Quick Take:

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Happy Wednesday evening, everybody.

I’m happy to be back in the saddle after some nice holiday family time. Thanks to my guy Dan for holding things down.

Not surprisingly, and quite familiarly, we return to a bevy of Omicron news. Many of us watched our holiday plans get altered by the ever-present variant that is making Delta look tame. Of course, a rather large opportunity for decision-making still looms Friday night.

To those headlines …

Unvaccinated young adults, public spaces a concerning combo

Credit: Via Pixabay

So says county health officials: If you’re treating the Omicron moment as you did Delta or pre-Delta, “you’re virtually guaranteed to get infected,” the county’s deputy health officer says. Since young adults became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year, they’ve continued to lag in receiving the shots, nationally and in Santa Cruz County, a topic of concern for public health officials. More from Hillary Ojeda here.

UCSC sets a booster mandate deadline for students, staff

Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa

Updates from up above: Citing the need to test returning students and concerns over the Omicron variant, UC Santa Cruz told instructors in an email last week that administrators plan to start the winter 2022 quarter with two weeks of online instruction in early January. More from Hillary here.

COVID-19 updates in Santa Cruz County

Omicron is making people take greater precautions.
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

The latest in county data: Santa Cruz County’s COVID-19 positivity rate is increasing after showing a downward trend in recent weeks. The 14-day average has increased by 12%, according to county data, and the death toll is now 228. Officials caution that this trend may actually be worse than reported, noting fewer tests are being officially reported. This is partly due to a marked increase in at-home testing. Full details here.

With Omicron exploding ‘incredibly fast,’ officials urge caution in coming days

People wait in line to get the COVID-19 test at Union Station on Dec. 27. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

What we know: Soaring COVID-19 cases fueled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant are prompting fresh concerns about end-of-year gatherings — even as preliminary evidence mounts that the strain may result in less severe disease than its Delta counterpart. More from the LA Times here.

New Year’s parties? Indoor dining? Skiing?

People arrive for the New Year’s Eve celebration at Grand Park in Los Angeles in 2015. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Which activities are safe as Omicron spreads: A sharp spike in coronavirus cases, in part fueled by the new Omicron variant, is prompting health experts to urge that New Year’s Eve gatherings be toned down. Revelers can still hold indoor parties, but they would be safer if smaller, with guests who have been fully vaccinated and gotten a booster shot, officials say. More from the Times here.

Looking back at 2021: July-September

Aerial view of the vandalized mural.
Aerial view of the vandalized mural. Credit: Via Santa Cruz Police Department

Part III: In the third of four snapshots of 2021, we offer you a look at the summer into late fall. Stay tuned for the final installment tomorrow. In the meantime, check out Part III here.

More from here & elsewhere

Ghislaine Maxwell, associate of Jeffrey Epstein, convicted in sex abuse case (USA Today)
Some nursing home residents will ring in 2022 with a rent increase (Sentinel)
Santa Cruz Court prepared to delay Wharf Master Plan approval (Sentinel)
How Madden got involved with wildly popular NFL video game (USA Today)
Without power or fuel, a Sierra community is facing a crisis exacerbated by Tahoe tourists (SF Gate)
Why’d LeBron James make this erroneous Warriors observation? (SF Gate)

That is all for this Wednesday night. Let’s do it again tomorrow though shall we?

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...