Sen. Jackson Talks COVID-19 with Humanist Society

By Robert Bernstein

Our April Humanist Society meeting with Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson was held online via Zoom.

Hannah-Beth has kindly shared her talk slides which are posted here. Here are some screenshots that I made during the meeting as well.

She started out by acknowledging that the shutdown for COVID-19 has been difficult and that there is pressure to end the shutdown.

Senator Jackson explained that it is a hardship for her as well. She has not been in Sacramento for five weeks. This is her last term in the Senate and her last chance to create legislation. Being a State Senator is not just about legislation. It is also about being a leader when it counts. She said that she is able to do work from home and that her staff is able to provide services for constituents. Her district covers all of Santa Barbara County as well as part of Ventura County. This is a chance for the two counties to learn from each other.

This is a health care crisis in more ways than people may realize. Sansum and Cottage provide health care for 225,000 people. Sansum had to cancel elective surgeries. That is their primary income. They have had to lay off half of their workforce. This is also an unprecedented demand on California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) which administers Unemployment Insurance. They have handled more cases in this crisis than in all of last year. She is working with the Governor’s office to give him emergency powers to get Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

California has had fewer deaths than originally predicted because of the stay at home order. New York did not act as quickly. Unfortunately, the Federal response is in “disarray”. She paused and said, “I can’t say there has been a Federal response.”

“California has had to go it alone.”

We made it through the Thomas Fire which had similar challenges. We had to deal with anxieties and fears. We need to get homeless people in isolation so that they don’t get infected. We have hot spots in our region at the Lompoc Federal Prison. And at senior living homes. The disease is very contagious. And it is insidious. People are contagious before they even feel sick. Up to four days before feeling sick.

It is a challenge to keep people patient. People 65 and over are more vulnerable. But people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are also getting sick and dying. Only the very youngest seem to be mostly OK. It may have to do with their young immune systems being less likely to over react.

Her first slide showed that our efforts to “flatten the curve” with the stay at home order have been successful:

She emphasized that we need to listen to experts, not politicians. Science must be used as a guide.

What do we value? The economy? Human life? Both? California has suffered over 1,000 deaths so far.

The disease has significant impacts even if it is survived. It can cause heart and lung disease as well as neurological damage.

For some it is not especially harmful. But they can still transmit it.

Some come into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and have to be intubated. This is a severe treatment and requires constant care. We don’t have enough capacity if there is a big surge.

We need to build more capacity and we need PPEs. We need to protect seniors from infection. We need to minimize disruptions as much as possible under the circumstances. There is a real possibility of clinical depression.

What will it take to ease the Stay At Home Order in California? She listed six points on six slides.

We need “herd immunity” which means 80% are not transmitting the disease. There are two ways to achieve this. When enough people have had it. Or when there is a vaccine.

It may be possible for people to get it more than once. Coronavirus is similar to the common cold and that can be had over and over. We just don’t know.

Vaccines typically take years. The record time for a vaccine was mumps, which took four years.

Here are the six needs before the order can change:

    1) The ability to test, monitor and protect through contact tracing, isolating and supporting those who are positive or exposed.
    2) The ability to protect those who are most at risk for more severe COVID-19
    3) The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges
    4) Having effective treatments. Right now we really have none.
    5) The ability for businesses, schools and child care facilities to maintain physical distancing
    6) To know when to re-institute the stay at home order if it is necessary

Things will be different, even when this crisis is over. Masks will be a thing as has been common in parts of Asia for years.

She said that North County in Santa Barbara has not done as well as the rest of the County with social distancing.

She showed a slide of the current status of COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County at the time of her talk.

She is on many Senate committees that are working on this.

We have had SARS, Ebola and H1N1. Others will emerge. We need to research and anticipate before they become a crisis.

The last three years have seen a dismantling of preparedness at a Federal level.

One third of the world is currently under some form of stay at home order or no travel order.

The result is unemployment. But there are other impacts as well. The courts and justice system are impacted.

Meanwhile, other threats don’t go away. We still need to be prepared for wildfires. The Joint Committee on Emergencies is there for that purpose.

On the plus side there have been some benefits!

