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Coronavirus in Santa Barbara County: Santa Maria cancels city events, maintains government meetings

Coronavirus in Santa Barbara County: Santa Maria cancels city events, maintains government meetings

The city of Santa Maria is postponing and canceling a number of city events scheduled in the coming weeks following a local health emergency declaration in Santa Barbara County requiring cities to practice social distancing due to coronavirus concerns. 

The order issued by Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county health officer, requires that gatherings of 250 or more people be canceled or postponed and requires smaller gatherings to use “social distancing” of six feet between individuals attending the events or to cancel or postpone those as well.

Cities and counties throughout California have been implementing similar social distancing plans following an announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom requiring the cancellation of mass gatherings throughout the state. 

"This guidance will remain in place at least through the month of March. As with all guidance that relates to COVID-19 response, authorities will revisit this guidance on a regular basis to evaluate the continued public health need for it and to evaluate if any elements need to be changed," said Jackie Ruiz, county Public Health Department spokeswoman. 

Santa Maria city officials announced the same night the cancellation through March of all remaining events and programs organized by the Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as the Public Library and its branches. 

However, there are no plans to cancel or postpone regularly scheduled meetings of the City Council, Planning Commission, or Recreation and Parks Commission, according to city spokesman Mark van de Kamp. 

Along with library and Recreation and Parks event, the kickoff for the annual Downtown Fridays is postponed from March 27 to May 1.

In addition, the City's Special Projects team is postponing Community Development Week during the week of April 13, including the Community Resource Fair on April 15. The new date has not yet been determined. 

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments also announced Friday the postponement of the second annual Santa Maria Open Streets celebration on March 29 until October 25. Open Streets is organized in collaboration with the city of Santa Maria. 

On Friday, van de Kamp announced closures of all city recreation facilities including Elwin Mussell Senior Center, Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center and Paul Nelson Aquatic Center. All programs planned through March for these facilities now are postponed.

City parks, including Los Flores Ranch Park, will remain open for individuals along with all Santa Maria Public Library branches. However, no organizations may hold events or activities at these locations.  

Santa Maria Area Transit is running regularly with increased sanitation efforts on all city buses. 

At this time, there are no confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County, although the county has monitored 61 individuals over the past weeks who were potentially exposed to the virus, none of whom have reported symptoms. 

The county has also tested six individuals under investigation for the virus, but all tests have come back negative. 

The county Public Health Department has created a portal with news, information and updates about the virus. 

Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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