Omicron sweeps Santa Cruz. Plus, a contentious monument in Gilroy and a glimpse into the deep sea.
Welcome to KAZU's Friday News Roundup for 1/14/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few national stories from NPR.
New Year, new name, new sign — Santa Cruz’s community center is now officially the London Nelson Center. It was renamed on Juneteenth last year, after historians and members of the Black community called out a historic typo. The man the center is named after is not Louden, as previously thought, but London.
London Nelson was one of Santa Cruz’s earliest Black residents and heroes, who bought himself out of slavery in the early 1800s and became a successful farmer and cobbler in the city. He left all of his wealth to Santa Cruz public schools when he died.
For generations, a misprint of his name left many to believe he was called “Louden” instead of “London.” With the new sign at the corner of Center and Laurel streets, the name change finally feels real.
Santa Cruz recently removed its last El Camino Real bell. But in Gilroy, plans to install a new bell are underway. Chairman Valentin Lopez of the Amah Mutsun, who is leading the “Remove the Bells” movement, spoke at Gilroy’s city council meeting this week against the bell, alongside eight others. The Northern California American Civil Liberties Union also submitted a letter of opposition.
The city council approved the bell in Oct. 2020 and the post for the bell is already installed along Gilroy’s downtown paseo, on Monterey Street. At this week’s meeting, Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz proposed the city reconsider the bell, but she was interrupted by Mayor Marie Blankley, who immediately called for a vote. The motion failed with only three members of council in support. KAZU News reached out to Blankley and others on the council, but did not receive a response in time for the publication of this newsletter.
“This is just a reminder of how much work we have ahead of us,” said Chairman Lopez. As KAZU’s Jerimiah Oetting reported last month, many Indigenous people say the bells symbolize the painful history of the missions on California’s Native Americans.
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel gave an update on the omicron variant Thursday. She said the virus is expected to peak the first week in February, if not earlier. The early peak is an indication of how easily omicron is transmitted.
KAZU’s Doug McKnight covered the news conference, which was held on Zoom and included Deputy Health Officers Drs. David Ghilarducci and Cal Gordon. They asked county residents to save hospital emergency rooms for “true emergencies” and first seek help from their primary care physicians.
Santa Cruz County is currently administering between 3,000 and 4,000 COVID tests a day. Newel said cloth masks are no longer recommended. Instead, she advised residents to look for N95, KN95 and KF94 masks. All are available online.
The COVID pandemic is also contributing to a nationwide blood crisis. The American Red Cross now faces its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. According to Red Cross spokesperson Cari Dighton, doctors are forced to make difficult decisions about who will receive a transfusion and who needs to wait.
Donations of blood are down 10%since the beginning of the pandemic. Blood drives are down by 62%. Over the next month, more than half of appointments for blood donations in the Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region are unfilled. The Red Cross is looking for both blood donors and volunteers. Donors can make an appointment online or by calling 800-733-2767. Volunteers can sign up to support blood collections online as well.
Dighton said the Red Cross supports the highest COVID safety protocols for donors, volunteers and staff.
From a home in Pacific Grove to a vault in Salinas, professional movers transferred Pat Hathaway’s unrivaled collection of historical photographs this week. His collection dates back to California’s Gold Rush, showing us how people lived along the Monterey Bay and how industries like fishing and agriculture have changed over many generations.
In last week’s Friday News Roundup, we told you about the decision that awarded the collection to the Monterey County Historical Society. Pat Hathaway died a year ago with no will, which landed that decision in the courts. This week, KAZU’s Suzanne Saunders reported on Hathaway’s lasting mark on the Monterey Peninsula. Listen to her story here.
A new exhibition at the Monterey Bay Aquarium — more than five years in the making — opens April 9. Called “Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean,” it offers a glimpse into the largest habitat on our planet, the deep sea. The team was able to work on this new project during their 14-month closure thanks to the Grainger Family Fund, which covered the full $15 million cost.
The 10,000 square-foot exhibit explores the role of the deep sea on planet Earth, and illustrates how this unexplored habitat faces the same threats as the rest of our ocean, from climate change to plastic pollution. Developed in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, it has “the most sophisticated water treatment system the Aquarium has ever designed” to support the precise conditions deep-sea animals need, like giant spider crabs.
“Connecting people with the astounding diversity of life found beneath the waves and inspiring conservation of the ocean is what Monterey Bay Aquarium was created to do,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the Aquarium.
Tune into KAZU next week for another deep-sea story. KAZU’s Jerimiah Oetting interviewed a local science journalist who wrote about the recovery of a mammoth tusk from 10,000 feet below the surface of the Monterey Bay.
State of the Pandemic
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The KAZU Team