Public Health Department announces 111 new cases of COVID-19
A recent spike in COVID-19 cases has forced Dr. Henning Ansorg, Santa Barbara’s County Health Officer, to issue an order requiring all beaches to be closed to the public during the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.
The order goes into effect this morning and will remain in place until 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
“This decision was very difficult, and is a change from previous policy, because of the unique combination of the spike in positive cases (Wednesday), combined with the potential for large crowds of local beaches over the Fourth of July weekend,” Gregg Hart, the county’s district supervisor, said during a press conference held Thursday.
Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed that the Sheriff’s Office will have personnel patrolling the beaches.
People will be asked to leave the beach if seen and if they do not cooperate, could be subjected to a fine.
“We really want to emphasize and appeal to our community members and our visitors to do the right thing and leave if they are engaged in a prohibited activity,” said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director.
Dr. Do-Reynoso added that the decision to close the beach was a result of the 268 cases announced Wednesday, but also other counties’ decisions to close their beaches.
“We knew that L.A. County beaches had been closed and we knew that Ventura was closing. Then, we noticed that Orange County and places further down were closing their beaches, so in evaluating the increase in cases, as well as the closure of beaches south of us, worried us and the team quickly regrouped… (and saw it) was just too much for us to stay to our original plan and changed our decision,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
Several beach-access parking areas will also be closed this weekend, including the lots near Leadbetter Beach, the lower parking lots at Santa Barbara City College, the city’s Visitors Center on Garden Street, as well as Skaters Point and East Beach.
Dr. Do-Reynoso also announced an additional 111 cases during Thursday’s meeting, bringing the county’s total to 3,261.
Of the total cases, 64 patients are currently hospitalized with 20 in the Intensive Care Unit.
The new cases reported Thursday included 18 in the city of Santa Barbara, 69 in Santa Maria and five in Lompoc. Three new cases were reported in Orcutt, three in areas around the city of Guadalupe, two in Goleta, and two in the areas of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria. Nine cases were pending.
Moving forward, health officials said the county data will include symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, as well as how the virus was transmitted.
“From the cases that we have investigated, we know that roughly 55% are from person-to-person spread, 1% are from travel outside the county, and 44%, our community acquired,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
Santa Barbara County has not met the threshold criteria for elevated disease transmission, increasing hospitalization and limited hospital capacity for the past 17 days according to the numbers, however, Dr. Do-Reynoso warns that community members should avoid large gatherings and stay at home as much as possible.
Also Thursday, Dr. Ansorg officially issued an order requiring complete closure of bars, breweries, pubs, brewpubs, as well as operations at indoor dine-in restaurants, indoor wineries and tasting rooms, indoor family entertainment centers, indoor zoos and museums, and indoor cardrooms. The order will remain in place until July 26.
In preparing for the change, many local wineries and restaurants have had to sacrifice a lot of seating in order to at least stay open and offer outside seating for wine tasting and eating.
Kurt Ammann, general manager for Melville Vineyards and Winery, at 120 State St., said while he understands the fluidity of the situation, he wishes “to have a bit more notice.”
“It’s tough when businesses find out at the same time that the general public does from an operational standpoint, but our top priority, which is taking care of our staff and our customers, has not changed,” Mr. Ammann told the News-Press.
While Melville’s Lompoc location is largely unaffected due to not using indoor operation at all, Melville’s Santa Barbara location has had to move completely outside, and could only accommodate about 10 people. With social distancing in effect indoors, the location accommodated about 20 people.
“It is disappointing that it is small but we have chosen to not look at this situation as hard or annoying. It is just the situation and we are doing our best to take care of employee health and customer health,” Mr. Ammann said.
Mr. Ammann also added, “A little amount of revenue is better than zero revenue,” a sentiment shared by Dave Moser, general manager of Sunstone Vineyards & Winery.
Like Mr. Ammann, Mr. Moser said that while the announcement did disrupt things, they were prepared for the situation given the current climate.
“We know we have to be on our toes and we’ve basically changed our business model four times since the pandemic,” Mr. Moser said.
“We don’t want to close so we have to think really quickly and see how we could make it work.”
When the announcement came, Mr. Moser said the indoor seating was moved outside and 52 of the locations 60 tables are now outside and available to accommodate customers.
“We are in a good position compared to others, because we have three acres of outside lawns and outdoor spaces patios that we can expand to have room to put that extra seating so that part was not an issue for us,” Mr. Moser said.
“We’ve kind of trained ourselves to expect these changes at any time and so, while it is certainly frustrating to have to kind of turn on a dime, we understand and support it.”
Local restaurateur Carlos Lopez-Hollis has also had to make some shifts for his restaurant, Cava Restaurant and Bar in Montecito. Tables for seating have now had to be cut down from 22 to 12.
“We’re gonna keep grinding and put our best foot forward but, you know, at a certain point, we’re very much up against it,” Mr. Lopez-Hollis said.
At his other location, Dos Carlitos Restaurant & Tequila Bar in Santa Ynez, Mr. Lopez-Hollis said he has a bigger outside space so he still has 20 tables outside.
“We are trending in the wrong direction but we anticipated this. There were guests that did not abide by rules wearing masks and now look where we are so I am not surprised and we had a discussion Sunday about what it would look like to only do outdoor seating,” Mr. Lopez-Hollis said.
“In the same breath or along those lines, I’m already thinking about when they pull the plug on sit down eating. I hope I am wrong, but you have to think along those lines.”
Despite limited seating, Mr. Lopez-Hollis said he is still very optimistic that things will start correcting themselves again as long as people follow guidelines.
“You’ve got to stay upbeat, otherwise the morale will be low. I am optimistic and I am positive, I know we’re going to work our way through this and have to continue to be creative as a society,” Mr. Lopez-Hollis said.