Tahoe man bakes bread to support nonprofits

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — During quarantine, people were trying their luck at new hobbies and crafts. South Tahoe’s Sebastiani Romagnolo was one of those people trying his hand at the complex process of sourdough, and the traditional way with a sticky living, growing starter.

Romagnolo was born and raised in South Lake Tahoe and after graduating high school in 2007, he moved to New York City to pursue his passion for theater while working as a sous-chef until the pandemic hit. Romagnolo moved back home with his parents in December.

While the region was locked in the stay at home order, Romagnolo decided to try again learning the process of sourdough, which he had always wanted to and had practiced before, but couldn’t seem to quite grasp.

“The pandemic gave me an opportunity to finally pursue sourdough bread again,” he said.

Then something clicked and after mastering the bake, Romagnolo got obsessed.

Romagnolo was been baking sourdough bread in efforts to give back to the community.

He was baking tons of bread and the amount was overwhelming.

“My parents started saying that no one should have this amount of bread in their home,” he laughed. “Then I thought, well this is a no-brainer, I am going to turn this into a mutual aid project.”

Back in New York City, Romagnolo saw the devastation and hurt that the pandemic caused. He said that nearly everyone he knew was out of work and he knows what it is like to have to rely on outside support.

He said that many did not have the privilege of support during this time. Even to get into a grocery store, it was a two hour wait during the heat of the pandemic.

Once back at the lake, Romagnolo started connecting with other organizations around town to see how he could help. He decided that all proceeds he received by selling his bread would go to support local organizations who are helping families in the community.

“It’s a great way to provide additional relief to families during this time,” he said.

While he has minimum suggestions, the bread is sold on a donation-based scale.

“Every cent that doesn’t go to the cost of supplies, goes to support the organizations.”

Romagnolo bakes and delivers to all of South Lake Tahoe. Provided

Customers can donate, choose their loaf online, pick an organization to receive the donation and Romagnolo delivers the loaf.

“I love to deliver the bread and talk with folks in the community,” he said.

Sebastiani Romagnolo. Provided

Romagnolo finished his second delivery this week and raised $991 for local charities which he says equates to about 620 meals. Not only is he happy to donate funds but he is glad to create an opportunity for people in the community to learn more about these organizations.

The five organizations he has listed are Bread & Broth, Tahoe Magic, The Food Pantry at Lake Tahoe Community College, South Lake Tahoe Family Resource Center and Tahoe Miracle Fund.

When he started, Romagnolo expected he’d get about eight orders, but just last week he received over 30 orders and since baking he’s made about 68 loafs. One family even ordered 10 at once to deliver to their church.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to give back to the community,” he said. “I am in awe of the amount of support we’ve had.”

Romagnolo currently works as a contact tracer for California.

“I talk to people everyday that are having an incredibly hard time,” he said. “To be able to have a chance to connect back to Lake Tahoe and step back into the lineage of service feels great.”

Romagnolo grew up volunteering at local organizations and his father was one of the pioneers to start South Lake Tahoe Tahoe Family Resource Center.

For more information or to order a sourdough loaf visit www.uprisebread.com or email uprisebread@gmail.com.

Romagnolo recommends those interested to check the website on Monday with an updated delivery date. He takes orders until the following Thursday or until he hit’s max capacity. He is currently operating on a two week cycle.

Vaccine eligibility widens in local counties

This past week El Dorado County COVID-19 cases have stayed below 20 new cases each day.

Over the last weekend the county saw 19 new cases, however only three were in South Lake Tahoe area.

The county’s positivity rate has remained the same throughout the week at 2.7%, but the health equity quartile positivity rate dropped down to 2.5%.

Both of these metrics fall within the metric of the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, except the adjusted case rate which is still in the red metric at 4.7.

El Dorado County continues to remain in the red tier which means indoor dining is allowed at 25% capacity, gyms are allowed to operate at 10% capacity, and retailers are open at 50% capacity.

“We’re not sure when we might move forward in tiers, but we are going in the right direction to get us there,” said Carla Hass, El Dorado County communications director in an email.

Hass said that because we have to achieve the rate for two consecutive weeks before moving, it could be a possibility in the next couple weeks if numbers stay as they are.

For more information about what it means for the county to be in the red tier go online to covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy.

There were no new deaths reported Wednesday, but on Tuesday there were two, one in the Greater Placerville area and one in Cameron Park. The county has had 107 residents succumb to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Currently, there are two hospitalizations with no COVID patients in intensive care.

More El Dorado County residents are becoming eligible for the vaccine. On Monday, the county announced another group of people will be eligible for the vaccine which now includes high-risk individuals who are between the ages of 16-64, transit workers and those who are homeless.

While eligibility continues to open, appointments are still based on vaccine supply.

The upcoming vaccine clinic on Sunday and Monday in South Lake Tahoe is already completely booked, but Hass said they are planning more in the upcoming weeks.

To be notified when your phase is eligible and when an appointment is available, sign up for an alert at myturn.ca.gov.

For more information about the vaccine or phases, visit edcgov.us.

There are a total of 55,795 Californians who have died from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. The state has 3,002 COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized with 778 in the ICU. Over 3.5 million Californians have tested positive for the virus.


