I want to pass along my compliments on the recent work of Brian Goebel, specifically, his April 8 Noozhawk column, “Current Data Point to Significantly Bent COVID-19 Curve in California.”
My compliment is 100 percent NON-political … allow me to explain. A month ago, I stopped listening to the “talking heads,” whether they were government or news media, because it seemed apparent that you could “pick your assessmentc of the coronavirus crisis by which information source you chose to listen to/believe.
So, I started going straight to the underlying data to form my own opinion about the direction of the virus. I do not claim to have the analytical qualifications of Goebel; however, my independently derived observations completely track with his, and they have for some time.
Deaths as a trailing indicator of hospitalizations is the primary meaningful metric at this point. Early in the crisis, the total number of positive tests was useful to estimate upcoming hospitalizations, but that metric has taken on the opposite relevance as the crisis has evolved.
As long as hospitalizations continue to decrease, an increase in positive tests results in the same area, can actually be viewed as similarly encouraging as it means that the true mortality rate of ALL cases, both confirmed and unconfirmed is lower (just as the mortality rate of the flu is calculated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
It is imperative that more fact-based assessments like that of Goebel occur at an even more granular level, including acknowledging the dramatic variance in the virus’ virility as influenced by population density. That sort of information should begin to be considered when assessing the actual effectiveness of social distancing, or even the degree to which it is warranted.
Social distancing and business closures have had, and will continue to have, cultural, societal and financial impacts that will last for generations, therefore their continued imposition cannot be taken lightly.
As of the moment I am writing this, the greater metropolitan area of New York City accounts for more than 50 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the United States. If they haven’t visited New York, I encourage Noozhawk readers to look up the Wikipedia page titled “List of United States Cities by Population Density” to begin to get a feel for just how dense the population of the greater metropolitan area of New York actually is.
I say “begin to get a feel” because one is unlikely to truly appreciate this data until they ride a subway from New York City to Brooklyn at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday, but after reading the Wiki article, I encourage readers to form their own opinions about how the cities in Santa Barbara County (for example) compare to New York, and whether imposing similar restrictions in both places still makes sense. That same analytic comparison would be relevant to the majority of the U.S. geography.
Although in my opinion, the originally unknown nature of the virus warranted an extreme response, and I am grateful to government officials for implementing that response, regardless of their political affiliation. It has however, resulted in a climate of fear in which it is almost seen as politically incorrect to suggest anything to the contrary.
Therefore, we must encourage questioning the continued relevance of those decisions, and encourage the consideration of fact-based assessments, not only to enable informed modification of the country’s current policies on a real-time basis, but also so that the country can learn from this experience and refine its approach WHEN it happens again.
• • •
Thank you to Noozhawk for publishing Brian Goebel’s emotion-free analysis of the coronavirus data. While I’m by no means an expert, common sense would indicate that government officials and the news media have been over-interpreting limited data sets, which has led to shutdowns, overreactions and panic.
Only by vigorous — and transparent — examination of indicators like hospitalizations and death rates can we get a better understanding of this pandemic.
Coronavirus likely has infected a larger share of the global population than we’ll ever know, but I suspect we’ll also eventually learn that the risk of death is generally low — unless there are underlying health issues, like smoking, etc.
• • •
We see tragic stories daily in the larger cities about our courageous doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs, firefighter paramedics and police who daily come in contact with active COVID-19 victims. Yes, their needs for the three “G’s” (gloves, goggles/face shields, gowns) is critical, and we’ve already seen the generous people of Santa Barbara donating protective gear at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.
We will make sure every health-care worker is protected even as we hit our max number of cases in the coming weeks.
However, there is another, less obvious and unseen threat to our health-care workers: fatigue and exhaustion. There is nothing that destroys our immune system’s ability to fight disease more rapidly than overwork/fatigue, stress and lack of sleep.
All across the country, critical care workers pull double and triple shifts, sleep in their cars so as not to infect their families, and go back to work after a short sleep and become further exhausted.
It’s a vicious cycle: overwork our medical people and emergency responders, then they will become sick and cause the remaining critical care workers to exhaust themselves and become ill, and eventually this overwhelms the local health-care system.
We must not let this happen in Santa Barbara (or anywhere else). Most fortunately, our country has decades of a tried and true model constantly used for preventing this type of exhaustion, fatigue and overwork: fire agencies’ Incident Command System, which is used on statewide and national levels.
One of the main features of the ICS system is a planned rotation of firefighters to prevent exhaustion. Firefighters are forced to rest and rotate off the firelines and then be ready to come back to risk their lives again. The fire service pulls in workers from neighboring counties and states to fight large fires, and this could be done with medical workers for COVID-19 hotspots.
Our hospitals throughout the tri-counties, California and the country should be pairing with our fire service commanders, military commanders and military medical personnel who have vast experience with the ICS rotational system to prevent exhaustion of our health-care workers.
• • •
A crisis has a way of exposing the weaknesses in any system or organization. The City of Santa Barbara’s antiquated departmental processes and procedures are now on full display.
No one can predict the future. However, the progression and impacts of COVID-19 became clear as early as January. It was possible to anticipate a shelter-in-place situation based on observations of other countries that had already been hit with the virus.
It’s a fact that at least one City Council member saw what was happening and asked City Administrator Paul Casey what was being done to get ahead of COVID-19’s inevitable arrival here. The answer: Casey said he was leaving the response to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and left it at that!
What could Casey have done instead? One obvious measure would have been providing laptops to key employees and setting up remote work procedures so that these could be tested in advance of deployment to entire departments.
Another major problem in the COVID-19 world, one which adversely affects the city and the public, is the challenge of simply submitting applications. An electronic submission system, such as the one implemented by the City of Lompoc more than two years ago, would have completely mitigated this. Yet in 2020, Santa Barbara still did not have one in place and has been forced to scramble to rig something up.
These are examples of Casey’s years-long failure to drive improvements and modernization of the departments he oversees, and his choice to ignore an impending emergency. Is that sound leadership?
Last year, the City Council received the Kosmont Report that studied the deterioration of our downtown core and offered recommendations to address those problems. After consideration of its findings, the council established hiring an economic development director as a top priority.
The city had more than 80 applicants for the new position, and many of them were both qualified AND were Santa Barbara-area residents. Instead of selecting a local candidate with existing networks and relationships, Casey hired someone from out of town with no connections to the local business community.
Adding insult to injury, our new economic development director is not even going to live here in the Santa Barbara area. How can someone connect with and assist our local business community if they aren’t a member of the Santa Barbara community? Does Casey’s action reflect the City Council’s intent? Is that sound leadership?
Casey could not effectively deal with persistent problems such as State Street vacancies, housing shortages or the convoluted, exhaustive permitting procedures that exacerbate these problems during 4½ years of a prosperous, expanding economy. Now, the optimal economic conditions are gone, but the problems remain.
Santa Barbara needs a city administrator with vision and courage if we are to have any hope for real solutions, someone willing to take bold and decisive action so that we can survive the current economic collapse. What we don’t need is a city administrator who has spent nearly half a decade simply working to preserve the status quo. That is not sound leadership.
Most Santa Barbara residents have no idea what a city administrator does, and have never heard of Casey. Everyone knows who our elected mayor and City Council members are, and that it’s their job to ensure the city serves the public interest above all else. The electorate believes the mayor and City Council are in charge. They will hold them responsible for how Santa Barbara makes it through this crisis. Unless they do something soon, they will ultimately pay the price for Casey’s lack of leadership.
Soon enough, every city in California will be competing for business and tourism dollars. We must get ahead of the curve so that we are first out of the gate in the race to recovery when this unprecedented economic crisis shows signs of ending. Santa Barbara desperately needs creative and courageous leadership from our city administrator’s office. Do we truly believe Casey is that person?
This is a call to action. We need to make very important decisions and we believe the City Council’s first and foremost action is to replace our city administrator with a true leader to help guide us through this crisis.
Ed St. George
Keith Nolan AIA
Jarrett Gorin ACP
Cole Cervantes CPA
• • •
I want to voice my disappointment in the Santa Barbara City Council’s decision to close the public launch ramp at the Santa Barbara Harbor (“Santa Barbara City Council Gives Hotels More Time to Pay Taxes, Will Keep Boat Ramp Closed”). I understand the concerns and the general need for all to make concessions to keep the public safe from the coronavirus.
As an avid fisherman who depends on the bounty of the sea to feed my family fresh healthy food, I was taken by surprise when I headed to the launch ramp with my wife on April 7 only to find the launch ramp barricaded. We had been out on March 21 and it was all business as usual at the harbor. We were surprised then to see a Harbor Patrol truck with two officers circling the parking lot.
By closing the ramp, the City of Santa Barbara has left going to the supermarket as our primary option to get food.
I understand there was some concern about limiting the launch ramp use to locals only. May I point out in these unprecedented times there have been many rules implemented that in normal times would never fly. Mammoth, which had an influx of Los Angeles folks flooding the town, chose to blockade the entrance and only let in locals. Nobody has challenged their decision.
I would hope that the city would reconsider the ramp closure with strict parameters as to who could launch and for what purpose. If it was open only for residents between Gaviota and Carpinteria, for fishing only, not more than three people per boat living in the same household, etc. A copy of your fishing license and residence could be posted in your window.
• • •
The juxtaposition of two commentaries on April 5 suggests an editorial failure at Noozhawk. In one column, Cori Hayman argues vigorously that “In Spite of COVID-19, We Must Keep Our Beaches and Trails Open.” In the other, “Santa Barbara Search & Rescue Asks Community to Give Trails a Break,” Ray Ford describes the danger of infection experienced by Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue teams during rescues and pleads with the community to stay off the trails until the COVID-19 danger is past.
The editorial staff should have asked Hayman to acknowledge the problem cited by Ford in her commentary. If I were a member of the Search & Rescue community, I would be furious that Hayman’s column was published without such a caveat.
• • •
Cori Hayman should be fired!! Now we will have an onslaught of people heading to the beach. This is her opinion and should of been kept that way and not in a public forum. No place is safe but staying the fuck at home.
I am an avid beachcomber and it was a daily routine of mine. I walked Haskell’s Beach at least three times a week, and it was always quiet with very few people. There are more people at the beach now than there was before the coronavirus and the social distancing protocol is not enforced.
I don’t feel safe at the beach anymore and neither should anyone else. Hayman’s commentary shows a lot of ignorance.
• • •
Thank you to Cori Hayman for her April 5 commentary on keeping trails and beaches open during the coronavirus crisis. The hysteria — and that is what it is — is not warranted.
On April 5, my husband and I went on one of our favorite hikes, on Montecito’s Hot Springs Trail, which I’ve been hiking since I grew up in the neighborhood as a child. I’ve never seen so many cars parked at the trailhead. At first we wondered whether it would be too crowded, but decided to see for ourselves.
Yes, we saw more people than usual, but the trail was not crowded and even couples and groups of three or four were maintaining social distancing. Some were wearing masks. Everyone we passed and everyone who passed us was respectful.
Social distancing need not mean solitary confinement. Getting out in nature is good for your physical and emotional health.
• • •
Shame on Noozhawk for publishing Cori Hayman’s commentary encouraging people to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. I live near the Obern Trail bike path and every day I’m seeing more and more people using it, many of them without masks.
Furthermore, rather than staying home, many of my neighbors are walking and riding bikes on my street, and only a few wear facial protection and none of their children do. Even my elderly neighbor has been walking without a mask and, last weekend, her family, including young grandchildren, visited her.
With COVID-19 infections and deaths skyrocketing, I don’t appreciate that my neighbors are flaunting the stay-at-home orders out of their own selfishness. The government should do more to enforce the orders. No one should be above the law.
Elizabeth Van Slyke
• • •
In response to Cori Hayman’s commentary, please don’t post harmful opinion pieces from “residents.” I’m a Santa Barbara resident myself and I’ve seen firsthand that people are gathering and crowding in the remaining open spaces, parks and trails.
This is dangerous and the government issued stay-at-home orders. I get that it’s difficult for residents.
Advising citizens it’s OK to gather in public when there’s a quarantine in place based off of some unofficial resident’s opinion is bad journalism and reckless. There’s a reason Los Angeles is more strict on closing public spaces and that’s because 1.1 million people globally have contracted COVID-19.
• • •
I think the strain from the coronavirus shutdown orders and the economic collapse has reached a tipping point. I was at the Ralphs market in the Magnolia Shopping Center, loading groceries in the trunk of my car, which was parked a few empty spaces away from any other car. A woman came out of nowhere and started cussing me out for not wearing a mask.
I was tempted to snap back at her but I just turned my back and she stormed off. Then I took the mask I had been wearing in the store out of my jacket pocket and I got in my car and drove off.
People need to chill out.
• • •
I am a UC Santa Barbara professor and live in Goleta. In this challenging time, it has been recommended that people wear masks when they go outside.
I wonder if it would be possible to mandate that joggers wear masks since they breathe quite heavily as they are jogging. I have noticed they are jogging more and more on sidewalks where pedestrians like myself walk in an effort to get some exercise. It is also difficult to maintain social distancing when a jogger runs right by you.
As we now know, asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus can transmit it, and this may be one of the most dangerous ways the illness will proliferate. I am not sure if a policy can be made requiring joggers to wear masks, but perhaps through the power of the media, this initiative can be started.
