Gregg Hart Advocates for More COVID-19 Testing

By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

An ongoing shortage of COVID-19 tests means that Santa Barbara County cannot move to reopen its economy yet, despite widespread compliance with California’s stay-at-home order that has stemmed the spread of the disease, Supervisor Gregg Hart told Newsmakers on Friday.

“We cannot move to the next stage blind,” Hart, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said in a one-on-one interview. “Indications are encouraging but we have tested so few people, we really don’t know what is going on.”

Crisp, direct and informative, Hart provided a detailed and up-to-the-minute status report on where the county stands in its fight against the coronavirus, both medically and financially, that carried a good news-bad news message.

Most encouraging, he said, is that residents have accomplished the crucial first goal of the battle against the pandemic by “bending the curve” — measurably slowing and reducing the dissemination of the virus to eliminate the danger of local hospitals and medical facilities being overwhelmed by sick people with COVID-19.

“This community knows how to do the right thing,” Gregg said. “I’m really impressed by how our community has responded to this crisis.”

That said, however, the virus remains a clear and present public health danger; there is no human immunity to it, and it is easily transmitted, even by people who show no symptoms. In order to ensure public safety and prevent a sudden new wave of disease, businesses cannot be reopened nor commerce restarted until there is a robust system in place to allow both random testing among the general population and targeted testing among at-risk populations:

“We need to know what’s happening and we need to know in real time and we need to be able to assure people that as we open more businesses and have people mixing together, we don’t cause a huge outbreak in the virus,” Hart told us. “The reason we have bent the curve is the…stay at home order that people have been practicing – that’s why we accomplished what we did.

“When we stop doing that and we don’t have the ability to test, we’ll be right back where we were before,” he added.

Asked what the timetable is for the county to obtain necessary testing materials and resources, Hart said, “I don’t know the answer to that question.”

“I haven’t seen any credible information about the timing of the availability of the testing that we need to do the next step of the process,” he said. “This is a national problem, this is an international problem – there aren’t enough tests to go around the planet.”

In the interview. Hart, who is leading the county response to the pandemic, also:

  • Explained the complex problems of trying to obtain tests through a “supply chain system that is not rationalized and not integrated.”

  • Assessed the financial challenge the county now faces, having taken a net hit from the pandemic of about $37 million in unforeseen higher costs and slumping revenues.

  • Discussed the difficulties of coping with a large Covid outbreak among the staff and inmates at the Federal Correctional Institute in Lompoc, some of whom may end up in county medicl facilities.

“Until there is a vaccine, it’s not like this is going to end,” Hart said, “The need to do testing and tracking and isolation and quarantine doesn’t stop in a couple of weeks or a month. It stops when there is herd immunity in the whole population, or a vaccine.”

See the whole interview by clicking above. The podcast version is here.


Written by Jerry Roberts

“Newsmakers” is a multimedia journalism platform that focuses on politics, media and public affairs in Santa Barbara. Learn more at

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  1. No, does not require 100% vaccinated, only 60-65%. Reference influenza. No one talks about that reality. With 60% vaccinated and 50-60% effectivity, 24,000 people died this past flu season. The previous season, after the government hyped up the vaccination need, 65% got a shot that had less than 15-30% (it’s age bracket data) effectivity (virus match) and 85,000 people died, **2.5X the current COVID fatalities. ** The mortality rate this past season was 11.9%. (making it epidemic) while COVID is less than 1% to 6% (age related) or at worst half that of COVID. Think about that a while. You can verify the numbers at the CDC FluView website.

  2. Reflect on this: Influenza: people seriously ill requiring hospitalizations: about a half a million. COVID: 80,000. Total cases influenza: 39-45 million. COVID 750,000. Children who have died, confirmed, influenza =168. COVID=zero (three pediatric deaths not confirmed covid) I do not in any way desire to diminish the horrors of dying, alone, from covid and the effect on families. But the way we are dealing with it, at least here (South Coast communities and actually, most of CA), the panic and hysteria are just not warranted. This is not New York City with people living a thousand people to an apartment building and jammed into subway stations and subway cars shoulder to shoulder. People fiddling with their masks/face coverings, taking them on and off, pulling them down to speak—all of that absolutely *increases* the risk of spreading the virus, if you are one of the dozen or so people who have it without knowing. And remember, those face coverings do absolutely nothing to prevent you from getting it. Distancing and keeping your hands sanitized absolutely does. So start making some educated choices, people.

  3. “When we stop doing that and we don’t have the ability to test, we’ll be right back where we were before,”
    where exactly were we…. before?
    were we ever drowning in cases?
    and yet he admits herd immunity is one of the goals….

  4. ” or we’re gonna open back up and those lucky enough to have the physiological makeup to shrug off the virus will have the advantage.” —- so.,. you mean… like the entirety of human history?
    lucky enough? have you been paying attention to the mortality? you’re “lucky” to die, the standard is survival.

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