We’re almost to Friday, folks, and a well-deserved non-rainy day!

As we dry out a bit, we digest the mixed news delivered by county health officials on Thursday. The short version: The county is trending in the right direction as we hoped and suspected, but getting from the purple tier back into the red is going to take quite a bit more time and diligence.

But as Wallace Baine tells us, some of the things the pandemic has brought with it might just stick around. Below we’ll tell you about one of the cooler ones.

Be sure to tell those who should be in the know to sign up for this newsletter and my text alerts here. They can also just text “Covid” to (831) 508-7524. To keep up with other big news events (such as the storms that are finally passing — yay!) you also can sign up for Lookout’s new Breaking News Text Alerts here, or sign up by texting “Breaking” to (831) 298-8906.

The headlines…

‘Remarkable’ progress, but county a long way from leaving purple

Santa Cruz County health officials panel
Santa Cruz County health officials (bottom left, clockwise) David Ghilarducci, Mimi Hall and Jen Herrera answer media questions via moderator Jason Hoppin about COVID-19 and vaccination on Thursday, Feb. 11. Credit: Screengrab

County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel began her comments by saying it “feels like a long time since we’ve had good news,” but now finally there appears to be some. “It appears Santa Cruz County has joined the state of California in the downward side of our holiday surge,” Newel said. In the latest data report from the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” program, the county case rate had decreased from 71 new cases per 100,000 people each day to 47. “That’s a remarkable decrease,” Newel said. More on that yin-yang phenomenon from Mallory Pickett here.

The UCSC Molecular Diagnostic Lab is on the verge of an expansion and relocation.
The UCSC Molecular Diagnostic Lab is on the verge of an expansion and relocation. Credit: Carolyn Lagattuta / UCSC

COVID TODAY: While three new deaths were reported countywide (bringing the total to 146), hospitalizations were down significantly, as was case positivity. Active cases decreased by 146 , from 2,118 active cases to 1,972. For more on the day’s developments, go here.

A pandemic concept that just might stick

The Dream Inn as vertical concert venue on Halloween.
The Dream Inn as vertical concert venue on Halloween. Credit: Courtesy Dream Inn

As our Wallace Baine reports, a “vertical concert” is what the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz hosted last Halloween as the great five-piece L.A. band Los Lobos came to town and performed on a makeshift stage by the hotel’s pool, while their audience was arrayed (mostly) above them, socially distanced, enjoying the show from their respective patios of the 115 rooms that overlook the pool area. Now, there is whole new slate of “vertical” shows set for the upcoming year. Wallace elaborates on that and more here.

More from here & elsewhere

Novavax COVID-19 vaccine effective, but less so against variant in South Africa (NPR)
When will you feel safe to travel? 5 epidemiologists share hopes, fears, data and guesses (LA Times)
To prevent COVID, should I wear two masks? Do I need an N95? (LA Times)
California lawmakers vote to extend COVID-19 eviction protections through June (LA Times)
Line cooks are at the highest risk of dying from COVID, says UCSF study (SF Gate)
What happens to children who missed kindergarten during COVID-19 crisis? (EdSource)

ASK LOOKOUT: We answer your questions . . .

Q: One thing I’d like clarified is whether doses of vaccine are being saved as second shots.

This came from our text reader John H., and we posed it to county health official Dr. David Ghilarducci on Thursday.

A: We have competing interests: We want to get vaccine out the door as fast as possible, it doesn’t do any good sitting in our freezer. On the other hand we want to make sure there is a second dose available. So we’ve struck a compromise where we are holding on to 50 percent of doses that are otherwise allocated as second doses, with the anticipation that we will get a new shipment that can sort of fill the balance of that 50 percent for second dose. So far we have not had to miss any second doses. We’ve heard some reports from other counties that they’re having some trouble using that method, so we’re watching that very closely.

Have a question for us to try and get answered? Submit it here or just reply to this email.

We’ll do it again tomorrow — and then hopefully even have a dry weekend!

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...