The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden may reopen if social distancing can be preserved under the clarified Stay Well at Home Order, which lays out social distancing practices outdoors. | Credit: Courtesy

Social distancing has succeeded in flattening the COVID-19 disease curve in Santa Barbara County, but it’s no time to relax, officials warn. If recreational areas become so overcrowded that asymptomatic people could transmit the highly contagious coronavirus, access will be closed. But to give more outlets to traditional spaces where people assemble, like churches, golf courses, botanical gardens, and essential businesses, County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg has issued a Stay Well at Home Order to clarify how to be safe outdoors as well as indoors.

The rules iterate that a six-foot distance should be maintained, but between people who do not live in the same household. At businesses, signs must state safety rules about distance, not coming in if sick, avoiding physical contact, and safe sneezing and coughing into a tissue or elbow. The ability to wash or disinfect hands must exist, and high-touch surfaces must be cleaned regularly. Payment systems that avoid contact between buyer and seller should be added, if possible, or all implements used for payment must be cleaned after each use.

On a spring weekend, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden sometimes hosts as many as 250 visitors on its grounds, but it closed a week after the governor’s order because of the impossibility of social distancing, said Director Steve Windhager. The garden then had to enclose its perimeter fencing when neighbors and hikers entered, some approaching the gardeners, who feared that infection could transmit to vulnerable family members at home.

“We’re working on a methodology to reopen,” Windhager said, “that allows social distancing to give access to the garden but still keeps visitors and staff safe.” It could take a few weeks to get that rolling, he said.

Many Santa Barbara churches are holding services via online video, although several around Southern California have opted for a drive-in ministry. At Mission City Church on the Mesa, Jake Barker, the lead pastor, preferred to keep services on Zoom. “California is being extra diligent,” he said, “and we need to make sure we’re being wise and not encouraging behavior we shouldn’t.” He holds two Sunday meetings, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and small midweek discussion groups. “We’re employing every tool we can,” he said.

The Stay Well at Home Order specifies that if drive-in services were held, everyone must remain in their vehicle, stay six feet apart, do not transfer items between cars, and no restroom facilities may be made available. Rules are outlined for golfing, as well: A single person in a cart is allowed, four golfers may compose a group and must stay with the group, the groups must stay 30 feet apart, cups are to be inverted to avoid touching, ball washers must be covered, and no food, except delivered food, is allowed to be served. Pro shops and putting greens must also remain closed.


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