A Southwest Airlines 737-800 in Honolulu after a validation flight in 2019. Courtesy Southwest

By Tom York

Airline travel appears to be staging a slow recovery as the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on. Case in point: Southwest Airlines is now offering a daily flight to and from Hawaii from San Diego International Airport, a new route that should help the many residents in the region connected to the Navy. The service started Nov. 4.

“There has always been high demand for leisure travel to both San Diego and Honolulu, and with a military presence in each city, a desire to visit friends and family,” said Kimberly Becker, airport president and CEO. “We appreciate Southwest’s continued investment in our city as they add Hawaii to their expanding list of nonstop markets from San Diego.”

Keep in mind the rules for flying have changed in the era of the coronavirus, especially if those headed to Hawaii. They should review the state’s travel policy that includes a pre-travel testing program, a mandatory Hawaii state travel and health form and a health screening. Travelers are also asked to review and follow Southwest’s COVID-19 travel recommendations and procedures.

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Booming biotech. In case you haven’t heard, a couple of big deals were recently announced in the local biotech sector. A subsidiary of pharma giant Merck said it would acquire privately held San Diego-based startup VelosBio for $2.75 billion in cash. VelosBio’s lead investigational candidate is VLS-101, an antibody drug conjugate currently in early clinical trials for treatment of hematologic malignancies and solid tumors. Meanwhile, San Diego-based Ambrx, developing cancer treatments using genetics, announced the closing of an eye-popping $200 million funding round. New investors include some of the big names in venture investing, including Fidelity, BlackRock, Cormorant Asset Management, HBM Healthcare Investments, Invus, Adage Capital Partners and Suvretta Capital Management.

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The Holiday Bowl organization announced it will hold a blood drive and food drive Nov. 19 at the Grossmont Center (West Court next to Chuze Fitness). The event, sponsored by health care provider Kaiser Permanente, will benefit the San Diego Blood Bank and the San Diego Food Bank. Those Interested in participating in the blood drive need to pre-register, as the bank is following COVID-19 guidelines. Food drive participants don’t need to make an appointment…and donations can also be made Nov. 12-29. Due to fallout from the coronavirus and resultant pandemic, officials have decided not to play the 43rd annual game in December. But the nonprofit would love to have everyone’s participation in both drives to benefit two of the region’s important nonprofit services.

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The San Diego area is well represented when it comes to women in the building trades, according to a recent report. Among the top 20 U.S. cities, the region has the 11th highest percentage of women employed in that industry. More than 13% of the region’s construction workers are now women. This is according to a nationwide report first published in the San Diego Metropolitan. Minneapolis tops a list of the top 20 U.S. cities when it comes to the percentage of women in the building trades. They represent 19% of the workforce there. Among smaller cities in the U.S., Oceanside ranked No. 7 on a list of 15. The percentage of women workers in that north country metropolis was 22% compared to No. 1 Tallahassee, Florida, where more than 30 percent of construction workforce consists of women.

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The availability of COVID-19 testing continues to expand. Local disease testing franchise ARCpoint Labs North San Diego has added two molecular tests to its services aimed at assisting businesses and consumers. The new tests allow for better testing of people at various stages of coronavirus infection, said Jennifer Sandberg, owner of the ARCpoint Labs franchise.

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Sycuan Casino Resort’s highly rated Bull and Bourbon steakhouse reopens Nov. 11, close to eleven months after closing due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A casino spokeswoman says casino eatery reopens with an expanded menu, including a 36-oz. ribeye and 22-oz. porterhouse. Every Wednesday night, the restaurant will offer a $29 “surf and turf” special, which includes filet mignon and lobster. Live music is featured Friday and Saturday nights.

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Finally. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an event in which I am involved as a hobbyist in working with wood. Santa’s many elves at the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association will present their Annual Holiday Gift Show Friday and Saturday Nov. 20-21 at the member shop at 5360 Eastgate Mall. The shop’s many machines and workspaces have been transformed into a “Winter Wonderland,” featuring high-quality, hand-made wooden treasures such as boxes, bowls and cutting boards, not to mention many heirloom wood toys. Because of the pandemic, social distancing guidelines will be strictly observed for the health and safety of everyone participating. Wanna go? Check out the website at SDFWA.org for details.

Tom York is a Carlsbad-based independent journalist who specializes in writing about business and the economy. If you have news tips you’d like to share, send them to tom.york@gmail.com.