In a wide-ranging press conference on Monday evening, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department confirmed that testing for the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is being conducted on a three-tier system that effectively predetermines which order people will be tested in.
While improving, the SBCPHD indicated that availability of testing materials within Santa Barbara County continues to be sluggish.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, Health Officer for Santa Barbara County, explained the tier system — which was a collaborative effort from local hospitals and healthcare providers — as follows:
- Tier 1: The elderly — which includes those in senior residential communities and assisted living facilities — that run a fever of at least 101 degrees or show shortness of breath; healthcare workforce, as well as agencies such as fire, police and emergency transport workers (“It’s not because they are better people, it’s because we really rely on their services,” Dr. Ansorg said); and, finally, severely ill people that need to be isolated in negative pressure rooms, where test results can help alleviate shortage of these rooms.
- Tier 2: Severely ill people where an expedited test can help stop the spread of COVID-19.
- Tier 3: Mildly ill people where a test result wouldn’t change the treatment, with Dr. Ansorg indicating that these people would be monitored to see if they are fever-free for three days.
“We would like to have everyone tested, but unfortunately at the moment, we just can’t afford it,” Dr. Ansorg said.
To date, 128 tests have been administered in the county, with 31 returning negative, one positive and 96 are still awaiting results.
Officials did indicate that these numbers are likely underreported, as they are waiting on information from a lab and a hospital to give an accurate count.
Dr. Ansorg pointed to the likelihood that there will be a higher volume of tests available in the next week to 10 days.
Five Isla Vista residents remained in quarantine on Monday after they came into contact with a person from San Diego that has tested positive for COVID-19. According to officials, all five have been tested and they expect to have results back within the next 48 hours. In the meantime, they are also gathering information about whom the five might have been in contact with.
The day schools went dark
With all Santa Barbara County schools slated to be closed by Wednesday, the Santa Barbara Unified School District saw its teachers remain home while an administrator or two were on various campuses.
For some, the experience came with mixed emotions.
“It was tough because I absolutely love seeing our students. But I am so glad that we took measures to ensure their health and safety. I look forward to seeing them return to school soon,” said Kip Glazer, principal at San Marcos High School.
Late Monday afternoon, Santa Barbara Unified superintendent Cary Matsuoka sent a note to parents via ParentSquare, a communication app that the district utilizes.
Mr. Matsuoka indicated that staff is working on developing plans for “remote learning,” which could potentially be deployed after the district’s scheduled Spring Break next week.
Schools have already been shuttered through April 3, with an extension a real possibility.
“The investments we have made in technology over the past six years will be invaluable as we implement remote learning,” Mr. Matsuoka said.
Mr. Matsuoka also spoke to the continued commitment to provide meals to those in need, something echoed throughout the county.
The county sent out the following reminder about how families can get meals:
- Buellton Union School District: The Food Services Team will be providing meals, free of charge, to students during the school closure. These should be consumed off-site to maintain social distancing. Lunches will be distributed in the Oak Valley parking lot between 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. In addition to lunch items, breakfast items will be included for the next morning. BUSD students may also access meals through Lompoc Unified School District.
- Carpinteria Unified School District: Beginning today, sack lunches will be available at the following school sites: Aliso, Canalino/Carpinteria Family School, Carpinteria Middle School, Carpinteria High School/Rincon, all from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. with curbside pickup.
- Cuyama Joint Unified School District: Cuyama will provide a “Summer Meal” type of plan during the closure to all Cuyama students for the duration of the closure at their two school locations.
- Goleta Union School District: Free grab-n-go meals will be available to all children and teens 18 and under Monday – Thursday (March 16 -19), at Ellwood, La Patera, El Camino, Isla Vista Elementary Schools, and the Goleta Valley Community Center. A bagged breakfast and lunch will both be available for pick up at the same time from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Students must be present and can receive two meals in one trip! Goleta students can also access meals through the Santa Barbara Unified School District meal program at Dos Pueblos High School, Goleta Valley Jr. High School and San Marcos High School. Additional meal distribution sites are planned for Goleta communities if school closures continue.
- Guadalupe Union School District: Guadalupe will be providing free meals to anyone 18 and under at their two school sites. Breakfast will be offered from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and lunch will be offered from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. during the week.
- Hope School District: Brown bag lunches will be available on the tables outside the office at each campus from noon-2:00 p.m. today.
- Lompoc Unified School District: LUSD schools will provide meals, free of charge to all children 18 & under during the school closure. LUSD will be serving grab-n-go meals to maintain social distancing. Students are welcome to visit any of the school sites listed here and do not need to bring their student IDs. Breakfast will be served from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:00 a.m.- 1 p.m.: Buena Vista, Clarence Ruth, Crestview, Fillmore, Hapgood, La Canada, La Honda, Lompoc Valley Middle School and Los Berros.
- Los Olivos School District: Los Olivos is working with community partners to provide groceries for free and reduced lunch families.
- Montecito Union School District: Students who receive free and reduced lunch are able to go to any of the sites served by Santa Barbara Unified School District to pick up their meals.
- Orcutt Union School District: Starting March 16, the Orcutt Union School District Child Nutrition Department will provide an opportunity for families to pick up, at no cost, breakfast and lunch meals in a walk-up or drive thru pick-up service for children 18 and under, regardless of what school they attend or if they are on the meal program. Children must be present in order for meals to be provided.
Breakfast and lunch will be available for pick-up Monday through Friday at the following centrally located school sites from 10:30 a.m. -11:30 a.m.: Orcutt Junior High School, Lakeview Junior High School, Patterson Road Elementary, Olga Reed/OAK8
- Santa Barbara Unified School District: Beginning Monday, bagged meals for children 18 years old and younger may be picked up at 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at the following locations: Adams Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Harding Elementary, Monroe Elementary, Dos Pueblos High School, San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara High School, La Cumbre Junior High, La Colina Junior High, and Goleta Valley Junior High. Parents and caregivers should plan on driving their children to any of these sites and picking up meals from their car curbside. Alternatively, they can walk up to the meal cart to receive the meal to take home. Children must be present in order to receive the meal.
- Santa Maria-Bonita School District: Lunch will be provided at students’ nearest Santa Maria-Bonita School District school site at the regularly scheduled times. Students may pick up meals and then take them home. After Wednesday, both breakfast and lunch will be made available in a single distribution. Students 18 years or younger will be able to receive their meals at the closest Santa Maria-Bonita school site.
- Santa Maria Joint Union High School District: Starting today, breakfast and lunch will be served from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in a walk-up or drive-thru pick up service near the cafeteria for students 18 and under regardless of what school they attend or if they are on the meal program. Students must be present in order for meals to be provided. Students will be able to receive their meals at their closest comprehensive high school: Santa Maria, Pioneer Valley, and Ernest Righetti.
- Santa Ynez Valley: Schools are solidifying a grab-n-go lunch option for students, and plans will be announced shortly. Distribution plans listed are subject to modification. All districts regularly communicate directly with families who attend their schools; families are encouraged to contact their school for more information.
- Solvang School District: Grab-and-go lunches are available Monday through Friday, from 12-1:00 p.m. or sooner, if all meals are gone. At time of pickup, breakfast will also be available for the following day. All lunch food picked up must be consumed within half-hour and any breakfast food picked up for the following day must be stored accordingly, i.e. milk and non-perishables stored in the refrigerator until ready to use the next day.
The day businesses went dark
While many of Santa Barbara County’s small businesses held out hope that restrictions wouldn’t limit their ability to function, it became apparent on Monday that many had to heed to recommendations made by state and health officials.
The Santa Barbara Zoo released a statement that it will close its doors starting today, indicating that essential Zoo personnel will continue to report to work and that they would utilize social media to keep the animals connected to the community.
The Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club also came to the same decision, closing down temporarily on Monday. In terms of the upcoming polo season, the club said that leadership will monitor the evolving situation and promised an update by the end of the week.
Initially stating it would stay open, the Santa Barbara Public Market decided to close down temporarily late Monday, pushing residents to instead think about donating or working with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art will be closed at least through April 20, stating that “the health and safety of our community is the most important factor in this decision.”
