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Orange Tier For Monterey, Opening Day For Highway 1 In Big Sur And A Gray Wolf Passes Through Town

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Luis Alejo
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In this photo, taken by Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo, a family attends a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic for farmworkers at the Salinas Rodeo Grounds this past weekend. Read on to find out more about local efforts to vaccinate farmworkers.

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 4/9/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.

After more than a year of roller coaster restrictions across the state, Californians are on track for some big changes. Both the economy and residents are getting a boost with more businesses opening up and more Californians getting vaccinated. Let’s start with what’s coming up next week: California residents 16 and older become eligible for a vaccine starting Thursday. Just four days later, all Americans 18 and older can get their shots. President Biden announced the national development this week. Check out NPR’s vaccine tracker for data on how many people have been vaccinated state by state.

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Credit Visitors enjoy the afternoon sunshine in Cannery Row’s Steinbeck Plaza this Thursday. More visitors are expected as Monterey County opens up in the Orange Tier.
Visitors enjoy the afternoon sunshine in Cannery Row’s Steinbeck Plaza this Thursday. More visitors are expected as Monterey County opens up in the Orange Tier.

This week, California reached the goal of vaccinating four million people in the hardest hit communities across the state. With that goal met, Monterey County was able to move into the less restrictive Orange Tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy on Wednesday. Here are some highlights: retail can function at 100 percent capacity; restaurants can open indoors at 50 percent capacity and aquariums can increase to 50 percent capacity. Monterey County is one of 15 counties who entered the Orange Tier this week, including San Benito County. Santa Cruz County met the requirements for this tier last week. 

Changes are also ahead for gatherings, meetings and indoor live events across the state… all starting Thursday. Here’s what it means for counties in the Orange Tier: 

  • Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed
  • For private events or meetings, outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people or 300 people if all guests are tested or have proof of vaccination
  • For indoor live events, counties in the Orange Tier can have 15 percent capacity. Higher capacity is allowed if the venues hold more people and guests all are vaccinated or tested. Full details can be found here.

And looking ahead to June, Governor Gavin Newsom said the state could get rid of the color-coded Blueprint (something that has dictated our lives for months) altogether. Of course, that hinges on two important factors: sufficient vaccine supply and low hospitalizations. Even if the restrictions we’ve grown used to are lifted and the economy fully reopens, Newsom said masks are here to stay. “We are seeing bright light at the end of the tunnel,” said the governor

Over the weekend, 4,000 people were vaccinated at a mass farmworker vaccination clinic at the Salinas Rodeo Grounds. That’s according to Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo who said over the last five weekends around 16,000 people have been vaccinated at the rodeo grounds and the King City Fairgrounds. Alejo said these agricultural worker clinics will continue until June with the goal of vaccinating 50,000 people. It is a particularly important time for the industry with thousands of local and migrant farmworkers heading to local fields for the harvest season. 

A couple of mass vaccination clinics are happening this weekend (April 10 and 11) in Salinas, Soledad and Greenfield. Thousands of vaccine appointments are available to those currently eligible. We have all the details, including how to book your slot, on our COVID-19 resource page.

COVID-19 Case Data at time of publishing:

Good news for Big Sur residents and visitors — Caltrans announced yesterday that the stretch of Highway 1 over Rat Creek will reopen by April 30, nearly two months ahead of schedule. A mudslide washed out a 150-foot section of the scenic highway following intense storms in January — a consequence of exposed soil after last summer’s wildfire season. As reported by KAZU News, the roadway was originally slated to reopen in early summer. Drivers should expect intermittent slowdowns after the road reopens as crews continue to install new drainage systems that will make the highway more resilient during future storms. Tim Grubbins, the Caltrans district 5 director, said they were “excited to reopen this lifeline earlier than expected.”

It’s so abnormally hot and dry that our neighbors to the east have temporarily closed vehicle access in the Panoche Hills Recreation area in San Benito and Fresno counties. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which takes care of the area, says the closure will help prevent unnecessary destruction of plants and wildlife. The BLM is particularly concerned about the blunt-nosed leopard lizard which has emerged earlier than normal from hibernation. The lizards, which can only be found in Central California, are part of a captive breeding program to try to recover the species. Hiking, biking or horseback riding is still allowed.

Those “abnormally dry” conditions currently extend through all of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, according to the United States Drought Monitor. The National Weather Service (NWS) says the Central Coast region has received about half of its annual average precipitation (this map shows local water totals starting on October 1, ending September 30). According to the NWS, there are no significant rain events on the horizon, meaning they don’t expect to add much, if any, additional rainfall to the current total.

With dangerously parched local lands on many minds, Cal Fire in Santa Cruz County has already started wildfire awareness webinars for this year. Last week, the unit, which includes San Mateo County, responded to two small vegetation fires in two days. The agency noted on Twitter that the lack of rain is “stressing out plants and trees”. Follow @CALFIRECZU for updates on the next webinars coming up on April 20 and 27.  

The last decade was one of the hottest on record in the U.S. Next month, NOAA will release its update to “climate normals.” Meteorologists rely on the data as the baseline for their forecasts. NPR covered the implications of a hotter Earth becoming the new normal.  

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Credit Austin Smith, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
Meet Gray Wolf OR-93, an approximately two-year-old male who made a brief appearance in Monterey County this week. His presence is both historic and a concern for local ranchers who may be worried about their livestock. We have the full story below.

A gray wolf, on a historic journey through California, made his way through Monterey County this week. In this story, KAZU’s Michelle Loxton looked at what makes his journey so special and why the presence of the wolf can be a concern for local ranchers looking to protect their livestock. 

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Credit Erika Mahoney
You can now listen to an audio tour as you walk through Pacific Grove’s Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. Learn about why the butterflies come specifically to PG and how to tell the difference between male and female monarchs.

The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History has launched walking audio tours of the coastal rec trail and monarch sanctuary. Created by museum volunteers, you can follow along using the izi.travel website or app. There are 10 stops on both the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary tour and A Natural History Tour of the PG Recreation Trail. There’s a lot to learn on each, including the history and architecture of early Pacific Grove; about Hopkins beach; and the difference between a male and female monarch butterfly. 

Until next week,

The KAZU Team