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Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday at noon the required closure of certain indoor gathering places: restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers (such as bowling alleys and batting cages), zoos, museums, and cardrooms. The measures go into effect immediately in 19 counties, including Santa Barbara, and will be sustained for at least three weeks.
California crested 6,000 deaths today, with 110 people dying in the past 24 hours, Newsom said, from a disease that targets the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, attacking the lungs and other organ systems throughout the body, including the brain and kidneys, and leaving lasting damage. The demographic has skewed toward younger people in California and Santa Barbara County, however. Newsom stated that in addition to deaths, positive tests were also on the rise. The 19 counties had been on a three-day watch list for steeply climbing cases of COVID-19 and include neighboring Ventura, Kern, and Los Angeles counties.
New cases in Santa Barbara hit a peak yesterday with 96 new cases, a county high outside the Lompoc Penitentiary infections, and an additional death that raised the total to 29 who are known to have died of COVID-19 in the county since April. Sixty people were hospitalized — a 13 percent rise over two weeks ago — and 21 are in intensive care beds, 16 percent of those available.
Newsom added that the businesses newly closed could modify their operations to outdoors or pick-up, which many Santa Barbara restaurants have busily implemented in recent weeks. He emphasized that bars and brewpubs must close, which was ordered in Santa Barbara County on June 28. Locally, bars that included food and sit-down service in conjunction with restaurants were excluded from the “bar” category.
[After this story was posted, Public Health announced the emergency permits that allowed food service at drinking establishments — and permitted them to remain open — would be rescinded as of July 2 at 5 p.m.]
State beaches remained open this weekend, Newsom said, but the parking areas will close. Modifications are in effect at larger parks, he added. (See California State Parks for more.)
Santa Barbara’s City Council tied on a vote Tuesday, June 30, to close the beaches ahead of the three-day holiday, thus they remain open. The county made the decision to leave beaches, parks, and trails open over Memorial Day in May but warned that parking lots would close if social distancing was not maintained. They, too, remain open for the Fourth of July weekend, “with strict physical distancing enforcement by various agencies,” Public Health spokesperson Jackie Ruiz stated.
[The city issued a statement late this afternoon that beach parking would close Friday, July 3, through Sunday, July 5.]
The governor also asked Californians to change Fourth of July plans that included more than one household gathering in order to lower transmission of the disease. Both Santa Barbara and Goleta have canceled their scheduled fireworks displays. Santa Barbara County Fire sent a notice that even “safe and sane” fireworks were outlawed in every area except the cities of Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and Lompoc.
“California is seeing the virus spreading at alarming rates in many parts of the state, and we are taking immediate action to slow the spread of the virus in those areas,” said Newsom. “We bent the curve in the State of California once, and we will bend the curve again. But we’re going to have to be tougher, and that’s why we are taking this action today.”
Santa Barbara County Public Health was not immediately available for comment on whether a new order was forthcoming locally.
The governor’s statements at his press conferences don’t always align with what the California Department of Public Health ends up mandating, Supervisor Gregg Hart said in a phone call after this story was first posted. Counties have learned to wait until the department issued a statement, he said, and talks often take place between state and county officials on what would really work. He expected the county order would come in the next 24-48 hours.
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+.