Quick Take:

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

Hey, everyone, I hope you’re taking that extra hour of sunlight and getting outside in the evening. After you’re done enjoying that extra PM sunshine, we’ve got lots of COVID PM news to sling at you:

THE ORANGE WILL RETURN: COVID positivity data in Santa Cruz County officially dropped into orange tier range Tuesday; now we need to hold steady for several more weeks to move past red.
FOOTBALL WON’T NEED TESTING: In yet another twist, the school system’s interpretation of state guidance will enable not just a high school football re-start, but a re-start with no testing.
HALEY JONES’ BIG MOMENT: The Santa Cruz native and Stanford guard hopes to extinguish memories of last year’s knee injury and the effects of the pandemic when the top-seeded Cardinal kick off NCAA Tournament play this weekend.

To the headlines…

County officially on its way back to the orange

People take to the sidewalks in downtown Santa Cruz on Saturday, March 13, 2021.
People take to the sidewalks in downtown Santa Cruz on Saturday, March 13, 2021. Another easing of COVID-19 restrictions that might make streets even more crowded is expected by the end of March. Credit: Chris Fusco / Lookout Santa Cruz

COVID TODAY: The state released this week’s Blueprint data assessment today, and Santa Cruz County met the criteria for the orange tier in all three necessary categories. Counties must meet the tier criteria for three consecutive weeks before advancing to a less restrictive tier, which means we’ve got several more weeks of staying on the same course ahead of us. Mallory Pickett and Tulsi Kamath with those details and more here.

Tuesday's new data

Upon further review, no football testing needed

The first game under the lights last Thursday night.
The first game under the lights last Thursday night. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

COVID K-12: Local coaches and athletic directors had been grousing for a while now: Why are schools in adjoining counties interpreting state guidance on COVID testing for high school football differently than us? It turns out Santa Cruz County not only will re-start its five-game mini-seasons on Friday — but teas will not have to do any testing unless our case positivity rates take a drastic turn in the other direction. I’ll tell you more about this latest sudden twist-and-turn here.

A reason for some madness: Haley Jones

Haley Jones
Credit: Courtesy Stanford

PEOPLE IN THE PANDEMIC: In case you needed an excuse to tune in to March Madness, there is the Stanford women’s Santa Cruz connection: Haley Jones. The sophomore guard, who played her high school ball over the hill at Mitty, leads the Cardinal (25-2) into the tournament as its overall top seed and pursuing a third national title. While Stanford had to play some of its “home” season away from Palo Alto due to stricter San Mateo County guidelines, that provided Jones a homecoming of sorts with three Pac-12 “home” games played at Kaiser Permanente Arena. In each of the two victories, against Oregon and USC, Jones led the Cardinal with 18 points. This ESPN story from December explains well why the 6-foot-1 Jones is extra motivated this March — and why the Cardinal’s best hopes for a fourth title under coach Tara VanDerveer has much to do with how Jones performs.

Today’s People in the Pandemic is sponsored by Santa Cruz Community Credit Union.

Study sheds light on abuse of Asian Americans

A rally against anti-Asian violence at Los Angeles State Historic Park on Feb. 20. The rally was organized partly in response to the fatal assault of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand, in San Francisco. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

PANDEMIC LIFE: Since coronavirus shutdowns began last March, thousands of Asian Americans have faced racist verbal and physical attacks or have been shunned by others, according to a study released Tuesday. The study by Stop AAPI Hate documents 3,795 racially motivated attacks against Asian Americans from last March to February, noting that the number is likely a fraction of the attacks that occurred because many were not reported to the group. More from our content partner the LA Times here.

More from here & elsewhere

First Bay Area county advances to orange tier (SF Gate)
FAA says there are too many unruly passengers. So it’s extending a get-tough masking policy (CNN)
With California’s huge COVID-19 vaccine expansion relying on trust, will people do the right thing? (LA Times)
How Filing Taxes Will Be Different Because Of The Coronavirus (NPR)
Gavin Newsom makes misleading claim about Florida and California’s COVID-19 stats (SF Gate)
Moderna begins testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children as young as 6 months (LA Times)


Q: What was your second-shot vaccine experience like? Please sum it up in one word followed by a quick description.

(ie. GREAT! I didn’t feel a thing in my arm and had zero side effects.)

Hit reply to this email and I’ll share a mix of replies. (And if you already got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson, that’s fine — we want to hear that feedback too!)

Catch you all later.

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...