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Morning Lookout: Business owners reeling under stay-home order, what we know about COVID-19 deaths and more

Good Morning!

It’s Friday, Dec. 18, and let’s start with a positive on an otherwise dark day: Even though we entered stay-at-home territory after the clock struck midnight, playgrounds are open and Gov. Gavin Newsom has told people to stick with their outdoor exercise regimens. Today’s weather seems perfect for masking up and getting outside — mostly sunny with a high of 58 — and the weekend is looking nice, too.

Not surprisingly, the impact of the stay-home order and other pandemic-related subjects are top of mind today. Santa Cruz residents also are waking up to the news that a downtown park will be temporarily closing under an emergency order.

Let’s unpack it all:

‘I’m upset. I’m sad. I’m nervous.’: Service industry reels as another stay-at-home order kicks in

Man wearing mask gets haircut before Santa Cruz County stay-home order goes in effect
A man wearing a mask gets a haircut Wednesday, a day before the second stay-home order goes into effect in Santa Cruz County.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

From hair salons to outdoor dining, small business owners are struggling and the second stay-at-home order that is in effect today has some at the brink. While some businesses are allowed to stay open at reduced capacity — 20% for most retailers — others in the service industry must close altogether for at least three weeks during a holiday period that is typically lucrative. Stranded Beauty Bar in Seabright and Venus Spirits on the Westside are two examples of businesses fighting to stay afloat. Read our Wallace Baine and Mark Conley’s report here.

Santa Cruz County’s shocking COVID-19 death data

A pie chart shows the different age groups of those who've died from COVID-19
(Tulsi Kamath / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As we continue to see a surge in new COVID-19 deaths this month, Mallory Pickett and I took a deep dive into the data about those who’ve died of COVID-19 countywide. We learned that most of those deaths — 72% — were residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This is in stark contrast to state and national figures, in which nursing home deaths make up about 35% of the total.

“The virus has pretty much spread through all our skilled nursing facilities,” said Dr. David Ghillarducci, the county’s emergency medical services director. There have been fatalities in four of the county’s seven skilled nursing facilities and two of 28 assisted living facilities. Read more about our exclusive findings here.

Other COVID-related developments in long-term care facilities

Dominican Oaks notifies residents of COVID-19 case (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Skilled nursing facility residents to get vaccinated in Santa Cruz before end of month (KION 5/46 News)

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

Testing expansions

North County: There will be an additional COVID-19 testing site (exact location TBD) in northern Santa Cruz County opening soon, health officials say. It will operate like the site at Ramsay Park in Watsonville that’s run by OptumServe: free, and available for anyone who wants it, symptomatic or not. Our COVID TODAY blog has that and more.

UCSC: Already a pillar of testing capacity for both the campus and wider community, UCSC’s COVID-19 testing lab is preparing to grow as it moves into a new home. The UCSC Molecular Diagnostic Lab is expected to move off the main campus to a Westside Santa Cruz site in early 2021, UCSC announced this week. It will be housed at the Westside Research Park, a renovated office complex purchased by the university in 2004 that also serves as headquarters for UCSC’s Genomics Institute. Read Nick Ibarra’s story here.

SoCal region at 0% ICU capacity

While the Bay Area region that includes our county is reporting ICU bed availability at 13.1%, the Southern California region says the ICUs in all its hospitals are full. Our content partner, the LA Times, reports that hospitals will step up measures to ensure the sickest patients still get the highest levels of care possible. That often means moving some patients who would typically be in intensive care to other areas of hospitals. Read the full report here.

San Lorenzo Park closure

San Lorenzo Park in downtown Santa Cruz will temporarily close to the public because of the struggles of transitioning it from a managed homeless encampment back into a city park. In an emergency executive order, Santa Cruz City Parks & Recreation Director Tony Elliot and City Manager Martin Bernal cite issues including graffiti, fire safety, social distancing breaches, and trash and needles from the unmanaged camps that still exist. Read more about the city’s plan here.

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21 for ’21: Meet the heroic banker who moonlighted as a search-and-rescue warrior

Creedence Shaw revisits the area where he lent a helping hand.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Creedence Shaw had two very different but very dramatic roles to play in the melodrama of 2020. In the spring, as the chief credit officer at Santa Cruz County Bank, he led a team of insomniacs through the daunting task of processing emergency federal loans to keep the local economy from catastrophe. In the summer, as part of the county’s volunteer search-and-rescue team, he found himself writing evacuation plans on the fly at a trailer in a command post during the CZU fires, and calling in helicopters to airlift lost hikers out of harm’s way in the ablaze Santa Cruz Mountains. Read Wallace’s profile of Shaw here and watch “What Now? What Next?” our Wednesday night event featuring some of the other community leaders we’ve profiled.

Around the county . . .

CDPH gives high school sports ‘blueprint’ to return to play (The Pajaronian)

What Santa Cruz Westsiders think of new rail trail segment (Good Times)

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