Quick Take:

UC Santa Cruz Economics Professor Rob Fairlie is sounding the alarm about COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on African...

Good Morning! It’s Friday, Dec. 11.

If you can, try to get out and enjoy today’s mostly sunny weather with a high of 59 because, after a long dry spell, the weekend forecast is all rain. Then again, a weekend indoors might not be so bad if Santa Cruz County enacts a long-awaited stay-at-home order today.

Besides the pandemic, we’re waking up to a unionization effort by Bookshop Santa Cruz workers, Capitola’s first Latina mayor taking office, Rail Trail developments, some reader feedback we took to heart — and the next installment in our 21 for ’21 series.

We’ve got a lot to cover. Let’s dive in.

Vaccines coming to Santa Cruz in next few days

A healthcare worker in PPE takes the temperature of a person at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility on Dec. 10, 2020.
Health care worker Gabi Sermeno from Santa Cruz Community Health takes the temperature of a person at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility on Dec. 10, 2020. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

The Food and Drug Administration is on the cusp of green-lighting emergency use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Yesterday, a federal advisory committee of scientists voted 17 to 4 to recommend use of the vaccine that has shown 95% effectiveness during clinical trials. The FDA is expected to follow the recommendation quickly.

Meanwhile, in preparation, Santa Cruz County public health officials submitted their plan to the state on how they’ll roll out the vaccine when it becomes available.

These are the five quick things you should know:

  • California is expecting its first shipment of 327,000 doses to reach hospitals sometime between Saturday and Tuesday.
  • Of that shipment, Santa Cruz will be receiving 1,590 doses. The distribution of these doses will be reserved for local hospitals.
  • The state is following a tiered approach to distribute the vaccine laid out at the federal level. The first people to be inoculated will be front-line health care workers and the most vulnerable populations in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
  • Even though the vaccine — and hope — is on its way, it will likely be many more months before it is publicly distributed, even to older adults who live at home. That means we will have to practice social distancing and wear masks for a good deal longer.
  • When mass immunization does become possible, the county is looking at setting up drive-thru vaccination PODs to help with the process.

There’s a ton more we learned from Santa Cruz County’s vaccine plan. Read all about it here.

Stay-home order looming

Despite promising news on the vaccine front, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for us when it comes to ICU bed capacity and the looming stay-home orders. As of latest numbers, the ICU bed capacity in the Bay Area region, which includes Santa Cruz County, has dropped to 17.8% availability. This is getting close to the 15% regional ICU capacity that will trigger stay-home orders for the region.

The local situation was similarly dire with state data showing that Santa Cruz County only had one ICU bed available. But county officials have been saying for weeks that this number changes quickly, and that hospitals have been adjusting the total number of ICU beds as needed. Regardless, county communications manager Jason Hoppin said county residents should be bracing for the stay-at-home-order to kick in, citing the latest Bay Area statistics. “It’s 17% now, down from 25% two to three days ago,” he said yesterday. “If that trend line holds, we will hit the trigger” today.

Stay up to date on our website throughout the day and read all our latest COVID-19 updates here, including our explainer on how the order affects Santa Cruzans.

A lot might close, but playgrounds will stay open

Here’s some news you might have missed that would apply if a stay-home order was to go in effect today: California backpedaled on closing playgrounds as part of its stay-at-home order after parents and legislators argued that children need outdoor play for their health. Read more here.

Rail Trail 101

A Santa Cruz local enjoys his ride down the new trail rail path.
A Santa Cruz local enjoys his ride down the new trail rail path. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

Similarly, Newsom is encouraging people to stick to their outdoor exercise regimens, so it seems like an ideal time to take an in-depth look at where the county’s most controversial transportation project, the Coastal Rail Trail, stands. Yes, there are still plans for a rail line, or some other form of public transportation, next to a 32-mile-long cycling and pedestrian path. But a key vote looms earlier next year, and opponents of the rail option are well-organized and dug in. Just how expensive is it? Read Mallory Pickett’s report here.

