Mask Surprise. Rethinking Vaccine Strategy. Investigating PG&E Power Lines.
Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 5/14/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few national stories from NPR.
For over a year now, masks have become part of our daily lives; you can’t leave the house without one. But a new policy from the CDC marks a shift in that habit. The agency announced yesterday that fully vaccinated people can resume activities indoors without masks and without social distancing. There are exceptions to the rules; for example, masks must still be worn at the doctor’s office and while traveling.
Although federal officials have come out with this new policy, the message locally is “not so fast.” Santa Cruz and Monterey counties follow guidance from the state of California on face coverings. Until the state aligns with the CDC, everyone must continue wearing masks indoors. As NPR reported, Mask Or No Mask? That Depends Where You Live.
The CDC’s announcement surprised Santa Cruz County public health officials. Dr. David Ghilarducci, the county's deputy health officer, acknowledged the new guidance will cause confusion — how do you really know if someone around you is vaccinated? His advice — if you’re not vaccinated continue wearing masks and social distancing because you’re still at risk for severe illness and death. Dr. Gail Newel, the county’s health officer, added that if you are vaccinated, the safest choice is to keep your mask on and stay six feet apart while indoors among crowds.
Another big development this week in the fight against COVID-19 — 12 to 15-year-olds can now get the Pfizer vaccine. Local organizations immediately began offering appointments to this age group. Families in Monterey County can visit mcvaccinate.com to schedule a time. The Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula has a number of upcoming clinics at the Del Monte Shopping Center, Montage Wellness Center and the Boys & Girls Club. Santa Cruz County families can visit scvaccinate.com to make an appointment. Dr. Newel hopes parents take advantage of the opportunity. She said the riskiest activity right now is youth sports and reminded parents that if kids get vaccinated, their child won’t have to quarantine if someone else on the team tests positive. Looking for some encouragement? A musician is hoping to reduce shot anxiety for children through a new song called ‘Cootie Shot.’
Meanwhile, local health providers are switching gears to reach people who have been eligible for the vaccine but haven’t received it yet. When doses first arrived in our area, securing an appointment was like winning a golden ticket. Now, clinics are accepting walk-ins and some appointments go unfilled. KAZU’s Doug McKnight spoke with several local organizations about their new approaches to reaching people and why it matters.
Santa Cruz County could move into the Yellow Tier next Wednesday after weeks of anticipation. The county is meeting all of the metrics the state uses to assign tiers in its Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The county’s public health team celebrated more good news this week; for the first time in many months, there are fewer than 100 active cases of COVID-19 in the county.
Monterey County did not make it into the Yellow Tier this week because of an uptick in its case rate. The case rate, currently 2.6 per 100,000 people, needs to fall below 2.0 for two consecutive weeks to move into this less restrictive tier. Dr Edward Moreno, the county’s health officer, said the uptick is part of “dips and bumps” expected overtime, but added that the county's case rate is, overall, slowly but steadily trending downward.
COVID-19 Case Data at time of publishing:
- Santa Cruz County Cases - 16,264 total, 206 deaths
- Monterey County Cases - 43,662 total, 383 deaths
- San Benito County Cases - 6,065 total, 63 deaths
COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker:
- California - 47.5% of all residents fully vaccinated, 15.5% partially vaccinated (as of Thursday)
- Monterey County - 63% of residents (16+) received at least 1 dose (as of Monday)
- Santa Cruz County - 68.7% of residents (16+) received at least 1 dose (as of Monday)
As of Sunday, Monterey County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program has processed over 850 applications and over 300 applicants have received money. That’s according to United Way, which gave an update on the $28 million program that runs until the end of 2021. A total of 2,650 applications have been received from families and small businesses who’ve been unable to pay their bills because of the pandemic. The program provides funding for back and future rent as well as utilities. Eligible residents can apply online or by calling 211.
New investigative reporting by NPR’s California Newsroom has revealed just how dangerous PG&E’s power lines are heading into the 2021 wildfire season. The investigation found the Santa Cruz Mountains are particularly vulnerable. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton spoke with Aaron Glantz, the Senior Investigations Editor for the newsroom and one of the reporters involved in this new investigation.
Governor Newsom expanded his drought emergency Monday to include San Benito County, Monterey County’s neighbor to the east. The drought emergency was initiated in April and this week’s expansion brings the total number of counties on the list to 41. According to the state, that represents 30 percent of California’s population. Monterey and Santa Cruz counties are not included in the emergency proclamation. The California Report covered the story, listen from about two minutes 10 seconds in. (The California Report airs weekday mornings at 6:50 a.m. on 90.3 KAZU.)
The San Lorenzo Valley Water District has advanced to Stage 2 of its four-stage water shortage plan, affecting the 7,900 connections to district customers. District Manager Rick Rogers said water infrastructure damaged by last year’s CZU Lightning Complex wildfires intensified the water shortage caused by the statewide drought. The second stage targets water used for landscaping and other outdoor activities, which increases sharply in the summertime. The restrictions mean customers can only water outdoors twice a week, either before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m. The full list of mandatory restrictions are detailed on the water district’s website.
The City of Salinas wants to develop a series of pre-approved Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) plans and is looking for proposals from “qualified consultants.” ADUs, or granny flats as they’re often called, have risen in popularity over the last few years and are seen as part of the solution for California’s housing crisis. Pre-approved ADU designs help homeowners and builders avoid red tape that comes with making changes to a property. Other cities in California, like Los Angeles, have already embraced the pre-approved ADU and, as this LAist article describes, many of them are architectural eye candy.
KAZU continues to celebrate NPR’s 50th anniversary. Tune in Sunday at 4 p.m. for a special Sunday Sound Adventures “50 And Forward: An Anniversary Celebration of NPR.” Hosted by Audie Cornish, the program unpacks how NPR and its newsroom developed over time. Tune in on 90.3 KAZU or stream the program at kazu.org.
Until next week,
The KAZU Team