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Overland to give away more beef, joins ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Overland Meat & Seafood Company plans to host another community beef giveaway for those in the community struggling to put food on the table this holiday season.

The giveaway starts at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14, and continues while supplies last. Free ground beef is given away on a first-come, first-served basis and is available for any individual or family in need. The giveaway is intended to help alleviate hunger in the community.

During Overland’s last giveaway in late October of this year, they gave away over 1,400 pounds of beef along with taco kits.

“Looking around, there are so many people in the community who are hurting right now,” says Overland Owner Brian Cohen. “I am excited to take part in helping the community.”

He said that he is fortunate to remain open during these times, and wants to help those who are struggling. He said his crew is working hard to prepare the inventory for Monday’s giveaway.

While Cohen originally had the giveaway planned for the beginning of 2021, he decided to have it early for the holidays after seeing so many in need. After Monday, Cohen says he won’t be able to do another giveaway for a while because Overland gets busy as the holidays get closer.

Not only is Cohen planning the beef giveaway, but has also joined forces with Luca Genasci, owner of Lake Tahoe AleWorX, to be part of his “Pay it Forward” initiative.

Genasci is opening a $100 tab at a different local restaurant everyday in the month of December. Any individual in-need can go eat on the AleWorX tab until the balance is gone. Cohen has decided to do the same.

On Dec. 8, Cohen opened a tab at Margaritas Mexican Restaurant and on Dec. 9 will be opening another at Gastromaniac Homemade Pasta & Pizza.

“If people come in and use it, great — but if it’s not spent, it goes to a local business that is hurting,” says Cohen. “I really hope to get others on board.”

Cohen said this is all about helping out the community and feeding Lake Tahoe, which he and his wife, Kim, are incredibly passionate about.

AleWorX and Overland are looking for people in the community who are fortunate enough to help join in support for the community.

“People in the community are going hungry,” he said. “We are looking for others to help pay it forward.”

California releases smartphone virus tool as cases soar

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a voluntary smartphone tool to alert people of possible coronavirus exposure as cases soar higher, new restrictions are imposed and many people still say they won’t heed the pleas to stay home.

The tool — which has been used on a pilot basis on some state university campuses — doesn’t track people’s identities or locations but uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of each other for at least 15 minutes, officials said.

California’s 40 million residents can opt in to the system starting Thursday. When someone who has activated the technology tests positive for the virus, that person will receive a verification code from state health officials that can be used to send an anonymous alert to other users who may have been exposed over the past 14 days.

“The more people that participate in it, the more that opt in, the more effective this program can be,” Newsom told reporters. “We are hoping there will be enough to make this meaningful.”

The technology comes as coronavirus cases are exploding in California and more than 80% of the state’s residents are under orders not to leave their homes for at least the next three weeks except for essential purposes. Sixteen other states, plus Guam and Washington, D.C., have already made available the system co-created by Apple and Google, though most residents of those places aren’t using it.

Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at University of California, Irvine, questioned how many residents would opt in due to privacy concerns and the value of the tool if they don’t.

He said people may find themselves paralyzed by a flood of information and it isn’t clear what they’ll do with it — especially if they take a coronavirus test after getting an alert and wind up negative, only to receive another alert.

“In a purely epidemiological perspective, uptake is everything. If about 10% of people do it, it’s useless,” he said. “Even if it does get takers. It’s still unproven. Because then, what do you do?””

Over the past two weeks, California has reported a quarter of a million positive virus cases. The 7-day average for new virus cases on Monday neared 22,000, a 50% increase over the prior week, state data shows.

More than 10,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including more than 2,300 in intensive care, Newsom said.

The state’s 400 hospitals are at about 80% capacity but there are hospitals in San Diego, Imperial, and Los Angeles counties with intensive care units that are full, said Carmela Coyle, president of the California Hospital Association. Hospitals are limited by staff shortages following a spike in virus cases around Halloween, she said.

“These numbers do not yet include the Thanksgiving holiday, and the gathering of families just a week or so ago so. We do expect that this will get far worse before it gets better,” she said.

Newsom’s administration issued the stay-at-home rules closing restaurant dining, salons and playgrounds in Southern California and a large swath of the state’s Central Valley agricultural region after more than 85% of beds in intensive care units were occupied in those regions. Five San Francisco Bay Area counties voluntarily joined the rules over ICU capacity concerns. Those restrictions will last until Jan. 4, a week longer than the state’s timeline.

Ten months into the pandemic, most of the state is now back to where it started with the stay-at-home rules. But unlike in March, when the pandemic was in its infancy and California was the first state to impose such rules, fewer people are likely to obey them.

Some business owners said they would keep their doors open and several law enforcement agencies say they won’t enforce the rules and are counting on people to voluntarily wear masks and practice physical distancing to protect themselves and their families.

Lu Garcia Reynoso, who owns a Southern California barbershop, told the Press-Enterprise he’ll stay open. She’s concerned salons may move underground to avoid being detected.

The recent rise in coronavirus infections began in October and is being blamed largely on people ignoring safety measures and socializing with others.

Under the new stay-at-home rules, retailers including supermarkets and shopping centers can operate with 20% capacity while restaurant dining and hair and nail salons must close.

Schools that are currently open can continue providing in-person instruction.

But Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest, on Monday announced the suspension of all school-based instructional and childcare programs and conditioning programs for student athletes due to the record number of virus cases.

Starting on Thursday, Californians will be able to activate the new “exposure notification” tool in their iPhone settings or on Android phones by downloading the CA Notify app from the Google Play store. Many residents will get a notification inviting them to participate.

Officials said the encounters are temporarily logged in a way that doesn’t reveal a person’s identity or geographic location.

El Dorado County holding above trigger for stay home order

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Great Sacramento Region, which includes El Dorado County, so far is holding above the level that will trigger the governor’s stay home order.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the intensive care unit capacity in the region is at 20.3%

On Thursday, Dec. 3, Newsom announced a stay home order that goes into effect in regions where there is less than 15% ICU capacity left in hospitals due to coronavirus cases.

The Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions have dipped well below the 15%, at 10.9% and 6.3%, respectively, and are under further restrictions. Five San Francisco Bay Area counties voluntarily joined the rules, saying they didn’t want to wait until their ICU capacity dropped too low to take action. The Bay Area region is at 25.7%.

The Greater Sacramento region also includes Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.

When regions drop below 15%, they have 24 hours to implement the stay at home order. Once a region has dipped under the threshold, they have to remain there for three weeks. Counties are eligible to come off the regional stay at home order after three weeks if their hospital ICU capacity projected four weeks out reaches 15%. 

Newsom also went on to say that the state is preparing to receive 2.16 million Moderna vaccine doses in December. The state put in their first order Friday, a part of the initial 327,000 doses in the first phase. He said the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee will meet this week to determine Phase 1B allocation.

California’s new daily case average as of Monday is 21,924. Hospitalizations are up 72% in the last two weeks and residents in intensive care are up 69% during that same time period. The average test positivity rate is 8.4%.

“We are at a pivotal moment in our fight against COVID,” Newsom said on Twitter. “Wear a mask. Be careful.”

In any region that triggers a stay home order, all operations in the following sectors must be closed:

  • Indoor and Outdoor Playgrounds
  • Indoor Recreational Facilities
  • Hair Salons and Barbershops
  • Personal Care Services
  • Museums, Zoos, and Aquariums
  • Movie Theaters
  • Wineries
  • Bars, Breweries and Distilleries
  • Family Entertainment Centers
  • Cardrooms and Satellite Wagering
  • Limited Services
  • Live Audience Sports
  • Amusement Parks

The following sectors will have additional modifications in addition to 100% masking and physical distancing:

  • Outdoor Recreational Facilities: Allow outdoor operation only without any food, drink or alcohol sales. Additionally, overnight stays at campgrounds will not be permitted.
  • Retail: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
  • Shopping Centers: Allow indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
  • Hotels and Lodging: Allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.
  • Restaurants: Allow only for take-out or pick-up.
  • Offices: Allow remote only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible.
  • Places of Worship: Allow outdoor services only.
  • Entertainment Production including Professional Sports: Allow operation without live audiences. Additionally, testing protocol and “bubbles” are highly encouraged.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that counties may individually come off the stay home order list if their ICU numbers allow.

Douglas County public libraries pause browsing hours due to COVID-19

ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — In response to the increase in local COVID-19 transmission and Gov. Steve Sisolak’s statewide pause for Nevada, and to protect the health and safety of the public and staff, the Douglas County Public Library buildings will be closed to the public for browsing beginning Monday, Dec. 7 until further notice.

