Less than three weeks after reopening bars and pubs, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department ordered the re-closure of the businesses within the sector on Monday, after Gov. Gavin Newsom directed 15 counties to take action to slow the rise of their COVID-19 case rates.
According to the Monday health order by county Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg, all bars, pubs and breweries in the county not offering dine-in meals must close by 8 a.m. on Wednesday and remain closed until 5 p.m. on July 26, unless the order is otherwise extended or rescinded.
The order does not apply to wineries, tasting rooms or facilities that serve sit-down food services in addition to alcohol, according to Ansorg.
“We have made the decision to close bars to be in compliance with state guidance, especially since our case count continues to rise day by day. This action, particularly in anticipation of the holiday weekend, is a proactive measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 locally,” Ansorg said.
The decision came after Newsom mandated the immediate closure of bars in seven counties which have been monitored for over 14 days, including Los Angeles and Riverside, and strongly encouraged similar closures in eight other counties which have been monitored for under 14 days, including Santa Barbara and Ventura.
As of Sunday, Santa Barbara County had been monitored for 13 days due to its violations of state case metrics. The county continues to exceed the permitted disease transmission rate of 100 cases per 100,000 people with a current rate of 133.2, according to state monitoring data as of Monday.
Bars, wineries and pubs were originally permitted to reopen in Santa Barbara County on June 12 per state guidelines, with the county opening further sectors including personal care services last week.
The California Department of Public Health has identified bars as one of the most high-risk sectors, stating that the virus is more likely to spread due to the tendency for gathering and mingling among groups, higher risk of projecting respiratory droplets, and impacts of alcohol upon judgement that can reduce compliance with social distancing and wearing of face coverings.
Prior to announcing the closure of bars in Santa Barbara County, Ansorg urged residents to avoid gatherings and comply with social distancing and face covering requirements to prevent further surges in COVID-19 cases.
“The state’s recommendation comes at a critical time. There is still an opportunity to make a difference in the course of this pandemic, but we must all recommit to this effort,” Ansorg said.
While Santa Barbara County has not identified bars as a major source of local COVID-19 cases, public health officials in neighboring San Luis Obispo County stated that many of their 59 additional cases confirmed over the weekend were traced to young people reportedly out at bars.
Rising COVID-19 cases, deaths
Over the weekend, 89 additional COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Santa Barbara County, with another 96 cases confirmed on Monday.
Also on Monday, the county reported the death of an individual over the age of 70 who resided in Santa Maria.
No underlying conditions were mentioned and the county did not state whether the individual was a resident at Country Oaks Care Center in Santa Maria, where nine individuals have died in a COVID-19 outbreak.
In Santa Maria, 1,057 cases have now been confirmed with 151 still active. Fifteen deaths have been reported, including nine among residents at Country Oaks Care Center.
The community of Orcutt has seen 74 cases with eight still active. No residents have died.
In Lompoc, 146 cases have been confirmed with 10 still active. Four residents have died.
In Santa Ynez Valley, 21 cases have been reported with four still active. No residents have died.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county have risen from 53 as of Friday to 60 on Monday, with 21 of the individuals currently in the ICU, according to county data.
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