I was saddened to read that 16 more people have died from COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County over the last two weeks. For me, this begs a couple of questions.

San Luis Obispo County differentiates between hospitalized patients who are admitted FOR COVID-19 from those who are admitted for other reasons but who test positive for COVID-19. Why doesn’t Santa Barbara County do the same? How many of these patients died FROM COVID-19 versus WITH COVID-19?

If my recent emergency room visits to Marian Regional Medical Center are any indication, COVID-19 patients aren’t admitted until they are gasping for air, which may explain why people are still dying from this virus due to a lack of any treatment.

On one recent ER visit, instigated by my PCP when I was having difficulty breathing, the ER doctor told me, “There is nothing I can do for you,” “even if I ordered a chest X-ray and saw something, I have nothing to give you,” “if your sats go down to 90 and stay there, you can come back but even then I will only send you home on oxygen,” “this is a virus and it just needs to run its course.”

I was witnessed to this by a man sitting with me in the “COVID-19 Corner” of the ER lobby, in a wheelchair, on oxygen, fighting for every breath. I was literally told to take some Tylenol and come back when I can’t breath. If this is the best our medical community has to offer, we are in sad shape.

Stefanie Hassett
Santa Maria

•        •        •

I suggest that Noozhawk cast a more jaded eye toward the expression “omicron surge.” Various public health departments and institutions are using that characterization.

A more accurate characterization would be “winter holiday surge.” There is scant evidence that the omicron variant is more responsible for the surge than relaxed social distancing.

Steven Johnson
Santa Barbara

•        •        •

Regarding Noozhawk’s Jan. 22 article, “Commission, Public Slam Proposal to Remove Grass, Add Water Feature in De la Guerra Plaza,” I note that some local residents, like Lanny Ebenstein and Anna Marie Gott, are now experts in public plaza design and are opposed to the City of Santa Barbara’s latest attempt to renovate De la Guerra Plaza.

A proposed renovation of the plaza has been discussed time and again for decades. And the city has spent a lot of money over the years on designs that went nowhere. Because the city can never get everyone to agree to a design, as now, nothing ever gets accomplished.

I am not an expert in plaza design like Ebenstein and Gott, but I would suggest a couple of facts for all to consider regarding the proposed plaza design.

Fact: Turf grass is one of the most intense users of water (a commodity that we are being urged to conserve even if recycled water is used).

Fact: Turf grass requires frequent and expensive maintenance, especially after events and public use, which is the primary purpose of a plaza.

Fact: The most famous plazas throughout the world, that have stood the test of centuries, are all paved plazas and have no turf grass.

Fact: This is supposed to be a public plaza and it isn’t being designed as a park like Alameda Park a few blocks away.

A plaza is defined as “… an open public space commonly found in the heart of a traditional town used for community gatherings. Most plazas are hardscapes suitable for open markets, concerts, political rallies and other events that require firm ground. At their center is often a well, monument, statue or other feature. Those with fountains are sometimes called fountain squares.”

A park is defined as “… an area of natural, semi-natural or planted space set aside for human enjoyment and recreation or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. Urban parks are green spaces set aside for recreation inside towns and cities.”

Is the reason that some are resistant to improving the plaza just a knee-jerk reaction to change, any change, even one that is an improvement?

Addison Thompson
Santa Barbara

•        •        •

I support upgrading De la Guerra Plaza, but I disagree with Lanny Ebenstein about keeping the lawn. Grass should have been taken out years ago. It’s a waste of water and energy trying to keep it alive, and it is anomalous to our architectural heritage.

Whether it gets replaced by a hardscape or xeriscape or some combination is fine, but a big flat lawn is not smart.

Also, Ebenstein doesn’t speak for nearly as many people as he thinks.

The water feature is also a bad idea. I understand the water will be recycled, which sounds responsible, but it will create a lot of problems, and I don’t mean homeless people trying to wash themselves.

Planting an abundance of trees will cool the area, and simultaneously provide a calming, white-noise susurration from their leaves. Everyone loves beautiful trees, and downtown Santa Barbara already has a lot of them, so putting some in De la Guerra Plaza is perfect.

The design should use resources wisely and create a place Santa Barbarans enjoy. The crisis of unhoused citizens is a profoundly complex problem that needs to be addressed immediately, but it shouldn’t be a factor in redesigning De la Guerra Plaza.

Kirk Taylor
Santa Barbara

•        •        •

To say that Jan. 24 was an upsetting and sad day for me would be an understatement. I spent most of the day day and into the night in tears, after hearing about the death of coach Mike Warren.

I have so much respect for him, that at 66 years old, I still can not and will not call him Mike. He will always be known as “Coach” to me.

Coaches are many and different things to many players. Most coaches get back into the game because of that love for the game, and the lessons that they have learned, or lessons that they can teach by playing athletics.

I know that most young men as they enter high school are searching for a path that will help them advance to the next level. It is important that those young men have people there to try to steer them in the right way. When it is not there at home, one hopes to find the right people to listen to.

My dad, who I want to say was a good man (I want to), drank too much and many times was not in a condition to have talks with or to seek advice from when I needed it the most. My mother was an angel, and I hope that she is in heaven, proud of the way I have tried to carry on in my life.

Again, at a time in my life when I needed a male to look up to, Coaches Warren and Lou Panizzon entered my life. They helped me in ways that they can never understand, and I am so grateful to this day, as I expressed to both of them, that any success that I have achieved in coaching at the high school level is directly because of their positive influence on me, when I needed it most.

Tears continue to flow as I will never forget Coach Warren, giving me a hug after our CIF championship game at Cate School, and he telling me he was proud of me, for winning the championship and for the manner in which we achieved it.

