It Takes a Village to Save a Village

by MJ Staff

www.montecitocashmob.com

In response to the economic crisis related to the Covid-19 pandemic, Montecito Journal, with help from the 93108Fund, the Coast Village Association and the Montecito Association, present Montecito’s May Day Virtual Cash Mob on Friday, May 1st, through Sunday, May 3rd. 

Help bring economic relief to your favorite restaurant, boutique, gallery, and shop along Coast Village Road and in the Upper Village of Montecito. By purchasing a gift card from one or more of these local merchants, we can help ensure that our local businesses stay in business, until their doors can reopen and once again serve our community. 

The celebratory spending weekend will culminate with a Montecito Community Zoom Happy Hour at 7 pm on Sunday, May 3rd, and if you spend $500 or more, your name will be entered into a raffle to win prizes from your favorite local merchants. Expect to see some local celebrities at the virtual happy hour who, along with the rest of us, are stepping up to help breathe energy into our local economy. Winners must be present on the Zoom call to win. 

To participate, please visit www.93108Fund.org or www.montecitocashmob.com beginning TODAY where you will find a list of over 140 participating merchants; it will be an easy process to choose your gift cards and check out, all in one central place. Monies received will go directly to the business owners, who will contact you and issue your gift card. 

What Will it Take

Santa Barbara’s Dire Pre-Existing Conditions and COVID-19

by Mitchell Kriegman

 “Put it this way, the glass is more than half empty. Let’s just throw the glass out the window. Let’s forget it. There’s distrust. There’s disdain. That kind of baggage,” Jason Harris admitted. He’s Santa Barbara’s newly hired, first ever, Economic Development Manager (EDM). He’s moving his family from Santa Monica to Thousand Oaks, not quite within Santa Barbara city limits, but at least within the 805. He was offering a frank assessment of the relationship between the City Administration and city-wide businesses.

Mr. Harris is defining the state of Santa Barbara’s “pre-existing economic conditions” leading into the coronavirus pandemic; the city’s chronic vulnerability, its broken government relationship with what are commonly called “stakeholders,” that’s all of us who work for, or own a business.

With shelter in place mandated and the wholesale closing of businesses and services that is the massive social distancing response to the pandemic, the coronavirus threatens to replicate itself into an economic disaster that could amplify the functional deficits of our citywide economy and plunge Santa Barbara into a hotspot of economic pain.

Tourism, one of Santa Barbara’s biggest assets, is also its biggest weakness in the time of pandemic. Innovations and problem solving will be required to reopen Santa Barbara tourism. It won’t be easy or quick. Projections from FEMA to McKinsey and Company predict we may lose 40% to 50% of our businesses here – restaurants, cafes, stores, hotels, not just on State Street but in all of Santa Barbara, where so many businesses were already struggling.

A widely cited FEMA statistic forecasts 40% of small businesses never come back after closing during a natural disaster and only 29% that re-open are still operating two years later. Those businesses represent jobs, people we know, ourselves. We may see parts of Santa Barbara we love disappear, but we certainly want to do everything we can to help our neighbors and our community safely to the other side.

The EDM was hired to redevelop and enrich the Downtown State Street retail environment that this newspaper wrote about extensively four weeks ago. Now he has to try to understand how to save it. He will have to move quickly to repair the City relationship with business.

“I’ve got a wall in front of me of frustrated, disgruntled property owners and questioning businesses,” Harris confesses, “In this crisis we have to change the status quo.”

Not the normal admission from a city official who was hired by and reports directly to the man who runs Santa Barbara, the longtime City Administrator Paul Casey. How will the impasse between the city and local businesses be bridged?

 The Pandemic Exposes Leadership Flaws

Sound bad? It gets worse. More than four weeks deep into quarantine with COVID infections and death tallies being issued daily by Cottage Hospital, what is the City’s plan for dealing with the disaster economically? And will they be in lock step with the medical efforts and the business community?

“The economic recovery has to be wholly dependent on the medical recovery,” State Senator Bill Monningsaid recently in a cross-county REACH Webinar. “We have to be very cautious not to expedite economic recovery that is not consistent with public health.”

We’ve all heard that testing is important for hospitals to determine which incoming patients are most in need. It can’t be emphasized enough that testing is even more essential to economic recovery. Without the data that results from testing we cannot know who may be asymptomatic, but infectious. Testing for the coronavirus antibodies allows health and government officials to track who has had the virus and who has recovered. Rampant testing, the public health term for mass testing, is the only safe avenue toward a staged reopening of the economy.

L.A. County began dispensing the antibody test on a mass scale in six sites last week and expects to ramp up. Despite whatever we may have heard on the contentious national stage, testing is an absolutely essential and critical component of recovery. It will certainly be so in the State of California regardless how the Federal Government behaves. Most counties in California are making aggressive plans to acquire and roll out mass testing. Where is Santa Barbara in this important, urgent, lifesaving, and economy enabling effort?

In nearby San Luis Obispo County, Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein has led an aggressive program of testing throughout the county.

“I have pushed very hard for us to do as much testing as possible,” Dr. Borenstein recounts. “We have pretty good geographic spread of testing across our community and we offered ourselves in Public Health to hear from any constituent who feels they have the disease and are getting roadblocks getting tested.”

What is the plan in Santa Barbara on the city level, for mapping the pandemic to move toward reopening?

Mayor Cathy Murillo has walked the streets of Santa Barbara to connect with people and businesses within the confines of social distancing. She’s a “heart on her sleeve” people person and many folks need and appreciate that. Yet pressed on a pandemic plan, she offers virtually no specifics.

“Pandemic is the purview of the County,” the Mayor responded, “specifically County Public Health, the County is the agency with medical doctors and behavioral health professionals.”

Considering that the mayor came into office on the Montecito debris flow, and that the Montecito and Santa Barbara area seems to be on a disaster-a-year schedule with drought, fires, and mudslides, one would think that the mayor and strategic minds in City Hall would have such a plan. With three once-in-200-years life-threatening calamities under their belts it would be reasonable to expect they might have protocols and task forces ready to spring into action. Who ever said the fourth time’s a charm? No one.

Assistant to the City Administrator Nina Johnson has always been the point person for emergencies. She is preternaturally calm, poised, and good humored. Unlike the rest of the City Administration, she has excellent relations with locally owned businesses.

“She’s just an extremely positive person,” remarked John DeWilde, owner of the Santa Barbara Valet and recently opened Haley Hotel. “Nina is well connected with the business community and well liked. She has a tremendous grasp of local issues.”

That said, the stakes this time are higher. A pandemic isn’t your garden variety city crisis. It’s all encompassing and in many ways her situation as spokesperson is impossible.

When asked about the City Administration’s current emergency plans, she responded in the narrowest of terms.

“We are currently looking at how we move forward with our budget for the upcoming year. We have reserves that can be used, but that can only provide for city operations through a few months.”

It’s no secret that City budgets are not immune to COVID-19. Some residents probably wish they had enough to get through a few months. But aren’t there even greater stakes than the city budget to be considered? When asked how the city would deal with business and health issues, potential testing and reopening, Ms. Johnson also deferred to the County.

“The City specifically did not plan for a pandemic. We have not planned for long-term social distancing requirements. The County is our operational area to help us with emergency planning.” Five weeks into the crisis that seems like a weak response at best.

And is there a war room or task force we can rely on?

“Within the executive management team, there is a policy group. So, it’s the city administrator, the public works director, the HR manager, and the city attorney, about twelve people.” And the mayor? “The mayor is not part of the staff team.” Note as well, there are no doctors, health experts, no businesspeople and no nonprofits on the team.

Put Santa Barbara’s situation in perspective with how San Luis Obispo is handling the crisis. Working with REACH, a service organization that covers the Central Coast region (including Santa Barbara), the city administrators of San Luis Obispo join state legislators, county health leaders, business interest groups, medical leaders, university representatives, and over 100 participants from all quadrants of SLO County for weekly emergency webinars to coordinate action and share information. When the Montecito Journal inquired, the REACH representative acknowledged that her organization would welcome working with Santa Barbara but has not been approached. Santa Barbara does not appear to be part of any similar cross disciplinary, cross county group.

Santa Barbara’s present city administrator has been in office over four years; it’s not his first rodeo. But if leadership action is being taken in the halls of City Hall, it is not being communicated.

Press releases do not leadership make. CYA (covering your a**) occurs in city leadership every bit as much as in the private sector. The public likely checks its Facebook pages more often than the pages of santabarbaraca.gov.

When leadership is elective the voters have a chance to evaluate and rethink where we are in the world and what we need in a leader. In bureaucracies that opportunity does not exist. When a city is run as a business, the city can lose sight of who they serve and why. This administration seems to view itself as just another business entity looking for rescue, rather than a leader for all of us.

In a crisis of pandemic proportions, transparency and self-sacrifice are absolutely required. The ability to take collaborative action and communicate those actions is crucial. Lives, businesses, and economic survival depend it. Will the lack of collaboration and transparency put us behind other cities in California?

The Quarantine Economy

Whether we like it or not, at the moment we’re in a Quarantine Economy. The 500 city workers let go last week included parking attendants, librarians, and graffiti removal staff. All of them were notified that when we emerge from this mess they would have to reapply.

“We cannot wait for things to get back to normal,” said Mayor Murillo, justifying the move. “In the meantime, we need to keep our wastewater treatment plant running, our law enforcement strong, people are relying on the stoplights to work and the streets to be functional.”

More city employees are likely to be let go before shelter in place is over.

When asked whether top tier managerial pay cuts were being considered, Ms. Johnson acknowledged that “she had not heard that discussion.”

In what is a perennial point of contention and several widely circulated petitions, Santa Barbara’s City Administrator Paul Casey is paid $379,428.52 in annual pay and benefits, almost double what California Governor Newsom makes. Other administration directors are paid roughly $200,000 to $300,000 or more.

Even Anna Wintour of Vogue has taken a pay cut during this crisis. Seems like pay cuts will be impossible to avoid. Highly paid executives should sacrifice at least some percentage before poorly paid workers suffer 100%.

Innovation and Change

In the silver lining playbook of the Quarantine Economy, there has been considerable innovation taking place. Community Development Director George Buell has made a fast start of moving his department forward. Within the last three weeks they have converted over a thousand plans to PDFs online and moved inspections to Google Duo and Facetime for safety. Turnaround times will be reduced, and these benefits will be retained when the quarantine is over. As applications have dropped as much as 30%, the department will hopefully catch up with their much complained about backlog.

Building is a category that could return before other sectors of the economy. Not only are inexpensive loans available for construction but many building practices can be performed safely with social distancing. Schools and many other businesses have moved online at an unbelievable pace.

Big Brand Tire on Milpas is another example. They’ve introduced “Touchless” repair. In six easy steps they’ll service and sanitize your car. It’s an example of another business not waiting for the quarantine to be lifted.

Other problem-solving innovations entail simply a return to old school. The library, for instance, could reinstitute Book Mobiles. Food trucks that the city had basically shut down two years ago could be reconstituted, giving restaurants and other food services new ways to reach their former customers.

Eventually as more restrictions are lifted through testing, outdoor dining options could be extended. Street closures could help move the restaurant business toward a new normal – allowing for more vibrant street-life including outdoor dining. The sooner the city focuses on collaborating with businesses to discover possibilities for new paradigms, the sooner city revenues will return.

The City and Business Need a Couples Counselor

Creative ideas don’t matter if the city administration doesn’t listen to business. Apparently, even in a time of crisis, the disconnect continues.

It’s important to realize that two usually mentioned “business organizations” that normally liaison with the city are largely defunct. The Chamber of Commerce has had a succession of leaders resign. Downtown Santa Barbara, the organization in charge of the now nostalgic “First Thursdays,” lost its latest executive director who resigned after only 15 months.

With no viable business organization to work through, Amy Cooper, owner of Plum Goods and a tireless advocate for Santa Barbara business, and Keith Higbee, managing partner of SGV Global, a brand strategy and innovation consultancy firm, partnered to contact the city at the very inception of the crisis.

On March 13, Ms Cooper contacted the mayor and offered to put together a group of bankers, hotel owners, and small businesses to come up with an economic task force strategy for the COVID crisis.

Though it was not widely reported, the following Friday, March 20, a team of public and private stakeholders convened a 2.5-hour virtual meeting to discuss Santa Barbara’s response to the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy with the mayor and the peripatetic Nina Johnson.

Attending the meeting was an all-star business lineup that included Sherry Villanueva of Acme Hospitality, Clare Briglio of the Economic Development Collaboration, Women’s Economic Ventures CEO Kathy Odell, Geoff Green of the SBCC Foundation, Bob Tuler of Radius Group, and others.

They discussed a broad-based agreement to establish a joint public-private economic task force, a clear recognition that the economic impact from Covid will be severe. It was discussed that issues including unemployment and underemployment of working-age residents will put the city to the test. It was agreed the task force would meet bi-weekly. The meeting was led by Mr. Higbee whose company specializes in these initiatives. The focus was on relief, return, and revitalization. City Administrator Paul Casey walked through the meeting at the very end.

The mayor endorsed the proposal and it was dubbed “The Mayor’s COVID Economic Task Force Plan.” It was even presented to City Council by Nina Johnson the following Tuesday, March 20. The entire project had the moderate price tag of $15,000 to provide an honorarium for participants to ensure attendance when, naturally, each of these owners have other urgent obligations. Mr. Higbee was included to allow his firm to support the effort.

Guiding documents were made and submitted, yet by March 24 their calls were unanswered. When the Montecito Journal inquired with the Mayor and Ms Johnson about the plan, the mayor didn’t seem to recall, and Ms Johnson said the plan was dropped because it was too expensive.

Given the salaries of City executives, it seems like a few strategic paycheck cuts would more than fund the initiative and go a long way toward building bridges with the business community.

Which brings us back to the newly arrived EDM Jason Harris. He remarked to the Journal, “There’s great frustration that there hasn’t been an internal advocate for property owners and businesses in the city organization.”

Does he consider himself that advocate?

“Most definitely,” he replied.

Perhaps he should start by reaching out to the stellar task force that was gathered on March 20 in the mayor’s office and ask them what to do next.

It’s Time For Us To Think About How To Move Forward.

By Sharon Byrne, Executive Director, Montecito Association

As we reported last night, the United States has given guidance on opening up. I sent you screen shots, but have obtained the full presentation. It’s here.

Open it up, because this next bit requires us to look at 2 sets of guidance, and start figuring out how we’re going to respond as a community.

Governor’s guidance on lifting stay-at-home order:

  • The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed;
  • The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19;
  • The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges;
  • The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand;
  • The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and
  • The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.

Governor Newsom will now give updates every Wednesday on how we’re doing as a state on this. Today’s briefing is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXEMqGj_OdU

 

His remarks:

California had the lowest unemployment and greatest job growth in the country going into this. We’re now in a pandemic-induced recession in the state of California. 3.1 million have applied for unemployment, but it’s a 5.1% unemployment rate.

95 lives lost last night in California – the highest number yet. 983 total lives lost. Puts this moment in perspective. Our death rate is the highest it has been. We need to continue the stay-at-home orders.

Everyone wants to get our economy fired back up. But we need to be guided by health and science navigating through this. Need to be prescriptive and targeted in our strategies as we regionally focus and by sector on our economic recover.

The consequences of our actions as California will have consequences across the United States.

So he’s created an economic Task Force:

Some of the most well known business leaders in the world live in California. Tasked 80 of these to put together plans for short and long term economic recovery.

Former governors Pete Wilson, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown will form the Advisory Group to this team. Former presidential candidate Tom Steyer will chair.

The California Way forward will include growth and inclusion as its key strategy. The inequality issue was particularly visible in California in the pre-pandemic economy.

We are guided in our recovery with those considerations deeply at heart and in our minds. We need to have a sustainable mindset, not just situational. It’s in the HOW we recover by which we will ultimately judge ourselves.

So let’s talk a minute about how we suss this out for our local economy. We had an earlier call hosted today by the Montecito Journal with multiple businesses and elected officials. The county will likely have to take the lead on implementing the US and governor’s guidelines. The county can impose more stringent conditions than the US or the state as appropriate to the needs of our community.

But they can’t implement LESS stringent ones. So we at least know the backstop of the conditions for moving forward: those imposed by the federal and state governments.

We applaud the Montecito Journal for being the first to gather the business community and start pushing with our elected officials to figure out how re-opening will look and what businesses can do right now to survive.

Here are the inflection points of moving forward:

  1. We’re not eligible to enter the US Phase 1 (see that document above of all their Phases) because we haven’t seen 14 day declines in cases and hospitalizations as a state.
  2. So we probably should not expect the stay-at-home order to be lifted soon.
  3. But we can prepare ourselves and move into Phase I ahead of the order, because we know what it looks like. For example, we now know we should all be wearing masks in public under that criteria. The governor indicated tonight he’s leaning to face coverings. Where can you get these? I’ve got a list going for you at the bottom of this article.
  4. Restaurants should sign on delivery partners like DoorDash and GrubHub, and they’re offering ZERO commission (meaning you keep your sales) for 30 days.
  5. Everyone in a business should be thinking of how to reconfigure their floor space to accommodate Phase I US guidance, which encourages telecommuting and requires 6 ft distancing. You can do that now. Some have already done it.
  6. Many of us have moved to Zoom meetings and online ways of doing business. Get Venmo, boost your websites, and amp up your email marketing strategies.

Supervisor Williams published these upcoming resources for your business:

Register NOW: Crisis Recovery: Cash Flow Management to Survive and Thrive

April 20 | 5:00 – 6:00 pm

SCORE Panelists Greg Loosvelt and Eric Saltzman will discuss how to create forward looking cash flow projections and prepare your business for the recovery.

Register NOW: How to Email Market in Times of Business Downturn

April 23 | 4:00-5:00 pm

To generate positive outcomes, your business has to reach the right customers with targeted campaigns. Research says that for every $1 spent on e-mail marketing there is an average $44 return on investment. Join Patty Ross for this discussion of basic and advanced techniques to propel your email marketing efforts.

Register NOW: Marketing Advice to Combat an Economic Downturn

April 28 | 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Wondering how to market your business during the economic downturn related to coronavirus (COVID-19)? Consistent, clear communication with your customers is vital, so they understand when, how, and where they can still do business with you.

If you don’t own a business, you will be patronizing some of these when they reopen! So it helps you to know how they’re going to have to operate, and you can nudge them if you see an area of deficiency and help them be better and stronger as we enter this next phase.

As our businesses prepare for this next phase, it’s important we support them in any way we can as a community. The Montecito Journal is starting a local business advisory group to help with this process, and we committed to helping in any way we can.

