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Morning Lookout: Investigation into PVUSD drama, massive vaccine implications of UCSC expert’s analysis

Good Morning! It’s Friday, Feb. 19. Don’t forget your umbrella. It’s going to be rainy with a high of 58.

This morning we’re learning more about the financial picture in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District after an investigation by our Nick Ibarra revealed a behind-the-scenes drama that accompanied Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez’s dramatic ouster and reinstatement last month.

Meanwhile, a UC Santa Cruz professor might have found the answer to a major public health question: Do Moderna and Pfizer vaccines prevent virus spread along with their already-proven ability to combat symptoms?

There’s big news on the back-to-school front, too: All of Santa Cruz County’s teachers and school staff could get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by next week, county officials hope, which might shorten the timeline for when elementary students will be back in school. But even though students aren’t back in classrooms yet, some high school athletes got to feel a little normalcy yesterday as cross country runners from around the county became the first wave of prep athletes to get back out there.

Here’s what you need to know for your day:

INVESTIGATION: Were shaky finances behind PVUSD superintendent’s firing? Hastily deleted post reveals tension

PVUSD Trustee Georgia Acosta (left), until recently the school board's president, and Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
PVUSD Trustee Georgia Acosta (left), until recently the school board’s president, and Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
(PVUSD and Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

After the abrupt firing and reinstatement of Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez last month, our Nick Ibarra went in search of answers after the district’s less-than-transparent stance on the matter. He obtained documents, interviewed district and county education officials and found deleted web posts about the district’s finances. Read how Lookout connects the dots and read in full all the documents that Nick gathered here.

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The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County re-envisioned its programs and initiatives to meet the needs and challenges of...

First-of-its-kind analysis: Besides preventing symptoms, do vaccines combat virus spread? A UCSC expert thinks so

Beverly Winthers, a 95 year-old resident of Dominican Oaks, receives a first dose of the Moderna vaccines
(Claire Henry/Dignity Health)

UC Santa Cruz epidemiologist Marm Kilpatrick, who has gained fame within his field for analyzing the latest COVID-19 developments on Twitter, has completed a preliminary calculation which he believes shows significantly reduced risk in virus transmission from people who have been vaccinated. His analysis is one of the first scientific efforts to quantify this, and the public health implications at stake are enormous. Read Mallory Pickett’s story about Kilpatrick’s calculation, which includes input from other national experts, here.

SOME NATIONAL ATTENTION: Read the mention of Mallory’s story in this morning’s New York Times ‘California Today’ newsletter.

#BOLO: Santa Cruz to brief news media on sure-to-be controversial ‘outdoor living’ proposal

The city of Santa Cruz next week is set to consider a proposed law that would ban unsheltered people from camping in much of the city, including on city beaches, in neighborhood parks and in the downtown area. This stems from a City Council decision last year to consider banning “overnight and daytime encampments in sensitive and at-risk areas . . . with direction that prior to moving and/or citing people sleeping in restricted locations” that people be provided with information about shelter facilities countywide. City officials plan to brief the news media about the proposal this morning. #BOLO (Be On the Lookout) for Isabella Cueto’s coverage later today.

Scotts Valley adopts law banning ‘targeted picketing’ in residential areas

City council members approved a “targeted residential picketing” ordinance this week that’s modeled on similar rules in other cities across the country. The ordinance is meant to prevent the kinds of disruptive protests that have sometimes occurred outside of elected officials’ homes. Read more about why the ordinance was proposed and passed in Scotts Valley from Isa here.

Latest on school reopening

Father Alik Laddon helps his first grade student Caden Andino with his backpack

Vaccination of all teachers, support staff in reach in Santa Cruz County: About 2,600 K-12 teachers and support staff — roughly half the total — will have received their first of two jabs of COVID-19 vaccine by Sunday, according to Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Faris Sabbah. He is now hopeful the remaining K-12 staff will receive their first dose in short order. What does this mean for reopening dates for public schools? Read more from our Nick Ibarra here.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, legislators at odds over $6.6-billion plan to open California elementary schools in April: Although it appears Santa Cruz County elementary kids will be back in school before mid-April, the fate of K-6 students in the rest of the state is largely uncertain as Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers squabble over a funding plan to open more schools. A $6.6-billion legislative proposal — criticized by Newsom yesterday — would require county health departments to make vaccines available to school employees who will work on campus. Read more about the battle in Sacramento that have far-reaching effects in this story from our partner the LA Times.

High school runners get out of pandemic block; could football get Hail Mary pass from Gov. Newsom? Yesterday almost felt normal for some student-athletes around the county. Boys’ and girls’ cross country runners from around the county took their marks with masked faces, representing the first wave of prep athletes to get back a small piece of their sporting identities. However, while the first of the high school sports make a tentative return, whether contact sports like football, wrestling, water polo and basketball happen will depend on just how quickly the virus spread slows — or if there’s a revision from the state. Read about the restrictions on each sport and what it would take from the governor to open faster from our Mark Conley here.

YOU SHOULD READ THIS: Am I eligible for California’s $600 COVID-19 stimulus check and other aid? (LA Times)

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A new economic analysis found that more than 18,000 jobs can be directly linked to UC Santa Cruz, generating $892.5...

Around the county . . .

Two housing projects head to Watsonville City Council (The Pajaronian)

Food Not Bombs displaced from Santa Cruz lot (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Local father-daughter music duo release first album (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