People working from home don’t have to deal with commute hassles. There are no traffic jams. And the air quality has been greatly improved.

This year is a Census year and a major election year. She urged people to complete the Census to be counted. And she is pushing to make all California elections be vote by mail.

In 2002 California moved to allow voting by mail for any reason. In 2016 65% of ballots were being cast by mail.

President Trump has said he does not want people to vote so that he can win.

Senator Jackson then took questions.

Judy Fontana asked about the best sites for local information. Senator Jackson’s assistant Sophie Fox gave us these links: and

I asked what is happening with testing? She said that we are missing basic materials like swabs. Governor Newsom is working with the private sector on this.

She blamed the Federal government for allocating resources based on political affiliation rather than on need.

She also said that the tests need to be accurate. Some tests have not been accurate.

Diane asked about Governor Newsom’s economic team. It is a large team including Patagonia president Rose Marcario and Tom Steyer. It is a bipartisan team.

Neal asked about nursing home regulation. The answer is that there are not enough nursing homes and they are not well regulated. She has worked on this for years.

Senator Jackson also pointed out that the Federal government can print money and run a deficit. Our state does not have either option. We have a $19 billion rainy day fund, but that will get spent quickly if this shutdown continues.


Written by sbrobert

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  1. “We need “herd immunity” which means 80% are not transmitting the disease. There are two ways to achieve this. When enough people have had it. Or when there is a vaccine.”
    This is such a contradiction!!! Wait for a vaccine (year +) or get to herd immunity (which is impossible with the stay at home order) LET PEOPLE GO BACK TO WORK!!!! And the local jurisdictions being ill prepared for this is somehow the federal governments fault? Only 2,000 tests throughout the county so far… pathetic.

  2. Mac, according the “data” and “experts” that isn’t the case all. That is only the case for a very small portion of the population who should absolutely stay home. Rather than being so quick to demean and knock down other people’s comments, do you have anything postive to contribute to the discussion about how we navigate out of this crisis?

  3. I would like to see explanation about the calls for “herd immunity” while the government orders the the herd to stay at home! I appreciate Sen. Jackson’s years in the legislature, but this rang sourly, “Senator Jackson explained that it is a hardship for her as well. She has not been in Sacramento for five weeks.” Are we supposed to feel sorry for her because she is following orders and staying home in Montecito, an attractive home, it would seem from the Jerry Roberts interview on Newsmakers. Doesn’t seem much of a “hardship”.

  4. 0.31% of the US population has contracted the virus so far, according to the available data. Some suggest that more people have the virus than is being reported, due to under-testing. With more testing it’s likely that those numbers will go up, but by how much? Would efficient testing reveal a number close to what is required for herd immunity? I find that unlikely for the following reasons. Let’s say that 90% of people exposed are effectively asymptomatic. This means the remaining 10% are getting tested and responsible for the total reported cases, or the aforementioned 0.31% of the US population (1 million people so far). The remaining asymptomatic people would then account for about 9 million people. That’s 10 million out of a total US population of around 325 million, or 3.1%, who in theory would have some immunity. This is still a far cry from the 29-74% numbers some people have been citing. This means a vaccine is required to make up the shortfall, or people just need to go out, get infected, and keep their fingers crossed. As far as a vaccine, there are none for MERS and maybe a secret one for SARS that the CDC developed. Those are the facts. The “shelter in place” guidelines failed to flatten the curve completely before people grew tired and began venturing back outside. It was destined to fail without real enforcement. The only result is a damage economy and a lot of stress. So those who wish to go out and build up herd immunity should be free to do so at this point. Just keep in mind that some viruses can increase the likelihood of cancer, HPV for example, and the damage from ARDS may be lifelong for those whose illness progresses to that point.

  5. SAM, the problem with allowing “healthy” people to carry on as normal, even with the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions staying home, is that those healthy people will get it and spread it, making it VERY dangerous for those at risk to go out and even do this simplest thing such as buying some milk. Now even getting groceries delivered to their homes becomes a problem, because those “healthy” people are out there spreading it on everything. It really is not as easy as you like to say it is.

