A three-week, regional stay-at-home order for Santa Barbara County will go into effect tonight, as the Southern California Region has reached ICU capacity levels below 15%.
Late Friday night, officials with the California Department of Public Health notified the Santa Barbara County Health Department that the region had dropped below the ICU capacity. As of Friday, the region’s ICU bed capacity was at 13.1% and was projected to be at 12.5% on Saturday.
“I am dismayed, but not surprised, that the ICU capacity decreased so drastically and quickly in the Southern California region,” Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, public health director for Santa Barbara County, said in a statement. “The sharp decrease in ICU capacity is a consequence of the increasing case rates we have been seeing throughout the state and region.”
According to the order, the following industry sectors must close as of 11:59 p.m. tonight: indoor and outdoor playgrounds; indoor recreational facilities; hair salons and barbershops; personal care services; museums, zoos and aquariums; movie theaters; wineries; bars, breweries and distilleries; family entertainment centers; cardrooms and satellite wagering; limited services; live audience sports; and amusement parks.
The order does not apply to the county’s two drive-in movie theaters in Goleta and Santa Maria.
The following sectors will have additional modifications, in addition to 100% masking and physical distancing: outdoor recreational facilities, allowed to operate outdoors only without any food, drink or alcohol sales. This includes gyms and fitness studios, and overnight stays at campgrounds will not be permitted; retail will be allowed to continue to operate indoors at 20% capacity, with no eating or drinking in the stores. Special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems; shopping centers may allow indoor operations at 20% capacity, with special hours in place for seniors or those with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems; and hotels and lodging can remain open for critical infrastructure support only.
In addition, restaurants can only offer take-out, pick-up, or delivery services. Offices should allow for remote work only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible. Places of worship and political expression can only offer outdoor services, and professional sports can only operate without live audiences, with “bubbles” highly encouraged, officials said.
The following sectors are allowed to remain open when a remote option is not possible: critical infrastructure; schools (though no new schools may reopen); non-urgent medical and dental care; and child care and Pre-K.
“When Santa Barbara County becomes subject to the state’s new Stay-at-Home Order, the police chiefs and I have committed to continuing our direction and intent that our agencies’ approach to health order violations will be to make every effort to use discretion, education and encouragement to achieve voluntary compliance, but enforcement options will remain a tool to be used in cases of repeat or egregious violations that endanger public safety,” Sheriff Brown said in a statement.
In accordance with the order, along with state and local public health officials, the Santa Barbara Zoo will close temporarily to the public, effective Monday.
Only essential zoo employees will continue to report to work, in order to care for the animals and facility. Zoo officials will continue to stay in close communication with public health officials and follow the updates closely, and will re-evaluate next steps following their guidance and directives, officials said.
While the zoo will be temporarily closed, the community is encouraged to visit its website, sbzoo.org as well as their social media channels as a way to enjoy the zoo from the comfort of home.
Robin Elander, executive director of Downtown Santa Barbara, issued a statement on Saturday calling for the community to support the local economy in light of the new order.
The statement read, in part, “the future of our community depends on the solidarity of everyone who lives, works or is retired here. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the victims of the virus, while at the same time our awareness of local needs becomes urgent. Our community concerns are significant, and everyone needs to pull together to support our people, culture and economy.
“Downtown Santa Barbara will do its best to serve our community during this extreme health crisis and will collaborate to support the downtown and community in any way we see possible. “
Many have raised questions as to why Santa Barbara County was placed in the Southern California Region, as several counties within the region have significantly higher COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations.
Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, sent a message to chamber members on Saturday and explained that the chamber “worked diligently” to advocate that Santa Barbara County not be included in the “too vast” Southern California Region.
“There is support from local government on this, but no action yet. We also offered multiple alternatives and creative solutions to protect small businesses while still addressing the spike in cases. We will continue to press for a localized, specific approach,” Ms. Miller wrote. “Our next hope, is that we indeed come out of this lockdown after the mandatory 3-weeks and can salvage some retail, restaurant, hotel and services activity in the week between Christmas and New Years.
“We will redouble our efforts to implore the federal government to provide immediate financial relief for businesses in light of the government-imposed taking.”
Local officials discussed the regional selection process during Friday’s COVID-19 press conference.
Second District Supervisor and Board Chair Gregg Hart said the “natural first reaction” by many was “disappointment and frustration” that the county was included in the Southern California Region.
“But when Dr. Do-Reynoso and her team looked at this more carefully, the Southern California Region is actually in the middle of the trend statewide,” he explained. “The worst area in the state, in relation to ICU capacity, is actually rural Northern California and the Bay Area is doing the best. But the range between the best and the worst is about 6%, so it fundamentally doesn’t change where we land in relation to other counties if we’re going to be lumped into a larger region for the purposes of distributing medical capacity across a broader area.
“While our individual case count today is much better than those places, that is not a certainty to stay that way over a relatively short period of time,” he said. “There’s been tremendous change in a very rapid period of time, so I think what we are focusing our efforts here locally on is working with the California Department of Public Health to figure out an exit strategy.”
Mr. Hart urged residents to comply with the order to keep case numbers and hospitalizations as low as possible, so when there is an opportunity for the shutdown to end the county can “get back on track” and reopen businesses.
“But I understand and empathize and felt exactly the same way when I first learned that information,” he said.
Dr. Do-Reynoso said Friday that a few months ago, when the state anticipated a regional approach would be needed to curb the spread of the virus, state officials asked her and Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county health officer, to weigh in on the process.
They were given a survey with three different options for regionalization, and county officials voted to be lumped into a smaller group, perhaps just the Central Coast counties, due to their similar economies, size and population.
“But alas, given the other, more broader implications… the ultimate decision was to go with the five health officer infrastructure coalition as a region,” she said.
For general questions about reopening and general COVID-19 information, county residents may call the Santa Barbara County Call Center at (833) 688-5551.