Quick Take:

Three local nonprofits - Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, and Teen Kitchen Project - are working hard to...

Hey all, it was a busy COVID news collecting Monday around here thanks to our Mallory Pickett, who caught up with the county health officer and UC Santa Cruz scientists — all of whom offered up interesting pandemic tidbits. To wit:

➤ In a wide-ranging interview, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel shared updates with Lookout on vaccine availability, when the MyTurn vaccine notification system will become active, how child care workers can sign up for vaccines here and much more.
➤ UCSC has just completed its first sequencing of 84 COVID-19 samples from Santa Cruz County. Similar to the rest of the state, 65% of them show the worrisome — but not alarm-worthy — California strain.
➤ Will tomorrow be the catalyst for a return to the red tier? Answers, or at least clues, to all of that below.

Catching up with the county health officer

Santa Cruz County Chief Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel.
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

COUNTY UPDATE: As the speed of vaccinations ramps up and cases decline, many experts are hopeful this spring will be a turning point in the pandemic. County health officer Dr. Gail Newel is looking forward to seeing her mother fully vaccinated, and maybe even getting to hug her, soon. Our Mallory Pickett caught up with Newel to talk variants, vaccinations and everything in between. Check that out here.

No ‘variants of concern’ in first county tests, but…

View of SARS-CoV-2 genomic datasets in the UCSC Genome Browser.
View of SARS-CoV-2 genomic datasets in the UCSC Genome Browser. Credit: Courtesy UC Santa Cruz

VARIANT WATCH: UC Santa Cruz scientists said Monday that they had completed genomic sequencing of 84 COVID-19 samples from Santa Cruz County, with none of three official “variants of concern” turning up. The “California” variant was a dominant presence, however. Mallory details what to make of that here.

As active cases plateau, will Tuesday bring back the red?

The plateau

COVID TODAY: Tuesday we will learn if the county can begin moving back to the less restrictive red tier under California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The county was at 8.6 active COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people last week and needs to get under 7 by Tuesday to trigger a two-week timetable that would put the county back in red by March 16. Mallory has more details here.

More from here & elsewhere

Progress with COVID-19 could be wiped out by variants, CDC director says (CNN)
‘Worrisome’ California and N.Y. variants raise specter of new outbreaks (LA Times)
When will nursing homes reopen to visitors? State officials won’t say (CalMatters)
Supervisors propose free summer programs for students impacted by prolonged school closures (SF Gate)
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Rollout Begins In U.S. As COVID-19 Cases Tick Up (NPR)
The biggest vaccine headache is still ahead of us (CNN)
Here’s when the US will see a lot more vaccine doses (CNN)

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...