By TESS KENNY
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department assured the community on Tuesday that the health risk from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) remains low.
While no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the county, the Public Health Department has been working alongside its healthcare partners, the California Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quell any fear or uncertainty in the community.
Most recent anxiety has stemmed from the health and screening of cruise ship passengers disembarking in Santa Barbara Harbor. Guaranteeing the public’s safety, PHD, in collaboration with the city of Santa Barbara and Waterfront Department, has confirmed all federal and global cruise ship regulations are being followed accordingly.
“(Cruise Lines International Association) has recently set cruise ship standards in response to COVID-19 for companies that belong to their organization,” PHD’s news release read. “This includes denying boarding to passengers who have traveled from countries of concern, as well as increased screening procedures.”
Additional disease prevention practices used by cruise ships include health screening of passengers and crew, denial of entry onboard if there is a suspect travel history, and reporting of communicable diseases to relevant agencies prior to arrival in Santa Barbara.
Individually, PHD does not recommend the public wear masks when a cruise ship arrives in Santa Barbara. Instead, officials advise the public to stay vigilant and continue to practice routine hygiene methods that prevent the spread of any virus.
Some suggestions are: frequent hand washing with soap and water; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; covering a sneeze or cough with an arm or tissue; and staying home when sick.
As of now, the city has not cancelled any scheduled cruise ship visits but assures the community that it will continue to monitor the situation and take actions based on recommendation from the PHD, CDC and CBP.
With the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and California, other agencies and organizations have provided similar relief. The Santa Barbara Unified School District announced emergency response plans are under review and preparation is already underway.
In addition to PHD’s recommendations, SBUSD preparation includes: alerting health officials to any spikes in absences due to respiratory illnesses; routinely cleaning surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops; sending students and staff home when sick; and communicating regularly with students, families and staff to provide resources and information, in both English and Spanish.
Similar sentiments were shared at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation’s Annual Tiara Ball on Saturday Night.
“Because it is in the news and of understandable concern, I want to share that our leadership team is meeting every single day to monitor and prepare ourselves to respond to evolving needs,” said Ron Werft, President and CEO of Cottage.
“We have incredibly talented infectious disease physicians… assuring that we have adequate facilities, staff, and supplies and that we protect our caregivers if and when the need arises.”
For additional information on COVID-19, visit the following websites: countyofsb.org, cdph.ca.gov, cdc.gov, or who.int.