California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday night made a state-wide order, directing all California residents to stay inside their homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The directive went into effect immediately Thursday evening, with the governor saying he was confident that California residents “will abide by it and do the right thing.”
“They’ll meet this moment. They’ll step up -— as they have over the course of the last number of weeks — to protect themselves, to protect their families and to protect the broader community,” Gov. Newsom said of state residents during a press conference.
“This Order is being issued to protect the public health of Californians,” the order read. “The California Department of Public Health looks to establish consistency across the state in order to ensure that we mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
“Our goal is simply, we want to bend the curve, and disrupt the spread of the virus.”
State residents will continue to have access to food (grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants), prescriptions and health care. In addition, banks, gas stations and laundromats and laundry services can remain open.
Essential government programs will remain open as well.
“When people need to leave their homes or places of residence… they should at all times practice social distancing,” the order stated.
The state’s healthcare delivery system will remain in place with prioritized resources, including personal protective equipment for healthcare providers.
A total of 16 “critical infrastructure sectors” are exempted from the order. A complete list can be found at www.cisa.gov/critical-infrastructure-sectors/.
The order is in place until further notice.
First District Supervisor Das Williams applauded the move, but does have concern over the effect that this will have on businesses and people’s livelihoods.
“I understand why he took the action and trust that his Public Health professionals have used data to estimate the possible destruction from the disease vs. destruction from a collapsed economy,” Mr. Williams told the News-Press. “Though I support decisive action, the fallout for people in danger of losing their businesses, their jobs, and their homes is also catastrophic, and I will be redoubling our efforts to maintain public services in the midst of this crisis.”
Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo struggled with a similar decision locally on Tuesday when the city called for bars and nightclubs to shutter.
“I support the Governor in this decision We’ve been agonizing and going back and forth,” Ms. Murillo said. “The Governor showed so much courage in telling everybody to stay home. It’s the right thing to do.
“My job now is that people feel secure in these unusual circumstances. We don’t need to be scared. We have enough food; there’s enough toilet paper. If we think about looking out for our neighbors, we will be ok.”
Nine confirmed cases reported in Santa Barbara County
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has confirmed six more positive cases of COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County, up from three cases as of Wednesday night.
The PHD issued an update on its website Thursday night listing five new cases, though on a conference call with elected officials a short time later Public Health Director Dr. Von Do-Reynoso confirmed the sixth new case.
“The number of cases in Santa Barbara is a moving target — it is fastly changing,” she said.
A total of six confirmed cases are located in North County and three have been confirmed in South County, Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
According to health officials, the third person to contract the novel coronavirus was a family member of the first county resident to test positive. The third case, confirmed Wednesday, is a North County resident in their 60s.
The South County cases include a person in their 20s and two people in their 50s. The two new North County cases involve individuals in their 30s. Details on the sixth case were not available as of 5:45 p.m.
The county data released Thursday night did not include any figures on the number of people tested or pending cases.
One of the cases confirmed on Thursday included a Santa Barbara City College student, President Dr. Utpal Goswami wrote on the college’s website.
“The student in question is in isolation at home until cleared by the Public Health Officer. PHD is taking steps to identify persons who may have had close contact with the student, including friends, family members, or health care professionals. PHD will monitor them and take appropriate measures, including testing for infection if needed,” Dr. Goswami wrote. “The student is enrolled in a single course this semester. Due to patient privacy laws, we will not be disclosing any personal or academic information about the student. We are providing our full support to PHD in conducting their investigation. We are also providing support to the student.”
Students who have not been contacted by the PHD are “safe to assume” they were not in class with the student, Dr. Goswami said.
New health officer order for elderly
Public health officials have announced a health officer order that will go into effect at 5 p.m. March 20, which will mandate that county residents 75 or older, as well as residents 70 or older with underlying medical conditions, will be mandated to shelter in place.
In addition, the health officer order will prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people for non-essential services.
There are exemptions to both health orders, which includes clarification on what are considered “essential services” for both public gatherings and the shelter orders.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, health officer for the PHD, explained that the new mandates involved in the health order are aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus.
“This is our best chance and we should take advantage of it. We urge all of our constituents… to please follow these guidances of social distancing in order to slow down the otherwise very rapid spread of the virus,” Dr. Ansorg said.
Is the local healthcare system prepared for surge in COVID-19 cases?
During Thursday’s conference call, a question was raised regarding the preparedness level of the county’s health facilities and how many ventilators were available for patients.
Jan Koegler, emergency preparedness manager, said that there are currently 32 ventilators in use among county hospitals. Health officials have also tapped into the department’s disaster cache, which includes 18 additional ventilators that have been distributed but have yet to come online.
“Those will be ready over the next month,” Ms. Koegler said. “They have to have service before they start to use them, but those will be available.”
Local hospitals are also examining their surge plans, which could include expanding to under-used portions of the hospital or moving to another building, if needed.
Questions remain about how many ventilators could be needed if the local surge continues.
“How many vents exactly would we need? We don’t know, Ms. Koegler said. “These are the vents that we have and we may be offered more through the Strategic National Stockpile.”
Confirmed cases increase statewide
The State of California reported some 77 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the state total to 675. Of those, 97 are believed to be travel related, 92 were spread from one person to another and 181 were considered “community acquired.” Twenty four cases were contracted through repatriation flights and the source of 291 cases remains under investigation, according to the PHD.
A total of 448 cases have been confirmed in people between the ages of 18-64, 13 in cases in people under 17 and 209 people 65 or above have contracted the virus. The ages of five of the case victims was unknown. There have been 16 deaths in California related to COVID-19.
As of Thursday night, 10,442 cases have been confirmed nationwide, resulting in 150 deaths. Some 290 cases were considered travel related, 310 cases from close contact and the sources of more than 9.800 cases remain under investigation. A total of 54 jurisdictions have reported cases, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The World Health Organization had confirmed 207,855 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday night, including 8,648 deaths, worldwide.
City: Drinking water is safe
The city of Santa Barbara responded to community concern over the safety of the area’s drinking water, stating that the “water system is built and operated using the latest treatment technology to effectively remove and disinfect all viruses, including COVID-19.”
The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies according to the Environmental Protection Agency, World Health Organization and CDC.
According to the release, wastewater will also continue to be “collected, treated and disinfected, ensuring ongoing protection for public health and the environment.”
An international travel warning
President Trump issued an international travel warning, indicating that Americans should not travel abroad, while also calling for U.S. citizens living overseas to return home immediately or face remaining where they are indefinitely.
Mr. Trump had already closed the U.S. border with Canada, and could close the Mexico border as soon as today.
He has also already restricted non-U.S. citizens from flying in from Europe, with the exception of the United Kingdom.
“The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19,” the State Department said. “In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.”
Economic stimulus plan progressing
Senate Republicans and Democrats spent Thursday hammering away at an economic stimulus plan, with each side favoring competing ideas in what will amount to about $1 trillion.
Republicans are working with the Trump administration on a plan that would provide federally backed loans for small businesses, while also providing Americans direct payments.
According to Fox Business, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin says that most Americans would receive $1,000 plus $500 for each child, likely in the next three weeks.
If the national emergency was still in effect six weeks later, another round of checks would be sent.
Senate Democrats say while putting cash in the hands of Americans is important, they also want to protect Americans long-term with “unemployment insurance on steroids,” according to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
Nick Masuda contributed to this report.