Quick Take:

Browse the line up of Frequency, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History’s (MAH) new biennial festival of light, sound,...

Good Morning! It’s Friday, August 20 and there will be widespread haze and patchy fog before 10 a.m., followed by a mostly cloudy morning which will gradually clear up with a high of 72.

Starting tonight, a new indoor mask mandate will go into effect in Santa Cruz County. This comes as more kids are headed back to school, which has also caused ramping up of testing — a trend that might skew COVID-19 trendlines. And a California Mega-church pastor is coming under fire for offering exemption letters to vaccine resisters.

There’s also big news for two local restaurants that, despite the pandemic, received one of the highest honors in the industry. Meanwhile, an industry-wide labor shortage is also impacting local businesses like Hidden Fortress Coffee where the owner has significantly increased wages to attract employees.

And finally, state lawmakers are preparing for a showdown over the “duplex bill,” a piece of legislation that is being pegged as a potential solution for the state’s housing crisis.

There’s a lot to cover so lets get to it:

STARTING TONIGHT: Newest indoor mask order to take effect in Santa Cruz County

Los Angeles
Masked workers prepare meals in the kitchen of Langer’s Deli in Los Angeles on Tuesday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Finally falling in line with other Bay Area counties, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel issued a new indoor mask mandate that will go into effect tonight at 11:59 p.m. Under the new order, masks will be mandatory for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Read more from our Neil Strebig here.

A woman takes a COVID test
Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Many more Californians getting coronavirus tests amid Delta spike. What will they reveal? Early indications show that California is making progress in its fight against the Delta variant. But much uncertainty remains. Clouding the coronavirus crystal ball is the expected ramping up of California testing as schools reopen — boosting the likelihood of more asymptomatic cases being uncovered. Read more here.

NEED A VACCINE? Here’s where you can go in Santa Cruz County to get one

Pastor Greg Fairrington of Destiny Christian Church
Pastor Greg Fairrington of Destiny Christian Church Credit: Destiny Christian Church Facebook Page

California Mega-church Pastor offers exemption letters for COVID vaccination resisters: A year after defying statewide health orders by continuing to hold indoor services, a California megachurch pastor is offering religious exemption letters to those who don’t want a COVID-19 vaccination. “The vaccine poses a morally compromising situation for many people of faith,” the pastor said in a written statement. Read more here.

Coming together ‘when tragedy strikes’: SLVers gather at Brookdale Lodge to measure the loss, face the future

Folks of the San Lorenzo Valley
Folks of the San Lorenzo Valley gathered to grieve, and in some ways celebrate their collective resilience, at the Brookdale Lodge on Wednesday night. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

The vibe of Wednesday’s community gathering was celebratory, a stage with live music from local bands, each struggling to acknowledge the loss experienced by their community after the CZU Lightning Complex Fires, grilling meats, neighbors and friends drinking wine and beer. Our Wallace Baine writes in part:

The most vivid reminder of the tragedy underlying the event was the art displays presented on tables near the front entrance to the lodge. A local artist named Christina Salinas, who has since moved away, presented a table setting from her kitchenware dug out of the ashes of her destroyed home.

Read the full story here.

RELATED: ‘How much more of this can we take?’ Wildfires prompt air quality advisories in Northern California (LA Times)

Local restaurants and businesses

The Mugnaini pizza oven does the trick at Mentone.
The Mugnaini pizza oven does the trick at Mentone. Credit: Crystal Birns/For Lookout Santa Cruz

Foodie firsts: Mentone, Alderwood garner Michelin recognition for Santa Cruz County: Despite the challenges of opening and maintaining high-end restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic, two Santa County County establishments have achieved one of the industry’s highest honors. Downtown Santa Cruz’s Alderwood and Aptos’ Mentone will be featured in the forthcoming Michelin Guide to California — a first in our county. Read more from our Grace Stetson here.

A bowl of roasted coffee beans sits inside Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting in Watsonville.
A bowl of roasted coffee beans sits inside Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting in Watsonville. Credit: Neil Strebig / Lookout Santa Cruz

‘What can I do without any help?’: Hidden Fortress Coffee’s Amelia Loftus is starting by paying $20/hour: Struggling to find employees in a post-pandemic labor shortage and to keep her small business afloat, Hidden Fortress Coffee’s Amelia Loftus has had to drastically increase wages for employees from the state’s minimum wage of $13/hour last year to $20/hour now. Read more from our Neil Strebig here.

READ ALSO: Are small business owners angry enough at Gavin Newsom to throw him out of office? (CalMatters)

Affordability and Housing: ‘The Duplex Bill’

A home for sale along Elm avenue, on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 in Burbank, Calif.
Under Senate Bill 9, up to four new housing units could be allowed on a single property in certain neighborhoods that are currently zoned for standalone houses only. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times) Credit: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times

SHOWDOWN IN SACRAMENTO: Dubbed the “duplex bill,” if passed, Senate Bill 9 would allow new multifamily housing developments in some California communities and its shaping up to be the most significant housing bill in Sacramento this year. Read more about the bill in this story by the LA Times.

MORE CONTEXT: Some analysts say the linchpin of the Senate’s housing package would probably have a negligible impact on the California housing crisis, at least in the short-term. As for the nightmare scenario described by opponents? There simply isn’t enough evidence to back that up, either. Read more from CalMatters here.

Around the county…

Santa Cruz Fire Chief retires after more than 20 years with department (KION-TV)

Santa Cruz County Fair still accepting entries (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville is in the Heart to host Community Call Out (The Pajaronian)

That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying our coverage, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, where they can sign up for all the newsletters and alerts we offer. You can also keep tabs on everything we’re publishing through the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Lookout Santa Cruz

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.