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Empower Yourself For The Critical Weeks Ahead

Michelle Loxton
A lawn sign directs voters during the March 2020 primary. This November, if you decide to vote in-person, your polling place may look a little different as workers and voters adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions.

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 9/25/20 where you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.

The election is 38 days away. But as Gail Pellerin, Santa Cruz County Clerk, puts it, November 3 is the last day to vote. Early voting in California begins a week from Monday and mail-in ballots are about to go out. The first presidential debate is next Tuesday in Cleveland. 

Are you registered to vote? Californians can check their voter status here. If you need to register, click here.    

We’re experiencing yet another political fight in the road to the 2020 election as the vacant Supreme Court seat takes center stage. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is being remembered as a determined crusader for women’s rights who broke glass ceilings. And now, she’s the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

Demonstrators shouted, “vote him out” and “honor her wish” when President Trump paid his respects Thursday. Ginsburg’s dying wish was to not be replaced “until a new president is installed.”

Up until November 3, we’re answering election questions: 

Q: When should I expect my ballot in the mail?

A: The deadline for election offices to put your ballot in the mail is October 5. So, you should expect to receive it no later than October 13 (October 12 is a postal holiday). If you don’t receive your ballot by then, contact your local elections office.

Q: When will local voter guides arrive in the mail?

A: Early October. San Benito County voters will receive their guide with their ballot.

Q: What’s the deadline to register to vote?

A: October 19. However, you can register the day you vote if you go in-person. It’s called “same day voter registration.” 

Q: What safety procedures are in place for in-person voters during COVID-19?

A: Polling places must enforce health and safety guidelines, from social distancing to mask wearing and disinfecting. Hand sanitizing stations will be available and hand washing is encouraged before and after casting your ballot. Curbside voting is another option—poll workers will bring a ballot to your car. 

Hartnell College in Salinas will continue online instruction throughout the spring 2021 semester, which ends on May 22. There are some exceptions—students in Nursing and Allied Health programs are allowed to complete specific hands-on training under a state order. 

Indoor religious worship has changed significantly under California’s regulations to reduce the spread of COVID-19. KAZU’s Doug McKnight looked into what congregations do when they can no longer congregate. For one, they’re getting creative, such as trying out a drive-in parking lot bar mitzvah and holding outdoor mass on a preschool playground.

Credit Michelle Loxton
Free masks are offered to those passing by a neighborhood in Monterey. The CDC says masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.

The Monterey County Health Department recommends no trick-or-treating this Halloween. The county health officer, Dr. Edward Moreno, said parties, gatherings and events are still prohibited. The Health Department is also not recommending “trunk-or-treating,” which involves handing out candy from cars. Local health officials said they expect the state to release Halloween guidance soon.

Santa Cruz County reported a new death from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed fatalities to nine. The individual was Latinx and in her 60s. Two additional deaths have been verbally reported to the health services agency, but the health officer is waiting on death certificates before those fatalities can be officially added. 

There’s a coronavirus outbreak at a skilled nursing facility in Watsonville. As of Thursday, the Watsonville Post Acute Center reported 27 COVID-19 cases among its 73 residents. Six staff members have also tested positive for the virus. The county health officer, Dr. Gail Newel, said the potential for fatalities in this facility is significant. 

COVID-19 Updates as of Friday morning:

Protests erupted nationwide this week after Kentucky's attorney general announced no officers would be charged directly over Breonna Taylor’s death. Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mom, said the justice system failed Breonna. NPR shared images of demonstrations, which took place from Portland to New York City. 

Over 17,000 firefighters continue to battle 25 major wildfires in California. Five of the six largest fires in recorded history (reliable record keeping dates back to the 1930s) occurred in August and September of 2020, according to Cal Fire.. Locally, firefighters have completely contained the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. Contained is not controlled, Cal Fire said. Crews will continue to monitor for smoldering areas.

For KAZU News, Hannah Hagemann looked into how wildfire affected Santa Cruz County drinking water. When wildfire strikes, water infrastructure that’s made out of plastic is particularly at risk of contamination. 

Rugged terrain continues to pose challenges for firefighters working on the Dolan Fire in the Los Padres National Forest between the Big Sur coastline and into Fort Hunter Liggett. With resources stretched thin infrared technology that can identify sources of heat has helped save time. Crews can focus on areas that need the most attention, such as the northeast portion of the fire.

Wildfire Updates as of Friday Morning:

The KAZU team would like to give a big shout out to the California Regional News Hub. The hub works to enhance collaboration among public radio stations in the state in partnership with NPR. Joanne Griffith, the managing editor, paved the way to temporarily bring Hannah Hagemann, Caitlin Thompson and Alisa Barba on board to assist the KAZU team after the Central Coast wildfires broke out. Thank you to Joanne, Hannah, Caitlin and Alisa for their diligent reporting, web updates, editing and all of their hard work. 

NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was designated as a federally protected marine area 28 years ago. It stretches along the Central Coast, from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to Hearst Castle near San Simeon. Called the “Serengeti of the Sea,” the MBNMS is teeming with life and home to unique habitats, including octopus gardens.

Credit Erika Mahoney
A photograph of the Pacific Grove shoreline. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary spans 276 miles of shoreline along the Central Coast.

Finally, thank you to everyone who supported KAZU during our Fall Membership Drive, which concluded successfully on Thursday morning. 1,251 listeners stepped forward to support this public service in our community and finish our fundraiser on target. We are grateful for each contribution. Listener support powers KAZU for the critical weeks ahead and beyond. 

Until next week,

The KAZU Team