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State Launches New Vaccine Network. Hartnell Students Step Up. COVID-19 Tribute With A Lot Of Heart.

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Doug McKnight
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The coastal trail along Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove on a sunny afternoon. Rain is in the forecast tonight (Friday, March 5) and early next week.

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 3/5/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.

Over the coming weeks, California’s statewide vaccine network, called My Turn, will become the main source for residents to sign up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments. That’s according to the California Department of Public Health, which said some providers and counties, including Monterey and San Benito, started to be added this week. Santa Cruz County will begin integration next week. Over time, vaccine providers will be required to use My Turn so that there’s greater visibility about who’s getting vaccinated. 

Once fully up and running those without internet access can make My Turn appointments by calling (833) 422-4255. 

In addition to moving to a more streamlined way to sign-up for a vaccination appointment through My Turn, California will also be making the eligibility criteria more uniform rather than counties having different schedules. Blue Shield of California, which has been contracted to control the rollout and distribution of the vaccines, will start making allocation recommendations this week. By March 31, Blue Shield will take full management of the statewide vaccine network.

 

President Joe Biden said this week that the U.S. is on track to produce enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May. The president is working to boost production of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was approved last weekend. (Do you have questions about the new J&J vaccine? Read more about it from NPR). He’s also directing states to prioritize teachers and school staff for the vaccine. "As yet another move to help accelerate the safe reopening of schools, let's treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is,” the president said.

 

Vaccine allocation has increased in Monterey County over the last few weeks. County officials said there’s been an increase in the federal allocation of the vaccine to pharmacies and clinics like Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, which is a federally qualified health center. Officials added that around 10,000 doses have come in from the state over the last two weeks. That’s up from around 6,000 the previous week.

Even as the supply of vaccines increases, the number of people needed to administer the shots is in high demand. It’s all hands on deck for nursing students at Hartnell College in Salinas. Since December, they have been giving shots at hospitals, clinic events and even job sites. Now, students from respiratory care and EMT programs will be helping out too. The college says these students are in high demand because many speak both English and Spanish and that’s important when working in Monterey County’s large Latino community. Students are expected to give thousands of vaccines in the weeks to come. The work earns them clinical hours that count toward their graduation.

A mass vaccination clinic for farm workers will take place this Saturday at the Salinas Rodeo Grounds. About 3,000 shots are ready to be administered. The by-appointment event isorganized by the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California (GSA) and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas (CSVS). The organizations hope to expand the program to administer 5,000 vaccines per week. This supply of the vaccine comes directly from the federal government, which means these shots won’t affect Monterey County’s vaccine allocation numbers. Ag employers interested in getting their workers signed up can contact GSA.

Monterey County’s veteran community has received over 2,000 doses of the vaccine over the last three weeks, according to the local VA office. This supply also comes from the federal government. Vaccination days have taken place at the Gourley Clinic in Marina and at the Presidio of Monterey. Current eligibility to receive a shot includes veterans over 55, homeless veterans and those with medical conditions who are at high-risk of hospitalization or death from the virus.

Dolly Parton broke out into song when she got a dose of the vaccine she helped fund. To the tune of “Jolene,” she encouraged people to not hesitate about getting the shot. Parton documented her experience and posted it to social media with a message -- "So I just wanted to say to all you cowards out there, don't be such a chicken squat," she said. "Get out there and get your shot." Parton, 75, helped fund research related to the Moderna vaccine.

Although attention has shifted to the coronavirus vaccine, testing remains essential for those currently ineligible to get a shot. In Monterey County, starting Monday, the OptumServe testing sites in Castroville, Seaside and Salinas will shift to self swab testing with hopes of increasing testing. The process will be monitored by a healthcare worker. The Soledad site is not making this change.

An optimistic Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel predicted the county will enter the Red Tier next week in the state’s Blueprint For A Safer Economy. Moving into the Red Tier means the partial opening of restaurants, gyms and movie theaters. Dr. Newel added it also means K-12 schools can reopen to in-person classes. She told those attending a Thursday afternoon briefing that if the county remains on the present trajectory, it could move to the Orange Tier by the end of the month. Her optimism comes from a downward trend in hospitalizations, case rates and deaths in the county. The county’s case rate went from 10.9 percent last week to 7.0 percent this week.

Dr. Newel also indicated the state may partially open outdoor events and amusement parks like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk beginning April 1. Part of the plan would include exploring ways for schools to hold outdoor graduations in the late spring.

A number of Northern California counties have already moved into the less restrictive Red Tier. As of today, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties are all in the Red Tier as well as San Luis Obispo to the south. A total of 40 California counties remain in the most restrictive Purple Tier, including Monterey and San Benito counties (plus Santa Cruz County for now).

COVID-19 Case Data at time of publishing:

 

By March 12, the City of Monterey will hang 500 paper hearts on the magnolia tree that stands in the Friendly Plaza in front of city hall. That day marks the anniversary of when the city declared a local emergency due to the coronavirus. The public is invited to write the name of someone they are remembering or appreciating on one of the hearts with a permanent marker.

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Credit Carl Cherry Center
The Carl Cherry Center for Arts in Carmel is hosting a regional art competition for local students that asks them to create something inspired by their lives. This piece, entitled ‘South of the Border,’ by Anthony Miguel from Stevenson School is one of over 200 submissions. The ‘Thinking Out Loud 2021’ exhibition takes place March 13 through April 9.

Did you catch Erika Mahoney’s national story, which aired on Weekend All Things Considered last Saturday? In case you missed it (#ICYMI), you can listen to the story on NPR’s website. Mahoney spoke with a Caltrans representative, the owner of Nepenthe Restaurant and a Northern California couple who picked Highway 1 for their first trip together.

Scientists are building robot bugs that could assist in life-threatening emergencies, like locating people in a collapsed building or in natural disaster debris that bigger drones couldn’t reach. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently invented a microdrone, which is a little bigger than a mosquito and weighs about as much as a paper clip. Learn more about these tiny yet resilient robots here.

Monterey County has launched a survey that aims to better understand the local cannabis market. Questions aim to find out how residents have been historically impacted by cannabis criminalization. It also aims to gather information from the cannabis business community about their experiences in the new legal market. Available until the end of the month, the survey was developed by researchers from California State University, Monterey Bay in partnership with the Monterey County Cannabis Program (MCCP). The county’s cannabis program uses taxes from the industry to fund community projects. In the last fiscal year, the county said it collected over $16 million. Recent spending includes nearly $10 million for COVID-19 response by the Emergency Operations Center. Upcoming spending includes over $2 million for a project to clean up domestic water supply.

The City of Santa Cruz has received a $5 million grant that will go towards three local affordable housing projects: Pacific Station North, Pacific Station South and the Library Mixed-Use Project. The city says this funding comes from the Local Housing Trust Fund (LHTF). The money will be allocated over five years and help develop more than 200 units of affordable housing.

Did you hear about the two skiers who recently conquered Yosemite’s Half Dome? Jason Torlano and Zach Milligan made the roughly 5,000-foot trek down on skis, an unprecedented accomplishment. NPR reported on how they made the journey and what it meant to them. For Torlano, who grew up in Yosemite, this feat fulfilled a childhood dream. But he’s not stopping there; he plans to conquer other tricky slopes.

Until next week,

The KAZU Team