Quick Take:

The campus continues to make advancements in the areas of housing, transportation, and water conservation.

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, Dec. 30. We’re expecting another partly cloudy day with a high of 57.

Developments surrounding COVID-19 and vaccine distribution will remain front and center today, with state health officials expected to announce who will be next in line to be vaccinated after hospital workers, nursing home residents and workers, and firefighters and EMTs. In national news, President-elect Joe Biden is criticizing the Trump administration’s vaccine plan and is vowing to ramp up distribution during his first 100 days in office. Locally, the county schools superintendent is prepping students, parents and teachers to continue remote learning for several more weeks.

Before we get into all that (and more), a quick reminder: If you’re enjoying this newsletter, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter Center, where they sign up for the newsletters we offer. Also, even though Christmas Day has come and gone, it’s never too late to gift a Lookout membership or become a member.

There’s a lot to unpack today — and lots expected to happen — so let’s dive right in.

Inoculations begin for Santa Cruz nursing home residents, first responders

Santa Cruz County firefighters and nursing home residents began receiving COVID-19 vaccines yesterday. Here’s what we know:

  • Firefighters and first responders: Watsonville Community Hospital began facilitating the vaccination of all county fire agencies yesterday, completing the inoculation of 77 of about 400 fire personnel. The county plans for all firefighters, along with other first responders, to get a first dose of the vaccine by next Thursday.
  • Nursing facilities: Residents and workers in nursing and assisted-living facilities are receiving vaccines through the Pharmacy Partnership Program, a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and pharmacy chains.

Read the full story from our Mallory Pickett here.

Who’s up next? We should find out today

California public health officials are expected to announce this afternoon who will be next in the vaccine line. The state’s panel of experts is currently considering:

  • People 75 years and older
  • Education and child care workers
  • Emergency services workers
  • Food and agricultural workers

You can read everything we know and don’t know about the vaccines so far here.

‘It’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.’

President-elect Joe Biden is criticizing the Trump administration for falling “far behind” its pledge to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year, and renewed his own ambitious promise to distribute 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office. “This is going to be the greatest operational challenge we’ve ever faced as a nation, but we’re going to get it done,” Biden vowed. Read the full story from our content partner, the LA Times here.

Remote learning to continue at least until March, county schools chief expects

The return to in-person learning in Santa Cruz County remains elusive heading into 2021. According to county Superintendent of Schools Faris Sabbah, the vast majority of public-school students should expect to continue with remote learning at least until March — a full year after schools first shuttered campuses due to COVID-19.

“We wouldn’t be able to get there before then,” Sabbah said, detailing his expected vaccination timeline for teachers and schools staff — currently, February into March — as well as persistent state restrictions under the purple tier. Read the full story by Nick Ibarra here.

All-time high hospitalizations here

Hospitalizations in Santa Cruz County continue to soar, with 71 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday, an all-time high. Of those patients, 17 were in the ICU, leaving just two critical care beds available.

The Bay Area regional ICU capacity was 10.4% as of this morning. Regional stay-at-home orders are based on this metric and projections of how it will change. The current order, which includes Santa Cruz county, will remain in place through Jan. 7, at which point four-week forecasts of the region’s ICU capacity will be continually evaluated.

Read more of the latest data and keep track of the latest virus developments in our COVID TODAY blog.

‘We’re overwhelmed’: Watsonville nurses to stage car caravan protest

Watsonville Community Hospital nurses demonstrate on Dec. 30.
Watsonville Community Hospital nurses demonstrate against a waiver to nurse-to-patient ratio requirements earlier this month. Another demonstration is set for Wednesday, Dec. 30. Credit: Nick Ibarra / Lookout Santa Cruz

For the second time this month, nurses plan to protest at Watsonville Community Hospital later today, insisting the hospital’s management has done little to address what they claim are unsafe working conditions amid a continued surge in COVID-19 patients. “We just don’t have enough nurses to handle the volume and acuity of patients that we’re seeing now,” said Quiché Rubalcava, an emergency department nurse and union representative. Read the full story from our Nick Ibarra here.

21 for ’21: Road to recovery

We’re on the cusp of the new year and, with that, we’ll soon wrap up our 21 for ’21 series in which we’re profiling people who are delivering doses of inspiration amid the pandemic and are leading the road to recovery in 2021. We’ve got 17 profiles up so far and I highly recommend you check them out. Today we’re featuring two women who are helping the community in very different ways:

Cat Willis: The Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center has come into its own as a community advocacy center in 2020. At the heart of the TWDCC’s emerging role as a sociopolitical entity is an initiative known as Black Health Matters — created and led by the center’s founder and executive director Cat Willis. It’s an informational campaign aimed at collecting public health data in the African American community, addressing health care inequities, and providing meaningful ideas on maintaining good health. Read her full profile by our Wallace Baine here.

Leslie Conner: In 2021, it’ll be a decade since Leslie Conner took the helm of the Santa Cruz Women’s Health Center, which, along with East Cliff Family Health Center in Live Oak, makes up the not-for-profit organization. Conner and her team at the health clinics have spent many grueling years expanding services to be able to help Santa Cruz County residents from childhood through adulthood, and 2021 looks to be one of the most challenging yet. Read her full profile by Isa Cueto here.

Around the county…

Leaders push for farmworkers to receive Covid-19 vaccine (The Pajaronian)

Claire Braz-Valentine honored for work with writers in California prisons (Good Times)

Podcast: The latest on forest management policies, including the role of prescribed burns (Santa Cruz Local)

That’s it for today. If you want to keep track of everything we’re posting throughout the day, please bookmark our website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to ensure you’re getting the latest news from around the county.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor

Follow Tulsi Kamath on: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. Tulsi Kamath was the originator of Lookout Santa Cruz’s flagship Morning Lookout newsletter and its original Managing Editor.