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No, really, can I get another shot? Booster causes confusion in California

Medical assistant Adrian Davis checks for air-bubbles in a syringe before giving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Medical assistant Adrian Davis prepares a COVID-19 vaccination.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Nov. 17. I’m Justin Ray.

My mom has been pushing me to get a booster shot, treating me as if I’m rooting for the virus. She has even used these newsletters against me, citing my daily writings to claim hypocrisy on COVID-19 and beyond.

I’m totally for getting the booster shot (and I did on Tuesday, Mom). However, while state officials have said no California adult should be denied a booster, I wasn’t alone in believing that in order to get one, it seems like you have to lie. I called a hospital and easily scheduled one, but I was confused by messaging on the boosters.

When you go online, eligibility questions make someone who is reasonably healthy feel like they can’t get the additional vaccination because they aren’t in a group at risk. But on Tuesday, California health officials sought to clarify matters by releasing new guidance indicating that all adults at least six months removed from their last dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or two months from their single J&J shot, can get a booster.

But there are a few important things you should know — primarily why virtually everyone is at risk and thus eligible for a booster shot.

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Do I have to lie? No. Websites ask if you are in one of the few eligible groups. One option describes those “at high risk for COVID-19 exposure.” Well, according to a permissive interpretation articulated recently by health officials across California, every adult qualifies, because all are essentially “at high risk for COVID-19 exposure due to occupation or institutional setting.” Additionally, the CDC pointedly allows vaccinated adults to use their own judgment in determining whether they think they’re “at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19.”

Health official tells providers not to turn anyone away. Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health, sent a letter Tuesday instructing vaccination providers to “allow patients to self-determine their risk of exposure. Do not turn a patient away who is requesting a booster.” Booster-eligible adults may include those who “live in geographic areas that have been heavily impacted by COVID,” those who “reside in high transmission areas,” “work with the public or live with someone who works with the public” or “live or work with someone at high risk of severe impact of COVID.”

A reminder about the booster: Wondering which one you should choose? I’ve discussed this before, but we have some important context about the various vaccines. While you should check with your doctor, you may want to consider our data about how long each lasts.

Why you should get a booster: Without a booster, health officials warn, vaccinated people will be at greater risk of breakthrough infections, which can lead to hospitalizations and death among the most vulnerable. “If it’s your time,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, “please come in and get your booster.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

FYI: I wanted to provide the full quote from yesterday’s newsletter regarding Tasha Adams, whose estranged husband Stewart Rhodes started the Oath Keepers. “If I hadn’t helped him start it, I mean, there would probably still have been an insurrection,” Adams said in an interview with The Times. “But what would it have looked like? That is what I’m trying to figure out.”

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

Gas prices in California reached an all-time high Monday as the average price of a regular gallon soared to $4.682, according to the American Automobile Assn. The prices are being driven primarily by higher crude oil costs and an increased demand for fuel, AAA Southern California spokesman Doug Shupe said. “We had really, really low demand during the pandemic, and then it just ramped up rapidly as more and more people became vaccinated,” he said. “The desire to get out there and travel really picked up quickly.” Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

Staples Center is getting a new name for Christmas: Crypto.com Arena. The downtown Los Angeles venue will wear the new name for 20 years under a deal between the Singapore cryptocurrency exchange and Anschutz Entertainment Group, the arena’s owner and operator. Crypto.com paid more than $700 million for the naming rights, one of the biggest such deals in sports history. Visitors will see one clear change at the entrance to the arena from L.A. Live, adjacent to the statue of Magic Johnson, where 3,300 square feet will become a dedicated Crypto.com “activation space” featuring crypto-centric interactive experiences for sports or music fans. Los Angeles Times

‘I assumed the price on my bill had to be a typo.’ Stephanie Noonan Drachkovitch broke her foot while horseback riding. She got treated at a UCLA-affiliated orthopedic facility in Thousand Oaks and has no complaints about the quality of care. “My doctors were fantastic,” Drachkovitch told me. “This isn’t about them.” What this is about, as you’ve probably guessed, is her subsequent bill for medical care. What caught her attention was the $809 charge for a plastic walking boot. The worst part? What she discovered on Amazon: the same boot for drastically less. Los Angeles Times

Horses
Cute horses, none of which were responsible for the aforementioned injury.
(Associated Press)

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

A group rallied to demand that San Francisco give a mostly vacant, city-owned building to a nonprofit representing Black business, cultural, religious and community groups. At a rally in front of Fillmore Heritage Center, actor Danny Glover, NAACP San Francisco chapter President Rev. Amos Brown and other Black leaders said the building should be donated as reparations for the city destroying the once-vibrant Black Fillmore neighborhood during urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s. “I was born here and came here with my dad when there was magic on this street,” Glover said. “They have not delivered on their promise. That’s what we have to fight for.” San Francisco Chronicle

Amazon has agreed to pay $500,000 to better enforce state consumer protection laws after California’s attorney general said the company has concealed COVID-19 case numbers from its workers. It’s the first such action under the state’s “right to know” law, meant to improve workplace safety. In a statement from his office, Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said Amazon agreed to submit to monitoring and to improve how it notifies workers and local health agencies of COVID-19 cases in its workplaces. The measures come “at a crucial time for workers as Amazon’s peak holiday season approaches,” the statement said. Los Angeles Times

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Venture capitalists in Los Angeles say they’ve altered their investment strategies because of climate change. Investors are eyeing clean-tech startups, and money is flowing into companies such as electric vehicle maker Rivian and home energy storage provider Swell. “I am told by scientists that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to net zero are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have. That’s just a reality,” U.S. Climate Envoy and former Senator John Kerry said in May. Dot.LA

State regulators urged Californians to do more to save water after the latest monthly data showed conservation lagging in September. Statewide water use in cities and towns decreased 3.9% compared with September 2020. The reduction in water use was smaller than in August, when Californians used 5% less. Gov. Gavin Newsom in July called for Californians to voluntarily cut water use 15%, but the latest figures, which were released Tuesday, show that much of the state remains far from that goal. “The backsliding isn’t welcome. But it is what it is,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “We need to continue to focus on conserving in this critical time during drought.” Los Angeles Times

For much of the last 18 years, Vincent Valencia has lived alone at the summit of Mammoth Mountain — a frozen world that is lashed regularly by the ugliest weather California has to offer. At 61, he is one of the few people with the obscure skill set needed to supervise Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s gondola operation, which often endures whiteout conditions, 184-mph winds and temperatures that drop to minus 30 degrees. “I may not see another living soul for five days or more,” Valencia said recently. “I’m by myself and not doing anything stupid.” Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

A podcast explores the state. ‘What is California?’ is a podcast hosted by Stu VanAirsdale, who may have the best name ever. So far, my favorite episode features Los Angeles Times columnist Erika Smith, who says L.A., with its ideological and cultural diversity, allows people to experience new ideas. She argues that in less-diverse communities, homogeneity means people never get to learn about other ways of life. VanAirsdale also has interesting interviews with former Gov. Jerry Brown and state auditor Elaine Howle. What is California?

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Sunny 73 San Diego: 78 San Francisco: 67 San Jose: Sunny 72 Fresno: 68 Sacramento: Sunny 67

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Michael Breeden:

I was about 12 the first time I ever saw San Francisco. We were driving over the Bay Bridge on the way to take my sister to the University of San Francisco. It was just before sunset, and it seemed that there was a brilliant, golden light reflecting off every window of the city. Over the years, I came to enjoy the city more as I saw the many wonders it had to offer. It is a small architectural museum with many choice pieces.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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