Adam McKaig, Realtor and Summerland/Toro Canyon resident, decided to ask friends and neighbors to join him in an effort to help out our neighbors. “Adam’s Angels” now consists of some 40 volunteer citizens who have signed up in the Summerland area and beyond to help deliver supplies to those who are housebound due to COVID-19 quarantines. Adam’s idea grew organically via Facebook and Nextdoor, which is where I discovered this great free service.
All of the deliveries and supplies come free of charge, Adam said. He is getting up early (5 am) to do his real estate work, then hitting the streets. Adam had just completed a morning run to CVS to fill a prescription for a person in need in Santa Barbara when we spoke on rainy Monday while he was driving around Ventura and Oxnard for supplies.
“I am a kind of General,” Adam told me as he shopped for face masks, Clorox wipes, rubber gloves, as well as water, Gatorade, and even candy from Aldi (“a European Trader Joe’s, ya gotta have sweets!” he declared). Other stops included Grocery Outlet, the 99 Cents Store, and WinCo.
“There are people with trucks and trailers if there’s a need – it’s really been a great response and it makes me feel honored to live amongst these wonderful people,” said the Douglas Elliman Realtor. He noted that although their office is closed, escrows are still going on and he’s showing houses. (Not to mention it may be a good time to buy real estate with zero percent interest rates.)
Summerland based General Contractor Jed Hirsch has also signed on as an angel, but there are many angels throughout town on call to deliver throughout Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria.
People can volunteer to be an angel via Adam’s Facebook page or call him directly at (805) 452-6884 for assistance.
Hip, hip hooray! General McKaig and his angels on their way!
Through Rain, and Wind, and COVID-19
Since Summerland does not have mail delivery to homes, the Summerland Post Office 93067 has been the unofficial heartbeat and spot to bump into your neighbors. Not much bumping allowed anymore, unless it’s your elbow. Here too, where everyone knows one another, neighbors are helping neighbors. Postal clerk Bert Vega knows everyone as well and says she’s happy to do her small part for those who are housebound or in need. In addition to wiping down the counters, front door handles, the credit card machine, and counter often and providing hand sanitizer, Bert says that if someone really needs their mail or a package and can’t get to their P.O. Box (if she knows them as well as the person offering to help them) she will aid in assuring mail reaches the community.
“We’re just working,” she noted, as she rushed off the phone to help a customer, noting, “People are not getting close to one another. If someone really needs their mail or package, I let neighbors help each other.”
Message Machines On… & One, Lone To-Go
I called a few businesses in Summerland to speak with a human being but got a lot of recordings. Field + Fort has “temporarily closed until it’s safe for staff and community. We hope you all stay healthy,” notes their outgoing message. The brief message at the Nugget sounded: “We are closed until further notice, please keep your families safe and healthy.”
But I got a live person when I called Tinker’s Burgers! Tinker was cooking when I called and his helper Gray told me it’s been dead the past two days, but on Monday people were calling in orders and that they were the only place in town open for food.
They’ve taken precautionary measures and missives from the health department – all lids and condiments are kept in the back; tables are six feet apart and they are wearing gloves. In the event Tinker’s has to close seating they plan to offer “take out through a window.”
Despite a leaky roof, Tinker, who has been in business for 33 years, is working all the shifts with one helper and was in good spirits.
“We were always open – in fires, floods, and earthquakes! We don’t close for anybody – except the health department!”
Tinker’s daughter Megan owns the Red Kettle coffee shop next door and her pop noted that she’s still serving up cappuccinos and muffins.
Heal the Ocean
A note from longtime Summerlandian Hilary Hauser of Heal the Ocean informs that their offices in Santa Barbara are closed, but that the leaking Summerland oil wells are still being capped in June/July.
“The fishes of the sea don’t know what we humans are doing up here,” Hilary notes in her inimitable cheerful style in times of woe.
A Final Note
A sad goodbye to Layla Azar, who passed peaceful on February 9, and heartfelt condolences to her sweet husband of 37 years Jack Azar, Sr. and their three children Jack, Jr., George, and Danielle. Jack’s father owned the original grocery store in Summerland. After Layla came to this country from her native Lebanon and married Jack, she spent her entire adult life in Summerland, raising their lovely children, doing her beautiful needlework, and becoming a proud U.S. citizen.
Rest in peace, dear friend and neighbor of many years.
