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November 25, 2020

Faith leaders create virtual vigil for Post Acute patients

WATSONVILLE—On Nov. 9, Rae Ann Radford, the new Administrator for Watsonville Post Acute announced that the facility is cleared of the Covid-19 outbreak, not having had another positive case since Oct. 9.

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The encouraging news came after a total of 15 Covid-related deaths occurred at the center, out of 50 residents and 20 staff members who tested positive. The large numbers were reported across the county and the state.

Locally, the community grieved. This included Santa Cruz County religious leaders who said they immediately felt a responsibility to provide comfort to their congregations and the greater faith community.

“As the news broke, we were all shocked,” said Rev. Robby Olson, a local Presbyterian minister. “We are already in such a difficult time. And we cannot gather for funerals after losing these people we love… we are denied that opportunity.”

Olson was then contacted by Katie Nuñez, older adult services supervisor for the City’s Parks & Community Services department, who told him she wanted to do a virtual vigil for the Post Acute patients and their families.  Olson volunteered to start contacting other faith leaders across the county, asking if they wanted to be involved.

Nearly everyone agreed, showing up to the City Plaza in Watsonville to record their own messages in English or Spanish. The clips were edited and produced by City Manager Video Intern Remy Rodriguez and then uploaded to YouTube.

“[We] want to create ways for our community to work together in supporting each other through difficult times,” Nuñez said. “We are all affected by this virus in some way or another. We hope that the families who have lost a loved [one] find peace.”

Speakers included Olson, Pastor Jerry Saldaña of Iglesia Descubrimiento, Pastor Bobby Marchessault of Missio Dei Community, Minister’s Assistant Bill Wurtenberg of the Watsonville Buddhist Temple, Bruce Burnett of the Watsonville Islamic Center, Rev. Robin Mathews-Johnson of the Watsonville First United Methodist Church, Rev. Susan Birkelo of the Lutheran Community Church and Rabbi Paula Marcus of Temple Beth El.

“There turned out to be a nice breadth of condolences,” Olson said. “I think it was a great representation of our faith community. In times like these, not working together is counterproductive. We are all fundamentally embracing the same things… compassion and solidarity.”

To view the virtual vigil go to

Johanna Miller
Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business and agriculture.


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