What do you get when you mix unseasonably hot weather and one of the only areas to leave miles of beaches open to the public?
Well, that picture was drawn this weekend on the South Coast, and officials are fairly satisfied with the outcome, with a couple of caveats.
As it had warned it would do, Santa Barbara County shut down the parking lot at Rincon County Park, as well as reduce parking at Arroyo Burro and Goleta Beach Park, while UCSB Police were monitoring Isla Vista Beach.
“Generally, it looks like a reasonable level of public compliance with the physical distancing guidelines,” said Gregg Hart, the county’s Second District Supervisor. “Reports were most people doing the right thing and the vast majority of the citations were for parking violations.”
Mr. Hart indicated that he had a Sunday night conversation with Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, who will share more details about the weekend today.
While the county has jurisdiction over many beaches, the city of Santa Barbara was also busy monitoring Leadbetter Beach, West Beach and East Beach, amongst others.
According to Mayor Cathy Murillo, firefighters, park rangers, lifeguards, downtown ambassadors and beach maintenance workers were all available to educate visitors on how to properly social distance.
“From what I saw, people were distancing appropriately,” Ms. Murillo said.
In recent weeks, Ms. Murillo indicated that her email was filled with messages from residents that were split 50-50 when it came to the issue of closing the beaches.
After the weekend, she indicated that it was leaning a bit more toward closing them, something she said will be tough, mostly due to logistics.
She said that simply closing parking lots would only cause people to park on the street.
“It would be impossible, people can enter anywhere,” Ms. Murillo said. “There’s no way to put up fencing and barricades. In my observation, there is hardly anyone on the beach in the morning, but it picks up in the afternoon.
“My advice is to go in the morning when no one is there. At the end of the day, people really should be home. You might have the virus and give it someone else. Or you can get it while you’re out. But, if you have to go out, make sure to do it when there are less people.”
One observation the mayor made was that face coverings were not being used as much as public health officials have encouraged. She indicated that City Council would discuss making them mandatory at grocery stores and pharmacies, falling short of saying they needed to be utilized on the beach.
“In parking lots, when you can come into contact with others, they should be used. And they should stay on until you find your secluded spot on the beach,” Ms. Murillo said. “Then they can stay off while you are by yourself.”
One city outlet that wasn’t found patrolling the beach was the Santa Barbara Police Department, with Ms. Murillo indicating that with many businesses shut down, the SBPD needs to be doing “police business, not patrolling beaches.”
“We need patrol in those areas where there’s not eyes and ears because of looting,” Ms. Murillo said. “People are getting more edgy.”
In the absence of extra law enforcement at the beach, Ms. Murillo indicated that even she was trying to assuage people from doing the wrong thing. She came across a group of six teenagers who had hopped the fence at the skate park. She simply explained the situation and the group left, simply mumbling a bit.
“I’m happy to do my own enforcement,” Ms. Murillo said.
Santa Barbara County, by the numbers
For the first time since the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department began to release figures on the number of positive COVID-19 cases, the number of newly confirmed patients was under five Sunday, with the PHD announcing three additional cases.
It also indicated that one confirmed case from Saturday was reported in error, leaving the counts over the past three days at nine, eight and three.
All three new cases were again in the North County (two in Santa Maria, one in Orcutt), further illustrating how the coronavirus is impacting the county in different ways.
North County accounts for 79.6% of the confirmed cases, with 373 in the north and 96 in the south.
The number of healthcare workers that have tested positive remained unchanged Sunday at 59. It is unknown how many in this group have recovered or if any are hospitalized.
COVID-19, by the numbers
A look at nationwide and worldwide numbers through Sunday:
- In the United States, there are 987,322 confirmed cases with 55,415 deaths and 118,781 have fully recovered.
- Worldwide, there are 2,971,639 confirmed cases, with 206,542 deaths and 865,925 have fully recovered.