Curbside pick-up will continue to be provided at the Minden Branch, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and at the Lake Tahoe Branch on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Request library items through the library’s online catalog: catalog.douglas.lib.nv.us or by calling the library at 775-782-9841 (Minden) or 775-588-6411 (Zephyr Cove). The items will be collected and brought to the car.  Reference and information services by phone will also be available during those hours.  To get a library card or ask questions about your account, call the library or send an email to info@douglas.lib.nv.us.

All outside book drops throughout Douglas County are open and will remain open for patrons to return items. The library does not charge late fees on overdue items. Due to increased safety measures, all returned items will be quarantined for seven days and sanitized prior to check-in. Allow at least one week for returned items to be removed from the library account. Any questions about accounts can be emailed to info@douglas.lib.nv.us.

Patrons are also encouraged to take advantage of the library’s many online resources and downloadable content available through the library’s website: library.douglascountynv.gov

The Minden Library is located at 1625 Library Lane. The Zephyr Cove Library is located at 233 Warrior Way.  

for more information, visit library.douglascountynv.gov or call 775-782-9841. 

Douglas County schools release coronavirus data

While on the front line in the classroom, Douglas County’s 618 educators are in the second tier for coronavirus vaccinations when they are approved.

On Thursday, the Douglas County School District released a chart characterizing the virus’ impact so far this semester.

A total of 76 students and 30 staff members have been infected by the virus since school opened in August.

Of those, 27 students and a dozen staff members were actively infected with the virus as of Wednesday. 

Most of the district’s cases were at its largest school, Douglas High, which had 33 of its 1,418 students infected over the semester. Nine staffers were reported to have had the disease.

Carson Valley’s two middle schools experienced eight cases each among students, while Meneley Elementary had a half-dozen cases.

A total average of less than 2% of the staff and students in the district have been reported to have the disease.

On Thursday, Superintendent Keith Lewis indicated 11 presumptive positive coronavirus cases will affect individuals at ASPIRE, Whittell and Douglas high schools, as well as Carson Valley, Pau-Wa-Lu middle schools and Gardnerville and Scarselli elementary schools. 

While vaccinations have yet to be approved, the first in line to get those shots are on the front lines in the coronavirus battles.

While a vaccine is not currently approved for use, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services is on standby and prepared to distribute the state’s initial allocation and has developed priorities for immunization focusing first on Nevada’s essential health care providers. 

Two vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are showing promising results and have filed for emergency use authorization with the Food and Drug Administration, according to the state.

Nevada’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Playbook for Statewide Operations was submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Oct. 16 by the Nevada State Immunization Program and since that time the playbook has been updated as more information is received from the CDC and the FDA related to the release of a vaccine. 

According to the plan, 154,503 critical infrastructure workers are in the top tier for receiving the double shot currently in the works. Those include medical, corrections and law enforcement and public safety personnel.

Military, teachers, transportation workers, farmers, essential retail workers are in the second tier.

The third tier includes more than 1.8 million Nevadans who are or might be at risk from the virus and the fourth includes 620,035 healthy adults.

From Afghanistan to Tahoe: 2 women open business to support artisans from around world

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After meeting halfway around the world, two women returned to South Lake Tahoe to start a business in the midst of a pandemic.

Shayna Dorris grew up in South Lake Tahoe, graduating from South Tahoe High in 1996. She got a job with the Department of Defense which took her all over the world, including Afghanistan.

Bridget Collins grew up in Pennsylvania, then moved to Washington D.C. Her job with the Department of Defense also took her to Afghanistan where the two met while working together on an audit.

“We were battle buddies for the entire time, pretty much attached at the hip and going nowhere without one another,” Collins said.

On days off, the two would go to the local market where they met one female stall owner.

“She was so proud of the fact that she was like the only female vendor there and she had some beautiful things,” Collins said.

The two loved talking to locals and buying their handmade goods. Dorris continued to travel around meeting local artisans and together they traveled to Morocco to do the same.

After leaving the government, the two “went all in” together on a new business, Ginger Threads Collections. In March 2020, as stay-at-home orders were coming down, they launched their online business, then in July they opened their store front in South Lake Tahoe.

The store features items, such as jewelry, scarves and clothing, from around the world, all of which are handmade or made in factories that treat workers well and pay them fair wages.

“The quality of the jewelry and accessories and the clothing is great to start with because usually more care is put into it because it is something that’s handmade or the companies that do have the factory operations,” Dorris said. “They’re very hands on to make sure that it’s a quality product because they know it’s gonna cost a lot more because they’re paying the people fair wages and they’re using better eco-conscious material for that.”

