In a sign that state officials fear that social distancing will extend well past the federally mandated April 30, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond indicated that it is likely that public schools will remain closed through the rest of the academic school year.
“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year,” Mr. Thurmond wrote in a letter to school districts throughout the state.
“This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom seemingly agreed later in a press conference, saying that an official announcement would come “in the next day or two.”
There are underlying concerns over graduation requirements and how distance learning will work for those without access to the internet or live in rural areas.
“We have more work to do: internet connection, rural issues, and still trying to address the anxiety of parents like me and my wife and millions of others about whether or not kids are going to go back to school this calendar year or not,” Gov. Newsom said. “I have been clear in my belief they will not, but let me announce formally what the superintendent of public education believes and what the superintendents believe — and expect that announcement in the next day or two.”
Meanwhile, Santa Barbara Unified School District will debut its distance learning at the secondary level today.
At the high school level, the schedule is much like block scheduling that students normally had two days a week. Teachers are connecting with students about expectations, while also mandating that students utilize email as the primary form of communication.
At the elementary school level, students will be receiving paper homework packets this week, with the district indicating that families should work with the teacher if there are questions or concerns.
The district has secured iPads for all students from 3rd grade through 12th grade, while continuing to work on securing more for Pre-K through 2nd grade.
The district also said that the free school lunch program will continue from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.
County’s COVID-19 cases rise again
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced 11 new positive coronavirus tests, bringing the county’s total to 99.
Of the 11 new cases, seven are in the 30-49 age range, while one is 18-29, two are 50-69 and one is 70-plus.
Five of the cases are from the city of Lompoc, two in the unincorporated area of Goleta Valley and Gaviota, two in the unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and city of Guadalupe, one in Orcutt and one in Santa Maria.
Of the 99 cases, 13 are in the hospital, with 11 in the intensive care unit. Of the remaining, 57 are recovering at home, 22 have fully recovered and seven are pending an update.
COVID, by the numbers
Here is an updated look at statewide and worldwide numbers:
- In California, there are now 8,548 confirmed cases, with 181 deaths.
- Santa Barbara County is still 15th in the state in cases, and the only one without any deaths.
- Los Angeles County leads the state with 3,019 cases and 54 deaths.
- In the United States, there are 188,172 cases and 3,873 deaths.
- Globally, there are 857,487 cases with 42,107 deaths.
Goleta Chamber hosting webinar to help local businesses
In an effort to aid local businesses with navigating the CARES Act that was passed on Friday, the Goleta Chamber of Commerce is hosting a webinar at 2 p.m. today alongside a regional representative from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Our goal is to get information out to businesses quickly. There is so much uncertainty in the economy right now, having some clear options for economic relief will help businesses make decisions for their future,” said Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Goleta Chamber. “The other goal is to provide consistent information throughout the region. That’s why all the Chambers in the County partnered to present this webinar together. We need to help businesses know where to go for information, and not have to pick and choose from a barrage of offers.
“We have asked the U.S. Chamber to present the information from the act because they have been studying this during the creation of the legislation. So they will be covering the business aspects of the act – paycheck protection, loans, tax credits, and more.”
The CARES Act set aside $350 billion to aid small businesses across the U.S. The Paycheck Protection Program secures 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payroll during this emergency.
The Goleta Chamber intends to make this the first of a handful of webinars to aid local organizations during the pandemic.
“We are planning another webinar with local banks who will be administering many of the loans. We will likely present other experts from finance, accounting and payroll firms to help businesses use the provisions of the federal program,” Ms. Miller told the News-Press. “We will continue to do our outreach to industries by sector, focusing on the unique needs of businesses in manufacturing, healthcare, hotels, restaurants and service providers on a variety of needs in addition to the CARES Act.”
You can get more information about today’s webinar at GoletaChamber.com. The organization will also record the session and make it available on their website.
Carbajal introduces bill focused on worker safety
Rep. Salud Carbajal introduced H. Res. 913, a bill that focuses on “workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis and reaffirming Congress’ responsibility to meet the safety needs of these workers by providing ample resources and protective equipment,” according to a news release.
Rep. Carbajal touted the bipartisan nature of the bill, which focuses on “health care workers, emergency responders, grocery and food service workers, farmworkers, public works employees, postal and delivery workers” and others.
“From health care workers and food service providers to postal workers, first responders and farmworkers-people across the nation are putting their safety on the line to keep our communities healthy and functioning in the face of pandemic,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Not only do these heroes deserve our gratitude, they also deserve the commitment of Congress and the entire federal government that we will keep working to ensure they have the equipment and support they need.
“My bipartisan resolution urges Congress to recommit to frontline workers and do everything in our power to bring them more personal protective equipment and stronger safety protections. These workers are essential to every community and to our nation’s economy-we must treat them as such and uplift them in every way we can. I am grateful to all of the frontline workers serving our communities.”
City of Santa Maria announces furloughs
The city of Santa Maria announced that it was furloughing the bulk of its “limited service” workers due to facility closures and canceled programming.
According to Mark van de Kamp, the city’s public information manager, the furloughs will affect 93 people, most of which work between four and 19 hours per week. The city has 160 limited service positions.
“(They) have been instructed to file for unemployment,” Mr. van de Kamp said.
Mr. van de Kamp did indicate that there have been no layoffs to date.
President Trump paints grim picture
Addressing the media at the White House, President Donald Trump spoke to a new reality: That a “minimum” of 100,000 deaths should be expected in the United States, with the expectation that the coming weeks will see a massive surge of sickness across the country.
The president urged people to strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines.
“It’s a matter of life and death, frankly,” President Trump said. “This is going to be a very painful — very, very painful two weeks.”
More than 800 Americans died on Tuesday, pushing the total well past 4,000 to date.
Over the past 24 hours, multiple health officials have estimated that there will likely be between 100,000 to 240,000 deaths.
“Each of us has the power — through our own choices and actions — to save American lives and rescue the most vulnerable among us,” President Trump said. “Every citizen is being called on to make sacrifices.”
President Trump had at one point hoped that America would open for business by Easter, but spent the weekend looking at numbers with medical experts and has dramatically changed his tune.
Also, a friend of President Trump has fallen into a coma due to COVID-19.
“It’s not the flu,” he said. “It’s just vicious.”