By edhat staff
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors decided to table an ordinance to allow increased enforcement of coronavirus (COVID-19) mandates during their Tuesday meeting.
The urgency ordinance would have provided police officers and other public officers designated by the Director of Emergency Services with a tool to enforce County Health Officer Orders aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19.
The ordinance included additional enforcement mechanisms to deter violations through either infraction citations, administrative fines or license suspension, and cease and desist orders. Maximum fines start at $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $500 for the third offense.
While the county’s focus remains on education and persuasion for obtaining compliance, this ordinance would have been used as a last resort mainly focused on egregious situations where education was ineffective.
The community of Isla Vista was brought up several times as cases continue to rise while students move in ahead of the Fall quarter.
Several public commenters expressed their disdain for the ordinance, confusing it with mandatory order of wearing face coverings that is already in place, and likening it occupied Europe and Maximilien Robespierre’s “Reign of Terror.”
Supervisor Das Williams stated this emergency has divided us instead of uniting us. He also took issue with the sentiments stating his grandmother lived in occupied Europe and wearing a mask does not fit the definition of Draconian law, but it simply helps us return to normal.
“I feel like it is a small price to pay for returning to a free society… where kids can go to school… where we can move about and interact without fear,” said Williams.
Supervisor Joan Hartmann stated educational outreach is first and foremost but these additional rules are another arrow in the quiver to give the additional ability to persuade people.
“We are working very very hard to educate our community about how important it is for all of us to take care of each other,” said Hartmann.
Supervisor Steve Lavagnino stated this would count as significant government overreach and the case of Santa Maria has proven that education and outreach work. He said if this ordinance was presented in April he might have a different view, but as hospitalizations and positive cases are trending down it doesn’t seem necessary.
Supervisor Peter Adam had a similar view and reminded the board the County Sheriff’s Office is already allowed to issue citations.
The urgency ordinance needed four votes to pass but it became clear Supervisors Adam and Lavagnino would not support it.
Ultimately Supervisor Williams proposed stripping the urgency label of the ordinance which would remove its effect of taking place immediately if passed. It will then be rewritten as a regular ordinance and presented to the board for a vote at a later date. If it passes, there will be 30 days before it would take effect.
COVID-19 Rates Continue Trending Down
Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso stated over the last two weeks active COVID-19 cases decreased by 24%.
The cities of Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, and Lompoc continue to see a decreased trend while Isla Vista and Goleta are seeing a moderate increase.
Hospitalizations rates over the past weeks have decreased by 36% and intensive care unit (ICU) stays decreased by 39%.
The county’s testing positivity remains at 7%, just under the state’s 8% threshold. However, the case rate remains at 138 per 100,000 where it needs to be under 100.
Overall, California saw a decrease of 13% in case rates within a 14 day period, and Santa Barbara County saw similar numbers with a 14% decrease.
Additionally, regarding school waivers, Dr. Do-Reynoso confirmed all county superintendents were contacted on Friday about the school waiver process. Trainings are scheduled to take place this week and next with school officials and the public health department.
Tuesday’s COVID-19 Numbers
The Public Health Department reported 70 new COVID-19 cases and one death on Tuesday.
The resident was over 70 years of age, had underlying health conditions, and lived in the North County Unincorporated area.
The total case count is now 7,869 with 229 presently active.
There are 51 hospitalizations including 21 in the ICU.
More data is available here: https://publichealthsbc.org/status-reports/