A fireman from Branciforte Fire gets vaccinated.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: Stay-home order goes in effect at midnight, nurses sound alarm and more

Good Morning! It’s Thursday, Dec. 17.

After some morning showers, the rest of the day is expected to be partly cloudy with a high of 59. But still carry that umbrella: There’s a 30 percent chance of rain if you’re headed out.

Which you won’t be for much longer. Sort of.

Another stay-at-home order (more details below) will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. today, triggered by the Bay Area region’s ICU bed capacity dipping below 15% because of the coronavirus surge. The dreadful news hit around the same time we were reporting a long-awaited welcome development: Santa Cruz County health care workers getting their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Our remote newsroom was buzzing with activity into the night as we covered the aftermath of a fatal fire at a county-owned building downtown, an afternoon of protests by pandemic-weary nurses over a staffing issue, and talked economic recovery and social healing in our virtual 21 for ’21 event.

There’s a lot to get to today both locally and nationally, so let’s dive in.

Thankful for ‘the PPE inside of me’: First COVID vaccines here evoke emotional responses

Dominican Hospital nurse Toni Luckett becomes the first person in Santa Cruz County to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Dominican Hospital nurse Toni Luckett on Wednesday becomes the first person in Santa Cruz County to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
(Shmuel Thaler / Pool photo / Santa Cruz Setinel)

At 11:21 a.m. yesterday, Dominican Hospital nurse Toni Luckett became the first person in Santa Cruz to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. She was followed by co-workers at Dominican and fellow health-care workers at Watsonville Community Hospital. Here’s a snapshot of the emotional day:

“This is the first step of us all getting our lives back together. Our economy and just saving our lives. We must do it. We can’t be afraid of it. Be afraid of COVID. It’ll kill you.” — Toni Luckett, nurse

“I feel so excited, so blessed for that shot. We can’t take any chances. We need to protect ourselves and the loved ones around us. For the service we provide to others, and being around them, it feels so great to have this extra PPE inside of me.” — Cesario Castillo, housekeeper at Dominican Hospital

Read more and see a photo gallery of the first shots being administered here.

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Stay-home order goes in effect at midnight

After weeks of being on tenterhooks, the inevitable finally happened: the Bay Area Region, which includes Santa Cruz County, dipped to 12.9% remaining ICU capacity. This triggered the regional stay-at-home order Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier this month. The order will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. and will last for at least three weeks. The next time officials will evaluate whether to lift restrictions will be on Friday, Jan 8.

Per the order, when a remote-work option is not possible, the following places will be able to stay open with 100% masking and social distancing:

  • Schools that are already open for in-person learning
  • Playgrounds
  • Non-urgent medical and dental care
  • Child care and pre-kindergarten programs
  • Critical infrastructure

Here’s our list of everything that will be closed or restricted under the order and answers to other frequently-asked questions.

Restaurants brace: Among a whole host of closures, restaurant owners will be restricted to takeout and delivery only — a gut-punch to their businesses. When the governor first announced the order, our Nick Ibarra talked to local restaurant owners about how they felt. “This will really hurt,” was one owner’s reaction. Read that story here.

Our take on takeout: Before the pandemic, delivery was typically reserved for pizza or Chinese food. But, local restaurants learned to adapt early and quickly amid the pandemic. To help local restaurants and residents through this second stay-home round, our food contributor Amber Turpin created this cheat sheet for the next time you can’t quite shake that craving for empanadas, gourmet Thai, fresh craft beer — and everything in between.

Nurses sound alarm, hospitals defend themselves

As the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine was being administered to frontline workers at Dominican Hospital and Watsonville Community Hospital, nurses gathered on sidewalks outside to demonstrate against a pandemic-driven policy change that they say clears the path for the hospitals to overload them with patients. “This pandemic has sort of brought to light different types of inequities in our society, and one of them is that we’ve been making staffing decisions by profit,” said Cheryl Bartee, an ER nurse at Dominican. Nick Ibarra was at the scene yesterday. Read his report here.

As a non-profit operating during a pandemic, the MAH is relying on gifts from the community now more than ever.

In national news . . .

Another stimulus check? Today, Congressional leaders are inching closer to a deal on another $900 billion virus aid package after months of negotiations. The economic recovery package is expected to add $300 a week to state compensation for the unemployed and provide a one-time direct payment of at least $600 for most Americans. Read more here from our content partner, the LA Times, here.

Another vaccine? Meanwhile today, our content partner LA Times reports that a federal advisory committee will make its recommendation to the Food and Drug Association about whether or not to give Moderna’s vaccine emergency use authorization. Once a recommendation is made, the FDA is expected to follow it, as it did with Pfizer’s vaccine last week.

Talking recovery

Last night, four key community leaders reflected on the lessons of 2020, and looked ahead to the promise and peril of the year to come, in our free “What Now? What Next?” event co-hosted by Event Santa Cruz. Our Wallace Baine spent an hour talking with County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, Ruby Vasquez of the Campesino Appreciation caravan, city economic director Bonnie Lipscomb and activist Bella Bonner. A couple of y’all emailed me saying you couldn’t make it so we recorded the forum and put it on our website for you. Watch last night’s event here.

Saying goodbye to a tough year

Watsonville singer/songwriter Michael Gaither released gently meandering “See You on the Other Side” which is quite the pandemic anthem, likely to evoke memories years from now about the current period we’ll all be thankful to have forgotten. But it also cleverly functions as a kind of evergreen New Year’s ballad, a song to put to bed a tired year and to embrace a new one still full of possibilities. Read Wallace’s write up on the song and listen to it here.

Around the county . . .

Scotts Valley creates finance manager position, hires fiscal consultant in interim (Lookout’s Isabella Cueto)

The making of—and effort to save—the Bigfoot Discovery Museum (Good Times)

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office search warrants lead to two arrests (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

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. 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.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor