Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 1/22/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.
A dazzling fireworks show, performances by some of America’s top stars and a young poet who reminded us of the power of words were just some of the elements of President Biden’s inaugural celebration. But beyond this prologue, there is a country in pain and a new president trying to write a new chapter.
Biden immediately got to work signing a number of executive orders aimed at combating COVID-19. The virus has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans and experts believe the number will increase to over half a million in the next month. One of the orders requires masks on planes, trains and buses as well as inside airports. Another establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Biden has a goal to do 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office. He’s working to increase supplies needed for COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccinations.
Locally, the COVID-19 vaccination rollout has been confusing. And that’s because it’s complicated. KAZU’s Erika Mahoney has been following the developments and provided some answers on the status of the rollout and why there have been challenges.
Vaccination plans were hindered at the beginning of the week after the state recommended distributors put a batch of the Moderna vaccine on hold. This came after a handful of people had severe allergic reactions at a clinic in San Diego. The state’s epidemiologist convened a scientific safety review workgroup who found no scientific basis to continue the pause. On Wednesday night, distributors were given the go ahead to resume use of the batch. That was an important decision for both Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. Collectively, the two county health departments received about 11,000 doses from that batch.
The Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley regions remain in the state’s Regional Stay Home Order. The state is now updating ICU capacity percentages for the regions on Tuesdays and Fridays. As of Friday, the Bay Area was listed at 6.6 percent ICU capacity and the San Joaquin Valley was listed at 0 percent. Regions need to reach 15 percent before they can exit the order.
COVID-19 Updates as of Friday morning:
- Santa Cruz County Cases - 12,533 total, 120 deaths
- Monterey County Cases - 36,668 total, 259 deaths
- San Benito County Cases (as of Thursday) - 5,042 total, 46 deaths
A Pacific Grove police officer accused of making racist statements on social media is no longer on the city’s force. He was under investigation for two incidents last year. The first involved stickers placed on his personal truck that was in public view at the police department parking lot. One sticker promoted the Three Percenters, a group that has been called an anti-government militia; another allegedly mocked the LGBTQ community. In the fall, he was accused of posting anti-Black comments on the social media app Parler. The police department declined to say if the officer was fired or resigned. KAZU’s Doug McKnight detailed the events leading up to his departure.
California’s year round fire season was put on display this week when multiple fires sparked in Santa Cruz County, prompting evacuations. High winds, coupled with dry conditions, set the stage for easy ignition. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton spoke with the National Weather Service about the current weather conditions that have been precipitating wildfire… in January, the normally rainy season.
The high winds at the beginning of this week also toppled trees and power lines, causing outages for thousands of Santa Cruz County residents, mainly in the Santa Cruz mountains. On Thursday, PG&E told KAZU News that 75 percent of affected customers would have their power back by the end of Friday and the rest should get it back over the weekend.
The National Weather Service predicts unsettled weather through next week. A series of storm systems will bring rain to the Monterey Bay area. The first two systems are expected to bring light rain and cooler temperatures. But mid-week a stronger system should arrive bringing periods of intensive rain that could result in debris flow over areas burned in last summer’s wildfires and localized flooding in low lying areas.
Between COVID-19, the fires and national news, it’s been another busy news cycle. NPR has you covered on the best new songs that you may have missed. Their music staff calls the playlist “Press Pause 2021.”
UC Santa Cruz linguists are working to preserve an indigenous language spoken in Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Called Zapotec, it originates from Oaxaca in Southern Mexico. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton interviewed the lead linguist on the project about how a language is preserved and why it matters. You can even hear a traditional tale told in Zapotec in the piece.
Finally, we end this news roundup with some “paws-itive” news, one that animal shelters across the nation are celebrating. President Biden’s German Shepherd, Major, is the first dog in the White House to be adopted from an animal shelter.
SPCA Monterey County told KAZU, “Major is a great example to show how amazing shelter pets truly are, and how they can do anything, just like the people they love. Some people have the mistaken impression that shelter pets are somehow damaged. Major shows that shelter pets are wonderful, healthy, happy pets and that you can find any type or breed of pet at your local shelter.”
The local animal rescue shelter added that they hope Major inspires families to consider adoption.
Until next week,
The KAZU Team