The two women are incredibly passionate when it comes to talking about the artisans they are displaying like the necklace of bullet casings made by Ethopian women.

“Everything they make is to give women the opportunity that were in situations where they’re trafficked or weren’t able to make living wages or couldn’t provide education and food for their children,” Dorris said. “They can do that now because they make sure that they have skill sets where they can make beautiful jewelry and still get paid what they should be paid for what they’re doing.”

Every single item in the store has a story and Shayna, who says she likes to talk a lot, loves to tell every story to anyone who walks in. For people who aren’t in the mood to chat, they have signs around the store telling the story and directing customers to that artisan’s website.

“I say, ‘go on, join the website. Please check them out. We don’t carry everything they have by any means, this is only a sampling of what they offer, and it’s all beautiful stuff, and it supports a really great company,” Dorris said.

When coming up for the name of the store, Collins threw out the name Ginger Threads and Dorris immediately loved it since that was her mom’s name.

Ginger passed away in 2002 but she instilled a life-long lesson of sustainability. A picture of her next to her story is on the counter for everyone to see.

“What we’re doing is because of the way she lived and what she was about so that’s kind of a way to carry on her spirit,” Dorris said. “It makes me happy every time I see that sign when I walk in the front door.”

Opening a store during a pandemic is a challenge but the two women have done a great job, not only providing security for their artisans but also providing customers with a safe shopping environment. Customers can make appointments to come shop so they can have the store to themselves and feel safe.

And of course, they also have the website where they launch a new collection every week.

To learn more about them and the stories of the products, visit www.gingerthreadscollections.com.

California on brink: Virus rages, closures imminent

SAN FRANCISCO — Much of California is on the brink of sweeping new restrictions on businesses and activities, a desperate attempt to slow the frighteningly rapid escalation of coronavirus cases that threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

With a new lockdown looming, many rushed out to supermarkets Saturday and lined up outside salons to squeeze in a haircut before the orders in some areas take effect on Sunday.

Five San Francisco Bay Area counties imposed a new stay-at-home order for their residents that will take effect Sunday. Southern California and a large swath of the central portion of the state could join this weekend.

Those two regions have seen their intensive care unit capacity fall below the 15% threshold that under a new state stay-at-home order will trigger new restrictions barring all on-site restaurant dining and close hair and nail salons, movie theaters and many other businesses, as well as museums and playgrounds.

If their capacity remains below that level when the data is updated Saturday, the closures will take effect Sunday and stay in effect at least three weeks.

In San Francisco, resident Michael Duranceau rushed to a market to prepare for the new closures.

“I’m just stocking up before Sunday — the basics, bread, eggs,” he told KGO-TV, clutching a heavy grocery bag and a baguette.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new plan Thursday. It is the most restrictive order since he imposed the country’s first statewide stay-at-home rule in March.

The new order divides the state into five regions and uses ICU capacity as the trigger for closures. Newsom also says people may not congregate with anyone outside their household and must always wear masks when they go outside.

As of Friday night, the 11-county Southern California region had only 13.1% of its ICU beds available, the California Department of Public Health reported. The figure was 14.1% for the San Joaquin Valley region, composed of a dozen counties in the agricultural Central Valley and rural areas of the Sierra Nevada.

The other three regions — Greater Sacramento, Northern California and San Francisco Bay Area — were all around 21%.

But health officers in five of the Bay Area’s 11 counties didn’t wait. On Friday, they adopted the state’s stay-at-home order. The changes begin to take effect Sunday night in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, as well as the city of Berkeley.

“We don’t think we can wait for the state’s new restrictions to go into effect. … This is an emergency,” Contra Costa Health Officer Chris Farnitano said.

“Our biggest fear all along — that we won’t have a bed for you or your mother or your grandmother or grandfather when they get sick — is the reality we’ll be facing unless we slow the spread,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said.

The Bay Area order will last at least through Jan. 4, a week longer than the state’s timeline, and came as the state recorded another daily record number of new cases with 22,018. Hospitalizations topped 9,000 for first time and ICU patients were at a record 2,152.

The new shutdowns were a gut-wrenching move for small businesses that have struggled to survive over nearly a year in which they were repeatedly ordered to close, then allowed to reopen but with complex safety precautions.

Michelle Saunders James was in tears Friday at the thought of closing down her Oakland nail salon just five weeks after reopening it.

