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Morning Lookout: Confusion over vaccines, public health officials to update and more

Good Morning! It’s Friday, Jan. 15. We’ll have another partly sunny day with a high of 71.

Later today, county health officials will hold a press conference to discuss new updates about the virus and the vaccine. We’ll broadcast that for you on our website when it happens. Meanwhile, there’s been a ton of confusion about vaccinations, especially after California announced that it will expand vaccine rollout to everyone over the age of 65. But the people in Phase 1a — especially those in nursing homes — are still waiting desperately.

There are new updates in pandemic aid this morning. Cabrillo College learned yesterday that it will be getting $8.8 million in virus aid and about $2 million is earmarked for student grants. Also, President-elect Joe Biden announced his virus aid package yesterday that would include $1,400 stimulus checks.

Finally, a meeting of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission yesterday revealed that the Rail Trail vote on Feb. 4 is likely going to be a tight one with strong opinions on both sides.

But first, let’s get to COVID:

COVID 2021: Vaccine Watch

Nurse Cherry Costales prepares to administer COVID-19 vaccine at St. John's Well Child & Family Center in Los Angeles.

New guidelines spark mass confusion: With massive changes to vaccine distribution plans announced at the state and federal levels, one that has unleashed equal measures of hope and confusion was when Phase 1b was expanded to include anyone over the age of 65. People in this newly reorganized tier were told to contact their primary care providers — and they did. Sutter Health System’s website crashed as a result.

Painfully slow rollout: County Health Services Agency Director Mimi Hall told Lookout yesterday that while she understands the state’s motivation in making more people eligible to be vaccinated, she is concerned that expanding the pool at this stage in the rollout “could leave some of the essential and vulnerable people in phase 1a behind. “We’re still 12,000 [doses] short of finishing Phase 1a,” Hall said.

So far the county has:

  • Received: 16,725 doses
  • Distributed: 5,315 doses
  • Yet to distribute: 11,410 doses
  • County residents eligible for vaccine under state guidelines: At least 43,000

Mass vaccination site: A key part of the effort to get people inoculated will be a drive-thru clinic facilitated by Sutter Health on Friday at the site of the old drive-in theater on Chanticleer Avenue.

Read more about all of the above in our Mallory Pickett’s story here.

BOLO: At 1 p.m. today, Santa Cruz County Public Health officials will hold a press conference to discuss “recent and upcoming developments related to COVID-19.” Be On The Lookout on our website at that time as we broadcast the event and cover it afterward.

EXCLUSIVE: Only 25% of nursing home, assisted-living and other long-term care residents here have gotten vaccine: Even with priority access to the vaccine, the rollout to elderly adults in skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities has not been on track despite the fact that they account for nearly 70% of all COVID-19 deaths in the county. The rollout to this group is facilitated by a federal tie up with major pharmacy chains including Walgreens and CVS that have said they will administer the first dose of the vaccine to all nursing home residents nationwide by Jan. 25. The local reality is far from it. Read more about the frustration that both county officials and local families are expressing here.

CVS and Walgreens under fire: The problem of sluggish inoculation through the federal program isn’t just local. Nationwide, more than 4.7 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna covid vaccines had been allocated to the federal pharmacy partnership overseen by Walgreens and CVS. One state’s public health official described the federal program as a “fiasco.” Read more on this from our content partner Kaiser Health News here.

Presented by UC Santa Cruz

The campus continues to make advancements in the areas of housing, transportation, and water conservation.

COVID 2021: The experts answer your questions

Sign up for our free, virtual event — broadcast in both English and Spanish — by clicking here. It’s at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21, and panelists include county Health Officer Gail Newel.

COVID 2021 By the numbers

COVID Snapshot

Read our latest local COVID-19 updates in our live blog here.

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

FACES OF COVID: He escaped the Holocaust but not COVID-19: ‘There were things he still wanted to do,’ says his son (by Wallace Baine)

COVID Economy

Cabrillo College to get $8.8M in federal relief, more than doubling its first round of stimulus: At least $2 million of that money will be earmarked for direct grants for Cabrillo College students. College officials confirmed plans to give out grants of at least $500 to students this spring based on financial need, aid that students can spend not just on tuition but also toward other essential costs such as rent, food and health care. Read more about when the grants will go out, and where else the college will spend the money in our Nick Ibarra’s story here.

Biden proposes $1.9-trillion plan for pandemic and economic crisis: The plan aims to combat the public health crisis as Biden begins raising the curtain on a new presidency built on faith in the power of the federal government to help solve problems. In a speech to the nation Thursday night, Biden called for for quick congressional action on his sweeping package, which will include steps to speed production and distribution of vaccines, an additional $1,400 in direct payments to individuals, an increased minimum wage, expanded unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments and an expansion of aid to families with children. Read more about what Biden’s virus relief plan includes here.

Rail Trail hearing previews just how contentious coming debates on project might be

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission meets for a public hearing on the controversial Rail Trail project
The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission meets for a public hearing on the controversial Rail Trail project via videoconference Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
(Patrick Riley/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Thursday’s meeting of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission showed just how controversial picking a transit option for the 32-mile coastal corridor might be. During their lengthy public hearing in advance of the Feb. 4 vote, a few commissioners signaled their opposition to a train option — while others hinted at their support for it, offering an early glimpse at just how tight the vote might be. Read more about what transpired in yesterday’s meeting from our Patrick Riley here. Meanwhile, Patrick and our Isa Cueto spoke with two passionate members on opposite sides of the issue ahead of yesterday’s meetings. Here’s what they each had to say.

LOOKOUT POLL: What do you want the future of the coastal Rail Trail to look like? Tell us here.

Newsom orders National Guard protection for California’s state Capitol

Ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration day, California Governor Gavin Newsom activated 1,000 members of the California National Guard to help protect the state Capitol, adding to an already robust response by law enforcement following FBI warnings that armed demonstrators may target statehouses in events similar to last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol. “In light of events in our nation’s capital last week, California is taking important steps to protect public safety at the State Capitol, and across the state,” Newsom said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. Read more about security measures in Sacramento here. Meanwhile, concerned that there could be violent protests in Santa Cruz, Mayor Donna Meyers and police Chief Andy Mills issued a statement this week calling for peace. You can watch their joint statement here.

Around the county…

Success of Holiday Lights drive-thru launches others at Fairgrounds (The Pajaronian)

Valley school districts weighing return to class (Scotts Valley Press Banner)

Watsonville Brillante extends open call for local artists (Good Times)

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 weekend!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor

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