Quick Take:

Under the theme “Stories Matter,” the 9th annual Watsonville Film Festival will spotlight 20 award-winning indie and...

Hey, it’s Tuesday evening and what another amazing day it was out there. (Near-record amazing, in fact.)

And while the epic weather trended neatly along with the rapid decline of COVID positivity rates in Santa Cruz County, we were not one of the lucky ones to get clearance to go back into the red tier just yet. More on how close we got and when we might actually get there below. (Hint, mid-March is looking about right.)

Meanwhile, the county was finalizing plans to help further ease the financial burden on low-income renters via some $17 million in federal pandemic-relief funds propel and the state’s new rental assistance program. More on that program below.

And before we dive into the headlines, there’s a way we can all get together (virtually) tomorrow. Tell all the smart people you know to join us — and sign up for this newsletter and my text alerts here. Or they can just text “Covid” to (831) 508-7524.

Still not seeing red

A food service worker at the Boardwalk.
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

COVID TODAY: Santa Cruz County has been inching toward the brink of meeting the criteria to move into the less restrictive red tier, but didn’t quite make it there Tuesday. Counties also need to meet the red requirements for two consecutive weeks in order to move into this less restrictive tier, so the soonest this could possibly happen for Santa Cruz is March 16. Mallory Pickett breaks it down further here.

Pandemic-relief funds will aid renters

Renter relief is on the way for some.
Renter relief is on the way for some. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

COVID ECONOMY: Low-income residents in Santa Cruz County struggling to pay rent and utility bills will soon be able to tap into close to $17 million in federal pandemic-relief funds as California prepares to launch a new rental assistance program next month. County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the county’s participation in the state program, scheduled to launch by March 15. Patrick Riley has more details here.

Join us tomorrow night for ‘People in the Pandemic’

Clockwise from left: Jennalee Dahlen, DNA, David Ghiarducci and Paula Marcus
Credit: Kevin Painchaud, Event Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County

A LOOKOUT EVENT: Get inspired by these ‘people in the pandemic’: It’s been a really tough year for all of us after the pandemic upended our lives as we know them. Tomorrow at 6 p.m., Tulsi Kamath and I will be chatting with five community members in the fields of medicine, religion, wellness, comedy and mental health. Along with the panel discussion, we will also get your questions about the virus and vaccine answered from county EMS Director Dr. David Ghilarducci. Learn more about our panelists here and SIGN UP FOR THE FREE EVENT HERE.

More from here & elsewhere

As spring break approaches, public health experts urge caution (NBC News)
Experts say the staggering US death toll from Covid did not have to be this high (CNN)
2 Bay Area counties jump to red tier: What can reopen? (SF Gate)
After billions of dollars and dozens of wartime declarations, why are vaccines still in short supply? (Kaiser Health News)
Who all gets a $600 California stimulus check — and when? (CalMatters)
Major expansion of Cal Grant financial aid proposed for state’s college students (LA Times)
Burgeoning child care union secures COVID-19 relief funding approval (CalMatters)
Young People Struggle To Keep Friends Close As Pandemic Pulls Them Apart (NPR)

DON’T FORGET: I want to know how your life has been changed by the pandemic. Hit reply and share your story.

See you all 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...