Soquel Elementary School Principal Eric Witter hands out at-home COVID tests.
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Morning Lookout: How local schools are avoiding sickouts and a boost for downtown

Hiya, everyone! It’s Jan. 26, and it’s either already Wednesday or it’s only Wednesday, depending on how the week is going for you. Santa Cruz County has another pleasant day ahead, with sunshine and highs around the mid-60s.

Lots on our plate this morning, including ...

So let’s dig in:

How local schools are navigating the COVID bumps

A class at Main Street Elementary School in Soquel.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

While Santa Cruz County public schools have taken on the burden of teaching students in person during a pandemic, they’ve managed to avoid challenges such as sickouts and abnormally high absence rates seen in other parts of the country. Lookout’s Hillary Ojeda surveys the current landscape.

MORE ON COVID IN SCHOOLS: Find all of our K-12 education coverage here

Presented by Allterra Solar

The State of California, specifically the Public Utilities Commission, has proposed a set of regulatory changes – NEM 3...

‘A lot of increased interest, a lot of desire’

A man stands at an intersection on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

New business permit extensions authorized Tuesday by the Santa Cruz City Council aim to revitalize downtown. Lookout’s Grace Stetson explains.

PREVIOUSLY: ‘The energy to adapt quickly’: Some had it, some didn’t as downtown Santa Cruz slowly comes back to life (Lookout)

Official count confirms monarch butterflies are back

A monarch butterfly at Natural Bridges State Beach
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The nonprofit organization that monitors monarchs during their wintering months in the West announced Tuesday that butterfly populations have jumped from 2020-21 numbers by more than a hundredfold. Get the scoop from Lookout’s Wallace Baine.

MORE ON THE THANKSGIVING COUNT: Cautious optimism blooms at Natural Bridges as monarch populations rebound from a dismal 2020 (Lookout)


Strike averted

A sign says "I'm strike ready" outside the board of supervisors meeting
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Hours before some 1,600 Santa Cruz County workers were set to strike, union and county officials came to a tentative agreement that avoided the picket line. Read more here from Lookout’s Max Chun.

PREVIOUSLY: County at an impasse: Union workers say they’re set to strike; management says deal is fair (Lookout)

No ifs, ands or butts

An ashtray full of cigarette butts
(Via Pixabay)

A new California bill would ban single-use smoking products like cigarette filters. Our partners at the Los Angeles Times look at the effort by local Assemblymember Mark Stone and others.

MORE ON THE ENVIRONMENT: Find all of Lookout’s coverage here

Presented by UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz student Tommy Alejandrez was living on the streets when he met former NFL player Zack Follett on a busy...

What the federal ‘No Surprises Act’ means in California

U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
(Via Pixabay)

The new federal law will provide protection against surprise medical bills for between 6 million and 7 million Californians who are not covered under state law. Find out more from our partners at Kaiser Health News.

MORE LEGISLATION: COVID-19 sick pay in California would return under deal between Newsom, lawmakers (Los Angeles Times)


Around the county ...

ACLU NorCal challenges Santa Cruz RV parking ban (Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Permits for Watsonville hotel project expire, distribution centers planned for Manabe-Ow (The Pajaronian)
Scotts Valley police lift shelter-in-place order (KSBW-TV)
Cal Fire: Pile burning operation caused Colorado fire in Big Sur (KION-TV)
‘Stealth omicron’ sub-variant found in Santa Clara County (San Jose Mercury News)

Got all that? Remember, there will be a quiz later. Kidding, of course, but visit our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center just in case we drop one into the Lookout PM newsletter (and to sign up for our latest offering from food and drink maven Lily Belli). You can also keep tabs throughout the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And this being Wednesday, it’s a great day to support local journalism, so please consider becoming a Lookout member. Our content isn’t possible without community support.

Stay safe and enjoy the day, all — I’ll catch you back here around this time tomorrow!

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz