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Morning Lookout: Some kids return to schools this week, arts festival line ups are out and more

Good Morning! It’s Tuesday, March 2. We’ll again be seeing lots of sun today with a high of 65.

Nationally, we’re just learning of the passing of civil rights icon Vernon Jordan, a close friend of and adviser to former President Bill Clinton. Also, FBI Director Christopher Wray is testifying before Congress this morning about what the intelligence agency may have known about the Jan. 6 Capitol siege. You can listen in on C-SPAN here.

Locally, we’re looking forward to some big news events:

Today: We’re awaiting word on whether Santa Cruz County’s COVID-19 metrics will allow us to begin the two-week process of leaving the purple tier for the less restrictive red tier.

Tomorrow: Elementary students in Scotts Valley are set to kick off what will be the beginning of phased-in returns to classrooms countywide. Meanwhile, we’ve got the latest on California’s plan to provide incentives for elementary schools statewide to reopen by April 1.

A week from today: The Santa Cruz County City Council will have its second — and possibly final — discussion about a proposed ordinance that would drastically limit where homeless people can camp and live.

Before we get to the headlines, if you’re not already signed up for Lookout’s Breaking News Text Alerts, I highly recommend you do. When major news happens, we deliver those headlines right to your phone, so you can be in the know all the time. You can sign up for text alerts here or just text the word BREAKING to (831) 265-0158.

Ok, onto the headlines:

Santa Cruz County students begin returning to classes this week

A teacher collects crayons.
The legislation would not require schools to reopen, but it would provide money to make it safer for them to do so. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Starting tomorrow, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students in the Scotts Valley Unified School District are set to resume hybrid, in-person learning as the county’s 10 school districts begin to reopen a full year after the pandemic closed doors. See when each school district will expand to in-person learning for different grade levels in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, after weeks of debate, California officials have announced details of a plan to offer school districts $2 billion to reopen elementary schools for in-person learning by April 1. Read more about how this bill works and the financial incentives for schools here.

Presented by UC Santa Cruz

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

Santa Cruz County’s two major arts festivals announce lineups . . . and one might even happen in person

Santa Cruz Shakespeare.
Santa Cruz Shakespeare.

Santa Cruz County’s two most prominent fine arts summer festivals, Santa Cruz Shakespeare and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, have both announced their upcoming seasons. For Cabrillo, its 59th season will also be its second all-virtual season, presented online and free to the public over two weekends beginning July 31. SCS, on the other hand, is planning a controlled, socially distanced summer season at its outdoor venue, The Grove at DeLaveaga Park. Read more and see the two festival line-ups from our Wallace Baine here.

Homelessness and housing

Everything to know about Santa Cruz’s proposed ‘outdoor living’ ordinance on homelessness: Our Isabella Cueto has updated her guide to the proposed law in advance of next week’s city council meeting based on changes that council members made on Feb. 23. Among those changes: an outreach worker would need to make contact with an unsheltered person before — or at the same time as — law enforcement gets involved in enforcement efforts. Read the whole thing, and learn how you can sound off on the ordinance here.

Santa Cruz gets $5 million from state to aid home-building efforts for lower-income people: The city of Santa Cruz will receive $5 million over the next five years from the Local Housing Trust Fund administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The funds will be used to subsidize at least three mixed-use development projects that have won city approval but have yet to break ground: Pacific Station North, Pacific Station South and the downtown library project. Read more here.

Three local nonprofits - Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, and Teen Kitchen Project - are working hard to...

COVID 2021 Updates

Staff and volunteers distribute the COVID-19 vaccine

#BOLO: Could Santa Cruz County finally meet the threshold to drop into the red tier? For the past two weeks, Santa Cruz County has been on the cusp of the thresholds required to drop from purple tier to red tier COVID-19 restrictions — which would result in more expansion of business reopenings. Be On the Lookout on our website later today to learn whether the county has finally met the requirements for the loosened restrictions. It’s important to note that even if we do meet the criteria, the county must see two weeks of consistency in those numbers before we can move to the red tier.

Variants: 65% of Santa Cruz samples reveal variants, though no alarm bells yet: UC Santa Cruz scientists told Mallory yesterday that they had completed genomic sequencing of 84 COVID-19 samples from Santa Cruz County, with none of the CDC’s three official “variants of concern” turning up. But what about the California variant? Read more here to find out.

Newel talks double-masking, hugging mom and more: As the speed of vaccinations ramps up and cases decline, many experts are hopeful spring will be a turning point in the pandemic. Our Mallory Pickett caught up with Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel on occupation-based vaccine rollout, the state’s MyTurn vaccine sign up system, COVID variants in the county and more. Read all the new insights we learned from Newel here.

CVS, Walgreens challenge Newsom’s comments about unused doses in California: Gov. Gavin Newsom told Californians last week that the state had taken swift action to reallocate thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses from a provider who “was not administering the vaccines quickly enough.” But the companies in question, CVS and Walgreens, are objecting to Newsom’s comments. Read more from our content partner, the LA Times here.

Another COVID Read: When will nursing homes reopen to visitors? State officials won’t say (CalMatters)

Around the county . . .

PVUSD parents frustrated over slow reopening plan (KSBW)

To better understand monarch butterflies’ migration, researchers ask Central Coast residents to use their smartphones (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

New media company highlights Watsonville through film (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