Hey, everyone: We’re here to report that nothing is jarring us from the positive recovery trajectory we’ve been on — and that is excellent non-news indeed.

In fact, as our content partner the LA Times details, the case numbers in California have put us back to a level not seen since before Thanksgiving. “We are in a very different place than we have been because of all of your hard work — each and every one of you doing your part,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a press briefing Wednesday.

Locally those numbers stayed on track, too, as our Mallory Pickett details in COVID Today. More on that below, and on the one blip of sad local pandemic news that came on the economy front: The Cinema 9 downtown will not return.

Tell everyone you know to sign up for this newsletter and my text alerts here, the latter just by texting “Covid” to (831) 508-7524.

To this evening’s headlines…

Remember those pre-Thanksgiving halcyon days?


COVID TODAY: In sync with the local trend, coronavirus infections have plummeted to pre-Thanksgiving levels in California, bringing renewed optimism that a wider reopening of the still-shackled economy might be just around the corner. Newsom hinted this week that more counties may emerge next week from the purple tier and move into red. Read more about the local trends from Mallory Pickett here and get the state overview from content partner the LA Times here.

Ash Wednesday services look different during the pandemic at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz on Feb. 17, 2021
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

PANDEMIC LIFE: In a welcome change from recent months, more parishioners than usual attended the Ash Wednesday services at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz. About 40 people attended Deacon Joe DePage’s outdoor service in the early afternoon. “I would say there was slightly higher attendance than what we expected at all of our services,” DePage said, with more people in attendance than for a typical Sunday Mass. Go here for Tulsi Kamath’s roundup and Kevin Painchaud’s images.

COVID ECONOMY WATCH: The Santa Cruz Cinema 9, at one time the central attraction in a rebuilt post-earthquake downtown, is closing permanently, according to an e-mail obtained by Lookout that was sent to employees by Regal, the movie theater’s owner. Here’s Wallace Baine with the details.

If you have a story to tell us about life in the pandemic, you can submit yours here.

PLUS: Sign up for “People in the Pandemic,” the next in our COVID 2021 event series, here. IT’s FREE. Besides a star-studded panel, you get to meet Lookout Managing Editor Tulsi Kamath and me. We’re hosting the thing.

More from here & elsewhere

Biden administration claims progress in COVID-19 vaccination drive (LA Times)
Newsom, lawmakers agree to $600 stimulus checks plus boost for undocumented workers (CalMatters)
Why a California scientist hosted superspreader event amid a deadly COVID-19 surge (LA Times)
Who’s ‘essential’? COVID-19 vaccine rollout leaving high-risk workers behind (LA Times)
Priest dies from COVID after San Francisco Catholic church closes due to outbreak (SF Gate)
Florida Governor Accused Of ‘Playing Politics’ With COVID-19 Vaccine (NPR)
Lab studies suggest Pfizer, Moderna vaccines can protect against coronavirus variant (CNN)
Vaccine envy is normal, but here’s when it can become dangerous (USA Today)
Sources: Many top NBA players hesitant to promote coronavirus vaccines (ESPN)

ASK LOOKOUT: We answer your questions . . .

Q: Can friends who have all had both doses of COVID vaccine get together without masks indoors? Better outdoors without masks? If so, how long after getting second dose? — Harriet M

A: The best guidance we found comes from a Jan. 27 article in the Atlantic penned by Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School. Marcus warned that because vaccines aren’t perfect, people who have received them shouldn’t let down their guard in any way — not even at gatherings with just a few other vaccinated people. “Based on science and how vaccines work, it certainly is likely that [such a gathering] will end up being lower-risk,” a pharmacologist from Johns Hopkins University told The Washington Post. “But right now, we just don’t know.” Government officials are no more upbeat. In response to the question of whether a vaccinated person needs to continue taking precautions, the CDC states that “not enough information is currently available” to say when — or even if — it will stop recommending the use of masks and distancing.

Have a question for us? Submit it here or just reply to this email. Want to see all of the previous questions and answers? Go here.

REVERSE #BOLO: Normally we’d be alerting you to Be On the Lookout for a Thursday press conference by county health officials. But the county has decided to take a week off.

That’s it for today — see you tomorrow!

Mark Conley
Deputy Managing Editor

Follow Mark Conley on: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Mark joins Lookout after 14 years at the Mercury News and Bay Area News Group, where he served as Deputy Sports Editor on a staff that covered three...