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Morning Lookout: Rainfall totals after days of storms, latest on PVUSD and more

Good Morning! It’s Friday, Jan. 29. After days of rain, the sun will finally peek out from behind clouds today with a high of 54.

We’re expecting new developments today in our big story from yesterday: the abrupt ousting of Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.

On the education beat, we’re also learning about the number of students applying for admission to University of California campuses, including UC Santa Cruz, and the effect the pandemic is having on children suffering from mental health disorders. There’s also more news on the vaccine front.

Meanwhile, is there a safe way to hold a live concert amid the pandemic? Our Wallace Baine answers that question here.

As we all dry out, let’s dive in:

Weather update: The atmospheric river that’s dumped rain over the region for the last few days is finally going to move east of the Bay Area today, the National Weather Service tweeted early this morning. As of yesterday evening, the National Weather Service said some parts of the Santa Cruz area had seen upwards of 8 inches of rain over a 48 hour period. How much rain did your area get? See rainfall totals and other weather updates here.

Meanwhile, JUST IN to the newsroom, a PG&E utility truck washed off the road in Aptos during the storm, causing minor injuries, according to California Highway Patrol, Santa Cruz. In response, Cal Fire tweeted “We are so glad this worker is going to be OK! The hazards in our area are very real and need to be taken seriously.”

Calls for transparency after PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez terminated, meeting set for today

Ousted superintendent of Pajaro Valley Unified School District Michelle Rodriguez says she’s as in the dark as anyone about her abrupt dismissal in a 4-3 vote late Wednesday. Her termination, which took effect immediately, sparked outrage and calls for more transparency from community members and educational leaders. Read more about what transpired and how local leaders are reacting in this story from our Nick Ibarra here. Meanwhile, an interim superintendent will be appointed at a special trustee meeting set for 4 p.m. Be On the Lookout (#BOLO) for updates to this story on our website later today.

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UC Santa Cruz sees record enrollment numbers

New today, we’re learning that UC Santa Cruz received more than 74,000 applications for the 2021-2022 academic year, a new record and an 11% increase from the previous year. The record application numbers mirror a trend across the entire University of California system. The increased number of applicants means that competition to earn a spot at UCSC will increase. Read more from the LA Times and Lookout Santa Cruz here.

HERE & NOW: More Dream Inn ‘vertical concerts’ coming up, new poet laureate and more

In this week’s Here & Now column, our Wallace Baine examines various aspects of the culture and community of Santa Cruz:

  • The Dream Inn looks to recapture the magic of a crazy Halloween experiment
  • The life and legacy of Jory Post to be celebrated
  • Cali Roots kicks the can down the road
  • The county has a new poet laureate

Read the whole thing, and see what events are in “Baine’s #BOLO Box” here.

COVID 2021 Updates

Doses of COVID-19 vaccine on a table in a Santa Cruz County hospital.
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine on a table in a Santa Cruz County hospital.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

NEW THIS MORNING: Johnson & Johnson to ask for emergency authorization for single-shot vaccine: Johnson & Jonhson is poised to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for it’s new single-shot vaccine that clinical trials showed to be 85% effective in overall prevention of severe COVID-19 illness but has been found to be weaker against variants of the virus, NBC News reports. The regulatory agency could authorize the vaccine by the end of February.

THE LOCAL PICTURE: In their weekly press conference yesterday, county health leaders had some positive and negative updates for the community.

Good: “It appears Santa Cruz County has joined the state of California in the downward side of our holiday surge,” said County Health Officer Gail Newel. In the latest data report from the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” program, the case rate had decreased: from 71 new cases per one hundred thousand people per day, to about 47. “That’s a remarkable decrease,” Newel said.

Not-so-good: It may be late spring or early summer until Santa Cruz County moves back into the red tier. The long stay in the purple tier will have impacts for Santa Cruz County Schools.

County leaders also had updates on the rocky rollout of vaccines and expressed thinly-veiled frustration with state leaders. Read everything to come out of that briefing from our Mallory Pickett here.

Local COVID snapshot:

  • Active Cases: The number of people with active infection of COVID-19 decreased by 146 today, from 2,118 active cases to 1,972. This means more people are recovering than being diagnosed, as cases are moved from active to recovered 21 days after diagnosis.
  • Positivity rate: The 14-day average positivity rate declined from 13.2% to 12.8%. This still remains well above the state average, which is 8.5%.
  • Deaths: Three new deaths were confirmed today, bringing the total to 146. All three of the deceased were men, and all had at least one underlying health condition.

Here are more details on the state of COVID-19 locally.

Kids already coping with mental disorders spiral as pandemic topples vital support systems: Almost 3 million children, roughly 6% of U.S. children ages 6 through 17, are living with a serious emotional or behavioral health condition. Many of these children depend on schools for access to vital therapies. When schools and doctors’ offices stopped providing in-person services last spring, kids were untethered from the people and supports they rely on. The issues cut across socioeconomic lines — affecting families with private insurance as well as those who receive coverage through Medicaid, a federal-state program that provides health insurance to low-income people and those with disabilities. Read stories of how families have coped with the pandemic restrictions for nearly a year in this story from our content partner, Kaiser Health News.

Around the area . . .

Section of Highway 1 in Big Sur falls into the ocean (KSBW-TV)

Watsonville man arrested in community mural gang graffiti case (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

How seals are uncovering secrets of the Southern Ocean (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 day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor