Quick Take:

The show must go on: the performing arts have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cabrillo’s Dance,...

Good Morning! It’s Monday, Dec. 28. After a wet weekend, today’s forecast calls for more rain and a high of 59.

I hope y’all had a great holiday weekend. We’re waking up to news that outgoing President Donald Trump finally signed the second COVID-19 relief bill — which will include extended unemployment benefits and a second stimulus check — after intense pressure from lawmakers on both sides. More on what that means for you, in a minute.

Meanwhile, if you read one thing today, I highly recommend our Wallace Baine’s account of Santa Cruz writer, biologist and philosopher Wallace J. Nichols’ year of loss and reckoning. Nichols was hit with a one-two punch, losing his sources of income due to the pandemic and seeing his home destroyed in the CZU Lightning Complex Fires.

But, of course, I want you to read everything, so let’s kick off with what will be top of find for everyone in 2021: How to get the COVID-19 vaccine:

Vaccine watch: What we know, what we don’t, and what it means for you

Dozens more COVID-19 vaccines will be administered this week to Santa Cruz residents after a second, larger shipment of 3,775 doses arrived last week. Those doses come as frontline hospital workers await their second round of shots, which will be administered early next month.

But there are a lot of other crucial workers still waiting in line as cases surge, and the distribution process is far from clear. An analysis by Kaiser Health News, a Lookout content partner, describes it as a national “nightmare.”

In November, when we launched Lookout, we saw that there was a real lack of information about coronavirus testing, so we created a guide for y’all that we continue to update as new information is released.

Now, we’re embarking on the next step: “How do I get the vaccine?” There’s a lot we’re still learning, but a picture is starting to come together. And, just as we did with testing, we’ll be updating this story regularly.

COVID in California

Registered Nurse April Lu, 31, is working with a non covid patient Providence Holly Cross Medical Center
Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Meanwhile, the virus didn’t take a break this holiday weekend. California continues to see surging cases, deaths and positivity rates and plummeting ICU and hospital capacities. A stark photo essay from our content partner, the LA Times, shows readers what it looks like in an ICU ward in Southern California where there are no ICU beds left.

As of this morning, the Bay Area Region — which includes Santa Cruz County — is at 11.1% ICU availability. The stay-home order, which was triggered in the wee hours of Dec. 17, will remain in place for three weeks until at least Jan. 7 when officials will decide whether or not to keep it in place.

Keep track of the latest virus developments in our COVID TODAY blog.

‘It would have been our first child’: Our content partner, the LA Times, talked to a woman who lost a child while pregnant and then she had COVID-19 diagnosis in the ER, resulting in her spending the aftermath of her loss in isolation. “In the grand scheme of things, we’re really lucky. We’re both still working, we’re both still in our home,” Alyssa Fetters, 36, said. “But it was horrible — I wouldn’t want it to happen again.” Read the full story here.

COVID relief bill

Under intense bipartisan pressure, President Donald Trump on Sunday signed a sweeping coronavirus relief and spending bill — the denouement of a days-long drama over whether he would allow millions of Americans to endure a devastating cut to unemployment benefits and force a chaotic shutdown of the federal government in the final weeks of his administration. Read the story here.

What does that mean for you?

  • 11 additional weeks of compensation for unemployed Americans
  • $300 a week per worker from the federal government in addition to standard unemployment aid from states. Contract and gig workers would also get 11 weeks of unemployment benefits
  • One-time direct payment of up to $600 to Americans making less than $75,000. Children are eligible for $600
  • $284 billion for another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses, with some set aside specifically for very small and minority-owned businesses that didn’t get an equitable share of the original loans
  • $13 billion for food assistance
  • $25 billion for rent payment assistance
  • $10 billion for child care assistance

Read more here.

Meet Mrs. Mayor: Yvette Brooks hopes to lead Capitola into a more diversity-minded future

Yvette Brooks, a 37-year-old working mom, is balancing her her job at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education with her new responsibilities as the mayor of Capitola. As she takes on her new role, Brooks is thinking beyond the basics — supporting small business and healing the financial damage COVID-19 has wrought — and wants to enact long-term changes that reflect who she is and what she has experienced.

She says wants to use lessons she learned in her childhood, during her upbringing as a Mexican-American girl in San Jose, to make Capitola a more equitable and livable place for everyone. Our Isabella Cueto sat down with Brooks over Zoom to discuss how she’s thinking about the year ahead. Read the Q&A with Capitola’s new mayor here.

What to do when ‘The Blue Mind’ is turned to gray by 2020?

Wallace J. Nichols isn't ready to just move on quite yet.
Wallace J. Nichols isn’t ready to just move on quite yet. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

Writer, biologist, and philosopher Wallace J. Nichols was living a charmed life until the pandemic took away his livelihood and the fires his family’s home up the ‘Slow Coast’ north of Santa Cruz. Rather than run from the pain of it all, Nichols chose to feel it — and of course write it.

Nichols spoke with our Wallace Baine about the devastating experience of losing everything that has left him with a guilt he continues to wrestle with. “I think I could handle my own pain,” he said. “But my children’s pain, my family’s pain, my friends’ pain … I would get e-mails that would say, ‘I heard about your house, and I’ve been crying all day.’ That made it especially hard.” Read the story and see the haunting photos captured by our Kevin Painchaud here.

21 for ’21: Jacob Martinez and the importance of nest-building skills

If you build a solid nest at home, it’s a pretty good jumping-off point for building community nests far and wide. At least that’s how it has played out for Jacob Martinez, the innovator behind DigitalNEST, the organization seeking to establish Silicon Valley equity for underserved Latinx communities across the Bay Area.

Based in Watsonville, the group takes Latinx kids who haven’t been handed the best lot in life and redirects them, teases out their talents, teaches them how to apply those skills and then implores them to dream big. “Instead of ‘What am I gonna do with my life?’ or ‘‘How am I gonna get out of here?’ I want to shift their thinking to ‘What company am I gonna choose to go work for?’” Martinez says. “What position do I want? What kind of company do I want to start?’” Read Martinez’s full profile by our Mark Conley here.

Recovery in 2021: We’re nearing year’s end and, with that, will come the close of our 21 for ‘21 series that is profiling 21 change-makers who will inspire and shape the county in 2021. Catch up with everyone we’ve profiled so far.

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.

And even though Christmas Day has come and gone, it’s never too late to gift a Lookout membership or become a member.

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.