The Week Ahead: Heavyweight Newsmakers Interview Lineup Plus: New Econ Director Debuts, Test Update
This week, we'll interview five prominent local newsmakers about the coronavirus, an influential lineup of policy, politics and media figures offering their perspectives on how the pandemic is impacting Santa Barbara, and what lies ahead.
Monday. Monique Limon, 37th District Assemblymember and state Senate candidate, will check in to talk about Sacramento's response to COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom's performance, as well as state and federal resources that are available.
Tuesday. Josh Molina, political reporter for Noozhawk, will Zoom in to discuss his reporting on how the virus has slammed local businesses (and what it's like to do daily journalism while teaching virtual SBCC classes and helping two kids with at-home schooling).
Wednesday. Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara's man in the House of Representatives, is scheduled to talk with us about the latest in Washington, including the push to pass new federal bail-out and recovery legislation to help those suffering from the shutdown.
Thursday. Meagan Harmon, city council member from District 6, will fill us in on what City Hall is up to in handling countless local impacts, from landlord-tenant relations and the homeless community to plummeting tax revenue and efforts to restart the economy.
Friday. Kate Ford, Santa Barbara Unified School District board member and career educator, will update us on the search for a new superintendent and offer her insights on how the closure of schools and efforts at online learning will affect students.
With great appreciation to all our guests, Newsmakers invites you to send us any questions you have for any of them, or any topics you'd like to hear more about.
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New guy in town. The maxim that "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" has been variously attributed to Oscar Wilde and Will Rogers, not to mention ad campaigns for Botany Suits and Head and Shoulders shampoo.
Regardless of its origin, it's hard to think of a recent time when the adage applied more than to Tuesday's expected debut appearance of recently hired Economic Development Manager Jason Harris at the virtual Santa Barbara City Council meeting
Before the pandemic, the occupant of the newly created $182,193 post already faced a set of daunting challenges, amid the breakdown of the traditional retail industry; a lack of housing that cops, firefighters, teachers and other middle class workers can afford; the fatuous disgrace that is the impenetrable Community Development Department bureaucracy and permit process and a small army of embattled and embittered small business owners looking for some help from City Hall, for starters.
Now...well...here's the top of Josh's latest:
"The shelter-in-place government order amid the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has decimated Santa Barbara's hotel, travel, restaurant and retail industries.
In the past month, hotel occupancies have dropped 85 percent. Airport travel has plummeted 95 percent. Restaurant jobs have plunged 80 percent. An estimated 30 percent of restaurants that closed might never reopen."
Harris has been telling council members and reporters that he's a big advocate of "out-of-the-box thinking." Wishing him all good luck in the new gig, we're eager to hear exactly what that might mean in addressing the dire circumstances Santa Barbara is facing.
But hey, no pressure, dude.
The increasingly deranged reality TV host who occupies the White House enraged governors of both parties over the weekend when he falsely claimed the nation's testing "capability and capacity are fully sufficient to begin opening up the country totally."
In truth, the federal government's failure to prepare and assemble a robust testing system, while frittering away weeks during which Trump claimed the virus posed no threat to the nation, is the original sin of the pandemic in the U.S., leaving the country in the predicament of not knowing where or how widespread the threat is, because those who carry it may not show symptoms of sickness themselves.
Supervisor Gregg Hart outlined the local need for testing, and more testing, in our conversation last week, and a new must-read piece in the Atlantic about national testing policy nails down the fact that not only do we need more tests -- we also need a new strategy for who is being tested.
"Even as Donald Trump has delineated his plan to relax social distancing, the United States remains very much in the dark about who has the coronavirus and who does not. We have a shortage of COVID-19 tests, and we simultaneously have the highest number of confirmed cases in the world.
"Consequently, not every American who wants a test can get one. Not every health-care worker can get one. Not even every patient entering a hospital can get one. Because of the shortages, we are rationing tests, and medical facilities and public-health officials are prioritizing the sickest patients for them.
If the goal is to restart the American economy, the United States isn’t performing anywhere near enough tests. Worse still, we are testing the wrong people. To safely reopen closed businesses and revive American social life, we need to perform many more tests—and focus them on the people most likely to spread COVID-19, not sick patients."
It's a scary piece, but Newsmakers says check it out.
Images: The Coronavirus; Jason Harris (keyt); Dr. Fauci thought balloon: "We are lions led by asses."