OK – the Face Mask front.

First a HUGE thanks to volunteers Pam Lund and the whole team at MERRAG that got out the 100 donated masks we picked up from Clare Swan’s wonderful friend Arlene in Carpinteria, who sewed them for us in one day. She sewed another 20 for neighbor Sharon Ludtke, and she got those over to the Foodbank for their workers. Here’s a MERRAG volunteer setting out on his mask delivery route into Montecito, skillfully organized by Sue Zilliotto:

If you’d like to donate to MERRAG to keep their efforts in our community going, we welcome you to do so here. We sure appreciate them for stepping up to help us get masks out into our community!

I simply have to admire the creativity and willingness of people to serve at this time.

To buy facemasks (and there are local sewing brigades springing up all over):

Lisa Green runs Blissful Boutiques in Santa Barbara, and she’s got a slew of masks in she sells for $5 each. You Venmo (let me know if you need to know how to do this) your order to her or email her at blissfulboutiques@outlook.com and she’ll tell you where to pick them up. She does accept cash. Here’s what she’s got:

There’s another one I found on Facebook today:

Ok so that is the news for today, and it’s a lot to think about.

I actually want to prod you to start thinking! This community is blessed to have some of the most amazing people living in it, people with talent, skills and vision. Plus you know a lot about how to do things! Nick Welsh of the Santa Barbara Independent, in a call I had with him where we mutually despaired over local leadership in this crisis, wondered if I could rustle up some retired crisis managers in Montecito that might be able to help navigate through this? I seriously thought about calling more than a few of you…My point is you have talent, you have voice, and you might have a little time right now. If you have solid ideas on how we can help everyone move through this crisis in to the next phase, and want to step up, let us hear from you! I’ve already had some sage coaching from Robert Ornstein, Frank Blue, Clare Swan, and Chief Taylor of MFPD, for which I am most appreciative.

If you feel you need extra emotional support at this time, please consider calling the Community Wellness Team, put together by the Behavioral Wellness Department. (805) 364-2750. They are the best in the state right now for dealing with disaster-related trauma and anxiety. All services are covered by Medicare.

I hope you enjoy this evening, and weekend, and are staying safe and healthy.

US, California, New York all looking to plan for re-opening.

by Sharon Byrne Executive Director, Montecito Association

This update is provided to you by the Montecito Association because these are extenuating circumstances in a pandemic crisis. We share this information daily with our membership by email. We hope you find this useful, and encourage you to support this work for our community by becoming a member. You can do that at https://membership.keela.co/montecito-association/default-membership-form-85

Today, across all press conferences, everyone sounded a theme of thinking about how to move to reopening, and what that’s going to look like.

You can read it in more detail below. Several of you have asked me what we can do in our county about this same subject. In a perfect world, we’d love to see everyone get tested here, and those with antibodies identified and told to go back to work now. However, that’s likely to take some time to roll out on a mass scale. So in the meantime, given what we saw today in the world, the country, and in California and New York, it would be good for our county to be thinking this way as well, and making similar plans. How will health officials know it’s safe enough to re-open? What can re-open, and when? What new norms will have to be in play to ensure safety and reduce / eliminate virus spread? Those are the important questions.

I reported to you last week that Supervisor Adam let me know he and Supervisor Williams were teaming up in this direction. Perhaps the most useful thing you can do right now is openly advocate for that planning, and for conversations within our county, within our business communities, to start happening.

You can email the Board of Supervisors directly:

Das Williams: DWilliams@countyofsb.org

Gregg Hart, Chair: ghart@countyofsb.org

Joan Hartmann: jhartmann@countyofsb.org

Peter Adam: peter.adam@countyofsb.org

Steve Lavagnino: steve.lavagnino@countyofsb.org

You can also send in letters to the editor at our local media, advocating for leadership and planning for re-opening.

Montecito Journal:

letters@montecitojournal.net

Noozhawk: (200 word limit, tell them your name, and include a short description of yourself so readers can judge your qualifications.) news@noozhawk.com

NewsPress:

voices@newspress.com

Independent: 50-250 words for letters, up to 800 words for Voices:

In your advocacy, you may want to use some of the language that’s being used by top leaders worldwide, and from the conversation with Brian Goebel today at Noozhawk. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel in every single jurisdiction worldwide to navigate through this. We can find proven paths through, but we must plan for that now.

OK, Updates for today:
Update by Santa Barbara Public Health Department

April 13, 2020
Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) reports an additional 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county today, April 13. The total number of confirmed cases is 284.

Seven cases [of the new 17 cases] are people incarcerated at the Federal Prison in Lompoc, CA.

One hundred twenty-four people are recovering at home, 40 are recovering in a hospital, 15 of whom are in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), 109 have fully recovered, and nine are pending an update. Two deaths have been reported.

Visit Santa Barbara County’s coronavirus web page for full updates.

Cottage Health Numbers – April 13, 2020

Cottage Health is caring for a total of 185 patients across all campuses.

143 are acute care patients; 230 acute care beds remain available. 11 patients are on ventilators. 51 ventilators still available. 16 are in isolation, 10 in critical care, with COVID19 symptoms, 13 confirmed COVID positive.

In surge planning, capacity is identified for adding 270 acute care beds.

Of the 143 patients, 16 are in isolation with COVID-19 symptoms; 13 are confirmed COVID-19 positive.

  • 1,723 cumulative test samples:

-140 positive

– 1,539 negative

– 44 are pending.

In most of these tests, patients did not require hospital admission.

Cottage offering free online visits for individuals who may have COVID-19 symptoms.

Source: Cottage Health

For the health of our community and patients, Cottage CareNow will begin offering free online visits for individuals who may have COVID-19 symptoms. Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough or shortness of breath) or upper respiratory symptoms (sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion), can visit Cottagehealth.org/carenow for a free initial online diagnosis. This free online visit is for upper respiratory or COVID-19 related conditions. If clinically appropriate, Cottage CareNow providers will refer patients to the appropriate site for an in-person evaluation.

If any individual is having severe breathing difficulties or a life-threatening emergency, they should call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest emergency department immediately.

Cottage CareNow is an online service from Cottage Health that began in December 2019. This platform connects patients with Cottage providers who can offer online diagnosis and treatment for common medical conditions. Cottage CareNow helps patients with conditions like colds, flu, skin rash and more.

Users can access Cottage CareNow 24/7/365 from their smartphone, tablet or computer by visiting cottagehealth.org/carenow. No insurance plan is required to access the service. The fee for non-COVID-19 related common conditions is just $29 for an online interview or $39 for a video face-to-face visit, payable by credit, debit or health savings card.

Anyone in California who is over 18 can create an account, and dependents can be included. Visits for children under 18 must be completed by a parent.

The service is easy to use. After entering symptoms and health information, patients choose to have a Cottage Health provider review their results and respond with a treatment plan within an hour or request an immediate face-to-face video visit.

CareNow is staffed by Cottage Health nurse practitioners and Cottage Health credentialed providers. When appropriate, prescriptions are submitted directly to the patient’s preferred pharmacy. If virtual care is not appropriate, the patient is not charged for the Virtual Visit and will be referred for an in-person evaluation. Cottage CareNow assists in connecting patients with a primary care physician if they do not currently have one.

Brian Goebel call with Noozhawk:

These are my notes from the call between two Montecito residents: Bill MacFadyen of Noozhawk, and Brian Goebel.

 California – hospitalizations coming down. More discharges than admissions April 10th. Facilities have likely peaked, though will know for sure over next few days. Very confident that we’ve more than ‘met the moment’.

Santa Barbara County:

Hospitalizations have been steady, no exponential growth.

There’s a new normal we need to transition to. We need to devise a set of public health measures that are less disruptive than stay-at-home orders, but are sustainable, and don’t return us to a rate of spread at the start of the pandemic. Could be living like this for quite a while.

Arrival of therapeutic medicines that improve outcomes will have a big impact on our communities.

Testing in Santa Clara and Los Angeles designed to look for COVID19 antibodies. That will help us find out how many were exposed, and if that’s a large percentage, than this means we’re on our way to getting herd immunity. It’s also going to mean our fatality and hospitalization rates are actually lower since those cases never got into our system because they didn’t require hospital care.

When will widespread testing be available in Santa Barbara? Are there unofficial records being kept of those who wanted to be tested, but didn’t meet conditions? These are the questions the media can and should be asking our elected officials. The future of testing is uncertain. Whether we see widespread or very carefully developed random sample testing, probably the latter, to determine infection and antibody rates to provide to policy makers.

How have elected and public health officials risen to the challenge, in your opinion? Not sure why our government is not willing to acknowledge success of stay at home order?

Larger media starting to fan this question: What’s the plan?

SB County not tracking people who’ve been denied tests, as there’s probably no way to do that. No plans to test widespread, only for those severely ill, healthcare workers, and first responders.

What about a second wave of infections? Need to design public health measure correctly, and monitor them to keep cases and hospitalizations to acceptable level over time going forward. We will likely design better measures than we had in early March, prior to the stay-at-home order.

California: Governor Newsom’s Briefing:

California, Oregon and Washington to work on regional plan to lift coronavirus restrictions

New York region of 6 states also planning a re-opening strategy. California will be releasing a framework at noon tomorrow that will include physical distancing and other guidance for moving forward into easing restrictions.

Questions to answer:

How we move from containment to mitigation to surge to suppression to herd immunity to vaccine.

Hospitalized: 3,015

ICUs: 1,178 +2.9% (modest increase)

22,348 total positive cases.

687 have died.

Curve is being bent because of YOU.

United States:

New York death toll passed 10,000.

Monday marked one month since the president declared a national emergency. There were fewer than 2,000 confirmed cases nationwide then.

583,411 confirmed positive cases.
23,642 fatalities.

White House Press Briefing:

Condolences to all who just suffered and lost their lives in the tornados in the South.

Hospitalizations are slowing in hotspots. Clear evidence that aggressive strategy to combat the virus is working. We are coming in far less than our projected 100,000-200,000 deaths in this country.

28,000,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine deployed from national stockpile.

Scientists pursuing use of convalescent plasma therapy, made from blood of recovered patients, to help someone who is sick.

Friday, Americans began receiving checks from the relief bill. By mid-April you will be able to check on your payment online. If you’re a social security recipient, you don’t need to do anything. It will be processed automatically for you.

Very close to completing a plan to open the country ahead of schedule. Working on guidelines to give governors to re-open their states. The US has developed a committee to guide the re-opening.

$23 billion in loans processed in SBA by 4,600 banks. This is proving far more popular than anticipated. May need to get Congress to put more money into it.

What does opening the economy look like? The plan to do that will be rolled out over the next few days. Over 100 business people are advising the President on it, with guidance from the health leaders to do it safely. Expect it to vary state-by-state, given where they are in the situation.

Is it possible to re-open the economy by May 1st? They did not want to commit to that.

Phase IV Economic Stimulus coming: focus on infrastructure, help to specific industries.

Dr. Birx
New York / New Jersey metro area is the center of the pandemic in the world right now. They’re the top blue line that you see. All the other lines are all the other cities, which gives you a sense of how massive the pandemic effect is in New York.

Smaller epidemics in metros like Detroit, Boston, Chicago also being tracked closely. Detroit is flattening, but Chicago and Boston are passing them.

Our mortality is less when you combine European countries into a country comparable size to the US. That’s because of our incredible people, in the healthcare delivery system.

As governments begin to move into the planning phase of opening back up, the Wall St Journal has looked at how it could work, based on other country’s experience, with some examples.

World Health Organization Briefing – Geneva

Again, notice the focus on how to move to easing restrictions and go into re-opening:

Some countries are starting to look at lifting restrictions after many weeks of strict lockdowns.

In opening back up, there are 6 key criteria to consider:

  1. Transmission is controlled.
  2. Adequate health facilities are in place to detect, test, and treat every case and trace every contact.
  3. Outbreak risks are minimized in specialized facilities, like health care organizations and nursing homes.
  4. Preventive measures are in place in schools, workplaces and other places where it’s essential for people tohave to go.
  5. Importation risks can be managed.
  6. Communities fully engaged, educated and empowered to adjust to the new norm.

Aim is to reach steady-state of no or low transmission going forward.

World:

French President Macron said their lockdown will continue until May 11, when they expect to reopen schools. This same date, France will be able to test every citizen for COVID19.

Deaths in Italy passed 20,000.

