Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 4/30/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is being used again in the U.S. In a statement, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said, “After a thorough review of very rare adverse events following the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup supports the recommendation of the FDA and CDC to lift the pause on the vaccine.” The statement did add that clinics in the state can administer the vaccine as long as they provide educational materials about the low risk of associated health effects and offer other available vaccines. NPR’s Scott Simon from Weekend Edition spoke with health reporter Pien Huang about the lifting of the pause.
Closer to home, a joint statement by the Bay Area Health Officers, which includes Santa Cruz County, echoed the CDPH’s recommendations and added that “culturally and linguistically appropriate informational materials in an accessible reading level” should be made available so that members of the public can make an informed decision about the J&J vaccine.
California is in the process of aligning with the CDC’s new mask-wearing recommendations. Under the new guidance fully vaccinated people can:
- Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or social distancing;
- Visit with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing;
- Participate in outdoor activities without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues;
- And resume domestic travel without the need for testing before or after travel, and self-quarantine after travel.
More guidelines can be found on our coronavirus resource page, check under the “California Noticeboard.” NPR also outlined what vaccinated people can do safely, answering questions about hugs, vacations and more.
More and more walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics are popping up in our region. This week Montage Wellness Center in Marina hosted three days of walk-in clinics where all three vaccines were administered. In Santa Clara County, which includes the City of Gilroy, health officials announced that most county vaccination sites would be accepting drop-ins all week. Providers are though encouraging residents to book a vaccine appointment so that you are guaranteed a shot. California's vaccine sign-up. Monterey County. Santa Cruz County. Santa Clara County.
New economic recovery programs came online this week to help venues and restaurants. Called the “Shuttered Venue Operators Grant” and the “Restaurant Revitalization Fund,” the programs hope to provide emergency assistance to small businesses affected by the pandemic. Cal Coastal, our region’s small business development center, is offering help to businesses looking to apply. It says the application process is long and recommends that you “don’t go it alone.” Cal Coastal adds that these aren’t the only financial programs currently available — PPP and the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program are still accepting applications.
A slight increase in its COVID-19 case rate is what held Santa Cruz County back from entering the Yellow Tier in the state’s reopening plan. Dr. Gail Newel, the county’s health officer, said they’ve seen a slight fluctuation in overall cases, possibly due to Spring Break or youth sports. The county was poised to move into the Yellow Tier along with four other counties, but only one moved forward — Mendocino. Now, Santa Cruz County must meet Yellow Tier metrics for two weeks before they can move forward.
Homebound seniors in Santa Cruz County can let officials know whether they’d like to get vaccinated in their home in a new survey. Responses will help Public Health plan for homebound vaccination efforts. Residents can fill out the survey online or call/text Community Bridges’ helpline at 831-219-8607. Leave your name, phone number, age and zip code, and someone should get back to you within 48 hours.
In case you missed it, This American Life featured two local public health officials in their recent episode “The Herd.” The show dove into this question — “What happens when your own community suddenly turns on you?” Dr. Gail Newel, Santa Cruz County’s health officer, and Mimi Hall, the director of the county’s health services agency, opened up about the harassment they’ve endured throughout the pandemic. During a press briefing yesterday, Dr. Newel said the episode has garnered a lot of attention, not just in California but across the nation, and thanked everyone for their support. She said she hopes the story will raise awareness about how difficult it has been for public health officials. You can listen to the episode here; we’d like to warn that it may not be appropriate for children and bad words are not bleeped out. This American Life was the first radio show/podcast to be awarded a Pulitzer. Catch it 12 p.m. on Saturdays, 3 p.m. on Sundays, and 8 p.m. on Wednesdays on 90.3 KAZU or kazu.org.
