Happy weekend! I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs. We had some technical difficulties sending out the newsletter on Friday — apologies for the delayed delivery. Here are some of the headlines as we wrap up the week.

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.

Pentagon sending 1,000 troops to 5 COVID-19 vaccination sites in California

The Pentagon will deploy more than 1,100 troops to five vaccination centers in what will be the first wave of increased military support for the White House campaign to get more Americans inoculated against COVID-19.

President Joe Biden has called for setting up 100 mass vaccination centers around the country within a month. Acting FEMA Administrator Robert Fenton told reporters that two vaccination sites that will be “predominantly” federally run will open in California on Feb. 16, one at California State University, Los Angeles, and the other in Oakland.

Military troops will staff one of the two California centers, FEMA and Pentagon officials said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked the Pentagon to supply as many as 10,000 service members to staff 100 centers. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the initial five teams, but the others will be approved in separate tranches as FEMA identifies the other site locations.

Each of the five military teams includes 222 personnel, including 80 who will give the vaccines, as well as nurses and other support staff. The teams are expected to provide about 6,000 shots a day.

Vaccine No. 3 could soon join the U.S. market, but will people want it?

Public health officials say a third COVID-19 vaccine could soon be available in the United States, but there is some concern that people won’t want it.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Johnson & Johnson applied Thursday for federal emergency-use authorization for its vaccine, which it says “was 72% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a U.S. clinical trial.”

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Meanwhile, the two vaccines currently being administered, which are made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are said to be more than 94% effective.

But scientists say the difference in effectiveness could simply be based on timing. Pfizer and Moderna conducted their trials in the summer and fall — before there were known variants of the virus — while Johnson & Johnson didn’t begin its trials until September.

According to the report, all three vaccines — Pfizer’s, Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s — were created to combat strains that were common in the early days of the pandemic.

“If we switched this around … it’s possible we would have seen a flip in the efficacy,” said Dr. James Campbell, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It’s difficult to know if you’re comparing apples to oranges.”

Are you wondering when life will finally return to normal? The Orange County Register reports that it will take seven years at today’s vaccination rates.

Bill seeks to change liquor laws to help small businessesOutdoor diners enjoy the nice weather while dining at the Original Las Casuelas in Palm Springs, January 28, 2021.

A new bill introduced Friday could loosen some of the state’s alcohol laws, providing more options to bar and restaurant owners as they struggle to remain open.

Sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, the Bar and Restaurant Recovery Act, or SB314, would, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, “make permanent some of the changes that have been temporarily allowed since the pandemic began, such as allowing restaurants to serve alcohol in outdoor spaces like parking lots and sidewalks.” In addition, it would make it easier for pop-up restaurants to get catering licenses and would expedite the approval process for obtaining liquor licenses.

“As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel with this vaccine, we need to help these small businesses recover,” Wiener said in an interview. “Now’s the time to make common-sense changes to our alcohol rules that tangibly support small businesses.”

Other pandemic-era “emergency alcohol measures,” such as the legalization of takeout and delivery cocktails from restaurants, are not addressed in the bill.

While opponents of the bill will likely express concerns that making public drinking more accessible could lead to public safety concerns, Wiener does not agree. “People have access to all the alcohol they want now,” he said. “This isn’t about how much people drink. It’s about how much flexibility we’re giving to these small businesses.”

Students learn from Amanda Gorman poemAmanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet, delivered a powerful message to Americans.

After showing her kindergarten class at Alice Smith Elementary School in Reno a video of Amanda Gorman reciting “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Hannah Thrower broke down the poem for her students, asking them line by line to point out powerful words they heard.

The enthusiastic students shouted words like “hope,” “justice,” “purpose” and “brave.”

While a poetry lesson might seem odd for students who are just learning how to read, Thrower believes her class is up to the challenge. “Don’t underestimate what kindergarten students can do or understand,” she said.

“That poem is one that will be talked about, and I want them to know they heard it in my classroom,” Thrower said about the importance of this particular lesson.

Gorman, a California native, is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Only three other presidents have invited a poet to share the inauguration stage. Gorman will again make history when she reads another original poem at Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa.

Bite-sized news bits, from unemployment to rising seas:

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, The Orange County Register, San Francisco Chronicle, 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 winston.gieseke@desertsun.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Troops to support California’s COVID-19 vaccination sites



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