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COVID-19 Setbacks Locally. Veterans Go Back To School. A Welcomed Visit From The Wienermobile.

Michelle Loxton
Walks in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve have been seasonably cool. The National Weather Service says the current chilly weather will persist through Friday ahead of another cold front sweeping across the region with a chance of rain.

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 11/13/20. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.


As California surpasses one million COVID-19 cases, tough news broke locally this week in the Monterey Bay area. Santa Cruz County was demoted to the Red Tier in the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system, called the ‘Blueprint for a Safer Economy.’ The county was recently placed in the less restrictive Orange Tier, but that was short-lived. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk had to close after just one weekend of rides running again. Restaurants and gyms must decrease capacity and some businesses, like bars, have to close altogether.


The county’s health officer, Dr. Gail Newel, said they’ve seen a sudden increase in coronavirus cases with active cases doubling in recent weeks. The cases are among young people and mostly stem from Halloween events. Newel urged the public to reconsider holiday travel plans and festive gatherings. The county is asking anyone who leaves the Bay Area or has contact with people from outside the community to do a voluntary 14-day quarantine. Despite this disappointing news, Newel said the good news is that hospital capacity in the county is still in good shape. There’s also a possibility, she added, that a coronavirus vaccine could arrive in the community in December. That vaccine would be prioritized for frontline healthcare workers and residents of skilled nursing facilities. 


Meanwhile, Monterey County is stuck in the state’s most restrictive tier, the Purple Tier. This week, the state denied the county’s appeal to move into the Red Tier. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton explained why and broke down the Blueprint for a Safer Economy system for us. If you’ve been wondering how it all works, this story should help clear things up. 


COVID-19 Updates as of Friday morning:

NPR has created an online database where you can check how individual states are doing. It’s full of charts, maps and tables. 


Here’s some hopeful news -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says wearing a mask does protect the wearer. Originally, the messaging around masks was that they protected others. But increasing evidence suggests otherwise. NPR reported on which masks work best


Veterans Day was on Wednesday -- a time to pay tribute to those who served our country. A new monument for Native American veterans opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to mark the occasion. The sculpture, called the Warriors’ Circle of Honor, is a stainless steel ring over a stone drum. It’s been in the works for 25 years. Native veterans plan to sanctify the National Native Americans Veterans Memorial once it’s safe to travel again. 


The Monterey County Office of Education launched a program in 2019 to give veterans the chance to get their high school diploma if military service interrupted their plans to do so. Japanese-American citizens who were in internment camps could also participate. KAZU reported on Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project at the beginning of this year. Now, MCOE has a 40-minute documentary about the class of 2020. 


We couldn’t write this weekly news roundup without mentioning President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. It’s been a whirlwind of an election year. KAZU brought you special coverage last Saturday morning as the new president was announced and we carried Biden and Harris’ speeches when they addressed the nation that night. President Donald Trump still hasn’t conceded. You can follow live updates on the presidential transition from NPR. On Thursday, Pope Francis congratulated Biden, who will be the nation’s second Catholic president.


You can stay informed about local election results at Measure Y, an increase in the hotel tax in the City of Monterey, passed with 74% yes votes. City Manager Hans Uslar said it will generate an additional month of hotel tax, approximately $1.2 million, between now and the end of the fiscal year July 1. The city is still down by about 60 percent in hotel tax collections due to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.


The weather is getting colder and that means people are firing up their wood burning fireplaces and furnaces. You may have noticed more smoke in the air. The Monterey Bay Air Resources District is offering rebates to install alternative heating sources. MBARD is one of KAZU’s many financial supporters.


It’s that time of year when western monarch butterflies should start showing up in the Monterey Bay area. These butterflies spend the winter here in places like Pacific Grove. They travel hundreds of miles to do so. KAZU’s Erika Mahoney interviewed Senior Biologist Jessica Griffiths about why the Monterey Bay area matters to monarchs and why these butterflies are in trouble. As of November 6, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History has reported 0 sightings of monarchs at the Butterfly Monarch Sanctuary. Docents are doing another count today. 



Credit Erika Mahoney
A sign along the path that meanders through the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove.


Thanksgiving is just around the corner. In Monterey, the option of home delivery has been added to the Community Thanksgiving Program, scheduled for Wednesday, November 25 at Dennis The Menace Park. About 1,500 Thanksgiving meals will be distributed. An additional 350 meals are available for home delivery for those who cannot go to the park to pick up meals. Reservations are required through montereyrecreation@monterey.orgor by calling 831-646-3866 to leave a message for staff.


Farmworkers who feed us are facing another hurdle -- wage cuts. The U.S. Department of Labor came out with new rules regarding farm labor and their pay. The rules are complicated and apply to workers on H-2A visas who come from other countries to work seasonally in the U.S. Typically the government does a survey to see what employers are paying U.S. workers to calculate the hourly wage for H-2A workers. The Trump Administration wants to cancel the survey. The Administration also announced they would freeze their wages at this year’s rates for the next two years. That’s despite a worker shortage that’s increasing wages faster than inflation. NPR covered the stakes of these decisions about farmworker wages


If you’re looking for something different and fun to do, an official Wienermobile is visiting six local communities today and tomorrow. The hot-dog-shaped vehicle is part of a fleet that travels around the country. This week, it’s been making stops across the Monterey Bay area. Although the Wienermobile doesn’t serve food, people can check out the inside of the vehicle and get a famous Wiener Whistle. The Wienermobile launched during the Great Depression in 1936. The goal was to deliver happiness during a hard time to residents of Chicago, the home of Oscar Mayer. Today, during a global pandemic, a little joy is definitely welcomed. 


Until next week,

The KAZU Team

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