Happy Friday, folks! Welcome to our second edition of COVID PM, your evening read to help you make sense of the day’s developments with the pandemic.

The quick list from our staff: Regional ICU availability at 3% paints a “long haul” picture for Santa Cruz and the Bay Area when it comes to staying home . . . the future of the downtown Santa Cruz is very much in flux, so we decided to see how business owners are holding up . . . the Santa Cruz Warriors will play hoops this season, just not in front of giddy fans below Beach Hill.

The quick list from our content partners: CalMatters sizes up Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $227 billion spending plan for the coming year . . . and the LA Times reports on the increasing turmoil at Bay Area ICUs, including at Kaiser San Jose hospital, which drew a fine as its COVID-19 outbreak grows.

There’s a lot in today’s COVID PM, and we hope you’ll share it with friends by sending them this link to sign up. Also, anyone can get our COVID alerts — including a link to this newsletter each day — on their phones by texting “Covid” to (831) 508-7524. Please share this number widely.

Now, to the headlines . . .

With only 3% ICU capacity left, stay-home order remains in effect

Hospital staff in protective gear move a gurney and monitors.

As the last day of the Bay Area Regional stay-home order came and went, it’s a safe bet Santa Cruz County and other Bay Area counties are in for the long haul: As of today, the ICU capacity for the region is at 3%, the lowest it’s been since the order was triggered. Our Mallory Pickett asks county health officer Gail Newel for her thoughts.


Can downtown survive this?

Palace Art & Office Supply exterior.
READ THE STORY: Fox Racing factory in Watsonville set to close; more than 200 could face layoffs Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

When an institution like Palace Arts retrenches, as it did in the past week, concerns rise to a new level. But even though 29 businesses have closed in downtown Santa Cruz since the beginning of the pandemic in March, 10 new ones have sprung up. Our Wallace Baine reports that some local business folks are choosing to stay optimistic.


Seeing the Sea Dubs from afar

Warriors basketball will be back at Kaiser Permanente Arena.
Warriors basketball will be back at Kaiser Permanente Arena. Credit: Courtesy Santa Cruz Warriors

Since the NBA’s experiment went off without a hitch — except for the dreaded Lakers winning the title — the G League hopes to weather the COVID-19 storm in the same contained, fan-less environment in Orlando. That means a season for the Santa Cruz Warriors, just not at Kaiser Permanente Arena.


More than any California budget ever

The governor's budget proposal for the coming fiscal year clocks in at more than $227 billion. Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock
The governor’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year clocks in at more than $227 billion. Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock

Despite — or maybe because — of the last 10 months of arrested economic activity and unchecked viral contagion, Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a record-breaking $227 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year.



COVID-19 continues to pummel crowded Bay Area ERs and things could only get worse (LA Times)
Kaiser San Jose hospital fined as COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow (LA Times)
Hotel workers renew push for recall rights, job protections (CalMatters)
California suspends payment on 1.4 million unemployment claims while searching for fraud (LA Times)


The inequities of COVID: Why has South County been impacted so disproportionately? (Isa Cueto)
Vaccines for essential workers to be offered at Dominican tomorrow as county aims to ramp up distribution (Mallory Pickett)
Santiago Tehandon, 80, retired Watsonville maintenance technician, food bank volunteer (Isa Cueto)


You’ve seen our ramped-up COVID 2021 coverage, from newsletters like this one to text alerts to special coverage on South County, the economy and people stories about those most affected by the virus. But have you put our special event on your calendar yet?

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21 our Chris Fusco and Mallory Pickett will hold court with Gail Newel, Marm Kilpatrick and others — and answer your questions. We hope you are finding our focus on Covid valuable. If you don’t want to receive this newsletter or want to change your preferences, please go here.

Have a great weekend and we’ll see you Monday!

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...