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Morning Lookout | Mysterious management changes at Watsonville Community hospital, vaccine data problems

Good Morning! It’s Tuesday, Feb. 16. Today’s forecast is Reason No. 547 of why I’m glad I live in Santa Cruz because it’s going to be partly sunny with a high of 59 — a far cry from the icy blast that’s swept much of the rest of the country.

If you haven’t already read about it, a video is going viral that shows a troupe of anti-maskers swarming and disrupting a Trader Joe’s in Downtown Santa Cruz. Wallace Baine has a hot take on the anti-maskers actions in his latest The Here & Now column. Meanwhile, we are finally learning more information about who is getting vaccinated in Santa Cruz County as the state unveiled new demographic data yesterday, months after the first inoculations began.

But first, our Mallory Pickett and Patrick Riley have been exploring a mysterious management change at Watsonville Community Hospital. Let’s start with their report:

Watsonville Community Hospital under new management, but veil of secrecy surrounds who’s really in charge

Watsonville Community Hospital
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The company that bought Watsonville Community Hospital in 2019, Halsen Healthcare, abruptly stopped managing it last month. The new manager, Prospect Medical Holdings, has a troubled history and is under congressional scrutiny. And a third party — a medical investment company — owns the hospital land and building. So who actually is in charge of the 106-bed medical center, and what does this all mean for patients and the community? Read our Lookout special report here.

Presented by UC Santa Cruz

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

Dirty drinking water post-wildfires remains a major concern for some in the San Lorenzo Valley

As the first heavy rains of the season poured across the Santa Cruz Mountains last month, emergency responders and residents feared for, among other things, their drinking water. Across the West, water districts are grappling with new and increasingly common challenges as fire seasons grow longer. These fires are not only destroying people’s homes and treasured possessions, they are leaving behind an array of incinerated plastics, lead, pesticides and other toxic particles that have the potential to contaminate water supplies. Read more from our content partner the LA Times here.

Data problems hurt California’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts

California’s vaccine rollout has been plagued by data issues, leaving the state and counties unable to keep track of how many doses of the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine are available at any time. Gov. Gavin Newsom has pushed to speed up inoculations, in part because the state’s data appeared to show vaccine providers were sitting on doses, prompting the governor to threaten to take supplies from those not moving quickly enough. Read more about the faulty figures from the LA Times here.

NEW DATA: Meanwhile, months after the first vaccine administrations began in California, the state has finally made demographic information on vaccination progress available by county. So far, the majority of doses — 45% — in Santa Cruz County have gone to white people, but deputy health officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said last week that this is because the first doses were focused on health care workers and nursing home residents in Phase 1A. Read more on that and other local COVID updates from our Mallory Pickett here.

THE HERE & NOW: What to make of the latest viral anti-mask protest, this one at a Santa Cruz Trader Joe’s?

A video is making the rounds on social media that shows a troupe of anti-maskers storming the Trader Joe’s in Downtown Santa Cruz. The brazen video shows frazzled retail workers struggling to wrangle the group of maskless people as they calmly pick out produce and try to pay in cash. Wallace Baine writes in his latest The Here & Now column:

“Generations of a very American form of individualism has delivered us to a place where defiance is the primary mode by which many people construct their lives; this isn’t, after all, the first anti-mask incident broadcast around the world. Frankly, defiance is fun, in an adolescent sort of way. But it’s also a token of privilege, to expect to flout rules and not face consequences. Absent a coherent and ethical principle behind it, defiance is little more than a temper tantrum.”

Read the whole thing here.

RELATED READ: Supermarket workers feel alone and unrecognized over COVID-19: ‘Is today the day I get the virus?’ (LA Times)

FREE EVENT: Let’s talk about resilience and coping in the pandemic

Clockwise from left: Jennalee Dahlen, DNA, David Ghiarducci and Paula Marcus
(Kevin Painchaud, Event Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County)

This past year has been traumatic and tough for everyone — and our latest free-virtual event addresses that. Join us on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. as members of our team talk with Yoso Wellness Spa owner Jennalee Dahlen, Santa Cruz County EMS medical director Dr. David Ghilarducci, comedian and events producer DNA and Rabbi Paula Marcus of Temple Beth El in Aptos — all of whom have seen their ups and downs because of COVID-19. We’re anticipating a great discussion about resilience and coping. To read more about and register for the event, click here.

TELL US YOUR STORY: If you have a story about life amid COVID, submit it here.

PHOTOS: Armed with a camera, a young ER doctor captures the faces of the COVID war (LA Times)

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Around the county . . .

Distracted driving considered factor in Santa Cruz rollover crash (KION-TV)

Mountain Elementary School District names new superintendent (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

This year’s Dungeness crab fishery a shell of its former self (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

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