Author Archives: KQED News Staff and Wires

Sonoma Wants to Tighten Restrictions on E-Cigarettes

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Yenisley Dieppa tries different flavors as she purchases an electronic cigarette at the Vapor Shark store on February 20, 2014 in Miami, Florida. As the popularity of E- cigarettes continue to grow, leading U.S. tobacco companies such as Altria Group Inc. the maker of Marlboro cigarettes are annoucing plans to launch their own e-cigarettes as they start to pose a small but growing competitive threat to traditional smokes.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Sonoma city officials are proposing an ordinance aimed at curbing the sale of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to minors within city limits.

“We need to make sure that young kids aren’t attracted to smoking and curb nicotine addiction at a young age for health reasons,” Sonoma Mayor David Cook said at a meeting Monday night.

Councilwoman Rachel Hundley said that e-cigarettes “are pervasive in high schools,” the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. “I hear it from parents all the time.” Continue reading

Majority of Medi-Cal Kids Not Getting Regular Dental Care

Dentist and child

(Photo: Herald Post/Flickr)

by David Gorn, California Healthline

A joint legislative hearing scheduled for Tuesday in Sacramento will examine a state auditor’s report that found more than half the children in California’s Medicaid dental program are not getting regular dental care and the number of dental providers in the program is dropping.

“What the audit makes clear is that we could be doing a better job in California. More than half of the children [in the Denti-Cal program] are not getting the care they need,” said Jacob Vigil, legislative advocate for Children’s Partnership, a children’s health advocacy organization.

“There is a huge issue of access here,” said Vigil, who is scheduled to testify at today’s hearing. “This audit is unique in the way it comprehensively lays out the problem, outlining the kind of recommendations that could make a difference. It represents a significant moment.” Continue reading

Chevron, Other Refineries Face Tougher Air Quality Rules

Monday night's Chevron Refinery fire as seen from the Berkeley Hills. (Daniel Parks: Flickr)

2012 Chevron Refinery fire as seen from the Berkeley Hills. (Daniel Parks: Flickr)

The public will have a chance to comment this week on proposed air quality rules for the Bay Area’s five oil refineries.

The new rules, from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, aim for more accurate estimates of all refinery emissions and to assess any risks to human health. The district also wants to see a 20 percent decrease in emissions.

Refineries would have to compile a profile of all emissions over one year.

From the Bay Area News Group:

Political pressure for the tougher rules mounted after a 2012 fire at Chevron’s Richmond oil refinery sent thousands to hospitals with eye, throat and lung irritation.

With the new proposals, clean air regulators say they want a more holistic approach that goes further than existing rules and permits aimed at reducing pollution from specific types of boilers, towers, other equipment and manufacturing processes.

Continue reading

First Measles Case in Contra Costa; BART Riders Potentially Exposed

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A Contra Costa Country resident commuting to and from work in San Francisco last week may have exposed some BART riders to measles, health officials said today.

Officials with Contra Costa Health Services and the San Francisco Department of Public Health said risk of contracting measles by being exposed to the disease on BART is low, but riders should nonetheless be aware of the situation.

The person traveled between the Lafayette and Montgomery BART stations during the morning and evening commutes from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The person also spent time at E&O Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant located at 314 Sutter St. in San Francisco, on Feb. 4 between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Continue reading

New Vaccination Bill Would End ‘Personal Belief Exemption’

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Fenit Nirappil
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers are proposing legislation that would require parents to vaccinate all school children unless a child’s health is in danger, joining only two other states with such stringent restrictions.

Parents could no longer cite personal beliefs or religious reasons to send unvaccinated children to school under a proposal introduced Wednesday after dozens of people have fallen ill from a measles outbreak that started in late December at Disneyland.

Mississippi and West Virginia are the only other states with such strict vaccine rules, though the California bill’s chief author said he would consider including a religious exemption, as allowed now. Continue reading

Contra Costa Supervisors Approve Plan to Help Doctors Medical Center

Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors passed two new financial measures Tuesday providing last-minute help to embattled Doctors Medical Center (DMC) in San Pablo.

The county voted to delay the hospital’s $3 million property tax payment. If DMC can come up with enough to sustain itself for the next three years, the board will permanently waive $9 million in future repayments.

“What the county’s doing today is, it’s not committing 100 percent,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, “it’s saying these other pieces have to fall into place. If this comes together, we’re in.” Continue reading

First Death Reported from the Napa Quake

The magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck Aug. 24. (Craig Miller/KQED)

The magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck Aug. 24. (Craig Miller/KQED)

A 65-year-old woman who suffered a head injury when a television struck her during last month’s earthquake in California’s wine country has died — the first death attributed to the magnitude-6.0 quake, sheriff’s officials said.

Laurie Anne Thompson was at her Napa home during the Aug. 24 earthquake when she was hit, according to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. She did not go to the hospital until the next day when she felt dizzy and experienced a decline in mental function.

Sheriff’s officials said she died Friday at a hospital of an intracranial hemorrhage.

“Her condition continued to deteriorate over time and, unfortunately, she passed away,” Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Pike said. Continue reading

Legal Threat to Obamacare Diminished After Court Action

by Mark Sherman
Associated Press

The federal appeals court in Washington threw out a ruling Thursday that called into question the subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums under the president’s health care law.

A woman looks at the insurance exchange on October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman looks at the insurance exchange on October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted an Obama administration request to have its full complement of judges re-hear a challenge to regulations that allow health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states.

The announcement diminishes the prospect of Supreme Court review of the issue in the near term. The initial 2-1 appeals court ruling in Washington came out the same day that a panel of appellate judges in Richmond, Virginia, unanimously sided with the administration on the same issue.

The health law’s opponents had hoped that the split rulings would lead the high court to take up the issue soon. Continue reading

West Nile Virus Infections in California at All-Time High (Map of Cases by County)


West Nile virus is hosted primarily by birds — and spread by mosquitos. (Getty Images)

West Nile Virus infections in mosquitoes are at their highest recorded level ever in California. Last week, 52 new human cases were reported, bringing the total to 181.

Eight people have died from the illness.

“If you’re out there at a time of day when the mosquitoes are out — particularly at dawn and dusk — the risk of being bitten with an infected mosquito is higher than it’s been in the past,” said James Watt of the California Department of Public Health. Continue reading

Options Outlined in Doctors Medical Center Court Hearing

(s_falkow: Flickr)

(s_falkow: Flickr)

(Bay City News) A federal judge in San Francisco today heard arguments Wednesday for — and against — court intervention that would force financially embattled Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo to restore recently cut emergency services.

The U.S. District Court hearing came amid an ongoing fight to keep the hospital open. Officials have reduced services and shed more than 80 staff members there after multiple failed attempts to cover the hospital’s $18 million deficit.

Earlier this month, the hospital stopped accepting emergency ambulances, closed its heart attack intervention unit and reduced its number of inpatient beds to 50. Emergency ambulances that would normally go to DMC are now re-routed to other area hospitals.

A group of doctors, nurses and community advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court on Aug. 12 against Contra Costa County, each member of the Board of Supervisors and West Contra Costa County Healthcare District and district board chairman Eric Zell. Continue reading