California Suffers Two Tragic Pandemic Milestones

Jul 24, 2020

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. 

California reached some troubling and somber milestones this week. On Tuesday, the state reported 12,807 confirmed COVID-19 cases, a record daily high, and on Thursday, a record number of deaths in a single day - 159.

Credit STOCK PHOTO BY UNITED NATIONS VIA UNSPLASH

Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel pointed out that individual behaviors are perpetuating the spread of the coronavirus. It might sound like a broken record, but she reiterated the main ways to stay safe: wear masks, social distance, wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, cover your coughs and sneezes, and if you need to meet up with people, gather outside. 

Newel noted two-thirds of Santa Cruz County’s total cases were reported in the last two weeks. It’s only a matter of time, according to Newel, until the county will be officially placed on the state’s watchlist, which means more restrictions. 

Santa Cruz County Cases (as of Friday) - 885 total, 538 active

Newel said healthcare workers are overwhelmed by the “sheer number” of cases reported everyday. That’s part of the reason why there’s a backlog on the county’s data dashboard. But it did display sad news this week, a fourth county resident died from complications related to COVID-19. The man, who was in his 70s, was hospitalized for cardiac problems. Doctors learned he was positive in the hospital. 

COVID clusters are widespread in the community: 5 of the county’s 7 skilled nursing facilities have been affected, the Salvation Army Shelter in Watsonville closed after an outbreak, and an inmate at the Santa Cruz County Jail tested positive.

More than 200 inmates at the Monterey County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. To try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the jail opened up a new housing block with single cells for new inmates. They have to test negative before entering the general population.

In a KAZU News interview with Dr. Allen Radner this week, an infectious disease specialist, said he feels confident local hospitals can care for the people housed at the Monterey County Jail. It’s much smaller than the two state prisons in South County. Any outbreaks at the prisons do worry him. Dr. Radner, Chief Medical Officer of SVMHS, also said he’s worried about people with non COVID-19 related problems that aren’t seeking the care they need -- an issue that cropped up even this week. He assured community members that all local hospitals are safe. COVID-19 patients are treated in isolated areas of the hospital. 

As of Thursday, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital was caring for 19 COVID positive patients. SVMH recently opened a second COVID-19 unit. Each room is equipped with an enhanced filtration system, which makes it difficult for staff to communicate. So instead, they write vitals on the glass door.
Credit Richard Green

The Monterey County Health Department reported another COVID-19 death Thursday, an adult with underlying health conditions. It was one of four deaths reported in Monterey County this week. 

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom gave a shout out to farmworkers in Monterey County and across the Central Coast during his COVID-19 update. He encouraged Californians to recognize the abundance these essential workers provide everyday. Newsom called for more housing for ag workers who test positive. The county’s agriculture industry has been hard hit - 972 cases to date. 

Monterey County Cases (as of Friday) - 3,865 total

Plans for at least the start of new school year have shaped up across the Monterey Bay area. The Santa Cruz County Office of Education is requiring all public and private schools to provide distance learning only as school starts. 

The Monterey County Office of Education is also requiring distance learning only at the start of the school year based on Governor Newsom’s new school guidance policies. 

California is providing an opportunity for elementary schools to apply for a waiver from the state. Specific guidelines must be met and support must come in all forms -- from the superintendent, teachers, staff and parents. The county health officer would have to authorize the application to move forward. 

Tune in next week as KAZU News digs into the effects of these decisions -- let’s just say, there’s no right answer. 

IN OTHER NEWS - 

Carmel High School is one of the many schools, teams and music groups (the Dixie Chicks are now The Chicks) questioning their names and mascots as the nation reexamines its history and racial justice. This week, the school announced it intends to form a committee to look into changing their school mascot, a cartoon Catholic friar named Padre. KAZU News interviewed CHS community members.   

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke out about sexism after Rep. Ted Yoho called her “disgusting” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Her remarks reflected on being a daughter, and she even thanked Yoho. 

The City of Seaside announced the passing of former Mayor Ralph Rubio this week.  According to the city, Rubio was the longest serving elected official in the history of the Seaside. He served on city council for 16 years before being elected mayor in 2004. He finished his final term as mayor in 2018. 

Today, a flyover and procession through Salinas celebrated the life of Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter, who died last month from complications related to cancer. A former Salinas police homicide officer, Gunter joined the force in 1969. He served 32 years before retiring in 2002. Ten years later, he became the first police officer to be elected as mayor of Salinas. 

COMING UP -  

Beginning Monday, July 27, KAZU has something special lined up for our listeners -- a special Shakespeare in the Park Production of Richard II. The four-part serial radio broadcast begins at 8 p.m. and will run through July 30. It’s collaboration between WNYC and The Public Theater… and hopefully a welcomed distraction.