Spain saw another fall in its death toll, bringing the total to nearly 18,000. They’re loosening their lockdown. People in manufacturing, construction and some services are being allowed to return to work, but must stick to strict safety guidelines. Masks are being handed out at subway stations for returning workers. The rest of the population must still remain at home.

Lockdown in the UK expected to last into May. 11,000 deaths recorded so far.

That’s it for now, and it was a long day watching all these briefings, but it was very uplifting to see that across the country and world, we’re starting to emerge from this crisis, and mentally shifting into how we plan for re-opening.

The weather is expected to be very nice this week, perfect for afternoon walks. Upper Manning Park was completely deserted when I visited it at 1 PM Saturday, and it’s gorgeous right now.

Have a great evening!

Sharon Byrne, Executive Director

805-636-0475

http://www.montecitoassociation.org

 It’s not all Doom and Gloom

by Sharon Byrne, Executive Director, Montecito Association

 

There is hopeful shift beginning to emerge

This update is provided to you by the Montecito Association. We share this information daily with our membership, but these are extenuating circumstances in pandemic times. We hope you find this useful, and encourage you to become a member so we can continue to work in our community.

The world has ground to a standstill in ways we’ve never contemplated, or at least, not since the last World War. There’s a tool called Citymapper Mobility Index https://citymapper.com/cmi you can use to look at the level of movement in cities around the world. You can look at this week, last week, 4 weeks ago, etc. If you click on a city, it opens a graph that shows you how much a city is moving compared to normal. This is Los Angeles.

It’s pretty staggering to view.

Watching the press briefings this week, something new has emerged: a kind of collective shift, though it’s spotty right now. It looks like this:

First, we’re noticing some countries, states and localities are flattening curves, thanks to herculean actions and massive shutdown. Some places are seeing declines in their death rates, hospitalizations, and infection rates. Some are starting to see the backside of their COVID curve, though their losses were terrible.

That is causing people to realize there’s a corner coming up that we will need to turn. Eyes are moving to the future, trying to figure out when we can pull back from focusing every resource on this medical and economic crisis. The danger, of course, is to avoid triggering some new spike in infections from relaxing your preparedness strategies too soon.

But there is also some furious thinking going on as to what opening back up looks like. What protocols have to be in place, who goes back to work and when, what new social norms should stay in place for protection, etc.

This shift is emerging in some countries, that are finally crossing to the backside of this pandemic. Watch for it to pick up speed in the weeks ahead.

So here are your updates today:

Santa Barbara County Update:

Tested: 1,621

243 cases

113 recovering at home

79 recovered

40 in hospital

18 in ICU

37 are Healthcare Workers

40 are from the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary

16 in South County unincorporated = Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria

https://publichealthsbc.org/

COTTAGE HEALTH NUMBERS

Cottage Health is caring for a total of 172 patients across all campuses.

129 are acute care patients

244 acute care beds remain available.

13 patients are on ventilators

47 ventilators remain available (adult, pediatric and neonatal ventilators)

13 patients are in isolation with confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, 8 of these are in critical care.

Tested:

1,514

116 positive

1,276 resulted in negative

122 are pending

San Luis Obispo County:

104 confirmed cases.

25 are recovering at home

75 have fully recovered

3 are hospitalized

1 death.

 

Ventura County:

274 cases

Tested: 5,247

Female: 129, Male: 145

7 deaths

 

At the county’s press briefing today:

Sheriff Bill Brown commended the “amazing job” county residents have done so far to comply with the stay-at-home order. Results are already showing a slightly flattened curve. That doesn’t mean we should be any less diligent, especially now. This weekend is Passover and Easter Sunday, a time when many of us traditionally gather with our families and our friends to celebrate our faith, to gather for worship, and to congregate after in groups. Please realize we cannot do that this year. Watch an online service or connect with people by video chat.

Signs are going up at county parks and beaches to remind people to keep physical distancing. Brown said rangers and lifeguards will be keeping an eye on things, to make sure there are no gatherings and people are obeying physical distancing.

Violators could be fined up to $1,000.

 

Mayor Garcetti in Los Angeles:

7,955 cases in LA County

Smallest increase yet seen yesterday, in 6% case increase.

223 deaths and represent a 13% increase over yesterday.

Rate of death still doubling every 5 days, very troubling.

Los Angeles offered tests to first responders, and now testing is open to all county residents who want one.

Tested 4,000 people today. Aiming to have tested 60,000 by the end of next week. You book these online, and go to a drive-through site or testing site. They have mobile testing teams they send to seniors and vulnerable people who can’t leave home.

 

Governor Newsom:

Southwest, Alaska, Delta, and United Airlines are stepping up to cover the travel cost of incoming healthcare workers to the state.

Healthcare workers testing positive are allowed to quarantine in hotel rooms donated for them to stay while working:

18,309 tested positive

492 lives lost

50 yesterday

1,132 in ICUs – this is a drop of 1.9% from yesterday.

2,825 hospitalized, 4.1% increase from yesterday.

N95 masks will be able to be reused – new system coming on line to sanitize them by April 20th.

California able to procure hundreds of millions of units of protective gear.

 

United States:

465,570

16,684 deaths

25,960 recovered

 

White House Press Briefing

Millions of Americans are making sacrifices in their lives to save countless other lives.

Two million tests have been administered in the US.

120,000 per day.

Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, has been moved out of intensive care.

As New York battles its way out of this pandemic, the US is fully behind them.

The American medical system continues to perform beyond our highest expectations.

Mental health is quickly becoming a very important area in our battle and recovery.

19 possible therapies being tested currently, 26 more in active planning for clinical trials.

Trials for Gilead’s antiviral drug continue.

Federal Reserve making $2.3 trillion available in aid. This funding covers businesses, and also states, cities.

Thank you California and Washington states – case counts continue to be low, which is very encouraging.

 

Dr. Birx:

Age breakouts of those tested, and positive test results rate:

Tested 200,000 people up to age 25. 11% positive rate

Over 500,000 aged 25-45 – 17% positive rate

500,000 tested aged 45-65 – 21% – positive

200,000 aged 65-85 – 22% – positivity rate

30,000 tested over age 85 – 24% positivity rate

 

It affects men worse:

56% females tested – 16% positive

44% males – 23% positive

Men don’t often access health care system until they have greater symptoms present. Message to the men: get health care sooner, and get tested!

