Good news, a retirement letter, and a thank you.

Mono County moves to the less restrictive red tier. Vaccinations are going well here. Also, I am done. Thank you for reading.

Dear readers,

Springtime is near and we have a whole lot of better news here in the Eastern Sierra. 

Mono County has been reassigned to the less restrictive red tier of the state’s reopening plan, effective Sunday, March 15. This means restaurants can operate at 25% indoors and gyms can open at 10% capacity among other things. 

Nearly 5,000 residents are fully vaccinated and another 6,000 have received the first dose. Mono County is well on its way to vaccinating all residents who want to take the shot. You can register to get vaccinated online here.

Even with all this good news, we still need to mask and distance per CDC guidelines. The pandemic is not yet over, however, my local COVID-19 reporting has come to an end.

Last March when the World Health Organization first declared a pandemic, I found myself out of work and looking for local health information that I could not find, so I hurled myself in to public service journalism covering COVID-19 in our community. 

The goal of this project was to disseminate critical information to the public and to make sense of the pandemic as it was relevant locally. The reporting held government accountable and spoke truth to power. Thank you to everyone who answered my questions, many of our government officials and business leaders did, and thank you to everyone in the community who shared their stories.

In the past year I published more than 60 articles. My reporting received more pageviews than the population of the county and was once cited in The New Yorker. A few of these stories were republished elsewhere and I was the recipient of a fellowship from the Economic Hardship Reporting Program. 

There was a lot of harassment, there were even more thank you notes. It was never easy. I did my best. I have never worked harder and produced so much. 

I am grateful to former journalist friends, Sarah Rea and David Page, who were each invaluable editors for many of these articles. And though I am retiring from local COVID reporting, I will continue to use this mailing list once in a while to keep you informed of the other writing I am doing.  

Thank you for reading and thank you for your ongoing support. 

Be well, Monica 

Every crisis reminds communities anew of journalism’s importance. -- Ken Armstrong

A few important stories and highlights

Ski communities are getting ‘crunched on all sides’ Making it in a ski town has always been hard. The pandemic has amplified the challenges. December 24, 2020

Mammoth’s “invisible” community has been hit the hardest by the coronavirus. Why aren’t we better protecting our workforce? The Latinx community makes up half of Mono County’s population, but accounts for 89 percent of the coronavirus cases. August 6, 2020

Mammoth’s “Bear Whisperer” resigns because of contract disagreement The Town of Mammoth Lakes reduced staff because of a $3.9 million projected budget deficit in the general fund primarily due to COVID-19. July 17, 2020

The path to reopening Mono County. Which way to Mammoth Lake? The state of Mono County’s coronavirus response. May 4, 2020

Eastern Sierra residents argue against proposed Inyo National Forest Closures Proposed closures are ambiguous and spark heated debate among residents. April 28, 2020

Coronavirus claims fishing season opener For the past few weeks, Chris Leonard has fought against the one thing he loves most — fishing. April 24, 20202

Avalanche ignites conversation about backcountry skiing during a pandemic A snowboarder who was buried to his neck survived a harrowing avalanche with minor injuries. The incident was captured on film. April 13, 2020

The coronavirus may hit American ski towns harder than urban areas Mono County, home of Mammoth Mountain, has the highest per capita COVID-19 rate in California. March 30, 2020

You don’t have to be a winner, just a lover of what you’re doing. -- Dave McCoy