The good news continues to pile up in the protracted war against the coronavirus, and Noozhawk’s Brooke Holland provided a snapshot of the gains in this week’s COVID-19 Update email.

There was definitely a setback with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which the government has paused after “six confirmed U.S. cases” of a rare and severe blood clot were reported among the nearly 7 million J&J doses administered.

But as of this week, about half of Santa Barbara County’s residents age 16 and older have received at least one COVID-19 shot, and 21 percent of the county’s 446,000 residents have been fully vaccinated. Most seniors and our most vulnerable citizens are now protected.

Herd immunity is still elusive, but we’re getting there. California is finally delivering more of the vaccine to the county, and vaccination appointments are plentiful.

Now is not the time to let up when it comes to defending ourselves. Yes, we’re likely to need regular booster shots, but don’t many of us get a flu shot every year?

Just as important, the public’s confidence continues to grow. I was in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone the night of April 11, a Sunday, and it was exciting to see it teeming with people — including inside restaurants.

Santa Barbara’s tourism is coming back, many businesses are feeling more bullish, and arts and nonprofit organizations are making plans to resume in-person events. High school sports, though currently off-limits to most spectators, have been largely successful in the most unusual of circumstances this spring.

These are all positive signs and, as I’ve said before, they’ve been made possible mostly by our voluntary actions: social distancing, wearing masks around others and washing our hands. Along with a literal shot in the arm from a vaccine that was developed, tested, manufactured and being distributed in December — nine months after the contagion arrived in Santa Barbara County.

Noozhawk’s journalists also have been energized by this run of good news, and I’m proud of the planning and research they’re undertaking for the next phase of the crisis as well as our overall coverage of the community.

If 2020 taught us anything, it was that professional hyperlocal journalism like ours has never been more important. With your support, Noozhawk can continue to tell the stories that matter in 2021 and beyond, no matter what surprises are in store.

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According to our Google Analytics, Noozhawk had an audience of 125,374 readers this past week, which was one of the most diverse weeks of news reporting in recent memory.

What follows is my own take on the Top 5 stories you were reading during the period. And by “my take,” I mean my opinion.

This is not a news story; it’s commentary made in my capacity as Noozhawk’s publisher. I am not a reporter.

1. Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Santa Barbara Cancels All Bookings, Events Through 2022

Last week’s top story in my Best of Bill column remains No. 1 in this week’s column, while my actual column — “Bill Macfadyen: Rather Than Reopen, Four Seasons Biltmore Appears to Have Just Checked Out” — actually finished in the No. 3 spot this week.

All that to say … the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is still closed.

2. Santa Barbara County Meets Orange Tier Criteria, On Track to Advance by Next Week

Los Angeles and San Francisco counties may have moved into the orange tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s cockamamie COVID-19 “reopening” plan weeks ago, but it looks as if Santa Barbara County may finally be allowed to join the two dystopian jewels in the once-golden state’s crown that he wears when he admires himself in his mirror.

As our Jade Martinez-Pogue reported April 13, the county has met the criteria for the orange tier — the second least-restrictive level of Newsom’s four color-coded tiers — and could leave the red zone as soon as April 20.

To do that, county Public Health Department director Van Do-Reynoso warned, the county must at least maintain its current adjusted rate of 4.6 daily new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, its 1.9 percent testing positivity rate and its 2.7 percent health equity testing positivity rate.

The orange tier is no less confusing, arbitrary and contradictory for California’s beleaguered businesses, but at least most of them will have slightly more freedom to operate and, hopefully, get a few more employees back to work.

Newsom, the state’s chief scientist, already has declared that June 15 is the day he will lift almost all of his remaining whim-driven restrictions on his subjects.

3. Barricaded Suspect Surrenders After Lengthy Standoff in Santa Barbara

Ladera Street police investigation

Neighborhood watch on Santa Barbara’s Lower Westside. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

A suspect who held Santa Barbara police at bay for nearly four hours early on April 11 was finally taken into custody without incident. A day later, it was revealed why he was so reluctant to surrender.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, the chain of events began around 5:15 a.m. when police were called to the 200 block of Ladera Street in search of a man who allegedly had wielded a pistol during some kind of a crime.

Authorities said officers quickly located the suspect, who fled into a nearby apartment building in the Lower Westside neighborhood, just down Cliff Drive from Santa Barbara City College.

As neighbors brought out lawn chairs to watch from afar, a police contingent — including SBPD’s armored Bearcat vehicle — surrounded the apartment where the man had barricaded himself inside.

Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale said the suspect — identified as 29-year-old Eduardo Adrian Mendoza — quietly gave up just before 9 a.m.

Two other people in the apartment, reportedly Mendoza’s mom and a 2-year-old child, were found unharmed.

Ragsdale said a search of the unit turned up three replica handguns, but the bigger news was the incident that started it all.

“The victim called 9-1-1 and reported a male suspect brandished a handgun at her and sexually assaulted her,” Ragsdale said April 12. “The victim was able to flee prior to calling law enforcement.”

He said Mendoza was booked into County Jail on suspicion of attempted rape and false imprisonment, both felonies, and brandishing an imitation firearm and resisting/obstructing arrest, both misdemeanors. He was released on $100,000 bail.

4. Authorities Release Name of Man Who Died After Falling from Catamaran Near Point Conception

Beached boat

Point Conception can be treacherous for sailors. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

A 58-year-old Menlo Park man died April 11 after he fell overboard when his boat ran aground near Point Conception.

Jean-Denis Muys

Jean-Denis Muys was a Facebook engineer from Menlo Park. (Facebook photo)

Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli said emergency personnel were dispatched just before 3 p.m. to an area between Jalama Beach County Park and Point Conception to the south.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, Bertucelli said one of two people aboard a 27-foot trimaran had fallen into the water during the collision, and county water-rescue teams, county and U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and Vandenberg Air Force Base personnel immediately launched a search.

The Coast Guard located the man’s body a little while later.

Raquel Zick, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau, identified the dead man as Jean-Denis Muys. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Muys’ companion was rescued from the vessel and transported to shore for medical evaluation.

No other details of the incident were available.

According to his LinkedIn page, Muys was a senior software engineering manager at Facebook. He previously worked for Google Chrome in Paris.

5. Southwest Airlines Poised to Become Dominant Carrier at Santa Barbara Airport

Southwest Airlines

Welcome to Santa Barbara! (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

An arrival years in the making, Southwest Airlines began flying in and out of the Santa Barbara Airport on April 12. As our Tom Bolton first reported, the nation’s largest domestic airline will almost immediately have the biggest presence here.

“Right out of the gate, Southwest Airlines — if they fill their flights even 50 percent full — will take the dominant position in the Santa Barbara market,” airport business development manager Deanna Zachrisson told Tom.

To start, Southwest has scheduled five daily nonstop flights — three to Las Vegas and one each to Oakland and Denver. Airline officials told me that additional flights and destinations are expected as anticipated demand for service grows, from locals and visitors alike.

Zachrisson said Alaska, American and United airlines also are planning to add capacity and routes in May and June.

Local leaders and officials — notably from the airport, Visit Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce — have been pursuing Southwest Airlines for decades. This is an important milestone for tourism and for the South Coast business community.

I’ve already got tickets to Texas.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? 1 Dead, 3 Injured in Crash on Highway 154 Above Santa Barbara.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Just when you thought we could exhale: Catastrophic California Wildfire Season Expected, and Experts Say Planning Is Inadequate.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

@sadiethealaskanmalamute welcomes @nyackoftahoe to #sadieterritory. It’s Alaskan malamute overload in my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Watch It

I think I know her.

YouTube video

(Holderness Family Vlogs video)

•        •        •

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If you value dependable local reporting, will you support Noozhawk today?
Yes, I’ll set up a monthly donation today!
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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.