California Under Curfew. Celebrating Thanksgiving Safely. A Whale Tail With A Tale.

Nov 20, 2020

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 11/20/20. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.

The month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a celebration of those we hold dear. It begins with a gathering of friends and family to give thanks for each other and our shared blessings. It proceeds through Hanukkah and Christmas and the giving of gifts as an expression of our love. It ends on New Year’s Eve with our shared hope for the year ahead.

But this year, the very act of gathering in person can threaten the lives of those we love.  A hug, a kiss or even a song together can infect those closest to us with a deadly virus. How do we celebrate these most special of holidays while keeping our most special people safe?

There are creative alternatives to connect with family and friends: the old-fashioned phone call, cards or meeting online. Zoom is lifting its 40-minute time limit on Thanksgiving so that “family gatherings don’t get cut short.” NPR’s Michel Martin interviewed a grandmother and her granddaughter about using Zoom this holiday to share family recipes. StoryCorps also launched a new platform in response to the pandemic. StoryCorps Connect lets you record an interview with a loved one remotely, perhaps a way to have a meaningful conversation this holiday season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to not travel this Thanksgiving. The agency issued an advisory Thursday with a questionnaire that can help you decide what’s best if you’re considering traveling.

COVID-19 cases are surging across the United States. In yet another somber milestone, more than 250,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. As NPR put it, that’s more than double the number of U.S. service members who died in World War I.

The week began with the state of California pumping the brakes on reopening due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases. 94% of the state’s population is now in the state’s most restrictive tier in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. That means Santa Cruz and San Benito counties have moved backwards. Monterey County has never moved out of it. Called the Purple Tier, or the “widespread” tier, it means no indoor dining, and that places of worship and movie theaters can only function outdoors.

The week wrapped up with the State Public Health Officer issuing a curfew for Californians who live in counties in the Purple Tier. The Limited Stay at Home order prohibits gatherings and nonessential activities between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The order does not prohibit someone from leaving their home as long as they don’t gather with others and it does not apply to people experiencing homelessness or essential workers. The CHPD says this curfew will limit disease transmission during an unprecedented rate of rise in cases, noting that activities occurring between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. are typically social activities that have a higher chance of spreading the coronavirus. The order takes effect November 21 at 10 p.m. and lasts until December 21, for now.

The state also issued new mask guidance this week. Californians must wear face coverings at all times outside of their home. There are exceptions to the rule, such as driving in a car alone or with members of your household; working in an office or room alone; when outside and social distancing or when eating and social distancing. Growing evidence shows face coverings protect others and the wearer. Remember, a mask is only effective when it covers both your mouth and nose fully.

A look into one of three COVID-19 wards at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.
Credit Richard Green

Until a vaccine is widely distributed, the only way to slow the spread of the coronavirus is to do what we know works, said Dr. Allen Radner, Chief Medical Officer of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, in an interview with KAZU’s Erika Mahoney. That’s staying at home, wearing face coverings and social distancing. Dr. Radner said last weekend marked a record number of hospitalizations in Monterey County and a record number of people on ventilators. He also said the virus is spreading throughout the county, not just the Salinas region. On Thursday, the Monterey County Health Department reported 130 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours.

COVID-19 Updates as of Friday morning:

More than 1 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States. And most likely, that number is widely underestimated because some children have few or no symptoms. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, the virus has disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic children. It’s taking a toll on their mental health, with ER visits up 24% compared to last year for children between the ages of 5 and 11, according to the CDC.

Talking to kids about the coronavirus is tricky. NPR’s Goats and Soda blog, which focuses on global health, created a comic just for kids about what COVID-19 is and how to stay safe. You can print the comic and follow a video for directions on how to fold it.

Thankfully, hope is on the horizon with positive news about successful vaccine trials by two companies: Moderna and Pfizer. Both vaccines need to be kept very cold. The one made by Pfizer needs to be colder and stored at minus 70 Celsius. NPR dug into why, using the analogy of chocolate. NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly spoke with Dr. Moncef Slaoui of Operation Warp Speed about his reaction to the good news and what’s next.

Today (November 20, 2020), Pfizer submitted a request to the FDA for emergency use and it’s expected Moderna will do the same soon. The California Department of Public Health is collecting information from counties to identify specific groups that will be offered the vaccines first, Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno said Wednesday. The groups will then be prioritized and the state will determine how many doses are needed before the vaccines are sent to the counties.

In local election updates, Monterey County Elections Registrar of Voters Claudio Valenzuela hopes to certify the results of the General Election by November 23. The Santa Cruz County Elections Department was all caught up two weeks ago and San Benito County has roughly 1,060 ballots left to process. The deadline for election offices to receive vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day is today (November 20). Don’t hesitate to call your local elections office if you want to check on the status of your ballot. (You can stay up-to-date on local elections results via kazu.org/elections.)

In anticipation of post wildfire flooding, sandbags are now available at all three Monterey Fire stations plus the station in Pacific Grove and the Carmel Youth Center. The sandbags are free and people must fill their own. They are intended for residents to manage a small emergent flooding situation. For other locations in Monterey County, sandbags distribution centers are listed here. In Santa Cruz County, sand and sandbag pick-up spots can be found here.

The City of Monterey reports that as of Thursday, 1,344 of the 1,500 Thanksgiving meals available through the Community Thanksgiving Drive Through Meals have already been reserved. In addition, 200 of the 315 meals to be delivered have been reserved. That means you still have time. The pick-up meals will be handed out at Dennis the Menace Park on Wednesday, November 25, the day before Thanksgiving. Reservations are required through montereyrecreation@monterey.org.

Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Cruz County is doing their weekly community drive through distribution on Wednesday, November 25, not on Friday. The schedule change is to ensure residents have access to food for the long Thanksgiving weekend. The distribution will take place at the fairgrounds in Watsonville from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Finally, the story of an incredible journey by the most determined of travelers. It is the story of a 3,800-mile trip from the cold waters off Russia to the warm Southern California coast by a humpback whale with a damaged tail. In fact, its tail allowed scientists to identify the whale and trace its voyage because that’s how whales are distinguished -- by the unique markings on their tails. This one had large portions of it missing, possibly caused by attacks from killer whales. It was spotted recently near San Diego. Photographs were taken and eventually matched with a humpback whale spotted off the Russian coast in 2015. A remarkable journey. An incredible story. Indeed, a tail with a tale.

The weekly news roundup will pause next week due to Thanksgiving. We hope everyone has a safe holiday.

Until then,

The KAZU News Team