Masks Are Back. The Recall Election Ramps Up. And A Plea For More Vaccinations.
Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 7/23/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few national stories from NPR.
To mask or not to mask...that is the question facing Monterey Bay area residents and businesses this week after county health leaders in Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito Counties recommended everyone — including those who are fully vaccinated — wear masks indoors. The statement also urged businesses to require their customers to wear masks.
But the recommendation wasn’t a mandate. Andre Beauregard, the third-generation owner of Shopper’s Corner Market in Santa Cruz, told KAZU’s Jerimiah Oetting that returning to a mask requirement was a difficult decision — especially without an official rule. “It sucks to take a step backward,” he said, adding that the step was also a necessary one to make customers and employees feel safe. Read more from Oetting’s story here.
The return to masks comes as the delta variant threatens California’s early progress against COVID-19. The variant is more than twice as transmissible as the original COVID-19 strain, and scientists estimate it’s responsible for 83% of new infections. In California, a growing number of counties are asking residents to help slow the variant’s spread. So far, Los Angeles County is alone in a mask mandate. Health leaders across the Monterey Bay region say vaccines are crucial to prevent future public health restrictions in this area.
“By every marker, the risks of complications and deaths from a COVID-19 infection exceed the risks of vaccination,” wrote Drs. Allen Radner and Mark Carvalho of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System in an essay distributed to local media this week. The vaccines continue to be highly effective against all of the current COVID-19 variants. The doctors made clear the risks of delaying a vaccination: Greater than 90% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Monterey County have occured in unvaccinated individuals. Read the full piece on the SVMH website.
Health officials in Santa Cruz County presented a similar message at a press conference on Thursday. County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said “the time has never been more urgent” to get vaccinated, adding that everyone who is currently hospitalized in Santa Cruz County is unvaccinated.
In Santa Cruz County, 56.3% of all residents have been fully vaccinated as of Monday. Monterey County has vaccinated 70% of its eligible residents with at least one dose of a vaccine — a number at the low end of the “herd immunity” threshold for COVID-19. But the data does not reflect the percentage of the total Monterey County population that has been fully vaccinated.
There are 46 candidates on the ballot to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom if he is recalled in a special election on Sept. 14. While a recent poll shows Republicans have more enthusiasm than Democrats for the recall, most voters oppose it. The deciding factor will be how many Democrats vote in the election. The governor needs over 50% of the vote to stay in office. If he fails to reach that amount, the new governor will be the person with the most votes out of the list of 46 candidates. Mail ballots are expected to go out in a month.
Monterey County's agriculture lagged by half a billion dollars in 2020. Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales said that overall production declined almost 11.5% last year compared to 2019. Much of the loss was due to the lockdown that cancelled major events, closed restaurants and schools, and caused a decline in produce sales. Ash from the wildfires and disease caused crop losses that also contributed to the decline.
The output of leaf lettuce declined more than 15%, moving it to the second most valuable crop, according to the 2020 Crop & Livestock Report. Leaf lettuce was replaced by strawberries, one of the few crops that showed an increase. Output of strawberries increased more than 25% last year.
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The KAZU Team