9 COVID Deaths This Week In Monterey County, 60% Of Santa Cruz County Cases Reported In Last 2 Weeks

Aug 7, 2020

Like many local businesses, Lighthouse 4 Cinemas in Pacific Grove is temporarily closed. It may be a while before we can head back to the movie theater.
Credit Doug McKnight

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup where you'll find the top local stories of the week and some of NPR's national stories.

A technical glitch in California's COVID-19 reporting system skewed data on new coronavirus cases. On Friday, the state corrected the problem. However, it will take a couple of days before the numbers are updated. Until then, local COVID dashboards likely display an undercount in cases.

NPR has a pandemic tracker with maps and charts. It aims to put national data into perspective.

Santa Cruz County Cases (as of Friday): 1,229 total, 852 active

Test Positivity Rate: 4.13%

Even with the potential undercount, about two-thirds of Santa Cruz County’s total reported cases are from the last two weeks. The Health Services Agency reported two more deaths this week, bringing the total number of fatalities in the county to six.

The agency is tracking at least 20 COVID outbreaks. Five of the seven skilled nursing facilities in the county have at least one case. Outbreaks have also been reported in five businesses, including three agriculture businesses, three first responder units, five residential care facilities, two county shelters, and the county jail.

The most affected groups tend to be members of the Latinx community, the 18 to 34-year-old age group and residents of south Santa Cruz County.

In a one-on-one conversation with KAZU’s Erika Mahoney, Dr. Gail Newel, the Health Officer for Santa Cruz County, opened up about what worries her and what it’s like being center stage during a crisis.

“I'm sure that many of your listeners know that health officers have been experiencing a tremendous amount of harassment and abuse,” said Newel.

You can listen to the extended interview at kazu.org. Newel addresses why she decided to lift beach restrictions, a controversial subject for the community. 

The county continues to ramp up local COVID-19 testing in partnership with UC Santa Cruz. Funding from the CARES Act plus some new lab equipment… we’re talking things like robotic liquid handling platforms… should increase local testing capacity to 600-800 tests per day. The lab has been increasing their capacity since opening three months ago. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton interviewed the co-founder in May

Some of UCSC’s Molecular Diagnostic Lab partners include Salud Para La Gente and Santa Cruz Community Health, which provide tests to low-income residents. 

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved fines this week for violating state or local health orders, including not wearing a mask. You can think of the fines like traffic violations. The cost? $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $500 for a third within a year. 

In the beginning of the pandemic, the messaging around masks was that they protected others. That’s different now

In Monterey County, local hospitals are coming together share a united message - #MaskUpMontereyCounty.

Monterey County surpassed 5,000 cases this week. Nine more residents have died from the virus since our news roundup on July 31.

Monterey County Cases (as of Friday): 5,156

Test Positivity Rate: 10.25%

At the Monterey County Jail, 281 intimates have tested positive as of Thursday. Of those, 156 are active cases. The county provides information about the outbreak at the jail in their “Daily Situation Report.”

Dr. Edward Moreno, Monterey County’s Health Officer, said those without symptoms can still get tested for COVID-19, but their test might not be a top priority at the lab. Under new guidance from the state, tests are placed into tiers to try and clear the current backlog. Hospitalized patients, those with symptoms, and those in skilled nursing facilities or homeless shelters are examples of what’s prioritized.

Salinas resident Anastacio Cruz said the first symptom he noticed -- aching feet. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton interviewed the COVID-19 survivor, who spent three months in the hospital. His family has messages for the community.   

Among the growing list of event cancellations is the California Rodeo Salinas. After organizers rescheduled from July to October, they decided to move the rodeo to July 2021. Next year will be the 111th anniversary. 

In the meantime, as we continue our homebound lifestyles, sales of the board game Catan have skyrocketed and children’s camps get creative. If you’re looking for some new music to transport you, All Songs Considered has some ideas.  

And of course, we hope you’re tuning into the radio these days, via 90.3 KAZU, the KAZU App, or kazu.org. KAZU News is dedicated to harnessing the power of storytelling to keep you informed and connected to the world. Protect My Public Media is conducting a campaign right now to encourage legislators to provide emergency funding to public media.

Until next Friday,

KAZU News