Nearly three years after the Whittier Fire ravaged 47 out of 50 structures on the campus of Rancho Alegre, rebuilding is underway, thanks to the financial support of dozens of individuals and companies, many of whom are Montecito residents. The 50-year-old camp, which is located off the San Marcos Pass, had served 10,000 students and their families each year. In addition to hosting camps for the Los Padres Boy Scouts, church retreats, and community gatherings, Rancho Alegre was the site of The Outdoor School, serving school districts in Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo County, Ventura County, and beyond.
Ken Miles, Development Director for the Boy Scouts of America Los Padres Council, gave us a tour of the property last week. The Whittier Fire of July 2017 destroyed 215 acres of wooded camp including 47 of the camps 50 structures; the dining hall and cafeteria, one dorm, and one cabin were spared. Since the fire, volunteers have been meeting weekly, determined to rebuild. Debris has been cleared, plans have been made, and construction has begun, as evidenced last week.
Trey Pinner, property owner on Coast Village Road and president of the Los Padres Council, took over the presidency following the fire, although he has been involved with the scouting program for the last 18 years. “We see this rebuilding as an opportunity to take the camp and Outdoor School program to a significantly new level,” Pinner said. “The facilities that we are building are significantly improved and will have greater longevity than the buildings that were lost.”
The Outdoor School, which is a program of the BSA Los Padres Council, is a unique overnight environmental education program and one of the driving factors behind the push to rebuild Rancho Alegre. In this outdoor learning environment, fifth and sixth graders explore beyond classroom walls and are immersed in hands-on outdoor environmental educational activities, hiking and exploring nature, opening doors to self-discovery, learning new skills and forging friendships that last a lifetime. Camp counselors and naturalists who run the camp often go on to careers in geology, biology, and science, inspired by their time at camp.
Rebuilding costs for Phase 1 of the project are estimated at $17.5 million, with $9 million coming from insurance coverage. Because the infrastructure was outdated, much of the insurance money is being used to rebuild the water and sewage system, as well as a solar system to provide electricity. “We are now reaching out to the community to bridge the gap and ensure local schoolchildren will again have this opportunity to experience the outdoors at this unique local camp,” Miles said.
With the goal of opening in October 2020, crews have already made progress on buildings to house full time residents including the camp ranger, camp director, and chef. Four dorm buildings are also currently under construction, which will house up to 150 students and chaperones at a time. Housing for seasonal staff, which includes camp counselors, naturalists, nutritionists, and nurses, are also planned, with foundations poured and ready to build upon. All buildings are being built with foam core walls, concrete siding, and metal roofs, making them extremely fire resistant. “They are designed to be rented out to families during the summer, as an additional revenue source,” Miles said. Other infrastructure in the works include outhouses and campsites, a ropes course that can be utilized for emergency training purposes, and eventually a lodge, which will be built in the second phase of the project. The pool, which survived the fire, is being rehabilitated.
“We’re not asking people for money, we’re giving them the opportunity to do something good for somebody else,” Pinner said, adding that there have been significant donations from over two dozen entities and individuals, including the Berti Family and Jurkowitz Family, who are the largest contributors. “We hope that, once built, this facility will be the premier outdoor school facility for our community and beyond, and that potential donors can see the importance of this project,” Pinner said.
For more information on the Capital Campaign visit www.lpcbsa.org/rancho-alegre-reconstruction/ or call Ken for information and a personal tour at 805-835-9456.
Donors’ names will be placed on the Wall of Gratitude at the camp, and there are multiple naming opportunities. “When you match a donor’s passion to the right cause, it can be life changing,” Miles said. “People really can make a difference.”
Let’s get real – what do you need to know now? Talking COVID-19, the pandemic, local life, and help. We had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, the Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine specialist at Cottage Hospital, whose Cottage Grand Rounds Doctor to Doctor video has gone viral locally. Dr. Fitzgibbons and the video are remarkable. Watch it and you’ll come away with a greater understanding of the mechanisms of the disease and the situation we find ourselves from a highly respected local expert at our own Cottage Hospital that cuts through the clutter of the news and social media. The video is available at the Cottage Hospital Website: https://www.cottagehealth.org/covid-19-video/
Dr. Fitzgibbons’ video is an up-to-the-minute analysis that covers everything from the biology of the coronavirus micro-organism to China’s protocols for diagnosis and how the Ebola Crisis informs our current situation, as well as the crucial role hospitals will play. Most importantly she’s in the very thick of what we are likely to see in Santa Barbara, all while somehow managing to keep her sense of optimism, humor, and remarkable calm.
