Businesses prepare to follow health order
Editor’s note: Forrest McFarland has joined the News-Press as a writer.
Local businesses are gearing up for another month of indoor masking mandates.
On Thursday, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department extended a health officer order, which requires all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings at indoor public settings. The order took effect at 5 p.m. Thursday and continues until 5 p.m. Dec. 4 or until it is extended or rescinded.
Right now, public health officers are using a key metric to determine how far-reaching the mask mandates ought to be — the number of new cases per 100,000. According to the County Public Health Department, the case rate should be six or fewer cases per 100,000 people for two consecutive weeks for local health officials to consider changing this mandate.
As of Oct. 23, the county has a case rate of 10 per 100,000.
In light of this announcement, local businesses are taking stock and moving forward the best that they can.
“It was not unexpected,” said Mitchell Sjerven, founder and proprietor of Santa Barbara restaurant bouchon.
Mr. Sjerven explained that anticipating the mandate allows for operations to run smoothly.
“In the past, a lot of the issues we’ve had to deal with has been a lack of time communication,” Mr. Sjerven told the News-Press Friday. “We were told to close with less than 24 hours notice on two separate occasions.”
Business leaders agree that effective communication from the local health department is essential to their success.
The biggest challenge for businesses, according to Kristen Miller, president of Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, is the constantly changing and “sometimes confusing” directives passed by federal, state and regional agencies.
“As long as clear communication is given … the business community can continue to operate successfully,” she told the News-Press.
Access to masks also allows for businesses to adapt to the Public Health Department’s decisions.
“I think our businesses are prepared,” said Tracy Beard, CEO of the Solvang Chamber of Commerce.
She told the News-Press that the continuation of the mandate should not greatly affect businesses.
Ms. Beard cited the United Way of Santa Barbara County as an example of why businesses have the resources to move forward with the mandate. In February, the United Way distributed 38,000 masks to local nonprofits.
The pandemic and related health orders have meant adjustments for businesses.
“Everybody’s tired of it. It’s frustrating,” Mr. Sjerven said. “But we try to make the best of it. We’re looking at the light at the end of the tunnel. I think it will come soon.”
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