Community COVID -19 meeting

COVID-19 Community Response Group Meeting Notes

June 17, 2020

Attendees (via Zoom):

20th Congressional District, State Senate District 17, 30th Assembly District, Cal State Parks, US Forest Service, 5th District Supervisor, Parks Management Company, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Big Sur Health Center, Esalen Institute, Big Sur Fire, Big Sur CERT, and the Community Association of Big Sur 

Big Sur Health Center:

Executive Director Sharen Carey reports the Big Sur Health Center:

  • There are still no known cases of COVID-19 in the Big Sur planning area.
  • The State has relaxed some restrictions resulting in allowing some patients to resume preventative and elective visits to the Health Center.
  • Is making testing available to all MEMBERS of THE BIG SUR COMMUNITY emphasizing employees of Big Sur businesses. There are currently a few employees per day being tested at the Health Center. 
  • The testing is conducted in a “drive up” setting meaning that the individual being tested does not enter the building. 
  • Bottom line defense against contracting the virus: Assume it is in Big Sur and take all precautions recommended : wearing facemasks in public, social distancing, frequent handwashing.

Big Sur Fire, Chief Matt Harris:

Chief Matt Harris reports Big Sur Fire:

  • A fire broke out on Plaskett Ridge just prior to the start of our Zoom meeting. Chief Harris was otherwise engaged and unavailable to participate.

Fifth District Supervisor. Sarah Hardgrave for Supervisor Mary Adams reports.

  • That BSMAAC meeting will be held as a Zoom call on Friday, June 19th from 10am to noon.
  • Supervisor Adams continues to conduct virtual office meetings with the goal to help people understand what is required from the hospitality business and travelers coming to our County.
  • That there are some red flags regarding the 14 day  metrics of County wide infections per 100k residents (110) and percentage of those tested that are positive for Covid-19 (8.6%) but that hospital ICU capacity and skilled nursing availability are good.
  • June 19th, personal care providers can resume business activities if they follow State guidelines.  Those services include massage therapy, nail salons and tattoo parlors. 
  • Sarah also shared that Yuri Anderson has been instrumental in getting COVID-19 testing available at MPC and keeping it available for Peninsula residents. Thank you Yuri!
  • Rick Aldinger asked for some clarification from the County on protocols and clear guidance regarding conducting weddings. He is requesting that Supervisor Adams office issue some specifics.  Sarah replied that Mary and Supervisor Phillips are heading up this category of business reopening and will follow up.
  • Butch observed that with our Resident Sheriff on vacation last week, the situation at Bixby, let alone the South Coast has again begun to be chaotic. Compounding this issue is the fact that the emergency road side 911 phone at Bixby is inoperable.  As this is a County OES responsibility, Butch asked Sarah to please get them on the case to fix it. She’s on it.

Big Sur Chamber of Commerce reports:

  • Kirk Gafill reports that nearly all businesses in Big Sur have been allowed to reopen. Some are choosing to do so based on their own internal timing with the large Inns and Esalen slated to all be open by mid-July, if not sooner.
  • Although open, each business in the hospitality space has stringent guidelines and mitigations to contend with in order to remain open. This will result in a higher cost structure to meet the higher standard of best practices required by State Health Officials. Kirk  Is expressed concerns with the sustainability of the current situation.
  • Rick thanked Phil Deppert and Katie Moon (Congressman Panetta), Dominic Dursa (Assembly Member Rivas), and Sarah Hardgraves (Supervisor Mary Adams) for continuing to participate in our weekly calls. Our Elected Representatives play a huge role in shaping our lives and businesses in Big Sur. 

Community Emergency Response Team, Martha Karstens:.

  • Martha reported from Chews Ridge fire look-out, in real time, the start of the second fire in 2 weeks on Plaskett Ridge.
  • Live Training concludes Saturday. 17 community members will have completed basic CERT training and will be available if needed.

USFS, LPNF Monterey District, Tom Murphey sitting in for Ranger Tim Short:

  • Group sites at the developed campgrounds opening this weekend. Limited to 10 or fewer people.
  • The Forest Order closing the dispersed camping areas expired June 14th.
  • When asked, Tom reported that the LPNF is approximately 1.75 million acres over 5 Districts, with 3 USFS Law Enforcement Officers. The Monterey District, at 325k acres has 0 USFS LEO’s dedicated to patrol.  

Ca. State Parks, Monterey District, Big Sur Sector Superintendent Marcos Ortega:

  • Pfeiffer State Park successfully reopened for Day Use with the campground slated for reopening on June 29th.
  • Big Sur Lodge reopening on June 18th.
  • During the month of May, Parks issued 263 citations for violations like illegal camping and trespassing.  In 2019, by comparison, 79 citations were issued. So far in June, Parks has issued 50 citations and hundreds of verbal warnings.
  • The seasonal Bridge to be installed at Andrew Molera this week. The Bridge near the softball field in the Park goes in next Wednesday.

Parks Management Company, Brian Cushman, CEO:

  • Confirmed that group sites were opening at the developed campgrounds.
  • Lime Kiln campground having a limited soft opening on Saturday the 20th of June.
  • Early soft openings to work out bugs around social distancing protocols.

Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Mike Splain, ED:

  • Between 6/10 & 6/16, 7 Volunteer Wilderness Rangers contributed approximately 100 hours on 4 patrols into the Ventana & Silver Peak Wilderness, all on coast-side trails. One week-long patrol is still underway, but so far reports include 26 visitor contacts, 7 pounds of trash packed out, & 17 fire rings cleaned or removed. Other patrol focuses were graffiti removal & posting / replacing no campfire signage.
  • Thanks to the USFS, National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance, the Nepenthe/Phoenix donor-advised fund at the CFMCO, & CABS, the pilot self-registration Wilderness Permit system is fully funded & expected to launch by Labor Day weekend.

Esalen Institute. Lacy Shannon:

  • Esalen is targeting July 5th opening.
  • Does not yet have a timeline for allowing local bathing.

17th State Senate District, Colleen Courtney for Senator Bill Monning:

  • Unable to call in.

20th Congressional District, Katie Moon and Phil Deppert on behalf of Congressman Jimmy Panetta. 

  • Panetta is working with other Congress Members to increase funding for wild fire preparedness and infrastructure maintenance in our Forests.
  • On June 15th introduced legislation for tax credits for small business reopening.
  • Katie and Phil provided some background on the upcoming BSMAAC presentation on the wind turbine project proposed for Federal waters off the coast of Big Sur.

30th Assembly District, Dominic Dursa for Assembly Member Robert Rivas:

  • EDD constituent service is a major focus of the Assembly Members office.

Monterey County Sheriff Department, Deputy Villasenor:

  • Unable to call in.

Community Association of Big Sur, Butch Kronlund. ED:

  • The Draft Sustainable Destination Stewardship Plan for Big Sur is now available for review and comment on-line:
  • COVID-19 relief effort has assisted 111 Big Sur Families. 137 checks totaling $152,400 distributed. A final tranche of financial relief is anticipated to go out next week. 

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