The COVID numbers continue to climb and the impacts to our little burg continue to sting. A couple weeks ago Adventist Health Lodi Memorial Hospital was jam-packed, full, and there are reports that some patients were kept in the emergency room for up to two days, waiting for a bed somewhere to become available. The hospital has been understaffed recently, which means they can accommodate fewer patients. Lauren Nelson, the hospital’s publicist, said the hospital “does reach full capacity at times, which (means) patients may have received temporary care in other units, including the emergency department.” She added, “The hospital has now been able to expand capacity and is able to care for all patients.” … On the sad news front, reports that a local Save Mart worker has died of the virus have been unofficially confirmed by two store employees. Calls to the company’s public affairs manager were not returned by press time.

AMONG THE BEST: Speaking of Lodi Memorial Hospital, finally some good news. The facility was recently named one of the best maternity care hospitals in California by Newsweek magazine. Hospital spokesperson Nelson said, “We are hugely proud of this.” Memorial helps deliver over 1,000 babies a year, according to the magazine. Newsweek partnered with The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization that reports on the safety and quality performance of U.S. health care facilities, to develop the list. The facilities cited by Newsweek as the “best maternity hospitals (in) 2020 are an elite group demonstrating excellence in maternity care,” the report stated.

SAVE THE DATE: Longtime Lodian Lorraine Katzakian turns 100 on Aug. 13. Her son Reggie says they are hoping to organize a “drive-by” celebration for her, where friends can drive by and shout “happy birthday” out their car windows. Lorraine’s husband is the late Bo Katzakian, a former mayor, who died in 2009. He spent much of his life in the local real estate business as a partner in the Katzakian and Schaffer realty firm. In the 1980s he would help establish the Bank of Lodi and become its board chairman. The bank opened its first office at Ham and Tokay and would eventually be acquired by Wells Fargo.

TAKING IT OUTSIDE: While all the gyms in Lodi have either closed or converted to online classes, at least one group has taken things outside. Sierra-Tango Fitness (formerly Pure Form Fitness) moved their operations into one of the Lodi Grape Festival buildings, but when the governor ordered establishments to either close or operate outside, the company went outdoors at the Festival grounds. It reportedly didn’t make the jumping jacks or push-ups any easier, but it is at least a change of scenery. Other gyms have also provided an outdoor venue. … Speaking of scenery, there must be 50 different yard maintenance outfits in Lodi. If true, then there’s now 51 of them. Mike Smalley got fed up with working for San Joaquin County, so he opened his own Small’s Lawn Care business, doing mowing, blowing, edging, trimming. Customers say he does a great job. … Retired local businessman Mike Locke has put his power tools and spare time to work by hand-making wooden American flags, which he sells out of his home. He also makes ones with the blue line for police and a red line for firefighters. They sell for $75-95. They’ve become quite popular. … The Lakehouse project at Turner and Lower Sac is still kicking. The city and Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) have “for the most part” agreed that the completed noise study is acceptable and noise from the power plant next door can be successfully mitigated, according to project architect John Vierra. He and the property owner will seek city approvals sometime early next year, he says. The development will include a hotel, restaurant, apartments, retail and more. It will be a blockbuster development, if it happens.

WATER WORRIES: Efforts to compel the state to clean up portions of the Mokelumne River that snake through Lodi have reached a new milestone. “We just passed the 90-day notice period and we can now file a complaint in federal court!” an excited Amanda Lee writes. She bills herself and her supporters as “stewards of the Mokelumne River.” She says, “Our attorney is finalizing the complaint and plans to file (it) on Monday and serve Caltrans by the end of next week.” The movement began after Lee continued to see the “horrifying environmental impact of homeless encampments on the Mokelumne River.” Efforts to prod Caltrans into keeping the riverbanks clear of the homeless have been fruitless, she says. Lee started a GoFundMe page months ago to raise cash to pay for the legal action. She has raised $2,500 thus far.

SIGNS OF LOVE: Did you see that traffic sign on northbound Highway 99, right around the Lodi Toyota dealership? Stan Helmle did. The flashing sign apparently got hacked, and for a while it said, “I LOVE YOU SERINA. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.” It didn’t last long before some party-pooper changed it back to saying there’s slow traffic ahead.

HONOR IN THE COURT: Debbie Lehr-Lee is sitting in Superior Court in Stockton, waiting to see if she’ll be selected to serve on a jury. Judge Seth Hoyt says to the potential jurors that this is only his fourth jury case since March, and that the court is avoiding as many as possible. However, some trials are still necessary due to the seriousness of charges. Hoyt went on to ask everyone in his courtroom to serve in “honor our military who gave (their) all for our rights.” Debbie, who has a son in the armed forces, says, “As you can imagine, he had me at ‘honor our military.’”

CLEAN SLATE: The old Faith Community Church building on Kettleman Lane, east of Target, has been demolished and the property scraped clean. The church moved several years ago into the property along Highway 99 and the Mokelumne River, which was formerly known as Calvary Bible Church. Sutter Health owns the lot on Kettleman but plans for it are yet unknown. Repeated attempts to get information from the city’s community development department have been unsuccessful. No worries! Councilwoman Joanne Mounce to the rescue. She said Sutter hasn’t submitted any plans or requests for the property yet. Have we mentioned that Mounce is up for re-election this year?

LIGHTS OUT: There was no need to adjust your set on Sunday if you noticed Channel 3 was off the air. It wouldn’t have helped. A power surge knocked all of the station’s digital signals off the air for a while, according to a station source. Reception resumed later in the day.


Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at

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