“We wear (face) shields. We take temperatures. We do everything we are told to do so everyone feels safe, including our staff and team,” she told KGO-TV. “So I don’t understand why it’s not enough and I’m terribly sad and afraid.”

Under Newsom’s order, retail stores and shopping centers can operate with just 20% customer capacity.

In the East Bay, Berkeley Bowl’s two grocery stores already had laid in stocks of essentials in case of a return of panic buying that was seen after the state issued a strict stay-at-home order in mid-March that later was eased.

“We’ve learned valuable lessons from last time,” general manager Steve Tsujimoto told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We acted proactively and have been warehousing certain select items — toilet paper, sanitizers, wipes, beans, rice, grains, flour, bread — things of that nature.”

Critics say the broad statewide order unfairly lumps too many disparate counties together into regions.

The approach “places our ability to reopen with 10 other counties including Los Angeles County which has absolutely failed to control the coronavirus and Mono County whose most populous city is 344 miles away,” said Fred M. Whitaker, chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County.

The explosive rise in COVID-19 infections that began in October is being blamed largely on people ignoring safety measures and socializing with others.

Berkeley Health Officer Lisa Hernandez said people should not meet in person with anyone they don’t live with, “even in a small group, and even outdoors with precautions.”

“If you have a social bubble, it is now popped,” Hernandez said. “Do not let this be the last holiday with your family.”

Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, could reach ICU capacity within days. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that could mean people with other life-threatening illnesses, such as strokes and heart attacks, might be unable to get a bed.

The city alone could see more than 11,000 lives lost to the virus by year’s end, the mayor said.

“That means 3,000 additional deaths in a single month. To put that in perspective, it’s a decade of homicides,” Garcetti said. “This is the greatest threat to life in Los Angeles that we have ever faced.”

In the inland Central Valley, Fresno County had just 10 of its 150 ICU beds available. Health officials described a grim picture with hospitals struggling to stay staffed because of coronavirus infections and exposures. One hospital is holding ICU patients in the emergency department until beds open up, Emergency Medical Services Director Daniel Lynch said Friday.

The county has requested help from the state with staffing for a couple of weeks. But so far only one or two additional workers have shown up at three local hospitals as the whole state struggles with staffing.

At Kaweah Delta medical center in Visalia, in Tulare County, there were 18 ICU beds available Friday but only the staff to handle four additional patients, said Keri Noeske, the chief nursing officer. Some 125 employees are out sick or quarantined because of COVID-19.

El Dorado, Douglas counties report 4 virus-related deaths

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — El Dorado County has lost three more residents to the coronavirus and Douglas County also reported another death, officials announced on Friday.

Two men in the 50-64 age group from South Lake Tahoe and Placerville and a man 65 or older from Cameron Park/Shingle Springs succumbed to complications from COVID-19 in El Dorado.

The county has had eight deaths overall, including four in the last two days. Four of the eight were from the Tahoe region.

Officials also reported 87 new cases and 43 recoveries putting the active case count just below 1,000, at 995.

Thirty-two of the new cases are from El Dorado Hills, 23 from the Cameron Park region, 14 are from Placerville and 11 are from Tahoe.

The Tahoe region has now surpassed the 1,000 mark in cases with 1,006, which represents about 36% of the county’s total of 2,822.

The hospital numbers also rose Friday to 15 residents, including four in the intensive care unit. There was just one in ICU out of 13 overall on Thursday, according to the county virus dashboard.

The 87 new cases came from 717 tests, a 12% positivity rate.

Douglas has 33 new cases Friday, including its sixth death, Carson City Health and Human Services reported. A woman in her 70s was the latest victim. Douglas has had three deaths in the past four days.

Douglas now has nearly as many active cases (557) as recovered (559). There are 23 active cases in Zephyr Cove and 30 at Stateline.

EDD fraud could total $1 billion in losses

District attorneys from across the state, including El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson, last week announced they have been investigating a scam run out of local, state and federal prisons that could involve the theft of up to $1 billion.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said between March and August over 35,000 unemployment claims were filed in the names of inmates, with 20,000 of those claims paid. Sixteen claims were filed for one inmate alone. 

