COVID-19 testing in Santa Cruz County in November 2020.
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Morning Lookout: Vaccines headed to us at ‘warp’ speed, ICU capacity, recovery in 2021 and more

Good Morning! It’s Tuesday, Dec. 15.

It’s going to be another seasonal day with intermittent clouds and a high of 59. Along the coast, the National Weather Service is advising extreme caution, whether surfing, swimming or walking along the water because of rocky seas. Read the agency’s beach hazards statement here.

In today’s newsletter, we’ll explore how Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s vaccine distribution program, is going here; how mail delivery countywide is moving at anything but; and encourage you to participate in our free ‘21 for ’21’ virtual forum on economic and social recovery that’s slated for Wednesday.

Also, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about how a Lookout membership works and how you can gift a membership for the holidays. We’ve put together some FAQs about our membership program to help you through the process.

Here we go.

1,950 vaccine doses are on their way here. What’s next?

Everything about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has moved at “warp” speed, from its development and clinical trials, to its emergency use authorization on Friday, and the first inoculations in the U.S. yesterday. Santa Cruz County officials expect to receive the first doses by tomorrow, and, by Thursday, the first Santa Cruzans will get the shots. So how will the process go?

  • The first doses will arrive in two boxes of 975 doses each.
  • They will be distributed to Dominican Hospital and Watsonville Community Hospital, the county’s two acute-care hospitals with ICUs and emergency departments.
  • The vaccine will have to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius until they are ready to be injected into the arms of frontline health care and other hospital workers.
  • ICU and emergency department staff will be the first in line to be vaccinated Thursday morning, followed by the rest of the medical personnel and support staffers at the two hospitals.

Read more of Isa Cueto’s report here.

Another green light coming soon?

Though 1,950 doses of a two-dose vaccine might seem low for a county of our size, health officials expect that when another vaccine provider, Moderna, also gets emergency use authorization, the county will get more of the life-saving shots. And there’s good news on that front. This morning, the Food and Drug Administration posted documents online giving Moderna’s vaccine a positive review and setting the stage for the vaccine’s approval, the New York Times reports.

What on earth is going on with ICU capacity?

Santa Cruzans have been on edge for several days, waiting for the other shoe to drop. If ICU capacity dips below 15% in the Bay Area Region — which includes our county — it would trigger another stay-home order for at least three weeks. Three other regions in California are already under such orders. Then, over the weekend, a California Department of Public Health tracker showed our county’s ICU capacity briefly hit 0. So why wasn’t a stay-home order triggered? Our Mallory Pickett spoke with Dr. David Ghilarducci, the county emergency medical services director to get some answers. Read the whole thing here.

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Deaths of homeless people skyrocket

Amid all the COVID-related developments, Santa Cruzans are waking up to another reminder of one of the county’s most entrenched problems: 77 homeless people have died countywide in 2020, the highest total in more than two decades. That’s 19 more people than in 2019 — and 2020 isn’t over yet. Our new county government reporter, Patrick Riley, and Isabella Cueto, take a look inside the numbers here.

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

Top row, from the left: Bonnie Lipscomb, Ruby Vasquez. Bottom row, from the left: Ryan Coonerty, Bella Bonner
Top row, from the left: Bonnie Lipscomb, Ruby Vasquez. Bottom row, from the left: Ryan Coonerty, Bella Bonner
(Images by Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz. Image of Coonerty from public Facebook profile)

We’re stepping into the new year with eyes on recovery and healing after a painful, volatile year. As we continue our 21 for ’21 series that profiles change-makers who will be instrumental in rebuilding Santa Cruz in the coming year, we want to invite you to be part of the discussion.

Our Wallace Baine will speak with community leaders tomorrow to reflect on the lessons of this year and talk about plans for the next. Our panelists include activist Esabella Bonner, city economic director Bonnie Lipscomb, Ruby Vasquez of the Campesino Appreciation caravan, and county Supervisor Ryan Coonerty — all of whom have been or will be part of our 21 for ‘21 series. Sign up for the event here.

Meet a panelist: Bonnie Lipscomb

Lipscomb and her team at the City of Santa Cruz’s Economic Development office had the arduous task of helping businesses survive 2020. As a lease-holder, a permit-granting agency, an infrastructure manager, and a general resource for local businesses, Lipscomb and her team had to find a different gear to address the onslaught of questions and concerns that they faced from bewildered and stressed local businesses. Read Wallace’s profile of Bonnie for our 21 for ’21 series here.

Next level ‘snail mail’

Complaining about mail delivery is as American as apple pie, but no mail for a week? That’s been happening to some Santa Cruzans, so we asked our new correspondent to rattle some cages. Amid the pandemic and a wave of online shopping, the United States Postal Service is simply overwhelmed. Bay Area USPS spokesman Augustine Ruiz said the agency has been starting carriers as early as 6 a.m. and has brought on more workers, some 500 since October. But the region needs more. Read Patrick Riley’s report here and offer your feedback on mail delivery at the end of the story.

Speaking of news tips, send us yours at news@lookoutlocal.com.

Around the county...

Gerry Kall of Watsonville celebrates her 101st birthday (The Pajaronian)

The ghost of Santa Cruz’s Pete the Poet (Good Times)

And, in the Bay Area, San Francisco’s famed Cliff House restaurant won’t reopen (Eater)

That’s it for now. A quick reminder, as we publish stories throughout the day, try bookmarking our website, and 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 day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor

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