Q: Where are we now?
Dr. Fitzgibbons: We’re seeing an encouraging increase in testing locally, particularly over the last five to seven days. We now know that there are at least one to two patients with this infection in Santa Barbara County. We, the infectious disease physicians, really feel that it’s likely circulating in our community. We are reassured that there has been an increase in testing, although not to the point we would desire. The most reassuring aspect of the local situation today is that inside the hospital we are not yet seeing an explosion or even much of an increase in patients admitted with unusual pneumonia, respiratory failure, or other severe viral syndromes.
Unfortunately, with the pandemic and its evolution elsewhere, we have seen significant public concern, which is very understandable, but this has led to a stress on our emergency services. Our emergency room is working incredibly hard to take care of as many patients as they possibly can, but they’re encouraging people who are not in need of urgent emergency care to start with their primary care provider.
We’ve all heard there are no tests. So where are these testing options coming from?
Our regional public health labs have been very helpful in getting tests for our highest priority cases. However, the volume needed to really test the community at large has led to the use of commercial labs whereby samples are sent to different parts of the state or even different parts of the country with a turnaround time of perhaps four to six days. Even the commercial labs are struggling with huge volumes from around the country so turnaround could increase or stay stable. Many local clinics, including Sansum Clinic and the Neighborhood Clinics have partnered to improve outpatient testing options just this week as well.
So it sounds like, it’s not good enough, but better, in terms of testing and the log jam may be starting to break?
I would very much want to reassure our community that inside the hospital, testing is not a problem. We are getting tests for the patients who need tests. The biggest testing challenge is really for patients who are unwell and at home and understandably very much want an answer. One week ago, we had far more scarcity of testing for our community. Today we have far more tests. I’m optimistic that if we reevaluate this in one week or two weeks the story will be very different again.
Is there a message you want the community at large to know?
I most passionately want people to understand that the dramatic measures we’re taking with social distancing, with closures, postponements and turning people’s lives upside down, are being made to try to “flatten the curve” and to slow down the epidemic. When people hear that schools are closing it strikes fear in the heart of many parents. My feeling is actually the opposite. This is not a disease that we think significantly affects children, but we know that closing schools is a great way to decrease the spread of a disease. It’s not about the kids, it’s about the community’s health.
You had a line in the Cottage video: “We’ve only tested the snowflake on the tip of the iceberg.” The iceberg metaphor and visual was brilliant. Is there another analogy that’s helpful? We’ve heard people say it’s like World War II except we’re on the front lines. Do you have any other analogies, that help everyday people think about this?
The other one I’ve heard is that “it’s hard to address the infestation of the rats in the basement if you don’t turn the lights on in the basement and go downstairs.” I prefer to think of the snowflake on the top of the iceberg.
Is that because a big piece of that iceberg, the part we can’t see, is really people who are asymptomatic?
That’s exactly right and that’s probably because of the younger population and those who are less medically complex. If we’re only testing the snowflake or perhaps this week, we’re now testing the snowball on the tip of the iceberg, we don’t yet know the size of the epidemic. The vast majority of our population are going to get through this. Maybe half of all people who carry this virus don’t have symptoms. Eighty percent or more of people who fall ill have a mild upper respiratory infection. You have to remember that the reason we’re doing these efforts that upend our lives is for the good of our public health and that of our community.
How’s it going in terms of in the hospital infection, the nurses, the staff, and the doctors?
Hospital workers are perhaps our most precious resource in all of this. Cottage is working around the clock to improve our systems, to prepare in anticipation that this is going to affect our communities. In Santa Barbara we’re fortunate that at this point we’re not yet seeing a big increase in respiratory illness for our admitted patients. That said it changes every day. Every hour. There is some fear amongst healthcare workers about potentially being exposed, but we’re in a far better position than the core physicians and healthcare workers in China or in Italy. We have had time to plan and to get our systems in place to protect our healthcare workers. I think, some degree of anxiety is understandable.
There’s a lot of negative and even euphoric news in the social media world that seems unrealistic. What do you think about the future? Will things go back to normal. Does it run its course?
