Monterey Jazz Festival Gets Groovy. Aquarium Freezer Helps Fight COVID-19. Big Sur Open For Business
Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 2/19/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.
Freezing weather and power outages in the south caused disruptions this week here on the Central Coast. Monterey County Health Officer, Dr. Edward Moreno, said the bad weather created vaccine delivery delays. As of Wednesday, he had not received a delivery date for this week’s shipment. NPR has live updates on the 2021 Winter Storms.
Power outages in Texas also made Monterey County’s 211 call center unstable. The center was being routed through Texas and the resulting disruptions caused problems for local residents who use the call center to book vaccination reservations.
But there was good news. The state’s new vaccine eligibility guidelines move up vaccination dates for some residents. In mid-March, individuals 16 to 64-years-old with a medical condition or disability that puts them at risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms will be eligible for the vaccine. Based on the state’s new guidelines, Monterey County announced the timeline for advancing through Phase 1B of the vaccine schedule. Some new dates to note:
- From March 3: Individuals 65 to 74-years-old not already vaccinated become eligible.
- From March 3: Individuals at risk of exposure while working in food, agriculture, childcare, education and emergency services not already vaccinated become eligible.
- From March 17: Individuals 16 to 64-years-old with a medical condition or disability that puts them at high risk of death from the virus become eligible. A list of the conditions can be found here.
Dr. Moreno also indicated that the state is looking to make vaccine allocation more equitable. The change would see allocation move towards population-based distribution. Monterey County has been disadvantaged recently with the state giving an allocation to multi-county health entities, or large health care systems that span multiple counties, which Monterey County doesn't have. Moreno didn’t have any details but said the move was very reassuring.
22 veterans every 15 minutes. That was the pace of coronavirus vaccinations at last Saturday’s clinic in Marina, according to a spokesperson. The by-appointment event was popular with all 600 slots booked by local veterans. The Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic will host another vaccination day on February 25 with the ability to administer 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Eligible veterans include those who are medically compromised, homeless, or over the age of 70. Organizers are emphasizing this is not a walk-in clinic and appointments must be made by calling 650-496-2535. Veterans must also be enrolled in the VA health system to take part. Those unsure of their enrollment status can call 831-647-7613.
Santa Cruz County health officials paused their weekly COVID-19 media call this week but plan to resume next week. We’ll have more information on the COVID-19 situation in Santa Cruz County then.
COVID-19 Updates as of Friday morning:
Santa Cruz County Cases - 14,438 total, 172 deaths
Monterey County Cases - 41,787 total, 315 deaths
San Benito County Cases - 5,606 total, 57 deaths
The journey of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s ultra-cold freezer is the headline of this next story. First it was at Natividad hospital and now the Aquarium's spare ultra-low temperature freezer has moved to Mee Memorial. The arrival of the freezer this week will allow the King City hospital to acquire the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Previously the hospital was only able to receive the Moderna vaccine, which does not need to be stored that cold. Despite the coronavirus vaccine being in short supply, it’s hoped that Mee Memorial will be able to administer more vaccines, especially to underserved and disproportionately impacted communities. The freezer had been on loan at Natividad until the hospital was able to acquire their own.
And speaking of cold, a rare snowfall blanketed the Mediterranean earlier this week. People seized the opportunity to make snow angels and go skiing but the storm also led to road closures and power outages. NPR shared some captivating images of the snow blanketing Athens and Istanbul.
UC Davis has released two new strawberry varieties. While these berries are usually a spring staple, the new varieties can be enjoyed throughout fall and winter too because they were bred for summer planting. The new strawberries are named UCD Finn and UCD Mojo. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of strawberries, according to UC Davis, and nearly 90 percent of strawberries are grown here in the Golden State.
An investigation has found that during the pandemic some contributors to California Governor Gavin Newsom have also secured valuable no-bid contracts with the state. The investigation by CapRadio found “an overlap of at least a half-dozen companies that made substantial contributions to Newsom and received no-bid contracts from the state, influential appointments, or other opportunities related to the state’s pandemic response”. Journalist Scott Rod provides a breakdown of contributions from Blue Shield of California, United Health and others.
In other news for the Governor this week, Newsom and state lawmakers have announced a $9.6 billion stimulus package for struggling Californians. It includes $600 stimulus checks for households receiving the state’s earned income tax credit for low-income workers and an extra $600 for undocumented taxpayers earning less than $75,000 who were left out of federal aid.
In the coming weeks the House is expected to vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, but what’s in it that’s important to Central Coast residents? Local Congressman Jimmy Panetta answered that question in a press release at the end of last week. Here are some of his highlights:
- $1,400 stimulus checks, including adult dependents and children of immigrant parents,
- An increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit,
- Extension of temporary federal unemployment benefits through August 29, 2021,
- Increase in weekly federal supplemental unemployment benefit from $300 to $400,
- Over $1 billion in funding to support socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,
- 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through September 30, 2021.
Panetta is particularly proud of legislation he was able to include such as the ‘SOS Act’, which would fund and deploy strike teams to nursing homes and long-term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. In addition Panetta said, “I fought for and secured $3.6 billion in funding that will protect farmworkers from COVID-19, including funding for more vaccinations.”
You can read the Congressman’s full press release here. You can also listen to the NPR Politics Podcast break down the bill. Reporters say it will likely become one of the most expensive spending bills in American history.
Big Sur is open for business. That’s the message the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau is trying to get out after the recent collapse of part of Highway 1 at Rat Creek. Even though the famous coastal roadway currently doesn’t fully connect from north to south there is still “40 miles of Big Sur’s northern rugged coastline” to explore, says the bureau. Travelers from the north can access Garrapata State Park, Andrew Molera State Park and the town of Big Sur. Travelers from the south can access smaller coastal towns and sites including Gorda, Sand Dollar Beach and the trending Lucia Lodge, which was recently featured in Netflix’s Ratched series.
Caltrans announced Thursday that the southern closure of Highway 1 will move north three days earlier than originally planned. The southern closure will relocate to Big Creek Vista Point at PM 27.3 today. This change will open up an additional 11 miles of Highway 1 south of where the roadway washed out at Rat Creek. North of the damage, a turnaround at Lime Creek Bridge will serve as the limit for Highway 1 drivers as the repairs continue. Crews have been hauling out woody debris from the site as engineering teams continue to assess repair options.
The Monterey Jazz Festival has launched a new subscription-based series. Called Evolution of a Groove: the Monterey Commissions, each episode will feature never before shared commissioned performances from the festival’s archives. The first episode was released yesterday and featured works by John Clayton in a 2017 commission. Twelve episodes will be released every two weeks or so. Other jazz legend performances include Maria Schneider, performed by the Maria Schneider Orchestra; and Billy Childs, performed by the Billy Childs Quartet & the Kronos Quartet.
Until next week,
The KAZU Team