Good morning! Here are your top California health stories of the day.
Four Of 11 U.S. Coronavirus Cases Have Been In Bay Area And Public Health Experts Aren’t Surprised: Santa Clara County Health Officer Sara Cody said her department had been preparing for outbreak for weeks, “knowing that we were likely to eventually confirm a case.” “We have a lot of residents with families in Asia and a lot of business travel, high-tech travel,” Cody said Monday. “I’d be quite surprised if we don’t have additional cases.” The situation is rapidly evolving. Airlines are canceling most flights between the Bay Area and China, and the U.S. has undertaken extraordinary measures to slow the spread of the virus in North America, barring entry to most non-citizens who visited China in the past two weeks. Four military bases — including Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield — were selected to house individuals who were evacuated while traveling overseas due to the virus.
Bay Area medical facilities are taking extra steps to identify possible coronavirus cases and make sure that patients at risk of having the virus are kept away from others, either by asking that they stay at home or keeping them in isolation rooms in emergency departments or other parts of hospitals. So far, no Northern California cases have turned up unexpectedly in medical centers — everyone who has tested positive was already isolated at home and being monitored by public health authorities.
Experts say that the risk is still extremely low for Americans who have not traveled to Wuhan, China.
Read more from John Woolfolk of the Bay Area News Group, Erin Allday and Catherine Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle, and Karen Kaplan of the Los Angeles Times. For full coronavirus coverage, see more stories below.
Walgreens To Pay $7.5M Settlement In Consumer Protection Lawsuit Over Phony Pharmacist: Walgreens will pay $7.5 million to settle with California authorities after an employee was criminally charged with impersonating a pharmacist and illegally filling more than 745,000 prescriptions in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Consumers depend on pharmacies to make sure that the person behind the counter preparing and giving out medical prescription drugs is trained, competent and licensed to do so,” Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Tiyen Lin said in a statement. “Their lives may depend on it.” During Kim Thien Le’s more than 15 years as both an intern pharmacist and a pharmacist, she handled more than 100,000 prescriptions for controlled substances such as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, and codeine, officials said. Read more from The Associated Press and Joseph Geha of the Bay Area News Group.
Below, check out the full round-up of California Healthline original stories, state coverage and the best of the rest of the national news for the day.
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More News From Across The State
The New York Times:
U.S. Officials Promise ‘Aggressive Measures’ To Contain Coronavirus
Four military bases in Texas, California and Colorado were preparing to house American citizens for up to two weeks as part of a highly unusual federal effort aimed at slowing the spread of the deadly coronavirus. As of late Monday, though, expectations that a large number of Americans who had traveled to parts of China might quickly be held under quarantine had not come to pass. No new travelers from China had been brought to the military bases, federal officials said. The only people under federal quarantine were fewer than 200 people who had been in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and were flown to a base in Riverside, Calif., last week. (Bosman and Grady, 2/3)
U.S. Evacuees From China Placed On 72-Hour 'Hold' At California Military Base For Medical Evaluation
Nearly 200 Americans airlifted from China in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak arrived on Wednesday at a U.S. military base in California, where they will remain isolated for at least 72 hours of medical evaluation, public health officials said. The group, mostly U.S. diplomats and their families, were evacuated from Wuhan at the epicenter of the outbreak aboard a U.S. government-chartered cargo jet that stopped to refuel in Alaska on Tuesday night before flying on to March Air Reserve Base, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. (2/3)
Los Angeles Times:
Coronavirus Cases In California Increase: What You Need To Know
California now has six confirmed cases of the new strain of coronavirus. Health officials expect that number to grow but have said the threat to the general public remains low. The Department of Defense said that it has agreed to house up to 1,000 people who may need to be quarantined upon arrival from overseas travel because of the coronavirus and that two of the four facilities selected are in California. (Hamilton and Wigglesworth, 2/3)
