While partisan politics continued to grab headlines on Capitol Hill, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County stayed steady overnight, staying at 18, although the number of outstanding test results did increase significantly.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s health officer, was pointed in his comments at an afternoon briefing by the county: coronavirus is now a community spread disease within the county lines.
“As a health officer, I am telling all Santa Barbara County residents please assume the virus is in your community, assume you are at risk for contracting it and take action to stop the spread,” Dr. Ansorg said. “Due to limited availability to testing and the need to ensure these tests for those that are most vulnerable and symptomatic, we are asking community members to practice home care if they become ill with mild respiratory symptoms.”
Dr. Ansorg would not confirm nor deny that the county’s latest nine cases — all revealed since Saturday — are hospitalized or under home care, due to privacy concerns. He also provided no insight into whether the cases were related to any school campuses.
Other counties are reporting hospitalizations, as Ventura County revealed that it had 35 overall cases, including six hospitalizations.
Previously, Dr. Ansorg had confirmed that the initial nine cases were under home quarantine.
“At that time I felt comfortable making that comment,” Dr. Ansorg said.
With 493 tests given in the county to date, there are still 245 pending results.
According to Dr. Ansorg, it is inevitable that there will be more positive results.
“I am convinced it is in multitude of the positive results, for sure,” Dr. Ansorg said.
While doctors are able to predict with some level of certainty how difficult an influenza season will be, the same can’t be said for COVID-19.
“Because this virus is so novel, it is impossible to predict to the exact or close amount. With influenza we are able to have modeling where we can anticipate how many cases we will have. With this novel virus it is impossible to predict at this point,” Dr. Ansorg explained.
While positive results were stagnant for 24 hours, statewide numbers continued to rise, with 2,220 overall cases and 42 deaths.
Dr. Ansorg indicated that fatalities depend on the age and underlying conditions that patients face, which makes it critical that people pay attention to the stay-at-home mandate from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“The public should assume that COVID-19 is spreading throughout our communities. We urge you to stay home as much as possible to ensure that we are doing everything we can to flatten the curve,” Dr. Ansorg said.
“It will not slow down unless everyone takes ownership of their role in stopping the spread. The Public Health Department and local healthcare system cannot do this without your cooperation and your support of everyone in Santa Barbara County.”
District Attorney focused on price gouging
For the first time since the PHD began to host press conferences last week, District Attorney Joyce Dudley was present to address the county.
She started with a personal note that showed a level of understanding as to what local small businesses face during the coronavirus crisis.
“My father was a small business owner. It would have broken his heart to lay off his employees. It would have devastated him to not be able to pay his bills and not provide for his family,” Ms. Dudley said.
Despite her affection for small businesses, she was also very pointed in the potential for prosecution if a small business engages in price gouging — which is defined by raising prices by more than 10% after the declaration of an emergency, also known as Penal Code Section 396.
“The law applies to any person or business selling goods or services, including food, drink, emergency supplies, medical supplies, storage facilities, emergency clean-up material and transportation,” Ms. Dudley said.
Charges can be either criminal or civil, depending on the severity of the gouging.
Criminal violations can lead to one year in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, while civil cases have penalties up to $5,000 per violation.
“Local businesses have traditionally been community partners during crises, but anyone that profiteers during a state of emergency will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Ms. Dudley said. “County residents must have access to necessary supplies, especially when community health is at stake.”
She encouraged anyone that feels they are experiencing a price-gouging incident to file a report through the county’s website at countyofsb.org/da.
Ms. Dudley understands that fear factors into many decisions, both for individuals and businesses.
“I know that many of you are scared, I’m hearing that all the way over in the District Attorney’s office,” Ms. Dudley said. “I also know that you would be comforted if we could tell you exactly when this would end. We can’t. I wish we could.”
Looking for more options
During Monday’s press conference, Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart addressed how social distancing is impacting local homeless shelters.
Mr. Hart indicated that due to social distancing, capacity at varying shelters has decreased, leaving officials searching for options in both the South and Mid counties.
In the North County, some of the homeless population is being sent to Santa Maria High School, where they’ve opened up space for those in need.
Goleta sends out reminder
As children and parents alike are becoming restless due to the stay-at-home mandate, the city of Goleta sent out a reminder that all play structures and exercise equipment at city parks, beaches and open space are not to be used.
In addition, the skatepark at Jonny D. Wallis Neighborhood Park on S. Kellogg Avenue is closed as well.
“As a mother and grandmother, I understand how challenging it is to find ways to keep energetic children active and busy but we also know it is imperative that we do what we can to prevent the spread of this potential deadly virus,” said Paula Perotte, Goleta’s mayor. “Like you, we can’t wait to get back to normal one day soon but in the meantime, we are deeply appreciative of our community members who have been extremely cooperative as we move through this difficult time day by day, hour by hour.”
United Way starts relief fund
The United Ways of California have started a relief fund that will focus on helping support working families that are adversely affected by quarantine, while also aiding in the coordination of community relief efforts.
According to the news release, “funds raised will complement local funds sponsored by local United Ways and their partners to strengthen those impacted during this extraordinary crisis. Several local United Ways, including Santa Barbara County, have already established region-specific funds.”
There are more than 40 AmeriCorps team members in the field, as they are providing “essential outreach services, housing retention support and funding to our partners.”
You can donate online at unitedwaysb.org/covid19.
California postpones jury trials
Late Monday, California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye issued a statewide order that suspends all jury trials in California’s superior courts for the next 60 days, adhering to Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home executive order.
The order includes:
- All jury trials are suspended and continued for 60 days, although courts can conduct a trial at an earlier date if a good cause is shown or remote technology is acquired.
- Time periods to begin criminal and civil trials are extended for 60 days, with the same caveats as above.
- Superior courts are authorized to adopt any proposed rules or rule amendment that is intended to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to take effect immediately, without advance circulation for 45 days of public comment.
Paul speaks out
A day after being diagnosed with COVID-19, U.S. Senator Rand Paul spoke out about his decision to get tested, as well as his view on how people are handling the pandemic.
Mr. Paul said that he got tested due to concerns over his lung surgery in 2019.
After going through the process of being tested, Mr. Paul said that the current guidelines for testing are not sufficient, and that he would have never received a test because he showed no symptoms.
“It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested,” Mr. Paul said. “Perhaps it is too much to ask that we simply have compassion for our fellow Americans who are sick or fearful of becoming so. Thousands of people want testing. Many, like David Newman of ‘The Walking Dead,’ are sick with flu symptoms and are being denied testing. This makes no sense.”
Partisanship puts stimulus on hold
The $1.8 trillion economic stimulus plan in the U.S. Senate took a massive step backward, as things got heated on the senate floor during a second attempt to get the 60 votes needed to push it to a vote.
Senate Democrats continued to balk at the lack of specificity in how businesses would be aided with the plan, while Senate Republicans balked at the Democrats trying to add environmental clauses into the plan.
Meanwhile, the checks that were rumored to be sent directly to Americans as unemployment rises steeply were put on hold.
President Trump was outspoken that he wanted a deal done quickly.
“Congress must… join together to pass the Senate bill as written and avoid playing any more partisan games,” Mr. Trump said. “(Democrats) have to stop asking for things that have no relationship to what we’re talking about.”
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin was seen working with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer on Monday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left out of talks.
Mr. Schumer indicated that he and Mr. Mnuchin were close to a deal.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has gone ahead with her own stimulus plan that would reach about $2.5 trillion. Her plan would aid hospitals, unemployment compensation, paid leave and also provide cash for Americans.
As of press time on Monday night, there were no additional votes on any plans in either the House or Senate.
Trump addresses slipping economy
Mr. Trump made it clear on Monday that he wants to “open up our country” as quickly as possible.
On Twitter, he said “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go!”
Mr. Trump indicated that he would look into modifying the decisions to closing schools and businesses.
While modifying federal guidelines sets a tone, in California and other hard-hit states, citizens would still be required to follow the local mandates.