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Morning Lookout: Largest-ever vaccine shipment arrives in county, $4M budget hole and more

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, Jan. 13. It’s going to be slightly warmer than usual this time of year, with a high of 68 and intermittent clouds.

While we are seeing some positive statewide and regional COVID-19 trends, our Santa Cruz County numbers continue to be dire. Lookout’s Wallace Baine puts a human face on it all with this heartbreaking story about Santa Cruzan Gus Ceballos, who lost his father to COVID-19 but isn’t able to hug and comfort his mother because of the virus.

On the inoculation front, we’re getting word about more vaccines arriving in Santa Cruz County as county officials aim to ramp up distribution. We’re also learning the impact of the devastating past year on the county’s budget, with officials projecting a $4 million hole.

Meanwhile, a huge mixed-use Riverfront project, five years in the making, got the green light from the Santa Cruz City Council, and a battle between the city and homelessness advocates has been extended again.

Happening now in our nation’s capital, the House is debating whether to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time — a first in American history.

Ok, let’s go:

Lookout Locals

Rocked by fire and COVID, county projects $4 million budget shortfall, continued furloughs: Like a lot of local governments, Santa Cruz County operates on a “fiscal year” that runs July 1 through June 30. Also like a lot of local governments, the county expects to be in the red in 2021-2022, with expenses to exceed revenues by $4 million. That projected deficit, revealed Tuesday, means a continuation of furloughs for county staff. What would the deficit be if the county were to eliminate furloughs? Read Patrick Riley’s story here to find out.

Riverfront development rendering
(Rendering courtesy city of Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz City Council approves Riverfront development that will change face of Downtown: A residential and commercial development the size of six Abbott Squares could be under construction in downtown Santa Cruz before the end of the year. The project won City Council approval last night by a 5-2 vote, with opposing council members saying it didn’t have enough affordable units to be rented to lower-income people. Others council members saw it differently. “This really is that first step in connecting the downtown to our river, and does provide that new access and new activation of the river,” said council member Martine Watkins, who voted in favor of the project. Read more about when the project will begin and what it will include in this story by our Isa Cueto.

Judge extends order, letting San Lorenzo Park homeless camp remain until Jan. 20: The fight between advocates for the unhoused and the city of Santa Cruz has again been extended after a judge ruled yesterday to allow the 150 residents of the San Lorenzo Park encampment to stay put at least until Jan. 20. The extension of the temporary restraining order comes a day after the city of Santa Cruz asked to file more evidence in the case. Isa explains what’s next here.

COVID 2021 updates

Person wearing PPE receives COVID-19 vaccine in Santa Cruz County on Jan. 12, 2020.
Person wearing PPE receives COVID-19 vaccine in Santa Cruz County on Jan. 12, 2020.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Bay Area region, which includes Santa Cruz County, will continue to remain under a stay-home order, officials announced yesterday. While there were some positive trends announced at the state and regional level, here in Santa Cruz, things continue to get worse.

  • 14-day average positivity rate: 20.6%
  • 14-day average of daily new cases: 194.1 (all-time high)
  • Deaths: 5 new deaths with total at 111
  • Number of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized: 69 (one less than Monday)
  • Number of ICU beds available: 2
  • Bay Area regional ICU capacity: 4.7%

Vaccine Watch: Late Monday, the county received its biggest shipment yet of vaccines, a total of 6,300 doses, according to county spokesperson Jason Hoppin. Here’s what we know:

The latest shipment includes: 975 Pfizer doses and 5,300 Moderna doses

So far, the county has:

  • Received: 6,825 Pfizer doses and 9,900 Moderna doses
  • Distributed: 5,315 doses so far
  • In inventory: 3,130 Pfizer doses and 8,210 Moderna doses

BOLO: Later today, we’re expecting to get new guidance from the California Department of Public Health on how vaccines will be rolled out in the state so Be On The Lookout for that and more updates on vaccine rollout in Santa Cruz County on our website.

Join us for ‘COVID 2021: The Experts Answer Your Questions’ event in English and Spanish

If you’re like me, you have questions — about the vaccine, about you or your loved ones’ health, about getting tested, about wearing a mask . . . the list is endless. We are teaming up with Event Santa Cruz to connect you with health experts and get your questions answered. At 6 p.m. on Jan. 21, County Health Officer Gail Newel, UC Santa Cruz infectious disease expert Marm Kilpatrick and Erica Padilla-Chavez, CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance will headline this free virtual conversation about the health impacts of the pandemic. Submit your COVID-19 questions for our panelists and register for the event here.

COVID ECONOMY: Eat up! Pandemic-related standoff over Dungeness crab season ends, our Mallory Pickett reports

ASK LOOKOUT: We’ll find answers to your vaccine, COVID-19 questions

Education reads:

Presented by Santa Cruz County Bank

Botanic and Luxe opened their doors in the spring of 2016 in downtown Santa Cruz and quickly became a local staple and a...

Statewide and national politics

In Washington, D.C.: The U.S. House of Representatives is debating this morning whether to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time after a mob of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol last week. The single charge accuses Trump of incitement of insurrection for goading a crowd of his supporters to surge to the Capitol as Congress was affirming Trump’s election defeat by Democrat Joe Biden. Five people died as the mob sieged the building. You can watch the proceedings live on C-SPAN here.

Volunteers with the Recall Newsom 2020 campaign hold a petition signing event at SaveMart in Sacramento
Volunteers with the Recall Newsom 2020 campaign hold a petition signing event at SaveMart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

In Sacramento, Democrats rip Recall Newsom effort: When is a constitutionally outlined petition campaign to remove an elected leader actually a “treasonous” effort to subvert the democratic process? According to the California Democratic Party, when Republicans are on one side of the campaign and Gov. Gavin Newsom is on the other. The state’s largest political party denounced the germinating effort to ask voters to recall Newsom in a press conference yesterday, likening it to the mob laden with white supremacists and conspiracy theorists that stormed the U.S. Capitol building last week. Read more on this recall effort from our content partner, CalMatters here.

Wildfire smoke now causes up to half the fine-particle pollution in Western U.S., study finds

Wildfire smoke now accounts for up to half of all fine-particle pollution in the Western U.S., according to a new study that blames climate change for worsening air quality and health risks in both urban and rural communities in recent years. The trend is most pronounced in Western states and highlights the rapidly growing health threat of wildfire smoke. Read more about what this could mean for people in this story by our content partner, the LA Times.

Around the county…

Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center celebrates 10 years (Good Times)

Watsonville community responds to recent uptick in violence (The Pajaronian)
That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying our coverage, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, where they can sign up for all the newsletters and alerts we offer. You can also keep tabs on everything we’re publishing through the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor