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:


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


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



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.

A Deep Plunge Into The Virus, Treatments And Our Hospitals

by Mitchell Kriegman

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.

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?

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. 

Well, thanks. I’m glad we did this.