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Living with Covid: Graduation in Person

By Jondi Gumz

Denmark is the first country to suspend its Covid vaccination program, with the health authority citing the arrival of spring, and more people have had either Covid or a vaccine — 89% over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, and 76% of adults have a booster shot.

The India Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling supporting vaccine choice, saying that “bodily integrity is protected under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the constitution and no individual can be forced to be vaccinated.”

In the U.S., Dr. Vinay Prasad, who has a master’s in public health, suggests vaccine choice be available to parents of children under 5 for which the Food and Drug Administration has not authorized a Covid vaccine. Moderna submitted trial results and applied for emergency use authorization, and Pfizer is awaiting trial results, but Prasad tweets, “Why have FDA? Let the marketplace decide.”

The highly contagious but less deadly BA.2 Omicron subvariant now dominates, a change from the initially deadly coronavirus.

Cases are up, and there is an uptick in hospitalizations in California, and locally, but public health officers say it’s hard to predict a peak and how dangerous this variant is, given that some people have natural immunity.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates almost 60 percent of the populace — including 76% percent of children — have had Omicron or another coronavirus variant.

California Parents United and Moms on the Ground announced a parent’s rights initiative and candidate forum 6-8 p.m. May 19, at a Salinas ranch, 484 Corral de Tierra Road. Tickets are $100 at www.californiaparentsunited.org. Mama Bears Radio Show on KSCO is a co-sponsor.

New signs of normal: Cabrillo College in Aptos brings back in-person graduation Friday, May 20, seating at 2 p.m., ceremony at 4 p.m. at the football stadium on campus. In-person graduation ceremonies June 2 for Aptos Junior High, 11 a.m., and Aptos High, 4 p.m. both at Cabrillo’s football stadium.

The Aptos Chamber bringing back the World’s Shortest Parade at 10 a.m. July 4. The theme is “team spirit.” The chamber also is seeking vendors for the party in the Aptos Village Park, which will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with music, craft booths, and food.

The Felton Remembers parade returns at 10 a.m. May 28 followed by the Covered Bridge Festival. Starting June 16, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk brings back live music Thursdays on the Colonnade with Friday night movies starting June 17.

The city of Scotts Valley is seeking help to host its Independence Day parade a day early, Sunday, July 3, with a fireworks celebration that night.

Proposed Laws

California lawmakers face a May 27 deadline to pass legislation; 10 bills deal with Covid-19.

Four were pulled — Assembly Bill 1993, to require all employees and independent contractors, public and private, to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to keep their job and Senate Bill 871, to require children 0-17 to get a Covid vaccine to attend school or day care.

Also pulled: SB 1464, to require law enforcement officers to enforce public health orders, and cut funding if they do not and shift those funds to public health, SB 1390 to prohibit a social media platform from amplifying misinformation or disinformation and SB 920, to authorize a medical board to inspect a doctor’s office and records without patient consent.

Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids, headed by Amy Bohn in Newbury Park, which has filed six lawsuits against vaccine mandates, is watching to see if these measures come back in a budget trailer bill in May — which avoids public hearings. The group is tracking other Covid-19 bills. They include:

To track these bills, see https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov

With SB 871 pulled by the author, Gov. Newsom is delaying plans to mandate Covid vaccine for school children until July 2023.

Hospitalizations from Omicron had peaked in January, then plummeted and have been rising.

The state Department of Public Health reports test positivity, 23% in January, has ticked up from 1.7% to 4.4% and hospitalizations — 20,000 in January — dropped to 950 before rising to 1,300.

Santa Cruz County reports 1,379 active cases, with five hospitalizations, one in intensive care. One Covid death was reported in the past two weeks, bringing the total to 262. That person was 85 or older, with other medical conditions.

In April, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board adopted new workplace rules.

Unvaccinated and vaccinated workers must be treated the same; no mask mandate for those unvaccinated. Requirements to disinfect surfaces were removed. Requirements for partitions and physical distancing were replaced by requirements for better ventilation. Employees testing positive can return to work masked five days later.

Omicron has a shorter incubation period then the early coronavirus variants.

Airline Mask Mandate Lifted

Starting May 16, the European Union will no longer require masks at airports and on airplanes. Passengers coughing or sneezing should consider wearing a mask to safeguard others, officials said.

Airline masks became optional in the U.S. after a federal judge in Florida on April 18 voided the mask mandate ordered by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for airlines, trains and buses on Feb. 3, 2021.

The Justice Department appealed at the CDC’s request but the agency did not ask for a stay, which would have reinstated the mandate.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled in favor of Health Freedom Defense Fund and airline travelers Ana Carolina Daza and Sarah Pope, who claimed the CDC failed to provide a 30-day comment public period required for new regulations.

Mizzell provided a 59-page explanation, based on the Public Health Services Act of 1944, which specifies sanitation as a measure that could be necessary to prevent disease from spreading, but has no definition of sanitation.

“Wearing a mask cleans nothing,” the judge wrote. “At most it traps virus droplets. But it neither ‘sanitizes’ the person wearing the mask nor ‘sanitizes’ the conveyance.”

The government interprets “sanitation” to mean “applying of measures for preserving and promoting public health.” The judge disagreed, writing that historically, public health has been regulated at the state level, and the 1944 law has no clear language that Congress intended the CDC to take over.

The CDC did not allow public comment although the Administrative Procedures Act requires agencies provide a 30-day comment period on new rules.

