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Morning Lookout: Did a ‘party’ cause COVID outbreak in jails, 4 new deaths and more

Good Morning, Santa Cruzans!

It’s Dec. 2 and you can expect a partly sunny day with a high of 64.

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Now for this morning’s headlines:

County officials investigating if ‘party’ attended by sheriff’s employees led to COVID-19 jail outbreak

A file image of the Santa Cruz County Jail
File image of the Santa Cruz County Jail
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz County officials are investigating whether a party attended by sheriff’s office employees led to a coronavirus outbreak at two of the county’s three jails, Lookout Santa Cruz has learned. So far 10 correctional officers have tested positive for COVID-19 and another seven are quarantining due to exposure.

Reached Tuesday evening, county Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said she couldn’t yet confirm any details about the outbreak’s cause, including whether a party played a role. “We’re doing a case investigation to determine the actual cause,” Newel said. “We just started doing a case investigation that will take a few days.”

But multiple sources, speaking on condition of anonymity later on, said that Newel earlier in the day at a meeting with community leaders replied “yes” when asked about a party causing the outbreak. Read our scoop here.

COVID-19 worsens

COVID-19 continues to surge in Santa Cruz County today, with the county reporting 1,135 active cases and three new deaths, bringing the total to 32. The virus continues to hit particularly hard in South County, where more than 60 percent of cases countywide have occurred. In terms of ethnicity, nearly 60 percent of people who have contracted the virus countywide are Hispanic and Latino, according to the latest county data. See a map of cases by city and read more here.

The first vaccine gets approval in Britain

Meanwhile, early this morning NPR reports that the U.K. has formally approved Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, becoming the first Western country to OK its use for the general public. The British regulatory agency, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, or MHRA, announced early Wednesday the approval of the vaccine from Pfizer and the German company BioNTech for emergency use. The vaccine promises up to 95% protection against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Presented by Santa Cruz County Bank

Illuminée Studio and other local businesses are staying strong during the pandemic thanks in part to Santa Cruz County...

Captain in Conception dive boat fire indicted on 34 counts of manslaughter

The dive boat Conception smolders after it burned off Santa Cruz Island on Sept. 2, 2019.
(Ventura County Fire Department via Los Angeles Times)

The captain of the Conception, the dive boat that caught fire last year off the coast of Santa Barbara, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter for the passengers and crew member who died in one of the worst maritime disasters in recent U.S. history. Six Santa Cruz County residents also perished in that fire. Read the full story here.

High school sports further delayed, championships canceled — but hope for truncated seasons still remains

(Via Pixabay)

As expected, with the majority of California counties in the purple tier, the prospects of playing high school sports became murkier yesterday. Without updated youth sports guidelines from state health officials expected until Jan. 1 at the earliest, teams that had held out hope to begin practicing Dec. 14 and playing games in January were told that won’t happen.

Championships were also canceled with the hopes that will give more flexibility for scheduling truncated seasons if they become a possibility. Some in Santa Cruz County at least hold out hope for partial seasons. Read the full story here.

Around the county...

Sewer construction to delay traffic near Watsonville (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Cabrillo Theater presents Pulitzer Prize-winning play (The Pajaronian)

Santa Cruz nonprofits fundraise for big outdoor education ideas (Good Times)

Keep the conversation going

Part of our mission at Lookout Santa Cruz is to make sure we’re hearing from our community. That means hearing your feedback about our work, learning about the things you’re proud of in your community and the things you want to change. Here are some of the ways you can help us learn more about you:

Shoutout your ‘Everyday Hero’ here

All through December, we want to give you a chance to honor someone who works to make our community a better place. Submit a photo and a description of how they try to help the community and we might feature them in this newsletter and on our website. Submit your entry here.

Question of the day

Reading your responses to my newsletter each morning is truly the highlight of my day! Yesterday, I asked y’all which local non-profits you like to donate to on Giving Tuesday and year-round. It was so nice to read about how much y’all care about your community!

June said she donated to CASA and was a member of the organization’s first graduating class. Ellen said she donated to 14 organizations yesterday, including the Second Harvest Food Bank, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County and Community Bridges.

Today, I’d like to know: Do you think officials are doing a good job managing COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County?

To respond, just hit reply on this email and your note will come straight to my inbox.

Take this survey, improve our coverage

Lookout Santa Cruz is partnering with the University of Missouri School of Journalism to survey your information habits, wants and needs. The insights we receive will help us better serve you, our readers. Read more and take the survey here. We’ll keep all your information anonymous. If you’ve already filled it out, we are greatly appreciative!

That’s it for this morning. Thanks for reading!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor