Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 6/25/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few national stories from NPR.
Firefighters are gaining on the Willow Fire burning in the Ventana Wilderness. The National Forest Service now predicts full containment by Sunday July 11. The blaze has scorched almost 2,900 acres and is 26% contained. Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen says, “things are coming together.” It began last Thursday, June 17. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Both Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties are warning about the fire danger of Fourth of July fireworks during the drought. Monterey City Fire Chief Gaudenz Panholzer is asking residents to “do your patriotic duty to reduce the risk by not using fireworks when celebrating the Fourth of July.” In the city of Monterey, the use of any kind of fireworks could result in a fine of up to $1,000. Both the city and county of Santa Cruz ban the use of fireworks. Santa Cruz will establish a citywide “Safety Enhancement Zone” through the holiday weekend, which will triple fines.
The remains of a dead fin whale washed ashore at Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove Monday night. Shaili Johri, a researcher with Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, said the 30 foot whale was likely not fully grown. Fin whales are the second largest whales on Earth, some reaching almost 90 feet in length. Johri said gleaning the cause of death is unlikely because of how badly the carcass has decomposed. Fin whales are an endangered species due to over-hunting in the 20th century. The International Whaling Commission established a “pause” in commercial whaling in 1982. The pause, often referred to as moratorium, is still in effect.
Those curious about the deep sea world can join an expedition with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to Sur Ridge, a rocky outcropping 19 miles west of Point Sur in the Pacific Ocean. The expedition will be streamed live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on Wednesday June 30 beginning at 11 a.m. PDT. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions.
MBARI is joined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) for the project. Sur Ridge rises more than 1,600 feet above the sea floor and is teeming with unique gardens of ancient corals and sponges.
While most of the Central Coast was sheltered-in-place for COVID-19, its wildlife was not. New research from UC Santa Cruz shows how pumas grew bolder during the pandemic. The study, published in the journal Current Biology, revealed that during the lockdown local mountain lions roamed into areas of the Santa Cruz mountains they normally would avoid out of fear of humans. Chris Wilmers, a biologist at UC Santa Cruz who led the research, tracked the animals with GPS collars. The study reflects a growing wave of research that shows animals around the world altered their behaviors during the pandemic.
The work-from-home era will continue for Santa Cruz city employees. A statement from the city said continuing the remote work policy will improve work-life balance, and will be better for the environment — easing traffic congestion and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. The city said the policy will save commuters an estimated 4.8 million miles each year — roughly equivalent to 219,000 gallons of gasoline. Nearly 90% of employees agreed working from home had no impact on their productivity.
In Monterey County, the fully vaccinated public can now go mask-free in county facilities. The new policy states that beginning on Thursday, visitors may be asked to self-attest their vaccination status to staff or security at county buildings. In facilities where entry isn’t monitored by staff, visitors can indicate they are fully vaccinated by simply not wearing a mask.
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Monterey County hospitals has declined sharply, thanks to vaccinations. Natividad Hospital in Salinas reports one patient, while both Salinas Valley Memorial and Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula now have no patients. As of this week, 66% of eligible residents have at least one COVID vaccination. “The vaccines are working well. They are working very well,” said Martha Blum, the medical director at Community Hospital. Natividad’s Chief Medical Officer Craig Walls said he is “cautiously optimistic.” Mahendra Poudel, a doctor of infectious disease at SVMH said at one time his hospital had more than 100 patients infected with the virus.
Santa Cruz observed its 30th Juneteenth on Saturday — the city’s first large community event in over 14 months. Of the many reasons to celebrate, the community center that borders Laurel Park, where the event is held, received a revised name. The Louden Nelson Community Center was named in the 1970’s to honor one of the city’s Black heroes. But as Jerimiah Oetting reports, a historical misspelling muddled the true name of the man — London Nelson — for nearly 150 years. Read Oetting’s story here.
Finally, may we introduce our newest KAZU member, Brynn Hazel Bates. She is the new daughter of our news director Erika Mahoney and her husband Brandt Bates. Erika’s mother, and Brynn’s grandmother, said “(she) has captured our hearts and has given us great joy and hope. She is a tiny bundle of pure love and we feel incredibly blessed.” Daughter, mother, father and grandparents are all joyous and doing well.
Brynn was born Monday, June 21st at 2:02 p.m. — or as we say at KAZU, during Fresh Air.
The Friday News Roundup is taking a summer vacation for the next two weeks. We will return on July 16. Sign up to receive the weekly news roundup from KAZU News every Friday, right to your inbox. Just visit kazu.org/newsletter to subscribe.
The KAZU Team