Well, one of the challenges of the concept of “flattening the curve” is thinking ahead to how long we are talking. We know that our healthcare systems are going to be better off if we see a trickle of patients, as opposed to a surge of patients. But one of the interesting questions I was asked this week was, is there a point at which, this really takes too long to come through in a way that doesn’t disrupt our lives for months and months or longer? What we don’t know about the virus itself is how it’s going to behave in our human population in the long term. Is it going to be an epidemic that comes through and moves on, that we developed some immunity to as a population? Or is there some seasonality to this? Is it going to mutate and change in such a way that we’re at risk down the road? These are unanswered questions.
One big takeaway watching your video the importance of hospitals. Why are hospitals so important? Why are hospitals a line of defense?
Well unfortunately some percentage of patients are falling so sick so quickly that they would not survive outside of the hospital, that they need care that can only be delivered in a hospital and often only in an ICU to save their life. While the percentage may not be very high, the number of patients may be very high.
So, because there is no cure, no vaccine, and limited therapeutic options, it seems funny and obvious to say that comes down to that good old four-letter word, “care.”
I’ve spoken about Ebola in the video. That was another viral epidemic for which there was no known treatment. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the mortality rate was 90%. Nine out of every 10 people died. While in Western Europe and the United States, we had a total of 27 patients during that epidemic and only 18% of the patients who fell ill died. Now that’s still a tragedy. That’s still horrendous but the difference there between 18% in our healthcare system compared to 90% in the developing world is almost entirely because these patients had access to excellent hospital clinical care.
Which means they’re in a bed, in a controlled environment?
They’re getting IV fluids. If they need oxygen, they get oxygen. If they can’t breathe there’s a machine to help support their lungs. If they go into shock, they get medicines to help. If they get another infection on top, like a bacterial infection, they get antibiotics. These life saving measures make all the difference. This is all of the care that we provide in our healthcare system. That’s why hospitals are so important.
Then how do we support our hospitals and our healthcare workers?
Great question. We start by asking, what do people need?During this really unprecedented set of events that we’re living through, I think pausing and asking our neighbors, asking our nursing friends, what do you need? I think being thoughtful and careful, but really asking, asking around the community, where is the need this week? And being ready for that to change next week because this is a very, very fluid situation.
What about literally donating to hospitals? Contributions, masks, or these other items that we’ve heard nurses and doctors don’t have?
There’s certainly a need everywhere for PPE, personal protective equipment, but I think reaching out to organizations for what their needs are is definitely the place to start.
For Cottage Hospital there is a weblink https://www.cottagehealth.org/donate/.
That’s right, but there’s another thing I think will help. You know the Montecito Journal may have a readership with some large percentage older than the age of 65. And we’re asking people to do this social kind of isolation and self-quarantine. This can be very, very hard on people. The younger population has grown up with electronics and devices and really have a very different type of social connection from those who are over 65. So, I think there’s a really big opportunity for our seniors to lean in with their electronics and stay better connected to friends and loved ones. Simple things like FaceTiming, but there’s so many platforms that people can be connected to one another.
Perhaps it’s even about time that younger people help older people figure out how to use those devices and stay socially connected. Hopefully some youth organization might organize that. Well I hope we can stay in touch for updates as the situation changes.
If you’ve ever had breakfast or lunch at the Montecito Coffee Shop – it’s the restaurant next to the San Ysidro Pharmacy at the intersection of East Valley and San Ysidro roads – then you may have been waited on by a petite and unassuming woman who seems to know her way around the establishment. As it happens, Debbie Ousey, the waitress in question, is also the owner of the coffee shop and has been for the past 17 years. Before that, Ousey worked at the restaurant for 19 years as a waitress, so some habits just die hard.
With over a week of wet weather, Montecito debris basins, ring nets, and creek channels held up extremely well, according to Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor, who gave us an update on the weather earlier this week.
Crews from County Flood Control and Public Works were in Montecito Tuesday morning, assessing the impact of the heaviest day of the storm, which was on Monday, March 16. It was determined that the weather event produced 8.84 inches over a seven-day period; a “saturation event,” which could potentially trigger an evacuation if other conditions are met, is determined to be 10 inches over a seven-day period. If a saturation event occurs, the nets and debris basins are filled, and creek channels are clogged, and another rain event is forecasted with high intensity rainfall, an evacuation order may be put into effect. “This was a very significant storm, and while the water shed is reaching saturation and we are seeing a lot of runoff, we are seeing less debris than in previous years, which is great news,” Chief Taylor said.