Wednesday, January 27, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 47

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 23rd, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 39

County prepped to enforce COVID-19 restrictions for businesses

By Malea Martin

With new COVID-19 requirements for both businesses and individuals in place, Santa Barbara County only plans to take an enforcement approach on the business side of things—at least for now. 

Santa Barbara County, along with most of California, returned to the purple tier in the state’s reopening system on Nov. 16, and with the most restrictive tier also comes the governor’s new curfew. 

With the county now back in the purple tier, some businesses will see new restrictions while others will have to close down entirely. For restaurants, it means only outdoor service is allowed, and the county says it will be enforcing compliance.

Effective in purple tier counties starting on Nov. 21, the limited stay-at-home order requires that all gatherings with members of other households cease between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., with a few limited exceptions. Non-essential businesses must also close during these hours.

“Activities conducted later in the evening are more likely to include social gatherings with reduced inhibitions and less compliance with preventative measures,” 2nd District County Supervisor Gregg Hart said at a Nov. 20 press conference. 

Hart added that “new statewide guidance on masks has now been expanded to request that everyone in the state of California wear masks when they’re outdoors and could come in contact with another person.”

Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said the county has already sent out “education and expectations” to restaurants, bars, and businesses regarding both the curfew and the closures required in the purple tier. Bars without meal service must close down entirely, and movie theaters, museums, restaurants, and places of worship are back to outdoor-only service.  

“We will also be very vigilant in monitoring whether those businesses are complying with the new state health officer order,” Do-Reynoso said.

Hart added that code enforcement officers, the police and sheriff’s departments, and the district attorney are all prepared to intercede in situations of “egregious violations” by businesses.

“The county has new administrative fines to help with enforcement,” Hart said. “This is a very serious matter and we want people to comply voluntarily, but if they don’t, we have consequences that can be levied.”

But, as has been the case in the past, it appears that Santa Barbara County will start with an educational approach to impose the curfew and mask order upon average citizens, rather than one of enforcement.

“We have been very successful over time in making that plea to the public to follow the directions from public health,” Hart said at the press conference. “I have no reason to believe that isn’t going to be the case.”

While enforcement actions could be deployed down the line, Hart said, “the beginning of the conversation will be educational.”

As the new tier assignment forces some businesses and gathering spaces to close down, Hart said the impact on the job market could be substantial.

“I think people are going to take [the new orders] very seriously and are going to restrain their activities, and that will have an effect on the business climate,” he said.

Data released on Nov. 20 by the state’s Labor Market Information Division shows that Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent in October, down from 7.3 percent in September. This is the lowest rate since April when it spiked to nearly 14 percent at the start of the pandemic closures. But with the county back to the purple tier, it’s unclear how closures may slow or even reverse the gains made in lowering the unemployment rate.

“I want to urge everyone who’s approaching the holidays to please use their shopping dollars locally,” Hart added. “We don’t need to be supporting the national online retailers with online shopping, we need to be supporting our local businesses, and that can be done safely and carefully.”

Do-Reynoso told the Sun in an email that she is concerned the holiday season will contribute to even higher case rates and testing positivity. 

“Therefore, I am urging everyone to celebrate the holidays this year in a different way so that we can contain the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “Please consider not gathering with family and friends who are not part of your household.” 

Weekly Poll
Is the state being forthcoming enough with vaccine information?

No. They need to be transparent about why each county gets the amount it does.
It's not really in their hands; the federal government is the one making state allocations.
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I have no idea—I don't keep up with the state's announcements!

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