California reaches 2M vaccine goal: Reopenings on the way

Plus: Native American COVID deaths believed to have not been adequately reported and the Moraga coyote captured and killed

I’m Winston Gieseke, Philanthropy Editor and Specialist for The Desert Sun here in sunny Palm Springs, where says it’s illegal to walk a camel down Palm Canyon Drive between 4pm and 6pm. So I’m going to get off the camel and instead bring you the latest headlines from this great condition.

California is where you can find top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it straight to your inbox for free.

California Reaches 2M Vaccine Goal: Reopening On The Way

California has given 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine To achieve a goal in the most vulnerable communities in the state that will effectively open the doors to more business and school openings across the state.

Residents in more than a dozen counties will wake up Sunday morning with restrictions lifted as state officials eased requirements to get out of the strictest tier of the state reopening system due to these increasing vaccinations in vulnerable communities.

“California is making good progress in meeting the commitment to deliver doses to the hardest-hit communities across the state,” said California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Friday.

Thirteen boroughs are changing from the strictest purple to the red level, allowing indoor dining to resume and indoor operations in gyms, cinemas, places of worship and more with capacity restrictions. These counties have already reported coronavirus numbers for two weeks that meet state metrics for progression.

These 13 counties are Amador, Colusa, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Mono, Orange, Placer, San Benito, San Bernardino, Siskiyou, Sonoma, and Tuolumne.

Are you one of millions of Californians with a disability or pre-existing health condition? You may be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. The Los Angeles Times has some tips on how to get this shot.

“Nobody was trained for so much death”

Dr.  Marwa Kilani, left, a hospice and palliative care specialist, watches a colleague administer medication to an IV patient of COVID-19 at the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 10, 2021.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in a COVID intensive care unit? Dennis Wagner, who wrote for USA Today, was given infrequent access to a hospital’s COVID-19 care units in February, where he was allowed to shadow caregivers as they cared for sick and dying patients.

What he discovered was that America’s medical workers are grappling with the pandemic – death, suffering, fatigue, stress, and fear of infection – and that helping families through denial, grief, and anger has exacerbated the trauma.

While hospitals offer counseling, massages, peer groups, and employee rewards to help, one respiratory therapist told Wagner that the pain kept building until it just gushed out. “I’m crying in the car. I’m talking to my husband about it. I’ll get it out, ”she said. “I don’t know if it will ever be over.”

In the meantime, the shock to relatives is compounded by pandemic quarantines. Families unable to visit loved ones cannot see the rapid devastation of the disease and struggle to make end-of-life decisions.

The article is quite an eye opener. Read it in full here.

Native American COVID deaths have been reported as insufficient

April Cantu, center, holds a photo of her late mother, Jo Ann Smith, who was flanked by a family outside of the San Antonio De Pala Mission in Pala, California on March 6, 2021.  Smith, a member of the Pala Band of Mission Indians died of COVID-19.

Another eye opener is a story Amanda Ulrich wrote for The Desert Sun about the impact of COVID on Native American families in California.

National studies have highlighted the unilateral exposure of Native Americans from the pandemic across the country. A December report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the COVID-19 death rate for American Indians was nearly double that for white Americans. However, the full extent of the virus’s impact on Native American communities remains unclear, particularly in this state.

The California Department of Health has reported that Alaska Indians and natives make up 0.5% of the state’s population and 0.3% of COVID-19 deaths, with 187 remaining to date. Experts believe the real number is higher but is undercounting due to breed misclassifications and lack of data for the breed.

Someone with a Native American heritage, including being Latino, for example, could only be classified as the latter or in the multiracial animal category by the state, Aurimar Ayala, epidemiology manager at the California Tribal Epidemiology Center told The Desert Sun.

“I am 100% sure it is an underestimation,” said Ayala of the current record of Indian deaths. Read more here.

“Running for Her Life”: Mother of four wanted a new life in America. But she died in a fatal crash near the US-Mexico border

Police officers work at the site of a fatal accident on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Holtville, California.  Authorities said a semi-trailer crashed into an all-terrain vehicle carrying 25 people on a highway in southern California, killing at least 13 people.

When Carolina Ramírez Pérez, 32, got into a vehicle in the early hours of March 2nd, She fled domestic violence south of the US-Mexico border and hoped to start all over again in the US. Three of her four children, ages 2, 5, and 10, had already started the trip and were waiting for them in Southern California.

But she didn’t make it. Ramírez Pérez was among the 13 dead after this packed SUV crashed into a semi-trailer near the U.S.-Mexico border last week. This was confirmed by Yadira Robles of the Imperial County’s coroner office to the US TODAY.

The fatal collision occurred early Tuesday in the heart of California’s Imperial Valley, a major agricultural region, after two SUVs were seen on a surveillance video driving through a 10-foot hole in the border fence, according to SUV and Border Protection.

“She was so heroic at keeping her children safe so they could have a better future,” said Cynthia Santiago, an LA-based immigration attorney hired by Ramirez Perez’s relatives. “Unfortunately she lost her life as a result. But she just did everything she could because she didn’t want them to grow up under these conditions.”

The Shasta County man served 7 years in prison despite not being convicted

Michael Donald Ackley, charged with murder and attempted murder, will be shown in Shasta County Supreme Court Friday, where his murder trial has been delayed.

Of approximately 400 people incarcerated in Shasta County Jail, No one has been held longer than Michael Donald Ackley (61), who has been imprisoned since 2014. But unlike most who have been in a cell for that long, he was not convicted of a crime.

Ackley is in jail on suspicion of murder on charges of shooting and killing his best friend, whom investigators believed he was a burglar on July 1, 2014 around 2 a.m. Seven years later, prosecutors are still working to prove that he committed second degree murder. The case went to trial in 2018 and a jury ruled out a first degree murder but was unable to agree on a second degree murder. One juror refused to convict, and the jury suspended resulted in a lawsuit.

Ackley’s court-appointed defense attorney Kathryn Barton said she believed 2021 could be the year he can make it back to court.

The Moraga coyote was captured and killed

It is uncommon for coyotes to bite people.  They usually keep their distance.

Since December, this newsletter has reported on a cheeky coyote in Moraga who approached and bit several unsuspecting people, including a man doing push-ups on a high school soccer field and a 3-year-old girl in a stroller.

DNA linked all of the attacks to a single coyote that proved elusive.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Moraga coyote’s reign of terror has finally ended. The male coyote was captured and killed by authorities in Contra Costa County on Thursday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said Friday morning. The DNA results confirmed that it was the animal they were looking for.

“It is the agencies’ sincere hope that locals will be able to recover outdoors in the area with significantly less fear and that the community will know that outdoor recreation is still very safe,” said the fish and wildlife representatives in a statement.

In California, there is a summary of news from the USA Today network newsrooms. Contributors:, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle. We’ll be back in your inbox next week with the latest headlines.

Winston Gieseke is the editor of Philanthropy and Special at The Desert Sun, writing about charities, fundraisers and people giving back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at [email protected].

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