FORT BRAGG, 12/1/20 — To fight a new virus that has held the community hostage for most of 2020, a “new normal” style non-profit is taking the lead on the Mendocino Coast: the Covid Response Network.
It has no fixed office, no annual fundraising event or any of the other trappings of an old style non-profit so far, but plenty of prominent Coast residents have gotten involved. Led by contributions from noted psychologist and author Dr. Richard Miller, Thanksgiving Coffee co-founder Paul Katzeff and Dr. Michael St. John, the CRN has put all of its efforts into linking related agencies and organizing people to conduct a different kind of fight against COVID-19.
The CRN board meets Fridays by Zoom, listening to community organizations and leaders involved in the COVID-19 response and finding ways to get involved in COVID 19-related community efforts now underway. The CRN board also includes magazine publisher Zida Borcich, former Redwood Coast Senior Center Executive Director Charles Bush and Dr. Nicholas Cozzi.
Interim Executive Director John Gallo said the strong sense of local community, coupled with the seclusion of the Coast, means the effort is both needed and can work.
“We here on the Coast, because of our isolation and size, have to be more self sufficient and self reliant than many people in America. The federal government’s response to the pandemic was questionable at best but the local people stepped up thanks to the unique blend of civic duty and self reliance that has brought us all together,” Gallo said.
The effort is focused on the Mendocino Coast watershed area from Elk Creek to Usal Creek. “It is also intended to be a pilot program that colleagues in other areas can model. Building resilience in many regions is a strategy to address global problems affecting us all, not just the local problems.”
The COVID Response Network has been furiously busy over its first three months, listening, surveying, writing letters and composing a community resource list on their website. The organization has leaped to local prominence very quickly.
“I think it’s because of that can-do attitude here on the Coast we were able to spin this organization up from nothing and now it’s getting more and more momentum,” Gallo said.
“This is also of necessity, because if the hospitals in NorCal get overrun like they are in Texas, or North Dakota, and have been in so many other places, we only have…12 ICU beds. It will be hard to helicopter out. If the region is overwhelmed…We’ll likely be last in line,” added Gallo.
After the COVID-19 threat is in the rear view mirror, the plan is to transition to a new CRN — the Coast Resilience Network — to be in a better position to deal with impacts that will hit the Coast in the coming years, Gallo said.
“There will be more, be they economic, ecological, social, or health impacts,” Gallo said.
Among those to attend the Zoom meetings and make presentations: Fort Bragg City Manager Tabatha Miller, Dr John Cottle of Sherwood Oaks Health Care Center, Molly Rosenthal, from Healthy Mendocino and Lucy Kramer from North Coast Opportunities. Jim Tarbell and Carrie Durkee from the Grassroots Institute discussed how the CRN could be involved with the Economy for Common Good Map (and database). Matt Drewno, founder of the Victory Gardens For Peace initiative, told the group about food resources on the Coast, Eric Stromberger provided information on short wave radios and operators in the county. Also, the new Hubs and Routes program, which identifies disaster resources on the Coast, has been discussed on several occasions. Hubs and Routes is another new organization created during the pandemic that has become prominent on the Coast quickly.
The CRN has an ongoing community survey. A total of 278 people had taken part in the survey by Nov 19, which had a $100 prize involved.
“We have a long list of things ready to go. We need to actually hire an executive director to get this flying at cruising altitude. My role is interim executive director. My job was to start this up, then pass the baton,” Gallo said.
The organization is currently planning to hire its first employees.
The CRN recently got involved in the issue of returning surveillance testing to the Coast. The Mendocino Coast Clinics had provided this for free all summer but the Zuckerberg Foundation and UCSF this month discontinued their testing program through the county’s clinics.
On Dec. 2 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m, the CRN will hold a giveaway for its new five pack of masks at Safeway in Fort Bragg. The mask give away is funded by a $6,000 grant from North Coast Opportunities, which also helps with the survey, free yard signs, information cards and to further build the network.
Why five packs? “One for each day of the week,” said Sinead Bermudez, one of the CRN members giving masks away last Sunday.
The CRN wants to educate community members to learn to wear their masks for one day only — reducing the risk of the mask itself becoming a disease vector. People are encouraged to use the five packs for five days, then wash the masks and start over, she said.
“There is a big spectrum with the amount of protection a mask can provide, “ Gallo said, saying the gap between the worst masks, like gaiters and bandannas and the better masks is big.
The first mask giveaway was Sunday before last, at the CV Starr Community Center in Fort Bragg. About two dozen cars came to pick up masks, with about 250 masks given away.
The program hopes that more people will come to the December event. Grocery stores are being asked to give away the free masks at their counters.
The CRN is offering a compendium of services on its website at CovidResponseNetwork.net. This provides a list of community services in a yellow pages style format. CRN is providing a list of resources available on the Coast.
To get involved sign up for the mailing list (from the website) to get notified of events and meetings, or contact Gallo, you can emaila [email protected].
Volunteers include Jane Bermudez, Sinead Bermudez, Keri Ann Bourne, Norman de Vall, Kate Dougherty, Jo Erickson, Susan Munson, Baile Oakes, Nancy Reynolds, Juliana Sanchez and Jeanne Smith.
There is a $25,000 match challenge underway. “When we reach $25,000 we will get major donations from Patricia Brown $5000 and from Michael St. John $4,000. We’re almost there! Every bit counts,” Gallo said
What about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s controversial call for a 10 p.m curfew?
“I think this winter is going to be really dark unless we take strong measures,” Gallo said.
“Keeping our local economy moving is going to require a series of small sacrifices. Otherwise we risk another total shutdown. Hopefully the sacrifices rotate through so no one industry takes the full brunt.”
The public is invited to the next meeting of the CRN, being held by Zoom on Dec. 1 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Guest speaker will be Lynn Finley, registered nurse, from Mendocino County public health. Zoom invitations can be obtained on the website.All donations to CRN are tax deductible, the website states. The CRN is under the fiscal sponsorship of Conception Coast Project, an organization that Gallo helped found and is currently the president. Gallo said 100 percent of donations to CRN made through Conception Coast Project go to CRN. The Conception Coast Project has IRS 990 non-profit entity filings going back more than a decade.
*Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified one of the people in the photo.