Supervisors Vote to Adopt Fines for Health Officer Order Violations
By edhat staff
In a 3-2 vote, Santa Barbara County Supervisors passed an ordinance to allow fines for those violating the Health Officer's Orders regarding COVID-19.
This new ordinance provides peace officers and other public officers designated by the Director of Emergency Services with a tool to enforce restrictions within the unincorporated areas of the County, aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. This only applies to the unincorporated areas of the county which include Isla Vista where three virus outbreaks were recently discovered.
Kelly Hubbard, Director of the Office of Emergency Management, stated the reason for the proposed ordinance is due to the county's concern of a rise in flu cases spurring a "twindemic," the upcoming holidays and cold weather causing indoor gatherings, students congregating, and general weariness of COVID-19 restrictions.
The primary focus of the fine would be on all prohibited gatherings. These include large house parties, businesses not complying with capacity limitations, and large groups at a park or beach including adult sports. The fines would not apply to individuals walking down the street without a mask, a family at the beach without masks, or a household sitting at a park and not wearing masks, said Hubbard.
Violations may be called in by local residents, county ambassadors and employees, or law enforcement. Enforcement actions would depend on the jurisdiction and the violation but officials stressed these fines would be used as a last resort where education and outreach would be the primary response. The new ordinance establishes administrative fines of $100, $200, and $500 for violating county health orders.
Supervisors Joan Hartmann, Greg Hart, and Das Williams voted in favor of the ordinance with Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino opposing.
"There is a real need for an enforcement tool that lies somewhere on the continuum between education and law enforcement, that's kind of a big gulf between that," said Supervisor Williams.
Supervisor Lavagnino criticized the ordinance as "well-intentioned" but may result in "unintended consequences" where Supervisor Adam took a stronger approach saying this is meant to "intimidate and coerce."
"I would prefer that our county government reject the idea of Draconian regulation for failing to comply with health officer orders. I offer you a document titled 'The Great Barrington Declaration,'" said Adam. "The basic point is that we are doing more harm than good using current control strategies."
The document referenced by Adam has been widely criticized by scientists and medical experts. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the American National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and lead member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, called the declaration "ridiculous", "total nonsense" and "very dangerous", saying that it would lead to a large number of avoidable deaths.
"Today we consider instituting fines for a person's daring to violate what I and many in our community consider to be unreasonable, unwarranted and unconstitutional infringements of our right of peaceful assembly, freedom to travel, freedom to engage in commerce, and freedom to worship as we choose. These all in the name of preventing the spread of a disease we have learned since March is about as fatal as the normal flu," said Adam.
He finished his diatribe by referencing Galileo, flat-earthers, and bloodletting as reminders of those who thought they were right but weren't right at all.
To fact check his assertions, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, doctors and scientists state COVID-19 is thought to have a substantially higher mortality rate (possibly 10 times or more) than that of most strains of the flu.
"There have been approximately 1,118,635 [COVID-19] deaths reported worldwide. In the U.S, 220,133 people have died of COVID-19 between January 2020 and October 20, 2020. The World Health Organization estimates that 290,000 to 650,000 people die of flu-related causes every year worldwide," reports Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The Status of Isla Vista
Public Health Director (PHD) Van Do-Reynoso confirmed there are three outbreaks in Isla Vista relating to sorority and fraternity houses with additional cases within the surrounding community.
Do-Reynoso stated the Isla Vista residents took their diagnosis seriously and are abiding by PHD's recommendations to limit movements. The symptoms are described as mild at best with some fatigue and loss of smell and test but they are not seeing serious symptoms at this point.
PHD and UC Santa Barbara have joined forces to ramp up community testing and anticipate conducting 150 tests per day during a free testing event this weekend. They are also jointly working on contact tracing and supportive services.
Current Numbers & Tier Status
Santa Barbara County does not meet the requirements to move into the lower orange tier. An average-case rate of 1-3.9 per 100,000 population is needed to move down and the county is currently at 4.8 while all other metrics have achieved the orange status. Until the case rate is below 3.9, the county will remain in the red tier.
The outbreaks in Isla Vista were not reflected in this current case count and will be included in next week's numbers.
As of Tuesday, there are 9,671 COVID-19 cases within the county. Of those, 118 are currently active or infectious with 16 in the hospital including five in the intensive care unit. There have been 119 deaths
More data can be found at: https://publichealthsbc.org/status-reports/