Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 2/12/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.
A year ago the COVID-19 virus seemed like thunder from a far off storm. Yes, there was an outbreak in China, a few cases in Europe and even an infection in Washington state, but many asked how bad could it be? Valentine’s Day 2020 included hugs and kisses, the Niners had just lost to the Chiefs in front of a packed Super Bowl 54 crowd and the films Sonic the Hedgehog and Birds of Prey were playing to full movie theaters. A year later many of those same movie theaters still display posters for old movies in their “coming attractions” windows. The word “zoom” (to move or travel quickly) has transitioned from being a verb to a noun - Zoom. Weddings and graduation ceremonies have been missed, family members separated and businesses shuttered. We’ve lost a quarter of a million of our fellow Americans.
In remembrance of Monterey County residents who passed away from COVID-19, the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce is holding a memorial display at Lovers Point Park next week. From Wednesday through Saturday, a flag for each of the 303 residents who passed away will stand in the grass. On Friday an interfaith ceremony from 14 local places of worship will honor the victims. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m.
We’re all hopeful the distribution of vaccines will speed up and save lives. Beginning next Wednesday, the number of Monterey County residents eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines will expand. In addition to those who are currently receiving doses (healthcare workers and people 75 years and older), the county will also including the following groups:
Those 65 to 74-years-old who are at risk of exposure and work in food and agriculture, child care, education and emergency services
- Those 65-74 who are at risk of the coronavirus who live in areas that have a low health score, according to the state’s Healthy Places Index. Those areas include the following zip codes: North County: 95012, 95039, 95076; Peninsula & Big Sur: 93933, 93955; Salinas: 93901, 93905, 93906; South County: 93926, 93927, 93930, 93960
In a recent letter to the Governor, Monterey County’s Board of Supervisors called the state’s allocation of the coronavirus vaccine unfair. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton spoke with the chair of the board to ask why. The conversation included reasons the board thinks Monterey County is at a disadvantage when it comes to vaccine distribution and why agricultural workers should receive special allocation. This week, the county’s health officer, Dr. Edward Moreno, said Monterey County has the ability to offer 17,000 doses of the vaccine per week but supply is currently sitting at around 3,200 a week.
Beginning next week 211 in Monterey County will start helping eligible residents make COVID-19 vaccination appointments over the phone. The call center is strictly for those who can’t make an online appointment -- like those who are not tech savvy or who lack access to the Internet. No launch date has been announced, but United Way hopes to have the service up and running by early next week. Bilingual operators will be available.
Tomorrow, February 13, the Monterey County Military and Veterans Affairs Office will host a vaccination clinic for veterans 75 and older, after securing 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The local Gourley Clinic in Marina will host the by-appointment vaccination day. To schedule an appointment, local veterans may call VA Palo Alto at 650-496-2535 until 6 p.m. today. Second doses will be administered approximately 28 days after the first dose. Just last week, the Marina VA clinic was unable to offer local vaccinations because of challenges with receiving big shipments of vaccine and storing it. Overcoming these challenges is seen as a huge success for older Monterey County veterans who’ve so far had to travel long distances to get the vaccine. Local veterans looking for additional vaccine information can find that here.
In Santa Cruz County, a by-appointment mass vaccination site is now operating in Watsonville. It’s located in Council Chambers of Old City Hall on 250 Main St. The site will operate Thursdays through Mondays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offer 210 appointments per day. Current eligibility includes healthcare workers and all county residents 75 and older. It will also serve residents who are 65 and older who live the following zip codes: 95019, 95076, 95077. To make an appointment, call 877-218-0381 or book online. The site is possible through a partnership between OptumServe, the county and the City of Watsonville.
Santa Cruz County health officials warn an even bigger surge than we experienced in December will arrive mid-March and peak in April. The county’s deputy health officer, Dr. David Ghilarducci, recommended checking out this website, which tracks cases globally and nationally, for more information. Ghilarducci said variants are behind the predicted surge. He likened the prediction to a weather forecast that could change depending on how well vaccine distribution goes in the coming weeks. That’s why he and his colleagues said it’s important that those 65 and older continue to be prioritized for the vaccine because that age category has a higher chance of experiencing severe cases and death.