The scam was a joint effort between inmates and their confederates outside prisons filing phony unemployment claims with the Employment Development Department of California using real or false names, addresses and Social Security numbers. The fraud went undiscovered until recently because EDD does not use software that compares the list of prison inmates against those filing for benefits.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said so far they have uncovered tens of thousands of inmates involved statewide with the losses totaling hundreds of millions of dollars and as much as $1 billion. “The fraud is staggering,” she said in a press conference Nov. 24, adding it “will be one of the biggest frauds of taxpayer dollars in California history.”

Schubert said the losses in local jails alone could be $10 million, adding there is concern a similar scam could be taking place in state hospitals or other detention facilities.

Schubert said the stolen money went to every kind of inmate including notorious serial killers, rapists, traffickers, child molesters and other violent prisoners. Those filing included 133 death row inmates. Through August, the total amount stolen for those on death row in her county alone amounted to $420,000 with the highest claim being $20,000. 

Payments went to inmates and their confederates in California, other states and even other countries. Both Schubert and Pierson pointed out California does not have a system like 35 other states that checks the names of inmates against those applying for benefits. 

Pierson noted that five years ago the DA’s Association was told that such a program existed but wasn’t being used in California. “But nothing could have told us the magnitude of this fraud,” he said.

The scam was discovered almost by accident, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaff. An investigator was listening in on an inmate’s conversation as he described the con. Later it was learned it was going on in a prison in Lassen County as well as the word got around of what a simple scam it was.

“It was due to the CARES Act,” noted Pierson, who said that all someone had to do was supply simple information. The inducement was the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits that the federal government provided. Pierson said by back filing, inmates could easily apply for $10,000 to $20,000 that was mailed out in the form of a debit card that didn’t require identification to use. 

The money then went to friends, family or even criminal gangs who would cash the cards in and send a portion of the money in the form of money orders back to the inmate. 

Pierson said a task force was formed once the scam became widely known. Laying the blame on EDD, who he called dysfunctional, Pierson noted that while some of EDD’s line staff had been helpful there was a lack of responsibility up the chain of command as people resigned or retired once it became known what had happened. DAs have since asked for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s help in stopping the flow of money and seeking restitution.

U.S. Attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California McGregor Scott also spoke, saying the fraud was driven by the onset of COVID-19 and the supplemental unemployment money paid to those laid off. Scott said while the stolen money was a mix of state and federal funds, most of it came from the federal government. 

Scott said he has been authorized to hire an attorney to investigate the fraud, likening it in size and scope to the mortgage fraud in the 2000s, which he was involved in investigating.

As far as a response from EDD regarding the scam, Schubert and Pierson both noted it was slow or nonexistent from top management.

“As a taxpayer all of us should be angry about this,” commented Pierson, saying inmates were able to con the system while people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic went without benefits because they didn’t know how to work the system. Pierson was also less than optimistic the majority of the money will ever be repaid.

Contacted by the Mountain Democrat after the press conference, Pierson said every jail and prison in the state was impacted at some level, including El Dorado County, but due to the ongoing investigation he couldn’t release any specifics on either the number of local inmates and confederates involved or the amount of money involved.

Nevada’s Sisolak says virus vaccine may arrive in next couple weeks

Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday that initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccines may begin arriving in Nevada in the next couple of weeks.

But he cautioned that those doses will only be available to priority workers — starting with front line health care workers and first responders.

He said Nevada isn’t seeing a downturn in any of the metrics they measure as numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue to grow faster than in the previous surge in July.

“The positivity rate is the highest we’ve seen to date,” he said.

“Most concerning, our numbers do not include any surge from Thanksgiving,” Sisolak said.

He said if people will follow the rules by avoiding gatherings outside their immediate family, social distancing, sanitizing hands, the rate of infections will level and begin to decline. But he said that requires people to do those things.

If people don’t do that, Sisolak said , “We will be left in the unfortunate position of taking stronger measures.”

“We cannot overwhelm our health system and put countless lives in danger.”

Health officials said after health care front line workers, correctional officers and law enforcement will be vaccinated along with those in senior care facilities and their caregivers. They said vaccinations for the rest of the public may be available in late spring.

Sisolak said those who are 65 and over should assume they are infected if they gathered in crowds this Thanksgiving and get tested. He said those 40 and over should make the same assumption and get tested immediately.

Unfortunately, Sisolak said Nevada doesn’t know how many doses of the vaccines the state will receive and when.

He said they have been assured that the first doses will be followed by shipment of the second doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Both require two shots for full protection.

“I stress to the general public that things are getting a lot better,” he said, adding that, within weeks, Nevada will be distributing vaccines.