Are Coronavirus Fears Keeping Diners From Chinese Restaurants? The Answer May Be Regional
The outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China has sent concern across the world, with the U.S. government restricting travel from China, and the White House calling the virus a national emergency. But coronavirus fears are also having effects on a local scale — like at some Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. (Champlin, 2/3)
Another Possible Coronavirus Victim: LA Travel Agencies That Serve The Asian Community
While the coronavirus outbreak is wreaking havoc in parts of China, it's also stirred up trouble in the Los Angeles area. For some businesses, it's posing what could become an existential threat. Local travel agencies that cater to the Chinese community are seeing so many cancellations right now that some are afraid of being driven out of business. (Garrova, 2/4)
Poll: Americans' Views On Coronavirus Outbreak
Two-thirds of Americans say the novel coronavirus poses a "real threat" and has not been "blown out of proportion." And, though the majority of Americans are concerned about the potential spread of the virus within the U.S., 61% also say U.S. government officials are doing enough to prevent it. (Aubrey, 2/4)
The Washington Post:
States Scramble To Carry Out Trump’s Coronavirus Travel Order
After a weekend of panicked calls and emergency meetings, federal and state officials were still struggling Monday with how to carry out stringent new travel restrictions ordered by the Trump administration and where to quarantine passengers arriving from China to control the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. In interviews, state officials said the order came on Friday with no advance notice and little planning. (Sun, Aratani, Wan and Olivo, 2/3)
The New York Times:
Beijing Sees ‘Major Test’ As Doors To China Close And Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS
China’s Communist Party leadership called the month-old coronavirus epidemic a “major test” on Monday as other nations escalated efforts to isolate China, unnerving China’s stock market, depressing global oil prices and raising new anxiety about the world’s most populous country. The growing global move to effectively cut off China’s 1.4 billion people came as government officials reported the new coronavirus strain had killed more in mainland China, 425 as of Tuesday morning, than the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003, confirming it as one of the deadliest epidemics in recent Chinese history. (Wee, 2/3)
The Washington Post:
How Effective Are Face Masks Amid Coronavirus Concerns?
The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is now responsible for 17,228 confirmed cases in China, reported by the country’s National Health Commission on Monday, and confirmed cases of the strain in 23 countries outside China, according to the World Health Organization. As with any outbreak, global travelers have the risk of exposure on their minds — as evidenced by masks on their faces. (Japhe, 2/3)
The New York Times:
China Pledged To Build A New Hospital In 10 Days. It’s Close.
People desperate for treatment started descending on a new hospital that was mostly built in just 10 days to help cope with the outbreak of the new coronavirus in the central city of Wuhan on Monday. Construction workers in hard hats, medical staff in hazmat suits, and men and women in army fatigues scrambled around the dusty site on Monday afternoon, dodging moving trucks, excavators and cranes. (Qin, 2/3)
CA Democrat Wants DOJ Scrutiny Of Hunting Licenses
A California Democrat responsible for some of the state’s strictest gun control laws wants to tighten oversight of hunting licenses through a proposed law that he says was inspired by a shooting last year at a San Diego County synagogue. State Sen. Anthony J. Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, introduced legislation on Monday to require the state Department of Justice and gun retailers to determine the legitimacy of hunting licenses issued for people under 21 before a gun is purchased. (Wiley, 2/3)
San Francisco Chronicle:
New Mental Health Shelter Aims To Ease Burden At S.F. General's Crowded Psychiatric ER
City officials are eyeing an empty building on Valencia Street as a new spot to temporarily shelter some of San Francisco’s mentally ill homeless population. A lease for the vacant Salvation Army building at 1156 Valencia St. in the Mission District is in the works. If approved, the facility would be the city’s second dedicated to a population that is particularly difficult to treat. (Thadani, 2/4)
What Is Measure G On The Sacramento Primary Election Ballot?