Washoe County

On Wednesday, Washoe County announced 13 additional confirmed cases of the UK variant. The first confirmed case was linked to a large gathering and was confirmed on March 12.

The other cases of the variant have been linked to close contact with an infectious case while traveling, a cluster from a youth sports club, and another cluster had attended school while infectious.

“It [the variant] is a concern because it is more transmissible and deadly,” Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick said during during a press conference on Thursday. “It is not a surprise that it is here. The vaccines available do appear to be quite effective against this variant.”

Dick urges residents to remain careful to prevent a surge and more closures.

Washoe county continues to see new cases hover around 40 new cases everyday. On Wednesday, the county reported 34 new cases and one additional death.

The county also remains at a 5% test positivity rate. Dick said that the county remains in a strong plateau and new cases along with test positivity rate, but neither seem to be heading down which he referred to as a “steady state.”

Currently, 58% of staffed hospital beds are occupied which is down 11% from last week. About 35% of all intensive care unit beds are in use which is also down from last week. There are nine individuals in the ICU.

“We would like to remind everyone that we are still in the middle of the pandemic,” said Washoe County Health District and COVID-19 Response Operations Team Member James English. “We do not want to go backwards.”

Despite the plateua, per the Governor’s Roadmap to Reopening, Washoe County businesses saw restrictions loosen as capacity limits increased on Monday.

The following were all allowed to increase capacity to 50% or 250 individuals (whichever comes sooner):

-food and beverage establishments including restaurants, bars, pubs, wineries distilleries and breweries

-libraries, museums, art galleries, aquariums and zoos

-retail stores and indoor malls

-medicinal and recreational cannabis establishments

-recreational centers

-places of worship

-gyms and fitness studios

-gaming floors

-arcades, racetracks, amusement and theme parks

Washoe County has administered 160, 282 vaccines as of Wednesday. A bit over 13% of the entire counties population is now fully vaccinated.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak also announced two vaccine updates on Wednesday. Starting March 22, all Nevadans aged 16 and older with underlying health conditions including cancer, diabetes and lung diseases, among many others will be eligible for the vaccine through the Retail Pharmacy Program.

Starting on April 5, every Nevadan aged 16 and older will be eligible to schedule vaccination appointments statewide. English said that the county will continue to place an emphasis on seniors even with the opening of eligibility.

The county health district is also working with local cities and jurisdictions to implement a plan that will be communicated to the county in April for when the transition to local government authority is planned to take place in May.

In Incline Village, 426 total cases have been reported and 43 remain active. Crystal Bay has no active cases.

Quad County

Douglas County reported four additional cases on Wednesday. There are no residents in the ICU, but there are five COVID-19 hospitalizations and has had 33 cumulative COVID-19 related deaths in the county.

Carson City has had no new deaths this week. In total 116 Carson City residents have succumbed to the virus.Carson City has 2 patients in the ICU and there are six COVID-19 hospitalizations.

There are a total of 5,157 Nevadans who have died from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.The state has 331 residents hospitalized with 77 in the ICU.



Pair of Tahoe veterans recognized for service, Women’s History Month


SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Two Tahoe women business owners and veterans in Lake Tahoe were recognized last week with medals presented by recently appointed District 5 Commissioner for Veterans Affairs in El Dorado County Dan Browne.

In honor of March being Women’s History Month, Browne met with two locals — Lisa Utzig Schafer and Claudia Zepeda — to award them with medals.

Claudia Zepeda (left), Dan Browne (middle) and Lisa Utzig Schafer (left).

Lisa Utzig Schafer grew up in South Lake Tahoe and served in the US Army after graduating from South Tahoe High.

“When I got in, something clicked,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t fail and I kicked butt.”

Schafer served in the army from 1996 to 2000 in the 210th Forward Support Battalion for the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, New York City.

Lisa Utzig Schafer served in the army from 1996 to 2000.

Schafer also did a tour in Bosnia where she was on guard duty with live rounds.

“To go to a country devastated by war, it was moving,” she said. “Not many people get to see what war can do to a county. I grew a lot as a person those four years.”

When Schafer returned, she received her Spanish degree from Lake Tahoe Community College and went on to receive her art degree from Humboldt State.

“It is cool being a woman veteran, when people find out, they are inspired,” she said. “There is already a Tahoe tribe, but its another level of camaraderie [with veterans].”

Schafer now owns Wildwood Makers Market in South Lake Tahoe and is also the El Dorado County program coordinator for the Suicide Prevention Network.

Lisa Utzig Schafer (far right) went straight into the army after high school.

Claudia Zepeda was also recognized by Browne. Zepeda served in the US Navy in aviation administration from 1995 to 2000 after graduating from South Tahoe High.

Claudia Zepeda was stationed in Florida during her time in the Navy.

Zepeda was stationed in Jacksonville, Florida while she served.

“This [ recognition] has allowed me to connect with other veterans in the community,” she said. “It’s really humbling. There are a lot of people in the community who didn’t know I served.”

Zepada and her family have owned Jalisco’s Taqueria in South Lake Tahoe for about 30 years.