In California: More counties expand vaccine eligibility, but are there enough doses?

I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, and boy, am I glad it’s Friday. Let’s finish off this week with some of today’s top headlines from here in the Golden State.

But first, on this day in history: Actress Rita Moreno became the first Hispanic woman to win an Academy Award, which she won for her supporting role as Anita in “West Side Story.” Today, the 89-year-old Moreno is one of 16 EGOT winners, people who have won all four major entertainment awards — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony — in competitive categories. (People like Barbra Streisand, who was awarded an honorary Tony, are not considered true EGOT winners.)

Rita Moreno poses with her Oscar and actor Rock Hudson after she was named best supporting actress of the year at the Academy Award Oscars at Santa Monica, Ca., on April 9, 1962. She won her award for best supporting actress for her part in the film West Side Story. (Photo: AP)

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

More counties expand vaccine eligibility to 16 and up, but will there be enough doses?

Motorists sit inside their vehicles as they wait their turn to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine at the California State University, Los Angeles campus in Los Angeles, Thursday, April 8, 2021. (Photo: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

More California counties — including Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area and Fresno County in the Central Valley — are opening up COVID-19 vaccines to younger adults, a week ahead of the state’s plan to broaden eligibility to everyone aged 16 and up. But will there be enough doses to go around?

“The supply of COVID-19 vaccine has become more stable,” said Joe Prado, who is heading up Fresno County’s vaccinations. “We are able to move ahead of the (state) timeline and have been approved to lift the current restrictions in place to expand eligibility.”

However, that might not be the case next week when eligibility expands statewide.

California has received about 2.4 million doses this week and expects 2 million next week and 1.9 million the week after. This is in addition to vaccines shipped directly to pharmacies and community health centers from the federal government.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the state of nearly 40 million will lift most pandemic restrictions June 15 provided hospitalization rates stay low and there is enough vaccine for everyone. It’s unclear if the drop in supply will affect California’s reopening date, although the governor’s office said on social media that “CA is on track to open safely 6/15.”

Dodgers’ season off to a good start after victory in home opener

Los Angeles Dodgers' Justin Turner (10) is congratulated by Max Muncy (13) after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Friday, April 9, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) (Photo: The Associated Press)

According to the Los Angeles Times, it’s been 18 months since the Dodgers have played in front of fans at Dodger Stadium. But in their home opener Friday, the team beat the Washington Nationals 1-0, thrilling the 15,000 socially-distanced fans who were allowed into the stadium.

Justin Turner secured the win with a home run in the sixth inning. Last year, the third baseman made headlines after returning mask-free to the field to join a group photo celebrating the Dodgers’ World Series win, despite having been removed from the field earlier in the game following a positive COVID-19 test.

California landlords and renters struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic may qualify for a statewide program

The $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program distributed money to communities to help renters who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. (Photo: File)

This week, CityServe launched its Eviction Prevention Starting Point, which is designed to help qualifying residents navigate the COVID-19 Rent Relief program. In order to keep Californians housed, income-eligible households can apply for assistance to pay rent and utilities, both for past due and future payments.

According to the CityServe website, step No. 1 is to request an application appointment. Step No. 2 is to attend the appointment at an application site with the required documents. Step No. 3 is to submit an application onsite with the guidance of a CityServe enroller.

Here’s how the COVID-19 Rent Relief program works:

  • Landlords can receive 80% of past-due rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. To receive reimbursement, landlords must agree to waive the remaining 20%.
  • Paying 25% of past-due rent by June 30, 2021, can help keep renters in their homes under the extended eviction protections provided in SB 91.
  • Eligible renters can also receive help paying future rent, equal to 25% of their monthly amount to help them stay in their homes, and 100% of up to 12 months of unpaid or future utility bills.

Despite being a statewide program, appointment sites are currently only available in the following counties: Butte, Kings, Los Angeles and Tulare. However, a spokesperson for CityServe said all California residents are eligible to make appointments in these locations, regardless of their county of residence.

Local, state agencies team up to keep drivers safe during Distracted Driving Awareness Month

A phone-wielding driver is a distracted driver. (Photo: D'Vaughn Bell,

Beginning July 1, a violation for using a phone or texting while driving can result in a fine and also add a point to the driver’s record for each violation occurring within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense.

Ahead of those new penalties, throughout the month of April, the California Highway Patrol (CHP), California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and Impact Teen Drivers (ITD) will work with local law enforcement to remind Californians of the dangers of not giving the road their full attention when behind the wheel, including violating the state’s hands-free cell phone law.

“When you are driving, give the phone a rest,” Salinas Sgt. Robert Hampson said. “A driver’s number one focus should be on the road.”

But distractions are not limited to phones. Other electronics, children, pets, and eating or drinking while driving can also divert attention and result in a collision, CHP said.

As part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the first week of April was California Teen Safe Driving Week. Throughout the week, CHP and ITD educated California’s newest drivers about the dangers and consequences of reckless and distracted driving.

(And if I may share a personal gripe: I see so many drivers having conversations while holding their phones away from their heads. This is not in compliance with the law. If the phone is in your hand, it’s. not. hands-free. Just sayin’.)

One dead after Arizona couple goes missing in Death Valley

Alexander Lofgren and Emily Henkel’s missing white Subaru was found by Death Valley National Park at approximately 11 a.m. on Thursday off of Gold Valley Road, according to officials. (Photo: Inyo County Sheriff's Office Facebook Page)

The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a man is dead after a couple went missing in Death Valley National Park. 

Alexander Lofgren, 32, and Emily Henkel, 27, of Tucson, were reported missing around 6:50 p.m. Tuesday after they failed to return home Sunday from their camping trip.

Death Valley National Park staff found the couple’s missing white Subaru on Wednesday at around 11 a.m. Inside was a note that stated: “Two flat tires, headed to Mormon Point, have three days’ worth of water.”

On Thursday, the couple was “spotted through aerial reconnaissance” near Willow Creek on a very steep ledge. Lofgren had died. Henkel, who was alive, was flown to Lemoore Naval Air Station for treatment.

“This has been a tremendously difficult operation in a very unforgiving geographic area of Inyo County, I sincerely hope for healing and recovery for all involved,” stated Inyo County Sheriff Jeff Hollowell.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with the latest headlines.

As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at [email protected]

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