FDA EXPANDS ELIGIBILITY FOR OMICRON BOOSTER VACCINES TO CHILDREN AGES 5-11: Children ages 5-11 are now eligible for the COVID-19 booster vaccine targeting strains of the omicron variant after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the vaccine's authorization on Oct. 12. Read more below.
FAUCI: U.S. MAKING PROGRESS TOWARD DEFANGING COVID, BUT DEATH RATE REMAINS TOO HIGH: While the COVID-19 virus has not been eradicated, the ongoing pandemic is moving "in the right direction" toward the virus being a relatively minor threat, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Oct. 4. Read more below.
STATE TO DISPERSE $1.4B IN UTILITY RELIEF FUNDS: California will make $1.4 billion available by the end of the year for residents who have struggled to pay their utility bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more below.
SAN MATEO COUNTY URGES RESIDENTS TO GET VACCINATED: The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in San Mateo County is declining as the health unit continues to encourage booster shots. Read the full story.
COVID CIRCULATION STILL RELATIVELY HIGH IN SANTA CLARA COUNTY: The county's top health official said that the level of virus circulating locally is likely higher than the county's case count. Read the full story.
YOUR COVID-19 VACCINE QUESTIONS — ANSWERED: We've compiled a list of who can currently get vaccinated in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, plus answers to common questions and links to resources. Read the full Q&A.
Coronavirus, by the numbers
FDA expands eligibility for omicron booster vaccines to children ages 5-11
Children ages 5-11 are now eligible for the COVID-19 booster vaccine targeting strains of the omicron variant after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the vaccine's authorization Wednesday, Oct. 12.
The FDA expanded its emergency use authorization for the bivalent Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, making the former available to children ages 6 and up and the latter available to kids ages 5 and up.
Both vaccines, which target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants while still protecting against the original COVID-19 virus strain as well, will be available to those who completed their initial vaccination series at least two months prior.
"Since children have gone back to school in person and people are resuming pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is the potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19," said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. "Vaccination remains the most effective measure to prevent the severe consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death."
The omicron-specific Moderna booster has been available to adults since early September, while the Pfizer booster has been available to everyone ages 12 and up since then.
The original Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines remain available to everyone ages 6 months and up.
"We encourage parents to consider primary vaccination for children and follow-up with an updated booster dose when eligible," Marks said.
Fauci: U.S. making progress toward defanging COVID but death rate remains too high
While the COVID-19 virus has not been eradicated, the ongoing pandemic is moving "in the right direction" toward the virus being a relatively minor threat, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, argued in a discussion hosted by the University of Southern California that the so-called "end" of the pandemic is relative.
"If you look at where we are now, with the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths compared to several months ago, when we were averaging between 800,000 and 900,000 cases and between 3,000 and 4,000 deaths (per day), we're not at that point now. We're much, much lower," he said.
"Relatively speaking it's less, but ... I have been very public about saying that I'm not comfortable with having 300 to 400 deaths per day," Fauci said.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 322 people in the U.S. have died per day from COVID-19 in the previous seven days as of Monday.
Fauci added that to continue quelling the virus, it will be important for people who are eligible for a booster vaccine dose to receive the recently approved vaccines that target subvariant strains of the virus' omicron variant.
"Although we can feel good that we're going in the right direction, we can't let our guard down," he said.
Fauci, who is retiring in December, also assessed his messaging over the prior two-and-a-half years, during which time he became a figurehead for the federal response to the pandemic.
He suggested he should've been "much, much more careful" with his messaging early in the pandemic, when he advised people to avoid using masks to prevent a shortage of them for public health workers.
Fauci also initially argued against a large-scale shutdown when just a handful of cases had been confirmed in the U.S.
"I probably should have tried to be much, much more careful in getting the message to repeat the uncertainty of what we were going through," he said.
"If we knew then that this virus, under the radar screen, was transmitting in a way that was not fully appreciated and any of us would have said, 'we've had five cases in the country, we need to shut down,' people would have looked at us like we were crazy," he added. "But maybe that was the right message back then, I don't know."
Fauci argued the country must close health inequities in the coming years like those seen during the pandemic. Black, Hispanic, Asian and indigenous populations have often had higher COVID-19 case and death rates than white residents in the U.S.
He also noted the health inequities that pre-dated the pandemic, such as increased instances of health issues like diabetes, obesity and chronic liver and kidney conditions.
"Those are not racially determined," he said. "Those are due to social determinants of health. We need a decades-long commitment to overcome that."
State to disperse $1.4B in utility relief funds by year's end
The state of California will make $1.4 billion available by the end of the year for residents who have struggled to pay their utility bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor's office said Tuesday, Oct. 4.
The state plans to disperse some $1.2 billion to residential electric utilities and $200 million to residential water and wastewater utilities to erase outstanding debt.
The state has already distributed $1.4 billion in electric, gas and water bill relief prior to Tuesday's announcement, supporting some 2.2 million households, according to the governor's office.
"No other state in America did as much for those struggling during the pandemic than California, with tens of billions of dollars for stimulus checks, small business relief, and past-due rent and utility bills to help Californians," Gov. Gavin Newsom touted.
The $1.4 billion to be distributed by year's end was included in the state's budget for fiscal year 2022-2023, which began July 1.
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