Anyone hoping to sizzle their skin into a fine shade of bacon over this coming Labor Day weekend had best find someplace to do it other than the beach. Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg announced that all county beaches would be closed for next week’s Labor Day weekend from Friday to Monday to anyone hoping to luxuriate in the sun, eat, drink, or otherwise just lie out and perhaps even read a trashy book. In other words, no chairs, beach umbrellas or barbecues will be allowed.
That’s not to say the beaches are totally off-limits. People hoping to surf, swim, boogie-board, toss footballs, jog, play fetch, or even have a long romantic walk at sunset will be allowed, just so long as they keep moving. Likewise, all City of Santa Barbara beaches will be shut down with all the same stipulations.
Making this happen will be the same assortment of city and county personnel who patrolled the beaches during the Fourth of July weekend, only this time they are giving themselves — and everyone else — plenty of advance notice. Expect to see lifeguards, park rangers, fire fighters, harbor patrol personnel, red-shirted and khaki-panted ambassadors, sheriff’s deputies riding horses, sheriff’s tech personnel, and at least one helicopter flying overhead courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. And expect the same for public hiking trails.
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Driving all this, of course, is concern about COVID-19 and the maintenance of social distancing. While beaches are not traditionally seen as a COVID vector hot-spots, the sort of beach parties and large gatherings that typically take place on Labor Day—the so-called last day of summer—can be problematic.
For the Fourth of July, city and county officials announced that beaches would be closed just a few days in advance. This time, public officials are hoping to get the word out sooner to discourage visitors from out-of-town showing up in large numbers. The concern is not just the potential for virus infected aerosolized saliva to be exchanged at the beach and trains; it’s what happens at night when visitors hit South Coast night spots.
City hotels and motels are reportedly at about 60 percent occupancy right now. Typically, that number would be closer to 80 percent around this time.
New county COVID counts have been trending down in the past two weeks, as have hospitalizations. Deaths, however, have continued to rise, the latest total being 90. On August 26, there were 57 new cases reported with 241 active cases throughout the county. County hospitals are reporting a total of 54 COVID patients with 23 in intensive care treatment beds. Two weeks ago, the number of recorded deaths attributed to COVID was 75. The number of new infections that day was 75 as well. County health officers reported 206 active cases and 75 COVID patients hospitalized. Of those, 26 were in intensive care.
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