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Morning Lookout: Thousands still without power, paused vaccine gets greenlight and more

Good Morning! It’s Thursday, Jan. 21. My grandma sent me a text this morning to remind me that it’s the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. That’s pretty cool! Today’s forecast is a partly sunny day with a high of 62, but the National Weather Service tweets this morning that welcome, post-wildfire showers should be arriving tomorrow, with more over the weekend.

It’s a big day in Washington: The Associated Press reports that President Joe Biden will be signing 10 executive orders to set his COVID-19 plan in motion.

And it will be big night for us at Lookout, as we’re hosting a FREE virtual event in which three experts — County Health Officer Gail Newel, UC Santa Cruz epidemiologist Marm Kilpatrick and Erica Padilla-Chavez, CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance — will sound off on the state of the virus and vaccine distribution locally; the economic, scientific and social challenges it continues to pose; and how the Biden plan might impact Santa Cruzans. They’ll also be answering many of the questions you’ve submitted as part of our Lookout COVID 2021 initiative.

If you haven’t already, you can sign up for this free 6 p.m. event here. We’re still taking questions ahead of time, so submit your questions here. For the first time at Lookout, we will have simultaneous translation of the event in Spanish — so spread the word.

There’s been a lot of COVID news overnight. But first, here’s everything else:

‘Unheard of’ winter wildfires ebbing, PG&E outages persist

A member of Call fire cleaning up hot spots at the location of the Panther Fire
A member of Call fire cleaning up hot spots at the location of the Panther Fire
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

At last check, just under 15,000 people around the county are waking up without power again today after Tuesday’s unprecedented wind and wildfires that crews are steadily working to control. Last night, Cal Fire officials said “crews on the ground have made great progress on getting a greater containment of each of the fires,” but that task will continue today. Our Nick Ibarra asked PG&E about the power outages impacting residents and about public safety power shutoffs. Read that and all the other wildfire updates here.

Take a sneak peek at the MAH’s newest showcases and exhibitions coming in 2021!

Environmental racism, emissions: The litany of public comments that led to Watsonville rejecting propane storage facility

A proposed 50,000-gallon propane storage facility in an industrial park in Watsonville has been rejected by city leaders, who sided with more than a dozen residents who spoke out against the project. The discussion before the city council vote included allegations of environmental racism and the idea that the facility would contradict the city’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Those who proposed the facility insisted it would be safe. Read more about what transpired from our Isa Cueto here.

Judge rules city can’t clear San Lorenzo Park homeless encampment amid COVID-19 concerns

After weeks of back-and-forth in court and multiple temporary extensions, Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen finally ruled yesterday that the city cannot clear a homeless encampment at San Lorenzo Park because COVID-19 continues to be prevalent and dispersing inhabitants would increase health risks. Van Keulen did, however, say injunction will have to be re-evaluated in the future. Read more about her ruling here.

COVID vaccine updates

Staff and volunteers distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to people as they remain in their vehicles at The Forum in Inglewood

Moderna doses deemed safe: New this morning, some 5,300 Moderna vaccines in Santa Cruz County — part of a batch of 330,000 statewide — have finally been cleared for use. The vaccine lot, 41L20A, was put on hold Sunday after a higher-than-expected number of allergic reactions occurred when doses from this lot were used at a mass vaccination site in San Diego.

County teams up with Safeway for vaccinations: County health officials announced a partnership with the Safeway grocery and pharmacy chain yesterday to distribute vaccines to phase 1a recipients. As part of the deal, Safeway will assist the county with upcoming, unscheduled mass vaccination clinics that can administer doses to 500 individuals per day at a location “to be announced at a later date,” the county said, “beginning with health care workers.”

Read more about both developments here, including how many people will be inoculated through the Safeway partnership in coming days.

Vaccinating Californians 65 and older may last till June: Vaccinating Californians 65 and over could take until June to complete, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan’s estimate. That means the wait for people who are not on the priority list could be extended by another 4 months. Read more about this from our content partner, the LA Times here.

Locally, Santa Cruz public health officials bemoaned the slow supply of vaccine doses and lack of information from the state in a press conference last week. Read about everything we learned about the county’s vaccine distribution plan, challenges and more here. Meanwhile, San Francisco is on track to run out of vaccine doses today, according to a report by the LA Times.

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Newsom promised 1 million vaccinations in 10 days. The state can’t say if he met his goal: Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Californians to “hold me accountable” to a goal of administering 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in 10 days, but nearly two weeks later a series of data collection problems have left state officials unable to offer clear evidence of success or failure. A spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health said that coding errors and data lags have hampered the state’s efforts to accurately count and publicly report how many doses are administered each day. Read more about the ‘jerry-rigged’ vaccine distribution system that the state has in place in this story from the LA Times.

#BOLO: Be On The Lookout for a story tracking the national developments of Biden’s COVID-19 response and stories that might come out of Lookout’s COVID 2021 event.

Around the county…

Man arrested in Watsonville attempted murder investigation (KION-TV)

Playing by the rules after Princess Cruise trip, quarantine (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville to fly LGBTQ Pride flag in June (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.

To ensure you’re staying informed about all the goings-on in Santa Cruz, consider becoming a Lookout member. Our content isn’t possible without community support.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor