Flu-related death toll rises to 147
Influenza claimed the lives of 52 more Californians during the first week of peak flu season, driving the number of flu-related deaths nearly 50 percent higher than last year's entire total by the end of January.
In addition to the deaths reported by the state Friday, Santa Clara County reported the deaths of a 43-year-old man and a 54-year-old man, bringing the county's flu-death toll to 10, the fifth-highest county total in the state. The nine Bay Area counties and Santa Cruz County have reported 35 flu-related deaths this season; after Santa Clara County, the highest Bay Area total is in Contra Costa County, which has had five flu-related deaths so far.
State officials confirmed a total of 147 flu-related deaths Friday morning, with an additional 44 deaths remaining under investigation, said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health. The confirmation of those cases as flu-related would push the number of deaths to 191 in residents under 65, four of which were confirmed as children.
The H1N1 virus -- the swine flu bug -- is circulating through susceptible groups, especially among a younger generation that often goes without vaccinations and had not been exposed to this strain, health authorities said. H1N1 has largely replaced last year's H3N2 strain and has already killed nearly 50 percent more people than last year's total.
-- Erin Ivie, Staff
Peralta college district planning to divest
The Peralta Community College District will stop investing in fossil fuel companies within five years as it aims to reduce carbon emissions and become a better environmental steward, the district announced Friday.
Peralta is one of a small number of higher education institutions across the country to have taken such a stand, even as student environmentalists -- including at the University of California system and Stanford -- have pressed their leaders to do so.
The environmental justice group 350.org lists nine such commitments on its site, including Peralta, the Foothill-DeAnza Community College Foundation and the San Francisco State University Foundation.
Peralta's board president said the resolution reflects the district's commitment to a sustainable environment.
"I am proud that we have taken the lead on this vital issue and that we are doing something to help reduce these dangerous pollutants and to safeguard the future for our students, our community and our planet," board President Abel Guillen said in a news release.
The 30,000-student Peralta district includes Oakland's Laney and Merritt colleges, Berkeley City College and College of Alameda.
-- Katy Murphy, Staff
City poised to allow on-leash dogs in parks
Oakland might never get a long-awaited dog park near Lake Merritt, but the city is poised to welcome on-leash canines in public parks.
The city is proposing to amend a law that bars dogs from nearly all public parks. A preliminary draft scheduled for debate this month by the City Council's Life Enrichment Committee would allow on-leash dogs at Snow Park, Athol Park, Pine Knoll Park, Mandana Plaza, Hardy Park, the Rockridge-Temescal Greenbelt, Union Point Park, Lakeside Park and sections of Grove Shafter Park.
The city's current law only allows on-leash dogs in specified sections of parks in the Oakland hills. Dogs are currently allowed off-leash only at designated, fenced off dog play areas.
The proposal comes after the city gave up two bids to build an off-leashed dog park near Lake Merritt after neighbors fought both proposals.
-- Matthew Artz, Staff
Temporary library opens early
The temporary home of San Lorenzo Library is opening Wednesday, ahead of schedule.
The library at 395 Paseo Grande was closed at the end of last year as work began to expand the facility. Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2015, said Peggy Watson, head of branches for the Alameda County Library system. In the interim, the San Lorenzo library has moved to a temporary site around the corner at 16032 Hesperian Blvd.
Librarians had expected that the temporary site would not be ready until this spring.
"Everything just fell into place," Watson said.
The site, which formerly housed a Hollywood Video, is next to the closed Lorenzo Theatre. Because the temporary facility is about half the size of the old one, some of the library's books were put into temporary storage.
When the expanded library reopens at a cost of $9.4 million, it will be almost twice as large as the current 14,000-square-foot building, with more meeting space.
-- Rebecca Parr, Staff
Lunar New Year celebration Sunday
Solano Avenue welcomes the Year of the Horse at the seventh annual Lunar New Year Celebration and Parade on Sunday. The free event starts at 10 a.m. with live entertainment at the Albany Twin Theater, 1115 Solano Ave., headlined by the San Francisco Chinese Circus. There will also be music, dance, acrobatics, martial arts, snacks and refreshments, and the traditional lion dance. Afterward, everyone is encouraged to be part of the parade that starts at noon outside the theater and heads east along Solano Avenue to Berkeley. For more details call 510-527-5358 or visit solanostroll.org.
-- Chris Treadway, Staff