Officials Discuss Cost and Timeline of Reopening Businesses
Governor Gavin Newsom leading a press conference (Photo: Office of the Governor)
By Lauren Bray, edhat staff
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gregg Hart discussed the financial constraints of reopening businesses on Governor Newsom's framework.
Earlier this week Gov. Newsom announced six indicators that are needed to modify the stay-at-home order. The first one being the ability to monitor and protect communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed.
During Thursday afternoon's local press conference, Hart explained this is beyond our current testing capabilities. Local governments and healthcare providers will need more financial assistance from state and federal governments to take on the new responsibilities required to make the transition work, he said.
Hart stated the county will take a $37-40 million dollar economic hit due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). He estimated the county has already incurred $7-10 million for its COVID-19 response, most of which include the cost of opening and staffing the Emergency Operations Center.
Approximately $30 million is related to revenue declines in sales and transient occupancy taxes ($3.7 million), local public safety sales tax ($4.8 million), state public safety realignment funds ($7.9 million), and health and human services realignment funds ($13.3 million).
On March 27, the third supplemental response package to the COVID-19 pandemic called “The CARES Act” was signed into law. The act directs $150 billion to be divided among the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the territories, and tribal governments. Within a state, only “units of local governments” with populations that exceed 500,000 are eligible to receive direct funding from the federal government as a portion of the State’s allocation. Santa Barbara County falls below the 500,000 population threshold, and therefore will not receive such funding.
"Now more than ever we will need even more assistance to help us get the financial resources necessary to implement the Governor's COVID-19 transition framework and get our community back to work, This is the critical first step to making that happen," said Hart.
Newsom has made it clear there is not a precise timeline for modifying the stay-at-home order, but the six indicators will serve as the framework for making that decision.
During a national press conference on Thursday evening, President Trump announced guidelines for opening states and left the decision up to governors. State leaders were provided with a phased list of criteria to lift social distancing restrictions.
The guidelines suggest states should see a decrease in confirmed COVID-19 cases over a 14-day period. This falls in line with Newsom's statement that California will not reopen until there is a decline in the number of deaths, hospitalizations, and patients requiring care in ICU beds.
The White House guidance also states that hospitals should be able to “treat all patients without crisis care” and have a “robust testing system in place for at-risk health care workers” before proceeding to a phased reopening.
Newsom stated since the pandemic began, the number of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in California hospitals declined. He said the number of patients in ICUs statewide increased by 1.4 percent to 1,191, but isn’t drastically different than the 1,175 patients who tested positive in ICUs throughout the state on Monday.
“You have successfully bent and arguably flattened the curve in the state of California,” said Newsom. “We continue to need to maintain our vigilance, guided not by political decision-making, guided by data, guided by facts, guided by science, guided by health professionals all throughout the state of California.”