Wind Whips up Wildfire in California Canyons, Residents Flee

Powerful gusts pushed flames from a wildfire through Southern California canyons on Thursday, one of several blazes that burned near homes and forced residents to flee amid elevated fire risk for most of the region that prompted utilities to cut off power to hundreds of thousands.

The biggest blaze began late Wednesday as a house fire in Orange County’s Silverado Canyon, where gusts topped 70 mph.

“When crews arrived it was a fully engulfed house and the winds were extremely strong and they pushed flames into the vegetation,” said Colleen Windsor, a spokeswoman for the county’s Fire Authority.

California Wants Hospitals to Test All Workers for Virus

California has asked hospitals to ramp up their coronavirus testing amid a surge of new cases, urging them to test health care workers at least once per week while testing all new patients before admitting them.

California reported 7,787 confirmed coronavirus hospitalizations on Monday, with 1,812 of those patients in intensive care units. Statewide, 75% of intensive care beds are filled and state officials expect to reach capacity by mid-December.

Aggressive Testing at University Cuts COVID Rate to Near Zero

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently completed its in-person fall semester. And as the nation watches the COVID-19 virus surge, the school continues the virus testing program that has worked so well since it began in August.

The COVID-19 positivity rate for the entire student body and faculty for the past seven days was 0.45 percent. The number of total tests given since the inception of the program? A staggering 908,158. But it’s that rate of testing and contact tracing that reduced the positivity rate from a high of nearly 3 percent in late August to what it is now.

California Regulator Raising Concern with PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Measures

The California Public Utilities Commission has raised concerns over certain deficiencies that it says could affect PG&E Corp.’s ability to provide safe and reliable service, the power provider disclosed in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

The regulator, in a letter dated Tuesday, said it will require remediation on specific issues identified in the San Francisco-based utility’s wildfire mitigation plan progress reports.

California Co-Workers Charged for Insurance Fraud and Arson

Co-workers Rajdeep Singh, 35, of Rocklin, Calif., and David Bailey, Jr., 29, of Sacramento, were arrested on multiple counts of insurance fraud and arson after allegedly conspiring to commit vehicular arson in order to receive an undeserved insurance payout of over $30,000.

The Sacramento Fire Department on June 24 responded to a vehicle fire in a parking lot and identified the vehicle as a 2016 Honda Pilot. The morning of the fire, the registered owner’s son, Singh, arrived on the scene and claimed the vehicle had been stolen while he was working at his job, Primetime Autos, a used car dealership where he worked as a finance manager.

California’s Wine Country Adapting to Annual Wildfire Threat

Harvest season in Northern California’s wine country is what dream weddings are made of: ripe grapevines and golden sunsets provide ceremonies an alluring backdrop that every year draws millions of visitors.

But harvest season now overlaps with fire season as wildfires, too, have become a yearly reality in the region.

In three of the past four years, major wildfires driven by a changing climate have devastated parts of the world-famous region, leaving little doubt that it’s vulnerable to smoke, flames and blackouts in the fall.

Northern California Hospitals Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine

Nov. 11—News this week from Pfizer pharmaceuticals of a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough is prompting Sacramento and Northern California healthcare providers to step up preparations for mass distribution.

That includes the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, which is in talks with state officials about serving as a vaccine storage and distribution site for Northern California. The vaccine requires specialized low-temperature freezers for storage, and UC Davis has some and is buying more.

California Workers’ Comp Hospital Stays From 2010 to 2019 Examined

A new study from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute shows the steep drop in the number of inpatient hospitalizations involving injured workers in the state over the past decade was largely due to the ongoing decline in spinal fusions and a more recent decline in lower extremity joint surgeries.

The CWCI study reviews discharge data compiled by the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development on 35.9 million inpatient hospital stays from 2010 through 2019 paid by workers’ compensation, Medicare, Medi-Cal and private insurance, to identify workers’ comp inpatient trends and to compare the volume and types of California inpatient hospitalizations covered by workers’ comp to those covered by the three other systems.

P/C Insurers Face Workforce, Risk, Policy Challenges as Pandemic Continues

Given that business-as-usual is unlikely to return soon due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. property/casualty insurers will continue to face challenges related to virus-related insurance losses and premium volume declines in 2021, according to Fitch Ratings.

The operational and risk management challenges of managing workforce flexibility, limiting risk aggregations and reducing claims exposure through clarity of policy terms will endure beyond the pandemic and become “new normal” longer-term drivers of the industry, contend analysts James Auden and Christopher Grimes, authors of “The Next Phase: U.S. Property/ Casualty Insurers.”

1,000 Volunteers Enrolling at Stanford for COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

Nov. 3—Stanford Medicine has begun enrolling volunteers to participate in a clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson — one of a handful of efforts considered front-runners in the global race for a vaccine.

Enrollment for Phase 3 of the trial began Friday, marking the final stage before potential authorization in which tens of thousands of people receive the vaccine to see if it is effective. Stanford plans to enroll 1,000 volunteers as part of the global trial that will include 60,000 people at 180 sites around the world.


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