Quick Take:

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Happy Thursday evening, everybody, or as I like to call it: “Baby Friday.” All of us at Lookout hope your week has been as pleasant as the weather.

In health (but not COVID) news: a nonprofit attempting to form a healthcare district to take over the Watsonville Community Hospital — currently in bankruptcy proceedings — moved a step closer to its goal today. The bill that would form the district, sponsored by state Sen. John Laird, passed a floor vote of the Assembly 62-0. It now heads to the Senate for a similar vote.

On to the rest of the headlines:

Pranksters, LSD and the Dead: Ken Babbs was there at Santa Cruz County’s most famous (or infamous) party

Ken Babbs with a trombone and furry friend with the Merry Prankster bus
Ken Babbs with a trombone and furry friend with the Merry Prankster bus “Furthur.” Credit: Via Ken Babbs

Acid test: Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady and the crew immortalized in “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test,” not to mention the band that became the Grateful Dead, got the party started at Ken Babbs’ Soquel digs. And it’s all in Babbs’ new book, which he’ll discuss in an upcoming Bookshop Santa Cruz event. See the crazy details from Lookout’s Wallace Baine here.

More Wallace: See his columns and articles here.

Why a Boulder Creek land purchase has conservationists so excited

Damage from the CZU fire in Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Damage from the CZU fire in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Gateway: The Sempervirens Fund is closing in on a purchase of a 153-acre property near Big Basin Redwoods State Park — a development that could reopen at least part of the region devastated by the CZU Lightning Complex fire in 2020. Lookout contributor Jacob Pierce has the details.

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BOLO Best Bets: Get all jazzed up as the calendar heads to February

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Credit: Via Kuumbwa Jazz

Set for the weekend: Check out the rundown of things to do in Santa Cruz County — from live music to art to things to do with the kids. All of it curated by your dedicated BOLO staff. See the details here.

More listings: See our full calendar of events here.

COVID-19 updates in Santa Cruz County

Mardiros Ebrahamian, 82, gets a booster shot Moderna vaccine for COVID-19
Mardiros Ebrahamian, 82, gets a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster shot this month in La Cañada Flintridge. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Latest stats: While Santa Cruz County’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise, the rate has somewhat slowed. As of today, the 14-day average was 113%, below last week’s figure of 295%. Though significantly lower, that number prior to the Omicron surge was often in the single digits. See the rest of the data here.

More info: Vaccine update: Rates, where to find a COVID shot or test; wait, cost and turnaround times


ICYMI: How Santa Cruz County’s public schools have avoided the higher absence rates, sickouts seen elsewhere

Parents and children form lines to check for student names on a COVID health clearance list at an elementary school
Parents and children form lines to check for student names on a COVID health clearance list at Lankershim Elementary School in North Hollywood. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times) Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Positive news: While Santa Cruz County public schools have taken on the burden of teaching students in person during a pandemic, they’ve managed to avoid challenges such as sickouts and abnormally high absence rates seen in other parts of the country. Lookout’s Hillary Ojeda looks into why.

Cannabis social equity programs leave many California entrepreneurs demoralized, depleted

Cut out: The promise of “social equity” has been a key narrative tied to California’s legalized pot industry. So far, efforts have been mired by costly delays. Our partners at the Los Angeles Times look into the issue.

More from here & elsewhere

Bay Area journalist sues Oakland Police over tear gas used during George Floyd protests (San Francisco Chronicle)
Colorado Fire: Containment reaches 65% as drier weather, lower humidity anticipated Thursday night (The Mercury News)
The Fake Fur and Real Benefits of Stuffed-Animal Therapy (Good Times)
Woman involved in shooting at CHP officers in Scotts Valley arrested: CHP (KSBW)
Santa Cruz County public defender reveals July 1 transition plan (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

That is all for this Thursday night. See you back here tomorrow to close down this week.

Dan Evans
Executive Editor

Follow Dan Evans on: Twitter, Instagram. With wide experience in local journalism and education, Dan joins Lookout Local with an eye toward having the publication both explain and improve life in Santa...