 

This was thought to be the worst week of cases in the US, but Washington and California experience are positive. Louisiana, Philadelphia Metro area, Baltimore, and other areas where it’s surging – the attack rates are lower than New York and New Jersey.

 

Dr. Fauci

This was forecast to the be the bad week. It has been. New York has hit record deaths every day this week. But we are also seeing a decrease in the number of hospitalizations needed, and that’s good. The models are being revised downward because of the data that shows physical distancing is working.

 

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia

6.6 million unemployment claims filed last week.

 

The good news:

Until three weeks ago, the US never had a law requiring paid sick leave at US companies.. Now we do. And we have expanded family and medical leave, with small businesses being matched dollar for dollar by the US for these leaves.

Another unprecedented benefit: $600 / wk increase in unemployment benefits. These payments are intended to make workers as whole as we can. These benefits are available to independent contractors and gig employees, which is brand new.

 

VP Pence:

We are ramping up testing and intend to keep it ramped it throughout this year. The intention is to move away from diagnostic testing (when people presented with symptoms) but surveillance testing to identify people who had it, and are now immune, and to see if people were ever exposed.

 

World:

1.6 million confirmed cases

95.718 deaths

354,972 recovered

 

Italy and France are recording lower death rates for the past 2 days, while Spain is still in the peak of its curve.

Ending the night on a positive note, did you see the lovely display from the first responders last night? They went to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and applauded and celebrated the healthcare workers. You can see it here.

 

And do you remember Dr. Charity Dean, who used to be our Public Health Officer? She’s now the deputy director of the California Department of Public Health. There’s a great story on her in Noozhawk on her efforts to lead in creating testing hubs throughout California.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are some incredible things happening, here, and all over the world.

Take care of yourself, be well, and stay safe.

http://www.montecitoassociation.org

https://membership.keela.co/montecito-association/default-membership-form-85

 

Julie McMurry Explains It All – Pandemic Edition

by Mitchell Kriegman

Information for Action

She wrote a manifesto, which became flattenthecurb.com. It was originally a Google Doc. Her document was uploaded so fast that it broke the Google drive features. She had no idea who was sharing it. It was just staggering. Then someone reached out to her and said they had reserved the domain flattenthecurve.com and wanted to put her Google Doc up on the website. Now the content has been translated into multiple languages and has more than 130 volunteers working on it. It’s routinely monitored and reviewed by a host of doctors and experts. The site is not political and has become the go-to site for the most up-to-date science-based advice about current best practices. It’s reliable and constantly updated as new discoveries develop.

Remarkably all this content was initially compiled here in Santa Barbara by Julie McMurry. She has a master’s degree in public health from the University of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as a background in infectious diseases and vaccine development. She is currently an assistant professor, senior researcher, at Oregon State University in the College of Public Health. Communication rooted in science is her specialty. On March 13, which seems like ages ago, she posted a new Google Doc with a few other locals Stay Safe Santa Barbara with a plan for Santa Barbara.

The Montecito Journal talked to her via Zoom in her recently renovated home office with her son, whom she affectionately refers to as Captain America, hovering occasionally and politely in the background.

How We Got Here

  1. As a health professional you’ve made it a mission to address the flood of disinformation people are hearing about the coronavirus.
  2. I think it’s important that local people are getting sane and prioritized advice. There’s just a swirl of disinformation and in addition to disinformation, there’s the additional layer of well-meaning people who want to help and heard something. It’s making the lives of the real first responders that much more chaotic and difficult.

 

Is there an essential message you want to convey?

One of the prevailing messages is “Information for Action.” Information for action is very different than information for its own sake. In public health, a lot of outcomes depend on behavior change. Behavior change is one of the hardest things to do. We know how difficult it is to lose weight, to regularly exercise, to get enough sleep, even though these are all things that are in our best interests. “Information for Action” is the first step toward behavioral change. It can motivate people and empower them to make decisions that are in their own personal interest, and also in everyone’s collective interest. Infectious diseases are one of those situations in which there is a straight line from how you behave to what happens to everyone around you.

 

At the Journal we’ve written about Social Solidarity where, for example, we keep our sick kid home from school, so they get well and don’t infect others. We look after an older person and knock on their door to see how they’re doing. So, it isn’t really that foreign, it seems daunting now because it’s big and seemingly arbitrary. What misconceptions have you heard that we can correct?

The biggest misconception that people have right now is that if they’re not 65-plus, they’re not at any risk. That is patently false. In fact, under 50 constitutes a very substantial number of the hospitalizations. People who are young and healthy are finding themselves in the ICU. They don’t realize how easily they can get the virus and spread it as well.

 

How do you explain this to younger people and everyone else?

There’s a little local story for you that might help. During the Thomas Fire we lived in San Roque. I was looking at the map and I was looking at the winds and I was looking at our resources and telling my husband we should be ready to leave. He looked at the map and said, “It’s so far away.” And I said there is nothing between the fire and us except fuel. He hadn’t thought about it that way. And that’s exactly the way I saw it. In terms of this pandemic, people are fuel for the spread of the virus. Everyone needs to understand that. That avenue is there and there’s nothing really to stop it from reaching us unless we change our habits. It’s really a waste of time to talk about why it shouldn’t be this way to begin with because it is a problem that is urgent.

 

Why aren’t there safeguards? Why is it spreading so quickly in our country?

Successful policies in other countries have been difficult to apply here. There are five things in our social policy landscape that make pandemic control especially difficult. First, not having universal paid sick leave. Even the patients with paid sick leave are covered on the order of days and not weeks to recover. Second, zero guaranteed family leave to care for sick family members. Third, zero guaranteed financial and operational support for people who should self-quarantine. So, people ignore the quarantine because they need to make money to eat and may have the milder forms of the illness or worse. Fourth, many people are uninsured and given this cryptic transmission and no available vaccine with very few drugs to curb the severity of the illness, there’s no financial incentive for insurance companies to actually guarantee access to help. Not that they don’t care about people, but from an actuarial perspective it would be cheaper if everyone just died and died fast. Fifth and finally, insurance is tied to employment. So, when people get sick, especially when people get very sick, they are vulnerable to bankruptcy. That’s especially problematic in the economy at large when you have great numbers of people suddenly filing for bankruptcy all at the same time.

 

So those factors add to the vulnerability of the population?