Capitola’s new mayor broke barriers last night

Capitola leaders
Clockwise: Kristen Petersen, Yvette Brooks and Margaux Keiser. Credit: Courtesy city of Capitola

It’s been a history-making week in local politics with the first openly lesbian mayor and first openly gay mayor taking office in Santa Cruz and Watsonville, respectively, and the most diverse city council yet being installed in Santa Cruz. Now, it’s Capitola’s turn.

The town’s first Latina mayor, Yvette Brooks, was sworn in yesterday after being elected mayor by the newly seated city council. It’s also the first time in recent history that Capitola has a city council that is majority female, with the reelection of 2020 Mayor Kristen Petersen and the election of political newcomer Margaux Keiser. Read Isabella Cueto’s report here.

Bookshop Santa Cruz employees seek to unionize amid pandemic struggles

Bookshop workers’ primary ask of the 54-year-old shop centers on better wages and improved coronavirus protocols.

“Bookshop Santa Cruz workers, who are not currently offered health insurance by their employer, have concerns about the management’s inconsistent communication regarding health and safety at the store, as well as concerns about the rising cost of living in Santa Cruz and the sustainability of the store,” their mission statement reads. Read the story here.

21 for ’21: Ruby Vasquez pays homage to — and fights for — Pajaro Valley’s essential workers

Ruby Vasquez talks to campesinos in Watsonville.
Ruby Vasquez talks to campesinos in Watsonville. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

Ruby Vasquez, a Watsonville-born-and-raised educator, knows of what she speaks when it comes to the subject of the agricultural workers of the Pajaro Valley. She grew up in those fields as the daughter of campesinos. When the pandemic hit, her thoughts immediately turned to those in the field, supplying the rest of us with our food. She and a handful of friends decided to establish a regular caravan to go out to the work sites in the Valley and express their appreciation and gratitude to the campesinos. Read Walllace Baine’s profile of her here.

21 for ’21: Sign up for our free panel discussion

Vasquez will be on our panel next week along with three other change-makers who will shape Santa Cruz County in the new year: activist Bella Bonner, city economic director Bonnie Lipscomb and county Supervisor Ryan Coonerty. This special event — hosted by Wallace Baine — is free, and we invite you to be part of the conversation around recovery. It will be held on Wednesday at 6 p.m., and you can attend virtually via Zoom. Register for the “What Now, What’s Next” event here.

Local stars headline ‘Seedfolks,’ an event to benefit Homeless Garden Project

Can you create a more Santa Cruz-style event than a virtual reading to benefit the Homeless Garden Project? Tomorrow, Santa Cruz’s outgoing mayor and its newly elected mayor — along with Santa Cruz’s most prominent literary figure, the director of its celebrated Shakespeare festival and other well-known locals — will come together to read from a classic text about community gardening, written by an award-winning long-time Santa Cruz resident, all to benefit the archetypal Santa Cruz community effort. Read more about the event and ticket prices and packages here.

Thank you Nancy, and a holiday reminder

Finally, a shout out to one of our readers: Nancy Guinther. You might have noticed that in the last few days, my newsletter has been arriving in your inbox sent by “Lookout’s Tulsi Kamath,” not “Tulsi Kamath.” A note from Nancy sparked that change because my name was getting lost in her inbox. We heard this from others, too. Another way to ensure you’re seeing my newsletter each morning is to add “Lookout’s Tulsi Kamath” to your contact list. That way, these emails won’t go to your spam or junk folders.

Finally, Nancy writes, “I love your Morning Lookout,” and conveys that her neighbor does, too. Both plan on gifting family members Lookout memberships for Christmas, she says, adding, “you might want to put a holiday reminder out.”

We’ll take that suggestion, too. You can become a Lookout Leader, a founding member, and gift a membership for the holidays here.

That’s it for now. As we publish stories throughout the day, along with bookmarking our website, one of the easiest ways to stay on top of the latest news is to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Have a great weekend!

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.