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We have bent the COVID-19 curve and successfully reduced the spread of the virus, Gregg Hart declared Friday. “This progress would not have been possible without the strong support and deep commitment of the 450,000 residents of Santa Barbara County, who have embraced the responsibility of protecting each other,” he said. “It is a moment to celebrate.”
Many were already doing just that, as the City of Santa Barbara closed off eight blocks of State Street to car traffic and allowed restaurants to push their newly reopened but social-distancing businesses onto sidewalks. Hart described the “very real sense of optimism in the air” as more stores reopened, explaining 600 or so have already completed the county’s self-certification process.
Still, Hart warned, “As these new shopping and dining opportunities become available, it’s also critical to remember that we must continue to be very careful.” We can’t let our guard down, said Hart, reminding residents to use social distancing, wear masks, and practice good hygiene. He asked visitors to take the same precautions here as they would in their hometowns. “Let’s all remember,” he said, “crowded beaches are closed beaches.”
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso delivered more sobering news during the Friday press conference, announcing the 12th county death from COVID-19. The casualty was a Santa Maria resident in their seventies with underlying health conditions, she said. The region reported 11 new community cases from yesterday, and one additional prison case, bringing the entire county’s total to 1,551. Of that number, only 580 cases have been detected in the general community population since the start of the pandemic, and 465 of them have fully recovered.
Do-Reynoso echoed both Hart’s cheerfulness and words of caution. “I’m grateful that Santa Barbara County can enjoy the freedom of movement as we reopen businesses and workplaces,” she said. “But with freedom comes responsibility. I urge you to do your part in keeping our community reopened.”
To that end, Do-Reynoso said that County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg issued a new Health Order requiring that face masks be worn in additional circumstances and settings. The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, and mandates that masks be worn, “When inside of or in line to enter any and all businesses” as well as “when using public transportation, a private car service, or a ride-sharing vehicle. Drivers must wear a face covering while driving or operating vehicles regardless of whether a member of the public is in the vehicle.”
Even more significantly, the order states that, “All businesses must require employees, contractors, owners, and volunteers to wear a face covering at the workplace and at off-site work locations.” Masks are also mandatory at government agencies and during visits to the hospital, doctor, pharmacy, or dentist.
The order doesn’t apply to infants, children under 13, or those with health-related issues that would prevent them from wearing a mask, Do-Reynoso said. Neither does it apply to people working alone in a private office. “The extent of the order is to further slow the spread to the maximum extent possible,” she said.
Do-Reynoso encouraged residents to get tested at any one of the county’s free testing sites in Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Santa Barbara. Schedule an appointment at lhi.care/covidtesting, or call 1 (888) 634-1123.
“Wishing you a safe holiday weekend,” she said.
At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff is working around the clock to cover every aspect of this crisis — sorting truth from rumor. Our reporters and editors are asking the tough questions of our public health officials and spreading the word about how we can all help one another. The community needs us — now more than ever — and we need you in order to keep doing the important work we do. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.