Yes. You know, there was nothing anyone could have done to keep this pandemic from arriving on these shores. The nature of this virus is the perfect killing machine. It’s just deadly enough to do a lot of damage, maxes out healthcare, but spreads asymptomatically. Somewhere between 50% and as much as 86% of cases are asymptomatic and they are contagious during that phase.

 

Every day there’s something that makes your head spin. Today it’s that if you’re asymptomatic, your breath still sheds virus which is one of the reasons for six feet distancing. Is that the case?

Yes, it’s possible based on what we know. But it’s really important that the public understand the priorities. I keep coming back to two things: principles and priorities. We have to assume that everyone is infected. We have to assume that every surface is contaminated but because we do not have endless amounts of time and attention there are certain risk factors that are important to pay attention to and evidence based best practices. We don’t want people doing crazy stuff that will either be a waste of their time or just isn’t proven. 

 

How to Take Care of Yourself

So, what do you consider highest priority best practices?

I’ve outlined the basic hierarchy of what’s important to do and then what’s nice to do on flattenthecurve.com. Number one is stay home and wash your hands. Number two is don’t touch your face. Number three is disinfect, especially high touch surfaces, things like doorknobs, light switches, toilet handles, faucet handles. Number four is stay healthy and out of harm’s way. That’s a big one actually because the fewer people we have trying free-fall bungee jumping for the first time, the more capacity our health system has to treat people. Number five is protect yourself when you’re out of the house. So that means not touching things that you don’t actually mean to touch like handrails and in grocery stores commit to buying don’t randomly smear your fingers all over all things and look at the calorie count, just buy it and get out.

 

What about delivered packages or your groceries when you bring them home?

If you’re at risk and you want to be super safe, isolate packages three to nine days before unpacking. Put on your winter gloves, take that package, put it in a secure location, date the package and let it sit. This is a virus that has only been 136 days on this planet. This particular variant of the virus is completely brand new. That’s one reason it’s a problem. There’s a lot we don’t know right now. We know that it can survive up to three days under ideal conditions on hard surfaces and evidence from other coronaviruses suggest that what’s called fomite transmission is possible. [NOTE: “fomite transmission” refers to the transmission of infectious diseases by objects] What that means is that it can survive prolonged periods on hair, skin cells and soft fibers. The longer you leave your packages, the safer they are.

 

How can you be sure you’ve cleaned everything?

You’ve got to protect yourself without spending eight hours a day in a lot of anxiety. Decontaminating things is really hard, and hard to do well if you’re not someone who’s been through that training. So, keep it simple. Even something like getting your gloves off without, touching the outside of the glove requires training and practice. So, if you’re not comfortable doing that, if you’re not practiced, put on a pair of winter gloves that are easier to get on and off without touching the outside and just pop those in the washing machine after use. A normal wash and dry cycle will perfectly kill the virus.

 

We’ve seen videos of how to unpack your groceries that have shown that the issue is the wrapping. Not the food.

Exactly it is the wrapping and not the food, but people who aren’t accustomed to doing it well, can put themselves at unnecessary risk. If you buy six boxes of pasta, are you going to need all six boxes within three days? I have a grocery guide on the website that I put together. One hint is that when you are at the checkout, separate the things you know can sit from those that cannot and be lazy about it. Stuff the rest in a corner and deal with it when you absolutely must.

 

Can’t we use disinfectants and sterilizers on the package and somehow dump the internals of the package without touching the outside?

I would just caution you that you should use that as a plan B, rather than a plan A.

 

What about something simple like apples. Can you clean them with vinegar and water and a little bit of lemon?

Yes. However, vinegar won’t cut it. It doesn’t have a high enough, acidity or alcohol content in order to break the lipid layer, the fat that protects the virus. But it’s pretty simple. You just scrub them, wash them with a little vegetable brush and soap and water just as you would your hands. It’s way too complicated for something like fresh berries, lettuce, herbs, if they’ve been handpicked recently. Right now, frozen berries are fine because those were picked in time before the pandemic got going.

 

What about riding your bike to the ocean for exercise or taking a walk? What about exercising outdoors at a safe distance?

I absolutely encourage people to be outdoors as much as they can. That’s not to say they should be packed on beaches. But staying in nature is going to help keep us sane. Most people in Santa Barbara have very small houses. They can’t stay holed up in their houses and tiny little backyards or patios for weeks. It’s not sustainable. So yes, absolutely get out into nature. If you are not actually touching, is it zero risk? No, there is no such thing as zero risk. However, the risk that people go crazy, is higher if they are in their house for an extended period of time. This is not going to be over in a week and it’s not going to be over in two weeks. We have to really pace ourselves in order to do this well.

 

What are the biggest misconceptions that are out there right now?

That’s a good question. So, number one as I said in the beginning, is thinking I’m too young and healthy, I’m not at risk. Number two, it’s like the flu, it’s vastly more deadly. Number three would be, that this is overblown, there are no infections near me. The “Don’t Test, Don’t Tell” policy has given the public a false sense of security in the face of an already raging epidemic. Number four is the economy is more important. If a tsunami was coming towards your town, would you complain about the economic cost of evacuating? This outbreak is an invisible tsunami.

What About the Emotional Toll?

Some people are simply paralyzed and terrified by so much happening so quickly, they don’t know how to emotionally deal with it.

For many people this is the first time that they’ve come to grips with their own mortality. People have different timelines for that. People should use this opportunity as an invitation to look at what’s really important to them. It’s important that people take personal responsibility for themselves and for their community to do everything. Don’t be a vector.

 

Do you have any thoughts on the way the federal government has handled the crisis so far?

We have fewer than 1% of the masks that we would need to do this. Everybody’s going to need these things. This should be nonpartisan. We have to think about the greater good. People should be helped on the basis of need, not the basis of greed. If we don’t use this opportunity to find higher ground with people across the aisle, we will lose this game for us and for our children.

Adam’s Angels

 

Adam McKaig of “Adam’s Angels” shopping for supplies in Ventura for those in need in Summerland and beyond

by Leslie Westbrook


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.”

 

Summerland Eats?

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.

Rancho Alegre Rebuilds

Four dorm buildings are in progress, built with fire retardant materials

by Kelly Mahan

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. 

Ken Miles with the Boy Scouts of America Los Padres Council is busy raising funds for the rebuilding of Rancho Alegre

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.”