemic 15 months ago our county has followed the lead of the Governor’s Administration in all manner of COVID-19 restrictions and guidance,” he continued. “With a short-lived exception of a travel ban to the Tahoe Basin, we have never taken a more stringent approach to safeguarding the health of our public.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 13 announced recommendations that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in virtually any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. It also requires masks to be worn on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

California’s Health & Human Services Agency Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, on May 17 said the state won’t adopt the CDC’s new guidelines until June 15 for a number of reasons, including allowing more people to become fully vaccinated and providing businesses with ample time to prepare for the change.

“It’s important for the general public and specifically those demanding El Dorado County Public Health make masks optional in schools and other settings to understand we simply do not have the discretion to make those decisions,” Hidahl said. “Complaints, concerns and requests for such changes should be directed to the California Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Office where the decisions are being made.”

Tahoe Prosperity Center offering free masks, sanitizer to local businesses

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Tahoe Prosperity Center is offering free masks and hand sanitizer to local business owners based in El Dorado County thanks to a grant from the California Office of Emergency Services, and through joint efforts with the county and city of South Lake Tahoe.

The center has been leading the distribution efforts throughout the pandemic, giving PPE to local businesses. To date the center has distributed over 87,000 masks and 2,400 bottles of hand sanitizer.

With a holiday weekend and the summer season fast approaching, another very busy summer is anticipated. To replenish PPE supplies before the summer season kicks off, contact Chase Janvrin at chase@tahoeprosperity.org or 530-539-4774.

Virus claims 113th victim in El Dorado County

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The coronavirus claimed another life in El Dorado County on Friday and 10 new cases were also reported.

A Placerville-area man 65 years of age or older is the 113th resident to lose the battle with the virus.

Of the 10 new cases, three are from Lake Tahoe. There were 19 assumed recoveries and nobody is hospitalized in either of the county’s two hospitals.

The adjusted case rate of 8.5 is well above the orange tire of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy where the county currently resides.

The county has had 10,193 total cases and 9,753 recoveries, leaving about 327 active cases.

There are some appointments left for a first dose vaccination clinic from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, May 21, at Heavenly Mountain Resort’s California Lodge. People receiving shots should arrive 20 minutes prior to the appointment time.

The county’s public health office at 1360 Johnson Boulevard is administering vaccines from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Thursday’s and Fridays.

To make an appointment, visit https://myturn.ca.gov.

California governor proposes tax rebate as virus relief

Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses the crowd during a press conference held at Unity Council career center in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland on Monday, May 10, 2021. Provided / Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Millions of poor and middle-class Californians would get tax rebates of up to $1,100 under a proposal unveiled Monday by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, as part of a broader pandemic recovery plan made possible by an eye-popping $75 billion budget surplus.

Taxpayers making between $30,000 and $75,000 a year would get a $600 payment. Households making up to $75,000 with at least one child, including immigrants in the country illegally who file taxes, would get an extra $500 payment.

“We believe people are better suited than we are to make determinations for themselves on how best to use these dollars,” Newsom said during an event in Oakland to announce the plan.

The massive budget surplus is largely due to taxes paid by rich Californians who generally did well during the pandemic, and marks a major turnaround after officials last year said they feared a deficit of more than $50 billion.

The payments will total an estimated $8.1 billion, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance. The proposal also includes $5.2 billion to pay back rent and $2 billion for overdue utility bills for people who fell behind during the pandemic.

A law passed by voters in the 1970s requires the state to give some money back to taxpayers if the surplus hits a certain limit. The state estimates it will be $16 billion over that threshold. Newsom does not have to act immediately, but is choosing to do tax rebates now, Palmer said.

They are part of what Newsom is calling a $100 billion plan to boost the state’s economic recovery. He’ll be rolling out details of the plan all week ahead of releasing his revised state budget. The chairs of the state Senate and Assembly budget committees joined Newsom, indicating their support for a proposal that will go before overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature.

It comes as he faces a likely recall election later this year, and his Republican rivals quickly criticized the effort. Businessman John Cox, who campaigned alongside a bear last week for attention, accused Newsom of engaging in a publicity stunt.

“The governor’s got a lot of money to hand out. And of course, he’s worried about his own neck,” Cox said at a campaign event in Los Angeles.

He and Kevin Faulconer, another Republican candidate, both said a one-time infusion of cash wouldn’t solve California’s problems.

“Californians need permanent, real tax relief, not just one-time stimulus checks,” Faulconer, the former San Diego mayor, said in a statement.

It’s the second round of cash payments given by the state in response to the pandemic. Earlier this year, people making less than $30,000 got a $600 payment. Immigrants making up to $75,000 who file taxes, including those also living in the country illegally, also got the check. State officials chose a higher eligibility limit for those people because they didn’t get federal stimulus checks.

All combined, the state would spend $11.9 billion on direct cash payments.

Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting, the chamber’s budget chair, said the state has the ability to help the neediest people because of how well wealthier Californians did during the pandemic. The state’s budget relies heavily on personal income tax from high earners.

“That budget surplus is going right back to the most vulnerable Californians, the ones who need help the most,” he said.