Coronavirus Continues

Santa Barbara County’s Response Widens in Week Two of COVID-19 Outbreak

Published March 26, 2020

From storms and floods to raging wildfires and fatal debris flows, Santa Barbara is no stranger to disasters and emergency preparedness.
But the COVID-19 pandemic is a new kind of disaster.
This is the second week that the health crisis is requiring all Californians to stay at home, and there’s no end yet in sight. All schools are closed and, unless you’re a part of the “essential” workforce, you’re not supposed to leave home, except to buy food, pick up medicine, or exercise outdoors at least six feet away from others. Thousands more people are now unemployed in Santa Barbara County alone, with thousands more likely to come, and collective anxiety continues to build, with no known release date from our statewide house arrest.

As of press time, there are 24 positive cases in Santa Barbara County, four of whom are fully recovered and 19 recovering at home. The remaining patient is hospitalized.

Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county health officer, said our region’s hospitals and health-care providers are ready for the “surge” of new cases that will ​— ​not might ​— ​hit us any day now. Hospitals are accepting handmade sewn masks due to the shortage, and doctors are prepared to build treatment rooms in outdoor tents with beds, even committing to using empty hotel rooms if worse comes to worst.

As the medical unknowns abound, the community is already taking steps to address the economic side of the crisis. Both the County and the City of Santa Barbara issued eviction moratoriums Tuesday, protecting all of those who lost their income source at the hands of the life-altering virus. Many of Santa Barbara’s hundreds of nonprofits have stepped in to help, like Showers of Blessing helping the homeless get showers, the Foodbank delivering free meals to the elderly, and 805 Undocufund helping undocumented immigrants receive benefits while out of work.

On the federal level, after days of squabbling, the Trump administration passed a nearly $2 trillion rescue package for Americans economically scathed by COVID-19. This includes $1,200 per taxpayer in individual payments and $500 extra per child for those who make less than $75,000 a year.

Read on for how our government, health, and nonprofit leaders are preparing for the tidal wave of new cases and economic downturn that will hit the county in week two of Santa Barbara’s lockdown.

—Delaney Smith