COVID-19 Case Data at time of publishing:
- Santa Cruz County Cases - 15,984 total, 204 deaths
- Monterey County Cases - 43,454 total, 381 deaths
- San Benito County Cases - 6,012 total, 63 deaths
COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker:
- California - 39.1% of all residents fully vaccinated, 19.8% partially vaccinated (as of Thursday)
- Monterey County - 58% of residents (16+) received at least 1 dose (as of Monday)
- Santa Cruz County - 62% of all residents received at least 1 dose (as of Monday)
California Governor Gavin Newsom will likely face a recall election this fall. The California secretary of state certified that enough people signed a recall petition. Those who signed it now have 30 business days to withdraw their signatures if they wish. If, as is likely, the recall proceeds, there will be two items on the ballot. The governor needs to receive more than 50% of the vote to stay in office. A second vote would determine a replacement in case the governor is recalled. CapRadio went into detail about the process and what’s ahead.
Monterey is seeing a four-fold increase in drunk driving cases compared to a year ago. The city’s monthly police report shows there were five investigations in 2020 compared to 20 so far this year. As the state continues to reopen, more people are driving, going to parties and bars. City officials warn drivers not to drink and drive.
A resident in King City has been sentenced to two years in prison for “recklessly starting a fire.” The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office said the 30-year-old man was caught starting a fire in July 2020 near his roadside campsite, a fire that later got out of control. The man said he was homeless and started fires to stay warm and cook food. You can read the full press release here.
The state’s official wildfire season begins Saturday. The governor has already declared drought emergencies in two northern California counties, Mendocino and Sonoma. With a lower than normal snowpack, there is concern about the severity of wildfires this summer. KAZU’s Doug McKnight spoke with Cal Fire Battalion Chief Issac Sanchez of Sacramento about how prepared the state is.
The drought means Santa Cruz residents must pay close attention to how much water they’re using. The city will initiate what’s called a “Stage 1 Water Shortage Warning” this Saturday. It means Santa Cruz Water Department customers are required to stay within an allocated monthly water budget. Although penalties are not applied during this first stage, they could begin next year if the drought persists. The city gets all of its water from local rainfall. Their one reservoir is approximately 70 percent full, which is enough for this year. But as Water Director Rosemary Menard said, “If we have another dry year, or multiple dry years, the city could be in trouble.”
The Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau launched its largest campaign in history this week, which includes a national TV spot. Called “Now is the Moment,” the campaign aims to “transport viewers from every day at-home moments to Monterey County’s boundless wide-open spaces” and encourages responsible tourism. The bureau hopes to capitalize on the recent opening of Highway 1 in Big Sur and the planned statewide reopening come June 15, adding that this is a first step in a multi-year recovery initiative.
UC Santa Cruz has been awarded a three-year $650,000 grant that aims to connect high/middle schools students with faculty and undergrads in order to design and implement community-engaged research projects. The grant is in partnership with United Way’s Youth Action Network. According to UCSC, the hope is this work will provide new insight into youth education, health, and wellbeing initiatives as well as community services for immigrant and mixed-status families, unhoused families, and migrant working families.
The “Pacific Grove Magic Carpet” is in full bloom at Perkins Park. Last weekend, 40 volunteers spent their Saturday pulling weeds among the fluorescent, fuchsia blooms. It marked the first large volunteer cleanup since the start of the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, these events happened monthly for over a year, according to Amy Colony with the City of Pacific Grove. If you’d like to volunteer, email Colony at firstname.lastname@example.org. In 2019, the city voted to invest about $70,000 toward the revival of the seaside park. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton looked into the history of the “magic carpet” ahead of that vote.
Finally, a big, happy 50th birthday to NPR. With the official anniversary coming up on Monday, here’s how the celebrations began this week: NPR posted an interactive timeline online showing historic moments; Fresh Air’s Terry Gross took a journey back in time to the first days of NPR; and we got to hear NPR’s first broadcast from 1971. Join the celebrations by telling us what your NPR name is and following continuing coverage at npr.org/50.
Until next week,
The KAZU Team