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The 35th annual Mendocino County Science and Engineering Fair is happening, and the office of education is looking for student submissions. The registration starts next Monday, and the deadline is 3 weeks later, March 7th.  They’re looking for volunteers as judges as well. Student work is going to be judged March 18th – 20th. Those interested will get a guidebook including rules, specifications for the project, judging criteria, and more. Those interested first participate in school-level or district-level science fairs then coordinators send in the winning projects to a virtual platform for the countywide judging, and then it could be off to the state after that.  Please direct science fair questions to Hildebrand at shildebrand@mcoe.us

Or for more information, visit www.mcoe.us/student-programs-services/student-events/science-fair

Educators and school staff are in line to get the vaccination in Sonoma County finally. About 100 people got their first shots yesterday. It was the Moderna coronavirus vaccine. The Press Democrat reports at the same time the vaccinations began, the county’s adjusted 7 day case rate was under 25 per 100,000 people, a dramatic decline in infections. So by state standards, in person learning for prekindergarten to sixth graders could start, in a modified fashion. But schools and their districts have to get their COVID Safety Plans approved by the county and the state. The paper reports there are about 15 currently being reviewed by the county.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has put out more detailed plans about next steps to prevent wildfires. As we reported yesterday utility companies across the state have sent their plans in to regulators for wildfire mitigation after their equipment was responsible for massive fires across the state. PG&E has promised to spend as much as $6 billion by the end of next year on new technology and work on their power grid in both Northern and Central California, where their equipment was linked to several deadly and destructive wildfires. The new technology would show where areas are prone to catastrophic fires, where the utility will replace old power equipment, trim trees and do other work. It’s all in a more than 1,000 page plan sent to utility regulators Friday.

The state Insurance Commissioner has a way homeowner’s insurance policies are not canceled by hardening their homes against wildfires. Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced yesterday ways homeowners can protect themselves from higher rates too, encouraging home fire-safe retrofits he says can also save lives and property. Starting this month he says he’ll meet with insurance companies, utilities, emergency and forestry leaders. His deputy says he wants new standards in place so insurance companies can provide incentives that will help guide local governments in planning efforts and investments. They’re still fleshing the deals out but could include state money to help.

One of the mutant strains of coronavirus has been detected in Yolo County. We reported the same was found in Lake County within the last couple of weeks, now the city of Davis, UC Davis, and Yolo County have jointly announced the variant known as B.1.1.7, which first surfaced in the United Kingdom is now in that county. It was detected after scientists at the Genome Center started genotyping positive samples of the virus last month to specifically monitor for various strains. As we’ve heard the various strains could overtake the original one and become more dominant. This particular strain spreads faster and is more contagious. The county’s public health officer says the person who had it was notified and is in isolation with contact tracing efforts started immediately.

The state of Calif is reporting under 10,000 new COVID19 cases/day. The case numbers on the decline after a couple of months of surging cases after about Thanksgiving. The amount of deaths is still high, which is the case, increases in deaths following weeks behind surges in cases. But still there are about 20% less deaths/day, but one report says February may still be the second most deaths in the state since the pandemic first came about. Hospitalizations were down by almost 50%, but the state is still, unfortunately, number one in hospitalizations, but Arizona, New York, Georgia, Texas, Nevada and New Jersey have more hospitalizations per capita.

A marijuana company in Potter Valley, Skunkworx raided by Sheriff’s Deputies 2 years ago has filed suit and lost twice in state court. The Mendocino Voice reports cannabis grower Andres Rondon filed a lawsuit in 2019 saying he was a legal grower, and as such, his product was taken improperly, then destroyed. But he lost so he’s appealing in federal court now, seeking damages of $800,000. The county’s lawyers are trying to get the case tossed saying even though recreational weed is legal locally, it’s still illegal federally. A call about intruders on the property, the owner says, turned into destruction. Deputies for their part said they couldn’t find a permit for legal weed, so they destroyed it. The Voice also reported Rondon filed for a cannabis growing permit in July 2017, but withdrew the application in December 2019. The judge in the federal case canceled the hearing and is deciding the case based on court documents.

A call into the sheriff’s office about a possible crime scene, was not that. A shallow grave turned out to be someone’s family pet was buried there. A road worker in the area of Talmage Road and Babcock Lane reportedly called in what looked to be a fresh grave near a vineyard, so they called the Sheriff’s office. Detectives reported to the area and a crime scene was cordoned off with law enforcement reporting.  Then they apparently started excavating, but it was not a human body, but instead a dog. The Mendocino Voice says one of their readers sent them the tip and the Sheriff confirmed the incident.

Vaccinations have been lopsided in the state, but the governor says that’s going to change. Newsom announced last week working to get folks vaccinated who live in communities, “often left behind.” He was in San Diego yesterday saying they want an “equitable distribution of the vaccine” and intimated there may soon be a mass vaccination site announced for farm and food workers in central California. It comes after Dodger Stadium, in East Los Angeles and the Oakland Coliseum. The state is also going to start paying providers who offer vaccinations in vulnerable neighborhoods and communities of color. But some counties have started all of this without the state. And Santa Clara County called on the governor to prioritize doses for ZIP codes with the highest COVID-19 rates.

More info on the lawsuit filed by the former police chief for Willits. Alexis Blaylock was only chief about five weeks. She was sworn-in August 26th of 2020 and resigned October 8th. She has claimed a hostile work environment, harassment, sexism, and racism. Her lawyers say she’ll drop the whole thing if the city pays her $500,000 and commit to start doing workplace discrimination and retaliation training so the city and police department are “more tolerant, effective, and honest.” Her lawyers contend Blaylock was “met with immediate hostility from subordinates openly resistant to a Black, female Chief and opposed to accountability.” It names names of those who were opposed to her position and who complained about her when she tried to “implement basic, but essential procedures”.

Anyone in Mendocino County who has received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds in Ukiah on or before Jan. 15th can sign up now to reserve a spot to get their second dose this week. The county’s giving the second doses of the Pfizer vaccine tomorrow and second doses of the Moderna vaccine tomorrow through Friday. Those who get an appointment need to bring an ID and vaccination card. The second doses started January 21st for those who got inoculated in December.

An heiress from San Francisco has agreed to protect almost 15,000 acres of old growth redwoods in southern Mendocino County. The Press Democrat reports the Mailliard Ranch has the biggest redwood forest that a private family owns and is in the Anderson Valley between Yorkville and Boonville. The paper reports socialite Charlotte Mailliard Shultz and her family agreed to the $24.7 million deal with the Save the Redwoods League. The League president says protecting the ranch has been a priority of theirs for decades. The family still owns the land but it will be protected from development. Mailliard Shultz’s husband, was the former secretary of state George Shultz who just died Saturday at the age of 100.

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