The CDC did not explain mask exemptions for people eating, drinking or taking medication or for children under age 2. By not explaining, the CDC action was arbitrary and capricious, the judge ruled.

After ordering masks, the CDC did not conduct a study to generate scientific evidence that wearing cloth masks slows spread on an airplane.

The CDC’s Covid-19 map shows most counties green for low transmission. New York State, Vermont and Connecticut all have high transmission. Santa Cruz County and neighboring Santa Clara County are medium.

Santa Cruz County, which updates its dashboard on Monday and Thursday, reports 1,379 active cases, on the rise but down from the peak of 10,000.

Omicron Less Deadly

The Omicron variants are less deadly than the Delta variant, which raged in 2021.

Santa Cruz County reported 37 Covid deaths after Omicron, compared to 225 as of Dec. 15, before Omicron.

One statistic is similar: 79% to 81% of those who died had pre-existing conditions.

Why do people fear Omnicron?


They may have a pre-existing condition (diabetes, obesity, asthma, high blood pressure).

Half of Americans do, so they are at higher risk for severe Covid illness.

So are people 85 and older.

California reports 83.3% of residents age 5 and up have had at least one shot.

On the CDC Covid tracker, Santa Cruz County reports 90.8% of residents age 5 and up have at least one shot and 82.9% fully vaccinated.

Pajaro Valley Schools

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District reports 92 active student cases and 19 staff cases in May. Aptos High has 18 student cases and 2 staff cases. Aptos Junior High has 10 student cases and one staff case. Valencia Elementary has 8 student cases and 1 staff cases. Rio del Mar Elementary has 6 student cases and zero staff cases. Mar Vista Elementary has 1 student case and 1 staff case.

The state guidance to schools and childcares as of March 11. Masks are not required but strongly recommended.

Santa Cruz County Office of Education, with Inspire Diagnostics, has provided 472,100 tests.

Cases in local schools peaked at 4,407 on Jan. 27, dropped to 44 on April 1, then rose to 455 on May 11. The 14-day positivity rate, 12.25% on January, dropped to .79%, then rose to 3.16%.

Fully vaccinated means having two shots (Pfizer or Moderna) or one Johnson & Johnson shot. All were developed for the initial Wuhan Covid-19 strain.

For Omicron, a booster shot is needed after the Pfizer vaccine, because protection against hospitalization wanes after three months, a Kaiser Permanente study of 11,000 hospital admissions and emergency room visits found.

Vaccine Database

In a 2022 report in the Journal of American Medical Association online, Dr. Matthew Oster of the CDC reported the government’s VAERS database received 1,991 reports of myocarditis after one dose of mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine and 1,626 met the CDC’s definition for probable or confirmed myocarditis.

Oster’s conclusion: “The risk of myocarditis after receiving mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines was increased across multiple age and sex strata and was highest after the second vaccination dose in adolescent males and young men. This risk should be considered.”

The 2022 NFL Scouting Combine changed its COVID-19 policies after agents representing more than 150 draft prospects began organizing a boycott of testing, workouts and interviews at the event in response to the league’s bubble restrictions, according to a memo obtained by The Athletic.

The changes allowed players to leave the bubble during free time or have approved medical personnel, athletic trainers and massage therapists join them in secure areas.

Public health officials say the scientific consensus is that Covid vaccines are safe, but some are skeptical about relying on science from drug-makers, which saw profits rise in 2021. They point to the U.S. government database, https://vaers.hhs.gov/, where health care providers are to report adverse events after a vaccine.

The reporting site was created after Congress passed a law in 1986 protecting vaccine manufacturers from civil personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits resulting from vaccine injuries.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar invoked the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, a 2005 law allowing him to provide legal protection to companies making or distributing critical medical supplies such as vaccines unless there’s “willful misconduct” by the company. This protection lasts until 2024.

Renz Law, representing military whistleblowers, sued the federal government to lift the vaccine mandate for military personnel and appeals for passage of legislation repealing immunity for vaccine manufacturers.

“If vaccines are truly safe and effective no one should oppose this,” the lawsuit reads.

After mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were mandated for the military in 2021, cases of heart attack, pulmonary embolism, cancers, and myocarditis spiked dramatically, according to the Defense Military Epidemiological Database queries by the whistleblowers.

The Department of Defense’s response was that a glitch in the database affected the data from 2016-2020.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart, which can lead to clots, a stroke or heart attack.

Dr. Pamela Popper, whose group supported the lawsuit, posts updates at https://makeamericansfreeagain.com/

Testing

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education offers drive-though testing for students, staff and families at:

Cabrillo College, Aptos, Parking Lot K, Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Santa Cruz County Office of Education, 399 Encinal St., Santa Cruz, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

See: https://tinyurl.com/get-tested-santa-cruz.

Booster shots: https://myturn.ca.gov/

Vaccine providers: www.santacruzhealth.org/coronavirusvaccine.

Local information: www.santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus or (831) 454-4242 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

•••
Total COVID cases: 1,379
•••

COVID Deaths: 262
As of May 12

Age
85 and older: 113 • 75-84: 61 • 65-74: 46 • 60-64: 15 • 55-59: 4 • 45-54: 10 • 35-44: 8 • 25-34: 5

Underlying Conditions
Yes: 212 • No: 50

Race
White 150 • Latinx 89 • Asian 16 • Black 3 • Amer Indian 1 • Hawaiian 1 • Another 2

Gender
Men: 135 • Women: 127

Location
At facility for aged: 116 • Not at a facility: 146

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