While Gov. Gavin Newsom called for the closure of bars and nightclubs, some local establishments chose to monitor crowd size in hopes of continuing to serve their customers.
Lama Dog sent a message to their customers stating:
“The wellbeing of our team and guests is our top priority, so we will continue to go above and beyond to ensure that our spaces are clean and safe. We will remain open for now, and follow the governor’s order to operate at 50% capacity here at Lama Dog as well as at The Nook.”
Meanwhile, Acme Hospitality chose to close down its plethora of restaurants, including The Lark, Lucky Penny, Pearl Social, the Santa Barbara Wine Collective, Loquita, Tyger Tyger, Paradise Cafe and the Helena Avenue Bakery.
“We hope these actions will have a positive impact on reducing the spread of coronavirus in our beloved community as we all face this challenging situation together,” said Sherry Villanueva, a managing partner for Acme.
A bevy of agencies and government entities took steep measures on Monday, including the city of Goleta, which put the following restrictions in play:
- City Hall reception area would be closed to the public, although you can call 805-961-7500 for reception help
- The Planning and Building Center will also be closed, but reachable via email or phone
- The Finance Department has suspended counter service, but will accept email submissions
- Public Works, Planning and Building field inspections are being prioritized, with only those relating to health and safety being conducted
- The Goleta Valley and Santa Ynez Valley libraries are closed
- The Goleta Community Center is closed to programming with exception of food distribution
- Stow Grove Park reservations are cancelled with no new reservations through April 30.
- Special Event Permits issued for the months of March and April are being cancelled and no new permits are being issued through April 30.
Meanwhile, Santa Barbara County Animal Services has decided to limit in-person services, effective immediately. All shelter locations will remain open by appointment or phone. If you are interested in adopting, SBCAS encourages using petharbor.com to view photos of adoptable animals.
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department also announced that while committed to keeping the public safe, they are also asking for the community to practice “social distancing” and reach out to the public health call center instead of dropping by. The number is 833-688-5551.
A state on high alert
The growing concern on the South Coast was mimicked by a state that saw seven counties in the San Francisco Bay Area be put on a “shelter in place” edict, while Los Angeles and San Diego also took further measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.
As of Monday night, there were 335 confirmed COVID-19 cases in California, with seven deaths, including one on Monday.
Of the 335, 70 were travel related, while 68 were due to person-to-person spread. An additional 82 were community acquired — which is what Santa Barbara County officials have indicated led to the one positive case in the North County — and 24 happened on repatriation flights. Another 91 are still under investigation.
In terms of age groups, there are 210 cases from those 18-64; 116 cases for those over 65; six cases for those under 17; and three more that are unknown to date.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and other California lawmakers announced a plan to spend nearly $1 billion on the state’s emergency medical response, attempting to help the medical infrastructure in fighting the pandemic.
Gov. Newsom told elected officials that they “must rise to the challenge facing our state with every tool at our disposal and without a second of delay.”
In the Bay Area, with more than 280 cases, put seven counties into effective lockdown, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz.
The order — which limits activity outside the home to things such as grocery shopping and buying gas — was put into place in an effort to not overwhelm local hospitals. The order will extend through April 7.
“Some individuals who contract the COVID-19 virus have no symptoms or have mild symptoms, which means they may not be aware they carry the virus,” the order said. “Because even people without symptoms can transmit the disease, and because evidence shows the disease is easily spread, gatherings can result in preventable transmission of the virus.”
In San Diego and Los Angeles counties, bans on gatherings of 50 or more people were ordered, as well as requiring no more dine-in experiences at restaurants. In L.A., all bars, fitness centers and movie theaters were closed as well.
On Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump went one step further and suggested that no one should gather in groups larger than 10.
“If everyone makes these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s important for the young and healthy people to understand, while they may experience milder symptoms, they can easily spread this virus.”
The World Health Organization noted an increase in “social distancing” practices across the world, although there was not a corresponding rise in testing and isolation.
“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded, and we cannot stop this pandemic if we do not know who is infected,” Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus, the director of the WHO.
“We have a simple message for all countries: Test, test, test.”