  6. this was quite a fluff piece. 2 months into this madness and it’s like we don’t know anything new. who has it? who doesn’t? big fat mystery. If you Flatten the Curve too hard, the threat of infection lasts forever. The “millions will die” Prediction Models are like the nation applying a fat strip of duct tape to it’s belly.
    now you can pull that off as slow as possible and feel every individual hair ripping from your flesh….

  7. STD – You’re making recommendations based on ignoring the data. That’s never a wise decision. Even with available data (from Johns Hopkins), one can look at the outcomes so far in nations that adopted stringent distancing and quarantine protocols early, and those that were late to the party. Look at New Zealand (1,469 confirmed / 19 deaths) vs England (157,149/ 21,092 ) . And Sweden, with their herd immunity experiment (18,296 / 2,274). That tells you that physical distancing works.
    Keep your eye on the data for US states/counties to watch the wave of infection and death in the states that open up too much too early.

  8. Comparing New Zealand to England is like comparing Santa Barbara to New York City. I also never said social distancing should stop, just the stay at home order! You Mac, are also ignoring all the data coming out showing the majority of people who get it are asymptomatic. This data leads to a drastically reduced morbidity and mortality rates, which drastically alter the assumptions used to have us stay at home (i.e. millions of Californians will die!). Yet again Mac, still nothing from you to contribute to the discussion about navigating out of this crisis. If it was up to you we’d stay at home the rest of the year, for which you fail to realize the resulting death and destruction would be greater that releasing the stay at home now (while keeping social distancing in place)

  9. @ 3:27, no one said back to normal, just release the stay at home order. With us socially distancing at the “essential” retailers where is the huge outbreak among grocery store workers? There isn’t because with some basic protective measures it’s easy to mitigate the spread of the virus. Everyone is forgetting how gross people were just a few months ago, no regard to where or how they sneezed, rarely washing their hands, etc. KEEP SOCIAL DISTANCING—RELEASE THE STAY AT HOME ORDER!!

  10. Yes, STD, compare Santa Barbara to New York City. What do you see? High population density = hard to physical distance = death. Urban sprawl = people physically distancing = less death, but still substantially more than your beloved “flue”. Just keep watching the data from the states with ignorant leadership like Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas, and be thankful that we won’t be following the political agenda that you are advocating.

  11. What a political soapbox this article was: smears, digs, and false accusations against the federal government and unproven assumptions. To say Newsom’s economic team “is a bipartisan team” by mentioning Rose Marcario and Tom Steyer, two staunch Democrats, albeit capitalists, is hardly bipartisan. “She is pushing to make all California elections be vote by mail” – when her majority legislature is simultaneously pushing to eliminate qualifications or citizenship verification for voters. “She blamed the Federal government for allocating resources based on political affiliation rather than on need” – where does Jackson get that from? The federal government sent hospital ships and vast sums of healthcare and money to both CA and NY, the two “bluest” states in the union. “We are missing basic materials like swabs. Governor Newsom is working with the private sector on this.” – I hope it’s not like the $1 Billion he gave to a Chinese car manufacturer to make masks and refuses to release the contract info. Yes, Hannah Beth, we shouldn’t listen to politicians, only “experts”, yet we are supposed to listen to you.

  12. MACPUZL, many of your posts seem to wish for people in other states with “ignorant leadership” to die so you can say “I told you so” while praising our one-party local and state government. Maybe you should be doing the opposite and hope that those states, getting back to normal life by lifting lockdowns, continue to drop their mortality rate so that maybe, just maybe, we can here, too.

  13. “We have a $19 billion rainy day fund, but that will get spent quickly if this shutdown continues.” Yet Newsom authorizes $75 million for illegal immigrant virus payment checks at $500/person and $1000/household? And another $98 million a year in free healthcare? Insanity at work here among our state and local politicians.

  14. I’m not wishing for it, but it’s easy to see it coming from the states with poor leaders who value political advice over medical advice. Just sit back and watch the stats on the Johns Hopkins site. Luckily, our leaders are a bit more concerned about the welfare of the populace, so we will remain with sane protocols for a while longer.

  15. I cannot find an instance where Trump said that “he does not want people to vote so that he can win.” Maybe he did say this, or maybe he did not, or m-a-y-b-e this was just an interpretation, a feeling, or made up.

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