The dive boat Conception smolders after it burned off Santa Cruz Island on Sept. 2, 2019.
(Ventura County Fire Department via Los Angeles Times)
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Morning Lookout: Feds call fatal dive boat fire preventable; eyeing another COVID spike

Hello and good day, Santa Cruz County! It’s Tuesday, March 22, and Mother Nature continues to turn up the heat on us, with temps forecast to hit the upper 70s and even nudge into the 80s under sunny skies.

One thing Lookout is keeping an eye on this week is efforts by workers at local Starbucks stores to unionize; after hearings that began last month, a decision from the National Labor Relations Board on next steps could come any day, so stay tuned.

Among the other headlines I have for you this morning:

So let’s get to it:

Coast Guard’s failure to act on boat safety costs lives in Conception fire, feds say

A plaque was unveiled in 2020 to remember the 34 people who died in the Conception boat fire off Santa Cruz Island. 
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The 2019 fire off Santa Barbara that killed 34 people, including six Santa Cruz County residents, was preventable, but the Coast Guard has either ignored or slowly implemented safety recommendations, one official said. Our partners at the Los Angeles Times report from Monday’s hearing.

IN MEMORIAM: A day to ‘Live like Vai’: Beloved Conception dive boat victim Vaidehi Campbell Williams fittingly celebrated (Lookout)

California could see coronavirus increase this spring because of Omicron subvariant BA.2

A child receives a COVID-19 vaccine
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

With infections rising in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe, officials say they wouldn’t be surprised if new cases climbed again in the U.S. Get the details here.

LOCAL DATA: Check out Lookout’s COVID dashboard

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Ukraine braces for more destruction as Biden warns of chemical attacks

Residents evacuate their apartment building in Irpin, Ukraine.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Ukrainian cities prepare for further violence after warnings that Russia could resort to deadlier — and unconventional — weaponry. The Times has the latest.

LOCAL EFFORTS: Singing for the children of Ukraine, Santa Cruz Chorale matches the moment (Lookout)

The collapse of community college enrollment: Can California turn it around?

Students walk through campus at Sacramento City College on Feb. 23, 2022.
(Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / CalMatters)

Despite sinking overall enrollment, some community colleges in California are seeing more students come back. Targeted state aid is likely helping, but so is more in-person instruction. Our partners at CalMatters dig into the issues.

FACING THE HOUSING CRISIS: A plan for 300 on-campus beds for Cabrillo College students? Here’s how that is taking shape (Lookout)

State unveils long-awaited standard for drinking water contaminant

A water faucet in a home in California.
(Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / CalMatters)

California’s proposed limit for hexavalent chromium — the first in the nation — would raise water rates in many cities. The contaminant, linked to cancer, was made infamous by Erin Brockovich. Read more here.

LOCAL SCENE: Digging 1,000 feet and purifying sewage: How Soquel Creek district is replenishing water supply amid drought (Lookout)


Around the county ...

Woman rescued after 100-foot cliff fall in Davenport (Santa Cruz Sentinel)
PVUSD receives $4.1M from feds for internet connectivity improvements (The Pajaronian)
‘Class traitors’: Why rich Bay Area millennials are getting rid of their wealth (San Jose Mercury News)

How’s that for an early helping of Lookout goodness? But wait, there’s more! The latest newsletter from our foodie friend Lily Belli is in the oven at this very moment, and you can get that delivered right to you by visiting the Lookout Newsletter & Text Center. You’d also be advised to keep tabs throughout the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And local journalism isn’t possible without community support, so if you’re not already, please consider becoming a Lookout member.

Enjoy your Tuesday and stay hydrated — catch you back here tomorrow.

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz