Bill Macfadyen: With COVID-19 Spread, Santa Barbara County Flirts with Worst | Coronavirus Crisis - Noozhawk.com

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Well, I had hoped that the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers would have re-signed free-agent third baseman Justin Turner by now. Maybe today.

In other personnel moves, congratulations to my friend, Kirsten McLaughlin, Cox Communications’ market vice president and the new board chairwoman of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce.

Kirsten takes over for me — and my fellow co-chairmen, Geoff Green, CEO of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, and Curtis Lopez of the Carpinteria Lions Club — as the first full-fledged, solo leader of the new chamber we created last year from the merger of the Carpinteria Valley, Goleta and Santa Barbara chambers of commerce.

Kirsten McLaughlin Click to view larger
Kirsten McLaughlin, Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce chairwoman. (Santa Barbara Partners in Education photo)

I was privileged to twice serve as chairman of the old Goleta chamber, the first time during the Great Recession and the second time during the coronavirus crisis and the simultaneous intentional economic shutdown. I’ve already written myself a note reminding me to say no if I’m ever invited back for a third time.

In spite of the unprecedented challenges of 2020, I’m proud of what our startup chamber accomplished.

The speed and unanimity with which we put together the merger was a remarkable achievement, given the extraordinary circumstances.

Establishing a unified voice for business is long overdue in our region, but it already has been paying dividends with elected officials and policy makers — especially as we navigate the uncertainty of the ongoing COVID-19 debacle.

We’re stepping up the advocacy for our Roadmap to Recovery, we’re deep into an economic development solution for downtown Santa Barbara, and we’re working on addressing the homelessness problem that has been emerging as a flashpoint all along the South Coast.

Oh, and let us not forget that we were able to land Southwest Airlines, which begins flying in and out of the Santa Barbara Airport on April 12.

Our chamber board knows we’ll be in good hands under Kirsten’s leadership, and we’re excited to get business back to work in 2021.

Noozhawk has already been hard at work this year, and managing editor Giana Magnoli has been inundated with reader questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

She continues to publish her responses, but we are grateful for — and impressed by — the volume and quality of the questions you’ve been asking. Bear with us; we’re getting to almost all of them.

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Noozhawk had an audience of 125,951 readers this past week, according to our Google Analytics, and this column is my own recap of the Top 5 stories you were reading during that period.

It’s an opinion column, so don’t be surprised if you encounter some. Spoiler alert: You will.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for your support.

1. Spread of COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County Highest of All California Counties

Continuing a troubling trend from the week before, by one metric — however brief — Santa Barbara County was No. 1 in California on Jan. 15 with the sharpest escalation of the coronavirus of all 58 counties.

That benchmark — the effective reproductive number, aka the “R-effective” — is compiled by the California Department of Public Health and reflects the average number of people that each infected person potentially could infect.

“The rate of COVID-19 spreading is higher in Santa Barbara County than any other jurisdiction in California,” county Public Health Department director Van Do-Reynoso said. “These are grim numbers — extremely, extremely concerning.”

As our Brooke Holland reported at the time, the county’s R-effective stood at 1.27.

Those numbers yo-yo rapidly, however, and as of Jan. 21, Santa Barbara County’s R-effective had dropped to 1.03, trailing 11 other counties but still higher than the current statewide average of 0.92.

Do-Reynoso blamed the increase on holiday gatherings and travel.

2. Pedestrian Struck by Vehicles and Killed on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara

Highway 101 wreck Click to view larger
Tragedy on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

A man was killed on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara the evening of Jan. 19 when he was struck by two cars and a pickup truck as he attempted to cross the freeway near Milpas Street. The roadway through that area is lined with homeless encampments.

Santa Barbara fire Capt. Kevin Hokom told our Tom Bolton that the incident was reported just before 6 p.m. in the freeway’s southbound lanes near the second exit ramp on the east side of Milpas Street.

The man was declared dead at the scene from “massive injuries,” he said.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the man stepped onto the freeway right in front of a Mercedes C300. The driver, a 27-year-old Carpinteria woman, slammed on her brakes but was unable to avoid the collision.

The CHP said the impact propelled the man over the sedan and he was then struck by a trailing Toyota Avalon driven by a 23-year-old Carpinteria man, before he was run over by a trailing GMC Sierra pickup driven by a 50-year-old Fillmore man.

None of the three drivers was physically injured, but you can imagine the psychological impacts.

