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Welcome to Friday — we made it. I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, and I'm just about ready to start my weekend. But first, some headlines from this wonderful state of ours.
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.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved; California expects 1.1 million doses in next 3 weeks
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that the state expects to receive more than 1.1 million doses of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the next three weeks.
A government advisory committee voted unanimously Friday to recommend authorizing the new vaccine, which requires only one shot, for use in adults. An emergency use authorization from the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration is anticipated to follow within days because the company has met all the criteria the FDA established last year for a vaccine to be authorized: a large-scale trial proving safety and effectiveness and proof that the company can manufacture the vaccine consistently and safely.
The J&J vaccine has several advantages over the other vaccines — both of which require two doses and low-temperature storage — and one disadvantage: lower effectiveness.
In a large trial several months after the first two vaccines, the J&J vaccine was shown to be 72% effective in the United States but substantially less effective in South Africa and Latin America where two variants — which have now arrived in the United States — were spreading. Speaking at a news conference in Fresno, Newsom said that the state is expected to receive 380,300 doses of the vaccine as early as next week.
As for Friday's numbers: California has administered 8.2 million COVID-19 doses of the 10.9 million that have been delivered statewide. The state has shipped 11.2 million doses.
Mask wearing remains essential in combatting coronavirus variants
Health experts say they hope rising vaccinations and diligent mask-wearing will slow down the spread of coronavirus variants.
The Los Angeles Times reports that there are concerns about whether the current vaccines will be as effective against the variants, including including the strain first identified in South Africa, B.1.351, and California's homegrown strain, B.1.427/B.1.429.
According to the article, "Researchers at UC San Francisco said that in lab tests, the California strain was more resistant to the effects of neutralizing antibodies that are generated by the immune system in response to COVID-19 vaccines or by a previous coronavirus infection."
While researchers say the reduction in protection provided by the antibodies was “moderate ... but significant,” they also said vaccines remain our best protection.
Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of the San Diego County epidemiology department, said Wednesday that while the California strain “is a little more contagious than the other ones that are circulating in the community, the take-home message is the same: that you need to do all the things that we’ve recommended to prevent transmission — so, wearing masks, social distancing, staying at home.”
Gilead cuts jobs in California, plans move to North Carolina
A Bay Area-based biotech giant that won approval for the first COVID-19 treatment, remdesivir, is eliminating 178 jobs in the Golden State and relocating some of them to North Carolina.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Gilead will cut 168 positions in San Mateo County and 10 in Los Angeles County and is prepared to relocate up to 89 positions — depending on employee acceptance — to North Carolina’s Research Triangle, near Raleigh. According to the office of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, Gilead is planning to create an additional 275 jobs there.
The governor’s office also said Gilead is receiving a North Carolina grant that could reimburse it for nearly $10 million over 12 years if job creation goals are met.
And now, a Lady Gaga doggygate update:
Pop star calls dog walker Ryan Fischer a 'hero'
Lady Gaga’s dog walker is expected to make a "full recovery" after being shot late Wednesday, according to a statement from his family.
Ryan Fischer was walking three of the pop star's dogs Wednesday evening when a man approached and shot him once, according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Drake Madison. Two of the dogs were stolen and later recovered.
The singer, who is currently in Italy filming a movie, shared a post of her "beloved" dogs on Instagram Friday and sent love to Fischer, calling him a "hero."
Tiger Woods transferred to new hospital
Two days after seriously injuring his leg in a single-car crash near Los Angeles that required emergency surgery, Tiger Woods was transferred from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Thursday "for continuing orthopedic care and recovery," USA Today reported.
Woods' fractures from the crash are on the upper and lower parts of both the fibula and tibia, which was inserted with a rod to stabilize the area. Screws and pins were used to treat other injuries in the ankle and foot, while doctors sliced muscle in the area to relieve pressure and swelling (a safeguard against infection).
Woods, 45, will have a lengthy recovery process ahead of him, experts said.
Mr. Potato Head goes gender neutral
Toy company Hasbro has announced that Mr. Potato Head, part of Toy Story Midway Mania! at Disney's California Adventure, will no longer be using the "mister."
The company said it hopes that rebranding its iconic spud as Potato Head will promote gender equality and make the toy appeal to a broader consumer base.
That, not surprisingly, set off a bunch of reaction on Twitter. As AP reported, some people asked if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,’” another person tweeted.
The toy company appears to want to have it both ways: a tweet from Hasbro suggests that the new gender-free toy is an addition to the product line rather than a replacement: "While it was announced today that the Potato Head brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head aren’t going anywhere and will remain Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head," the company wrote.
Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement,” she said about the reaction.
And finally, to end your week on a happy note: A cat named Brandy has been reunited with her guardian after 15 years. Discovered on a porch in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, the injured stray was taken to a vet who scanned her microchip, according to a report from nbclosangeles.com.
Her registered guardian was a man named Charles, and the phone call from animal rescue confused him at first. He didn't have any pets, he said. And he hadn't seen his cat, which he'd only had a few months before she was lost, in 15 years. "He was so happy you could hear it in his voice over the phone," animal control said upon sharing the news that Brandy had resurfaced. "He never thought he would see her again." When asked if he was interested in picking her up, Charles replied: “Yes, adoption is forever.”
Have a great and safe weekend!
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: nbclosangeles.com. 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@example.com.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California expects 1.1 million doses of new J&J vaccine in 3 weeks