In the most sweeping move to date, the California Department of Public Health has called for the closure of all bars, nightclubs, pubs, wineries and breweries throughout Santa Barbara County due to the growing coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Santa Barbara City Council echoed the order, also indicating that all movie theaters, live performance and entertainment venues, bowling, arcades, gyms and fitness centers will close to the public due to COVID-19.
“These were difficult decisions to make but we are looking out for public health for our city and the region,” Santa Barbara mayor Cathy Murillo said.
In addition to the closures, restaurants must move to take-out and delivery service only, while several food facilities are exempt, including grocery stores, pharmacies, food banks, cafeterias and restaurants within hospitals, nursing homes, schools and at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
The Farmers Market, which was held on Tuesday afternoon on State Street, will continue as well, with the City Council calling on them to follow guidance from the CDPH.
These emergency measures will run through April 7, when the council will reassess conditions.
“There’s an economic chicken and egg circle there. As the economic returns on these places you’re allowed to stay open deteriorate, there is no way they have the resources to clean better than they did when they were economically more healthy,” councilman Mike Jordan said.
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon was focused on the length of time that some people spend utilizing places like movie theaters and gyms.
“It’s about the amount of time that you spend in a place, and that is really a big threshold indicator to whether we need to move forward to protect folks. You spend a long time in a movie theater. You’re not in and out by definition,” Ms. Harmon said.
Dr. David Fisk, an infectious disease specialist for Cottage Hospital, said it was critical to shut down bars to help stop the spread of the virus.
“Based on the knowledge that the virus spreads from close contact for a prolonged period of time, and that the virus can be transmitted on surfaces as it can live on surfaces for hours or days depending on surface,” Dr. Fisk said. “When you have a bar where people tend to be in close contact well under six feet, certainly the risk of transmission of this virus increases. People, many times, when they go to bars tend to spend more than a few minutes there.”
Other statewide moves were made on Tuesday, with the California State Parks announcing that it would be temporarily shutting down campgrounds — although beaches will remain open.
“As of today, non-campground outdoor areas of parks, including trails and beaches, remain open. Visitors are reminded to practice social distancing and maintain at least six feet between other visitors and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Restrooms also remain open, and visitors are advised to take soap for hand washing and alcohol-based hand sanitizers when water is not available,” the release said.
A second confirmed case
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a second North County resident has tested positive for coronavirus.
The PHD says that it is a person in their 50s and does not have any underlying health conditions.
The person is in isolation at home until cleared by a public health officer.
According to the release, the PHD is investigating whom this person might have come into contact with in order to take appropriate measures.
The person has no history of travel within or outside the U.S., according to the release.
The person did have contact with someone that is confirmed to have COVID-19.
This second case did not have any contact with the county’s first positive case that was revealed on Sunday.
“The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department Barbara County is continuing to mandate social distancing measures to slow the spread of the virus. We are asking our residents to avoid unnecessary outings and practice diligent distancing of 6 feet or more between persons when in the community,” shared Dr. Henning Ansorg, Health Officer for Santa Barbara County.
In a note to students obtained by the News-Press, UCSB chancellor Henry Yang indicated that one student that had been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case has tested negative. Five students remain in quarantine in Isla Vista, with county health officials indicating they expected their test results back on Wednesday.
“We continue to strongly urge everyone, especially our students on campus and in Isla Vista, to follow best practices related to social distancing and other health practices to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Dr. Yang said. “All of us being community-minded, making sacrifices, and doing our part will ultimately help save lives.”
In the county, the PHD said as of Tuesday, 153 individuals had been tested, with 55 returning negative and 96 still pending results.
COVID-19, by the numbers
In addition to the Santa Barbara County numbers, the growth of COVID-19 in California over the past 24 hours shows 137 confirmed new cases, with the overall number moving from 335 on Monday to 472 on Tuesday.
There have now been 11 deaths in California.
In the United States, there have now been 4,226 confirmed cases, with 75 deaths — a mortality rate of 1.8%. The overall number of cases rose by 739 people from Monday to Tuesday.
Across the world, the World Health Organization is reporting 184,976 cases, with 7,529 deaths — a mortality rate of 4.1%. Cases have been reported in 159 countries/territories.
School’s out til summer?
On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated that he expected that schools would not physically return to campus this school year.
“Don’t anticipate schools are going to open up in a week. Please don’t anticipate in a few weeks,” Gov. Newsom said. “I would plan, and assume, that it’s unlikely that many of these schools — few, if any — will open before the summer break.”
Gov. Newsom indicated that 98.8% of school districts in the state are closed to date.
He indicated that the state education department is trying to put together guidelines on how to instruct students remotely.
Santa Barbara High Principal Elise Simmons reached out to parents through ParentSquare, a communication app that the school employs.
“School closures will dramatically impact lives within our local community and we want you to know that we are continuing to work on future plans for delivering instructional activities to students in the event that school closures extend beyond April 3,” Ms. Simmons said. “This week there will be no instructional activities. Next week is our previously planned spring break, so no instructional activities are expected. In the near future you can expect to hear more detailed plans about how we intend to proceed if schools remain closed beyond April 3.”
Considering that CDC officials have indicated that they don’t recommend gatherings of more than 10 people, likely for the next eight weeks, there is little chance school will be able to resume before May.
Santa Barbara Unified School District superintendent Cary Matsuoka also spoke to the district’s plan to engage students.
“In the short-term, our district is sharing the website Learning at Home which features information and resources to support families during school closure. We have also developed a plan to provide students with iPads that they might have left at school last week. We will send you next steps as updates become available. We expect to continue to add resources and guidance on an ongoing basis,” Mr. Matsuoka said. “In the long term, leaders and teachers are formulating more robust remote learning plans in order to resume instruction.”
Meanwhile, at UCSB, Dr. Yang also shared with students and staff that UC president Janet Napolitano had issued an executive order that allows up to “128 hours of paid administrative leave for all employees, including student workers, to help them address the particular challenges they are facing as a result of COVID-19.”
Help is on the way?
The stock market surged on Tuesday due to a proposed $1 trillion economic stimulus package proposed by the Trump administration, taking aim over fears that thousands of people will be without jobs due to the shutdown of businesses across the United States.
According to the plan, sizable checks would be sent to Americans within the next two weeks, while also helping small businesses and the airline industry.
“It’s going to be big and it’s going to be bold,” said President Trump.
The proposal seemingly is gaining support from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.
According to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, the potential checks that would be sent to American workers would be larger than the $1,000 that had been proposed in recent days.
“We are crafting the major legislation that the American people deserve in the face of this major challenge,” Sen. Mitch McConnell said, the Senate Majority Leader. “And it is my intention that the Senate will not adjourn until we have passed significant and bold new steps, above and beyond what the House passed, to help our strong nation and our strong underlying economy weather this storm.”
Christian Whittle contributed to this report