Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 12/4/20. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.
It looks like it will be a stay-at-home holiday season this year. Due to dwindling hospital capacity and surging COVID-19 cases, Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a Regional Stay Home Order. This is a switch from county by county regulations and consolidates the state’s 58 counties into five regions. The orders will go into effect if available beds in intensive care units in a specific region drop below 15 percent available capacity. Once the order is triggered it will stay in effect for at least three weeks and be lifted only when ICU capacity goes back above 15 percent. Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara Counties are considered part of the Bay Area region. San Benito County is considered part of the San Joaquin Valley region and San Luis Obispo County is considered part of the Southern California region. None of the regions presently have intensive care capacity below 15 percent, though all are expected to drop below that level in the next few weeks.
When a region does drop below the 15 percent capacity level, residents will be required to stay home except for essential duties like grocery shopping and medical care. In addition, hair salons, playgrounds and sporting events will be required to close. Only take-out orders will be allowed at restaurants and hotels can only operate “in support of critical infrastructure services.” Church services are only permitted to take place outside and schools that have been allowed to reopen can continue to operate. Retail businesses and shopping centers will be allowed to operate at 20 percent capacity.
The San Joaquin Valley has been particularly hit hard during the pandemic. In an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, the director of emergency medical services for Fresno County, Dan Lynch, said health care workers are being exposed and placed on quarantine, leading to staff shortages.
A sign of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, the Sheriff's Office is reporting an outbreak among deputies assigned to the jail. As of Thursday, ten correctional officers had tested positive for COVID-19 and seven were quarantining due to contact with those officers. Most of the correctional officers were working at the main jail in Santa Cruz and one was working at the Rountree Facility in Watsonville. Tests for all incarcerated individuals and remaining jail staff came back negative, the sheriff’s office wrote in a press release Friday. The county’s health department is investigating the source of the outbreak.
Last week, our newsletter took a Thanksgiving break but our stories didn't. KAZU’s Michelle Loxton brought you a two-part series about the spread of COVID-19 inside the local facilities that care for our elderly. Some have been able to stop the virus from entering their facilities, but others have not. The healthcare experts that spoke to our reporter described the situation as “heartbreaking” and “a trauma.”
Health care workers and nursing home residents will be first in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. A federal advisory committee to the CDC voted this week to prioritize these two groups of people. The New York Times created an interactive tool that tells you where you’re in the queue to receive the vaccination once it is released nationwide. No vaccine is currently approved in the United States -- the U.K. approved Pfizer’s vaccine this week for emergency use by the general public. The FDA says the goal of “Operation Warp Speed” is “to deliver safe vaccines that work, with the first supply becoming available before the end of 2020.”
Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo tweeted this week that supervisors voted unanimously to send a letter to the state about prioritizing farm workers for the vaccine. Those who work in agriculture continue to be hardest hit in Monterey County with nearly 3,000 cases to date. That’s nearly 20 percent of all cases in the county.
A new study from UC Berkeley analyzed the toll of the coronavirus on farmworkers in Monterey County. You can listen to the California Report’s coverage of the study and why some workers are mistrustful of a vaccine. Listen from 8:45.
COVID-19 Updates as of Friday morning:
- Santa Cruz County Cases - 4,750 total, 37 deaths
- Monterey County Cases - 15,991 total, 130 deaths
- San Benito County Cases (as of Thursday) - 2,007 total, 17 deaths
Over a year ago, tragedy struck a dive boat trip when it caught fire off the coast of Santa Barbara. Thirty-three passengers, some from Santa Cruz, and one crewmember died. Now, the captain of the dive boat, Jerry Nehl Boylan, 67, has been indicted on 34 counts of negligent manslaughter. There’s a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count. Prosecutors said Boylan didn’t have a night watch on the boat, and neglected to do sufficient fire drills and crew training. The sinking of the boat, called the Conception, and the fire made it impossible to find the exact cause, investigators said. But the fire started on the aft deck, where smartphones and other devices with lithium-ion batteries were charging. The 34 people who lost their lives were sleeping in the lower level bunk room and were trapped by the fire. KAZU News covered how the Monterey Bay community honored the lives lost and spotlighted Santa Cruz local and marine biologist Kristy Finstad who was the trip’s divemaster.
A Pacific Grove Police officer has been put on administrative leave for a second time this year while an outside investigator looks into allegations of racist posts on social media. An account on a social network called Parler contained an expletive followed by the words “Black Lives Matter.” The account also reportedly contained a photo of the officer at a President Trump rally with the caption “The fight is not over.”
In May, the same officer was put on administrative leave while the department investigated controversial decals, including one disparaging LGBTQ people and another connected to an anti-government group, placed on his personal vehicle. That investigation was also conducted by an outside firm. In September, the Pacific Grove police chief, Cathy Madalone, and the unnamed officer put out a joint news release saying the officer, “is not a member of any militia group and is deeply sorry for any turmoil this matter has caused.”
Chief Madalone declined to release any details of the incidents or the name of the officer because they involve personal matters and are prohibited by law.
Yet another sign of the times -- Warner Brothers will stream all of its new releases next year in response to movie theater closures. The movies will be streamed on HBO Max for a month and then will continue to play in theaters. Wonder Woman 1984 will be the first to debut this way. It comes out December 25.
Election results have now been certified by counties in California. Monterey County reported a voter turnout of 80.21 percent; Santa Cruz County reported 86.13 percent and San Benito County reported 82.32 percent. Despite a pandemic, voter engagement was record-breaking. You can find the final local results here.
Senator Dianne Feinstein has thrown her support behind California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the Senate seat soon-to-be vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The state’s Senior Senator told the online news site HuffPost the governor is aware of her support of Padilla. Speculation on who will replace Harris in the Senate has become a topic of discussion among political watchers around the state. KAZU’s Doug McKnight spoke with one watcher this week who considers himself a student of the Senate.
An 8th-grade student at San Ardo School in South Monterey County won a statewide holiday art contest. Zuliana Carbajal’s work was selected from over 75 submissions to the annual contest held by the California Small School Districts’ Association (SSDA). The nonprofit advocates for small rural schools. Carbajal’s work will be featured on a holiday card sent to over 500 districts throughout the state.
As we look towards the holidays and the end of the year, NPR’s Book Concierge released its favorite books of 2020. The annual list compiles nearly 2,500 books all picked by NPR staff and critics. And if you’re looking for a tune, NPR also released the 100 best songs and the best 50 albums of 2020.
On Thursday morning, KAZU concluded the on-air portion of our December membership drive on target. During this special year-end fundraiser we raise the money needed to begin 2021 ready to bring vital journalism to everyone in the Monterey Bay area and we partner with our local food banks to provide nutritious meals to our community. We heard from 342 listeners and will be able to provide over 14,700 meals this year. But there’s still time to participate; make a donation to KAZU by Sunday, December 6 and instead of receiving a thank-you gift for your contribution, like a tote bag or coffee mug, we’ll provide meals through our local food banks. Thank you to everyone who participated!
Until next week,
The KAZU Team