Coach Warren was always there for me, and we had texted last week to set up time to grab some lunch. When I had questions about any football matter that came up here at Cate, he would always pass along advice as to how to handle things. I would tell him, “See, Coach, after all these years, you are still coaching, and I am thankful.” When he could not make it to our home football or baseball games, he would send me a text wishing the Rams well.

At the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon at which our team was recognized, I gave Coach Warren a shout out to let him know how much of a positive influence he was in my life.

I know that one day we will get that lunch in …

Ben Soto
Head football coach at 2021 CIF champion Cate School

•        •        •

It saddens me to see some members of the Santa Maria City Council reject funding from Santa Barbara County to house the homeless. They complain about riverbed encampments, then refuse money that could house people who live there.

Around the country, cities have found that housing the homeless is key to their success as people. Once housed, they can receive counseling and services that are hard to provide on the run.

But Mayor Alice Patino and Councilwoman Etta Waterfield are openly against it. They believe that punishing the homeless is more important than housing them because it’s their fault they don’t have a home. They argue it would cost the city tax dollars to turn a motel into permanent housing units. How much does it cost to clean the riverbeds?

We need to call upon Council members Mike Cordero, Carlos Escobedo and Gloria Soto to redirect the conversation to how we can make this project work. Those three leaders have the power to save this project. Will they use it? Write to them and encourage them to do just that.

Gale McNeeley
Santa Maria

•        •        •

California faces another threat to the state’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2045. The California Public Utilities Commission plans to vote in the next few weeks to add a monthly solar penalty fee to ratepayer bills and drastically reduce the credit solar consumers receive for selling excess power back to the grid.

This would make solar too costly for many people, other than the rich. It’s a result of intense lobbying by big utilities like Southern California Edison and PG&E, which are fighting to maintain their profits rather than allow citizens to use free, clean energy.

Sound crazy? It sure does. Solar saves money and lessens air pollution and greenhouse gasses. More than 2,000 schools, 1,000 farms, 300 apartment buildings and more than 1 million homes are powered directly by the sun.

Rachel Altman
Santa Barbara

•        •        •

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, recently received an award from the California Special Districts Association as the “Federal Legislator of the Year.” The ceremony was at the Santa Maria Public Airport District in an indoor setting.

When I viewed this news on KEYT News, I noted that Carbajal, a political leader, was without a mask as was the presenter and those in the front row seeking “face time with the big guy.”

Considering Carbajal’s status in government, I wondered if he knew something that the rest of us didn’t; could it be that the indoor mask mandate had been canceled and local government didn’t tell anyone?

Probably not. It was just that “important people” don’t have to wear masks indoors when receiving awards or posing for photo ops.

Ron Fink

•        •        •

There is an upcoming open seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, and we are encouraging Santa Barbara City College trustee Jonathan Abboud to run.

As Supervisor Gregg Hart, with experience in local government, exits the District 2 seat to run for Assembly, the county needs to replace him with another leader with experience getting things done.

Abboud has lived in the Second District for more than a decade and was twice elected to the SBCC Board of Trustees, representing residents of the Goleta Valley, UC Santa Barbara and Hope Ranch. He works with the county every day as an experienced manager of a local government agency.

We’ve seen Abboud address issues like housing and homelessness, education, good jobs for working families, medical and child care costs, protecting our environment, and climate change resilience in the face of wildfires and other natural disasters.

We know that Abboud will bring that same energy to the Board of Supervisors, as well as additional representation for people of color.

As residents, workers and business owners of the Second District, please join us and many community members in recruiting Abboud for the Second District supervisorial seat.

Marcos Aguilar
Isla Vista Community Services District vice president

Christian Alonso
Santa Barbara Young Democrats president

Ian Baucke
Second District resident

Ana Garcia

Linda Honikman
Second District resident abd affordable housing advocate

Chelsea Lancaster

Katherine Pepe
La Cumbre Plaza small business owner

•        •        •

I just read about an Oregon State University study that found that consuming two cannabinoids (called cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA) could prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But the study falls short.

CBGA and CBDA are both derived from hemp (ie, part of the cannabis sativa species, but without the psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC). Both CBG and CBD had an abundance of cannabidiolic acid, which has the potential to bind onto COVID-19 spike proteins and prevent further infection. THC-A also has this acid (and in abundance!). However, researchers cannot study THC because it is still classified as a federal Schedule I drug and it would violate OSU’s policy.

This is a huge shortcoming, and it serves as another reminder that we are overdue for legalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Currently, 36 states have legalized medical marijuana. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48.2 million people in the United States (out of a population of 329 million) consume marijuana. That means approximately 82% of the population is missing out on cannabis’ health benefits, such as the potential to prevent COVID-19.

If more clinical studies were allowed to study THC, there would be more information about cannabis’ effect on our health. And with more information, it’s likely that nonrecreational consumers will be more willing to try cannabis for its specific health benefits.

I say this because I was a nonrecreational consumer who only turned to cannabis out of sheer desperation. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2014 after 11 years of repeated misdiagnosis and consistently debilitating health. I tried a myriad of western medicines, but cannabis was the only remedy that brought me back to a state of normalcy and stabilized my quality of life.

The benefits were so significant that I started cultivating my own cannabis so I could ensure a sufficient supply of high-quality (organic) cannabis.

There are many similar stories to mine, and probably many more with 82% of the population not realizing the health potential. If cannabis remains federally illegal, we are inhibiting research and delaying major discoveries on its health benefits.

Sara Rotman
New Brand/Busy Bee president

•        •        •

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