Five Takeaways from First Telephone Town Hall

Government, Health Officials Answer Coronavirus Questions

Hannah-Beth Jackson, California State Senator for the 19th District, at her home in Santa Barbara. | Credit: Paul Wellman

An hour before Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a state-wide shelter-in-place mandate, Congressmember Salud Carbajal, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and State Assemblymember Monique Limón held a telephone Town Hall to address the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 650 residents listened via phone as Director of County Public Health Van Do-Reynoso, County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg, and Director of the Cottage Health Laboratory Dr. Stewart Comer answered some of the more than 130 questions that had been previously submitted by the public. 

Much of the discussion centered around the possibility of a county-wide “shelter in place“ mandate for those over 70 years of age, but that was overridden by the governor’s orders for all state residents issued less than 15 minutes after the telephone Town Hall ended. However, many important details did come out of the event, and the government officials said that they will hold more of these telephone town halls in the future.

Here are the takeaways:

  1. There are 32 ventilators — the main COVID-19 treatment for those with serious cases — between all hospitals in the county. This bit of information had been unanswerable by anyone in the county until Jan Koegler, manager of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, chimed in on the call. She also added that they are getting more in, and hospitals have expanded capacity with triage tents.
  2. Dr. Ansorg also issued a health order for all bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys, breweries and wine tasting rooms, gyms, theaters, and anywhere else people gather. Santa Barbara City Council ordered this for the city on Tuesday, but so far the county had only strongly suggested it. 
  3. There are currently about 200 tests being administered per day county-wide. Dr. Comer said that the test availability is high, but the turnaround for results is the tricky part. The county and private doctors are still deciding to test patients based on the tier method, detailed here. 
  4. Dr. Ansorg addressed the claim that the expected timeline for the virus to die off is 18 months. He said it’s not. Ansorg said life should be back to normal by the five-month mark. The pandemic can, however, return at any time. He said 18 months is about the amount of time they hope to develop a vaccine for the virus. 
  5. Although Assemblymember Limón made it clear there was no way to get through all 130 questions in the first town-hall phone call, it was interesting that none of the questions selected dealt with the fallout on workers and small-business managers who are facing serious financial problems now that so many businesses are closing. This is what’s on many Santa Barbarans minds: unemployment insurance and small-business loans — financial aid of any kind. Stay tuned for those answers.

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