Matt Ryan behind a vintage truck at the Watsonville Fire Department.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: Watsonville’s ‘Mr. Volunteer’ and more Omicron worries

Good morning, Lookout people! It’s Monday, Dec. 20, and Santa Cruz County has a mostly cloudy day ahead, with highs in the low to mid-50s. Rain is set to return tomorrow, and it’ll be with us most of this holiday week:

We’re jump-starting your workweek with another installment of our Unsung Santa Cruz series, with Lookout’s Max Chun catching up with South County’s “Mr. Volunteer.”

That follows a pair of stories over the weekend from Lookout’s Grace Stetson, who profiled the UCSC grad who became a go-to resource for Santa Cruz’s unhoused population at Vets Hall and the volunteer fire captain who defended the San Lorenzo Valley area she grew up in during the CZU Complex fire.

And with the news that the Golden State lost population in 2020 — the first time that’s happened since records have been kept — Lookout’s Wallace Baine has thoughts on just what has finally stopped the California Gold Rush.

So let’s take a stroll through those headlines, shall we?

Watsonville’s ‘Mr. Volunteer’ won’t let retirement get in the way

Matt Ryan.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Born and raised in South County, Matt Ryan spent more than 30 years as a firefighter and picked up other roles along the way, from helping power the local Toys for Tots program to community barbecues and giving fellow first responders a willing ear. Lookout’s Max Chun has the latest installment of our Unsung Santa Cruz series.

FROM SUNDAY: Her call to duty is stronger than most, but she is also only human (Grace Stetson)
FROM SATURDAY: How he became a go-to resource for Santa Cruz’s unhoused population at Vets Hall (Grace Stetson)
THE WHOLE SERIES: Unsung Santa Cruz: Lookout highlights regular folks doing great things

Whether it’s helping members get a new home or combating predatory lending with short-term, lost-cost loan options,...

COVID-19 has done what nothing else could — finally stop the California Gold Rush

The skyline of downtown San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Fewer people are moving to the Golden State and more than ever are leaving. And with COVID piling on to crushing housing prices, NIMBY no-growth policies and crippling traffic, that’s no surprise. Get Wallace Baine’s thoughts here.

WANT MORE WALLACE? Find all of his columns here

Appreciation: Here’s what we all owe UCSC alumna bell hooks, beginning with me

Author and activist Bell Hooks
(Via bell hooks Institute at Berea College)

Pioneering feminist writer bell hooks, who died last week, got her doctorate at UCSC in 1983, writing her dissertation on Toni Morrison. Friend and collaborator Lynnée Denise describes her essential legacy.

California braces for Omicron wave amid grim forecasts, concerns for hospitals

Nurse Christopher King prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to 8-year-old Niko Barner.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Prepare for big spikes in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in areas with low vaccination rates, experts say. Our partners at the Los Angeles Times look at what could be ahead.

RELATED: Vaccine update: Rates, where to find a COVID shot or test in Santa Cruz County; wait, cost and turnaround times (Lookout)

Should I change my holiday plans because of COVID-19 surge, Omicron?

A festive table setting with holiday lights in the background
(Via Pixabay)

Some experts think it would help to make some adjustments, but many health experts are also emphasizing the importance of seeing family and friends. The Times look for answers.

LOCALLY: COVID-19 updates in Santa Cruz County: Infections, hospitalizations, deaths and demographic data (Lookout)

Around the county ...

7-year-old visiting from out of state found safe in Watsonville (KION-TV)
King tides set to return in January (Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Fitness studio announced for Scotts Valley Hangar location (The Press Banner)

That’s all for this Monday morning. Keep tabs throughout the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — and 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.

If you’re not already, please consider becoming a Lookout member (or giving a membership as a gift!). Our content isn’t possible without community support.

Have a great day!

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz

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