Voters in the city of Sacramento will consider a measure on the March 3 ballot that would require the city to set aside an estimated $12 million a year for new youth programs. But what would it mean for the rest of the services the city provides, as the city approaches a potential budget deficit? Here’s what you need to know about Measure G, who’s supporting it, who’s opposing it and who’s funding each of those efforts. (Clift, 2/4)
Adventist Health To Outsource 650 Jobs In California
Adventist Health will be outsourcing its security and environmental services starting in March. As a result, it will be eliminating 649 workers from its employment rolls at 13 facilities statewide. Roseville-based Adventist said in letters to the California Employment Development Department that it was transferring jobs related to security and linen services to contractors that would be providing the services, adding that the company expected the contractors to offer positions to all the workers. (Anderson, 2/4)
Trump's State Of The Union Comes Amid Impeachment And Election Frenzy
President Donald Trump will use Tuesday's State of the Union address to tout his record on the economy and – perhaps – take an early victory lap with the Senate impeachment trial expected to wrap up this week. Trump, who ran on the slogan "Make America Great Again," has dubbed this year's speech "the Great American Comeback." (Jackson, 2/4)
Democrats Dare Trump To Talk Drug Prices During State Of The Union
While both parties have highlighted the importance of lowering drug prices, Democrats who spoke with STAT are convinced that Trump’s decision to bring up the issue in a nationally televised speech will only remind voters how little the White House has accomplished. Trump’s nod to high pharmaceutical costs, which the White House hinted at in a call with reporters last week, will play out far better for their party than for Republicans in large part because when in comes to health care, voters trust Democrats over the GOP by double-digit margins, they said. (Facher and Florko, 2/4)
To Highlight Prices, Dems Will Bring Insulin Advocates To State Of The Union
No fewer than 13 members of Congress, from the ultra-progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to the moderate, once-Republican Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), are planning to bring insulin affordability advocates as their guests for Tuesday’s State of the Union address, congressional staffers confirmed to STAT. It’s the latest sign that insulin, above all else, has become Democrats’ signature drug pricing talking point. The lawmakers are likely to use the advocates’ stories not only to push for comprehensive drug pricing reform, but to bludgeon President Trump and his party over their spotty progress in tackling high drug prices over the past year. (Florko, 2/4)
The Washington Post:
Most Iowa Democratic Caucus-Goers Support A Single-Payer Health Care Plan
About 6 in 10 Democrats at the Iowa caucuses on Monday reported that they support eliminating private health insurance as part of establishing a single-payer health-care system, according to preliminary poll results, suggesting that most of the party’s voters agree with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on the divisive issue. Sanders has campaigned on a Medicare-for-all health-care system in which every American would be placed with a single government insurer, regardless of whether they want it or not. (Stein, 2/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
VA’s Deputy Secretary Dismissed By Department’s Top Official
Mr. Byrne was asked to resign earlier in the day but declined to do so, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Wilkie then fired him. Messrs. Byrne and Wilkie recently clashed over the department’s handling of allegations of sexual assault at a Washington, D.C., VA medical center, people familiar with the matter said. No charges were filed after an investigation begun after allegations made in September and whose findings were released in January by the VA Office of Inspector General. The report wasn’t made public, and the people familiar with the matter didn’t provide details about the allegations. (Kesling, 2/3)
Study Links Autism To 'Insulation' That Coats Brain Cells And Speeds Signals
Scientists have found a clue to how autism spectrum disorder disrupts the brain's information highways. The problem involves cells that help keep the traffic of signals moving smoothly through brain circuits, a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The team found that in both mouse and human brains affected by autism, there's an abnormality in cells that produce a substance called myelin. (Hamilton, 2/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
Patients Often Get Antibiotics Without A Doctor Visit, Study Finds
Patients widely received antibiotics with no record of seeing a doctor, a nationwide study found, despite recommendations that doctors physically screen patients to prevent unnecessary prescriptions that could contribute to superbugs. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Northwestern University looked through a decade of medical bills for 53 million people nationwide. They found nearly 83 million antibiotic prescriptions that were filled with no record of an associated doctor visit that could have verified that the antibiotics were necessary. (Evans, 2/3)
The Associated Press:
Some Hospitals Wary As New Liver Transplant Rules Begin
Long-delayed rules that will more broadly share scarce donated livers go into effect Tuesday, to the dismay of some hospitals in Tennessee, Kansas and other states that fear their patients may lose out. Where you live makes a difference in how sick you have to be to get an organ transplant, and wealthier patients sometimes travel to other states to get on shorter waiting lists. The new rules are an attempt to ease that geographic disparity by giving the sickest patients first chance at a donated liver even if it has to be flown about 500 miles to reach them. (2/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
The Flu Is Hitting Children Especially Hard This Season
Every day for the past few months, children have appeared in Ari Brown’s pediatric office in Austin, Texas, and tested positive for influenza. “About 10% of the patients we’re seeing every day have the flu,” says Dr. Brown. “We’ve had five this morning.” Public attention is fixated on the coronavirus. But the far more widespread flu virus is infecting people across the country—and hitting children particularly hard. (Reddy, 2/3)