In a town hall phone call with Supervisor Zach Friend on Tuesday, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel previewed her plans for a looser extended shelter order to be released this week.
Dr. Newel’s planned changes ーstill unofficial ー include:
- Loosened restrictions on health care to allow elective surgeries and preventative care
- Loosened restrictions around construction, real estate, gardening, landscaping, tree trimming and tree nurseries
- Closing beaches for certain hours each day, “perhaps 10 to 5 or 11 to 6” to allow access for exercise, but limit gatherings, picnics and sunbathing. The ocean will still be open at all hours for activities like surfing, swimming, boating and paddling. People will be allowed to cross the sand to access the water.
- Reopened golf courses with social distancing requirements
- Any short-term vacation rental, hotel, inn, bed and breakfast or similar business that books a guest for non-essential travel could be fined, as well as the traveler.
“We’re in this for a long time, probably until we can get a vaccine or other therapeutics that might give us some relief,” Newel said. “But we’re probably looking at some kind of restriction in movement and gathering for 18 months or two years. And so we’re looking at ways to make this sustainable because it’s certainly not sustainable the way we’re doing it now.
“Our children need education and we need to have a community that’s employed. I’ve told people that we’re walking a fine line between avoiding death by covid and avoiding death by poverty. Because death by poverty is a very real phenomenon and we can’t, we don’t want to go down there for sure.”
County residents asked questions on beach access, vacation rentals, what reopening restaurants would look like and how to limit out-of-county visitors.
Click on the links to listen to Dr. Newel’s responses to the following questions. Most callers did not give their full names.
- “It seems to me you’re trying to reorganize the way we live. Now, if this is such a terrible thing, why wasn’t this done during the SARS epidemic or the other epidemic we had?”
- “There are a lot of people [parking] the county parking lot at the Esplanade in Rio Del Mar. Would it be prudent to close that lot again, as you did over the Easter break, to cut down on the number of people coming in to just spread out a blanket and chill?”
- “I’d like to know more about the process used to open our beaches, when the other counties in the Bay Area were closed, therefore allowing our beaches to be open, and the subsequent danger of the COVID-19 being spread and exposed to the Santa Cruz residents.”
- “I’d like to just get some ideas around where your thoughts are on protecting us and ensuring other counties and residents aren’t trying to come into our county.”
- “I live in a senior building, independent living and several people don’t obey the rules and they go out. And a few of us are very concerned, of what do we have to do to get tested. We would like to have testing done to our building, since we’re all seniors, and a lot of us are compromised.”
- “I understand the need to obviously protect the hospital from from someone accompanying a patient, but couldn’t a mask or blouse or something like that provide that comfort and particularly when it is a very difficult health situation? And is your new amendment to the shelter in place going to address that [hospital visitation]?“
- “I was just hoping to hear what your thoughts are, Dr. Newel, about the possibility of having restaurants opening anytime soon.”
- “How long is this extension going to be in effect for? And my second question is, what would be wrong with everyone being allowed to go back to work and just maintaining all the safe protocols that are already in place by way of distancing and disinfecting?” – Pascal Anastasi
- “I see quite a few people wearing a mask, but they have a mask only over their mouth and they’re breathing through their nose, concerning me. Just the nose seems a little crazy to me. They don’t have both covered and I wonder if that could be explained to people when you have a mask order that that’s how you wear a mask. And the other one is, what is allowed at the beach?“
- “The $1,000 fine is not much of a deterrent to people to stop coming [to vacation homes and rentals.] Can you talk a little bit more about that?”
- “Who actually is the one that authorizes closures, Dr. Newel or the supervisors?“
- “I’m getting calls from restaurants and hotels, concerned about applying social distancing effectively when the time comes to open again, guidelines requirements … How can we communicate to make sure that the businesses are ready? And then also that they have some input into what these guidelines would be?” – Maggie Ivy, Visit Santa Cruz County CEO and Santa Cruz Local member
- “When the beaches were closed for a week, it forced everybody into the neighborhood. In places that seemed like they were very private and quiet, all of a sudden were jammed with people. If you decide to close the beaches during the day, it will force all of the regular beach walkers that people use the beaches into jamming together during those particular hours.”
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Kara Meyberg Guzman is the CEO and co-founder of Santa Cruz Local. Prior to Santa Cruz Local, she served as the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s managing editor. She has a biology degree from Stanford University and lives in Santa Cruz.