COVID-19 Updates as of Friday morning:
Santa Cruz County Cases - 14,163 total, 166 deaths
Monterey County Cases - 41,246 total, 303 deaths
- San Benito County Cases (as of Thursday) - 5,531 total, 57 deaths
Of course, the big national news this week is the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Trump’s defense delivered its rebuttal today. House of Representatives impeachment managers spent the three previous days presenting their case for conviction. The House impeached the former president on January 13 for inciting insurrection in a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. You can watch the trial live via our website and NPR is providing live updates on its website. NPR also has a list of those charged in the attack, their profiles and details of the charges against them.
In something almost from a mystery novel, Pacific Grove police officers are on the hunt for a catalytic converter thief(s). Since last October, they’ve received reports of over a dozen of these pollution-control parts being taken from Prius vehicles in the city. This isn’t a new trend, as this 2010 NPR article will show, and it’s happening all over the country because these gadgets are full of precious metals. Local police are asking the public to come forward with any relevant information. They’re also encouraging vehicle owners to park in well lit spots, install motion sensor lights at home, and if they have security cameras, to register them with the city.
Santa Cruz County has received a grant that will help rehire workers that were displaced because of the CZU Lightning Complex fire. The $1.5 million grant will hire 75 workers for up to a year to work on fire recovery and resiliency activities in parks and open spaces. This includes Big Basin State Park, Henry Cowell State Park, Wilder Ranch State Park and more. To be eligible, you must be temporarily or permanently laid off because of the disaster, unemployed for 15 or more weeks, or self-employed individuals unemployed or underemployed due to fires. Inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The amount of roadway closed on Highway 1 in Big Sur has shrunk. At the end of last week, after clearing clogged culverts, removing standing water and road repairs, Caltrans was able to move the northern and southern closure points closer together along the scenic, coastal highway. The closure is now from Post Mile (PM) 32.6, just south of Esalen Institute, to PM 16.0, just north of Pacific Valley. That opens up about a mile and half of roadway, which is helpful to local residents and businesses. In about a week, Caltrans plans to move the southern closure point significantly (to PM 27.3 where a turnaround is being constructed). That means the highway will only be closed for a couple of miles.
Remedy isn’t just the name of a well-known Jason Mraz song; it’s also something the singer is hoping to do when it comes to certain farming practices. The Grammy winner, who happens to also be a California avocado farmer, joined local Assemblymember Robert Rivas at a hearing this week about environmental farming. Rivas said this is a top priority for him in order to protect the agricultural industry from the “devastating impacts of climate change.” Mraz added that sustainable, climate resilient agriculture is not just about making sure the planet regenerates for future growth, but also that the industry regenerates to support future farmers.
Former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz passed away on February 6. He was 100-years-old. Mount Madonna School had a special bond with him. Over the past 15 years, teacher SN Ward Mailliard took students to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University to interview Schultz.
“His entrance brought us immediately and nervously to our feet, and he would greet each student, putting everyone at ease with a humorous comment or two, and then he would field our questions,” wrote Mailliard in a remembrance.
Mailliard went on to describe Shultz as “a seasoned diplomat and kindly grandfather figure all rolled into out.” NPR looked back on his career and how Schultz helped guide America out of the Cold War.
Valentine’s Day is this Sunday. For one couple in Salinas, the holiday should be carefree. Instead, it’s a painful reminder of a federal policy that stands in the way of them getting married. Mark Contreras proposed to Lori Long just over four years ago. Long, who is disabled, found out just months after that she would lose her monthly benefits and Medicare if she ties the knot. KAZU’s Erika Mahoney shared their love story and dove into the complicated policy that affects many Americans.
And today begins the year of the Ox for those celebrating the Lunar New Year. The Lunar calendar is a tradition in many East Asian countries. It is believed that those born under the sign of the Ox are strong, reliable, fair and conscientious and the year is considered to be lucky and a good year to focus on relationships.
We wish you Gong Xi Fa Cai; a traditional Mandarin greeting that means, “we wish you prosperity in the New Year.”
Until next week,
The KAZU Team