• • •
Martha Donelan’s April 3 letter to the editor stated that viewing the coronavirus crisis as a war is the wrong metaphor. I disagree and here is why: Just like in war, military men and women are expected by the U.S. government to follow orders and step up to fight the enemy to protect the greater population and themselves.
Now, the entire population has been required by the government to stop “nonessential” jobs and businesses, close schools and sports facilities, and cease their normal life patterns. Furthermore, we are required to shelter in our homes, to not come physically close to other people and keep wide distances when getting food and medicine.
In essence, the general population is now required to be conscripts or recruits drafted into the effort to stop or kill the enemy — the coronavirus.
One has no choice and as the military is paid for their service to our country, the government is initiating plans to pay the deserving population that is financially affected and is following orders. This is a proper thing to do.
Most everyone is doing what is necessary and following the direction of their government leaders, and the same leaders should, with reciprocal gratitude and responsibility, remunerate those directly affected and making the sacrifice. Some need the help more than others, and most know that and can understand that there may be delays and some chaos (much like in war) before things can even out and stabilize.
Once that phase begins and the people, in combination with their leaders, begin to feel safe again, the war-torn-like damage can start to be repaired and the rebuilding of people’s lives phase will begin.
Dr. John Burk
• • •
In response to Scott McCann’s April 1 commentary, “Opposition to Teen Talk Sex Ed Program Misses Valuable Learning Opportunity,” I feel it is necessary to address his misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the huge community opposition to the Planned Parenthood-supported curriculum Teen Talk Middle School. It may be that he was the education director for Planned Parenthood California Central Coast or that he just did not actually read Peggy Wilson’s March 29 commentary.
To be very clear, when I read McCann’s commentary, I can agree with almost everything he says. Every single parent and community member with whom I have talked about this wants our kids to have proper health and sex education.
McCann and the small group of youth in Planned Parenthood T-shirts that handed out Planned Parenthood swag to the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Directors seem to be the only people in support of Teen Talk, however.
Sex education will not reach the kids unless parents, teachers and students are all involved equally. We do not agree with a curriculum (Teen Talk) that encourages children to go around parents, and also gives them unsafe and unhealthy choices like participating in anal sex and sex with multiple partners. There is no safe way to have anal sex and the risk for disease is much greater, making it something that we should leave for adults to choose.
Teen Talk has multiple links to Planned Parenthood for kids to explore their sexuality and Health Connected has staff members with Planned Parenthood connections. I do not think people want a biased political lobby influencing our curriculum. What if it was the NRA or a Christian organization, for example? Like them or not, Planned Parenthood is a controversial political organization that donates exclusively to one political party, and they are an organization that makes money off the sexualization of young people.
Why would the Santa Barbara Unified School District and school board member Laura Capps, who also was on the Planned Parenthoods Board of Directors, even consider purchasing such a controversial curriculum such as Teen Talk? Did they know that the Orange Unified School District board in Orange County turned it down in 2018 because they found it to be against state law? Why would they pay for this curriculum knowing that it will be taken to court by concerned parents?
We have provided the district with an alternative and free curriculum called HEART: Healthy Education and Relationship Training that does fit the state AB 329 guidelines and does not cross the line sexually. It meets all state requirements but does not have a political or ideological objective. It also tries to include parents in the conversation, making the chances for success much better.
We can do better if we do not assist in over-sexualizing our children and having open conversations about the risks of sex. This also can be an opportunity for parents who do not know how to talk to their kids about this to learn as well. If we can teach kids how life changing having an STD or pregnancy can be at a young age, maybe we can stop using abortion as a contraceptive.
One of the many petitions against Teen Talk and Supporting the HEART curriculum can be viewed at Change.org and it had more than 340 supporters prior to the drafting of this letter.
We ask that the district be inclusive of all parents in this decision. We can reverse the STD trends and the number of teen pregnancies with active parents and teachers educating our youth together as a team.
• • •
Noozhawk welcomes and encourages expressions of all views on Santa Barbara County issues. Letters should be BRIEF — as in 200 words-BRIEF — and letters under 150 words are given priority. Each must include a valid mailing address and contact information. Pseudonyms will not be used, and repeat letters will be skipped.
With rare exceptions, this feature is published on Saturdays.
By submitting any content to Noozhawk, you warrant that the material is your original expression, free of plagiarism, and does not violate any copyright, proprietary, contract or personal right of anyone else. Noozhawk reserves, at our sole discretion, the right to choose not to publish a submission.