As of Jan. 21, the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Bureau had not been able to identify the victim. The CHP said it was not yet known if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the incident.

Caltrans really should put up pedestrian crossing warning signs and flashing lights along that stretch of freeway.

Last month, I watched in amazement as a woman ran across the three northbound lanes and tried to climb into the median planter, fell back, got up and successfully scrambled in on her second try as I drove past. Where she went after that I couldn’t tell, but the 9-1-1 operator was not the least bit surprised by my report.

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Just as alarmingly, several times now I’ve come around the blind curve on the northbound Laguna Street exit ramp and have had to swerve sharply to avoid someone walking in the middle of the lane.

In one instance, a bicyclist was meandering lazily along as if he owned the road. Based on the size of the sprawling, illegal nonconforming-use makeshift development nearby, evidently he does.

This is a public safety issue — for motorists and roadside residents — and it’s way past time for elected officials and authorities to start treating it as such.

3. 2 People Hospitalized After Two-Vehicle Crash on Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta

Cathedral Oaks Road wreck Click to view larger
Carnage on Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

A two-vehicle crash in Goleta sent both occupants to the hospital the evening of Jan. 17.

As our Tom Bolton first reported, the collision occurred just before 6 p.m. at the intersection of Cathedral Oaks and Arundel roads, two blocks east of North Fairview Avenue.

Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli told Tom that one person in each vehicle suffered minor to moderate injuries in the wreck. They were transported to American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The victims’ identities and details of their conditions were not disclosed.

There were no other injuries in the collision, which is being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department.

4. Santa Barbara County Starting COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments for Residents 75 and Up

Vaccination schedule Click to view larger
(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department illustration)

California’s rollout of the long-expected but apparently only recently planned-for coronavirus vaccine continued to be an erratic shot show throughout the state.

As of Jan. 21, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, California ranked dead last — 50th out of 50 states — with just 37.3 percent of its allocation used.

Against that pathetic backdrop, our Giana Magnoli reported on Jan. 15 that the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department was continuing to make headway — albeit uneven headway — with its own distributions under the state’s typically convoluted vaccination strategy.

Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the department’s director, said doses have now been administered to much of the first priority group, which includes certain health-care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

Beginning Jan. 20, she added, the county expected to start vaccinating residents age 75 and up — state vaccine supply permitting, of course.

Unfortunately, the county’s progress significantly trails the expectations that the California Department of Public Health has been raising.

While Do-Reynoso was revealing a more measured next local stage, the state was ambitiously announcing that counties can now extend the vaccination schedule to people age 65 and up. That would be terrific if it could back it up with supply to meet demand. It hasn’t so far.

Instead, it seems that all the state is doing is cruelly toying with a public that has been on edge for nearly a year as the worst pandemic in our lifetime disrupts pretty much everything we know.

The public expects more, and deserves it, and Gov. Gavin Newsom should start being held accountable for not delivering.

If you’re at least 75, click here to see if you can get a vaccination appointment.

5. Construction Worker Seriously Injured When Struck by Suspected DUI Driver in Santa Barbara

At 8:16 a.m., a Santa Barbara construction crew flagman could not have been at his shift for long before he was struck by an alleged drunken driver on Jan. 20.

Nicolas Jasso Jr. Click to view larger
Nicolas Jasso Jr., drunken driving suspect. (Santa Barbara Police Department photo)

As our Jade Martinez-Pogue first reported, the victim was directing traffic at a job site in the 1600 block of State Street, near Arrellaga Street, when he was hit.

Santa Barbara police spokesman Anthony Wagner said 32-year-old Nicolas Jasso Jr. of Santa Barbara was driving south on State Street at about 30 mph when he ran into the victim.

The man suffered severe head injuries in the collision and was rushed by an American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

His identity and details on his medical condition were not immediately available.

Wagner said Jasso was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and other charges. As of Jan. 21, he was being held in Santa Barbara County Jail on $100,000 bail.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Police Investigating Homicide in Downtown Santa Barbara.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

The tunes are not really my taste, but timing is everything and I do love Barilla pasta: These Barilla X Spotify Playlists Tell You How Long You Should Cook Your Pasta.

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

@sadiethealaskanmalamute, cows and #myfavoritepalmtree. They’re all in my Instagram feed this past week.

•        •        •

Watch It

After nearly a year, we can all relate. It’s fine.

(Holderness Family Vlogs video)

•        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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