Santa Monica canceled all events and local schools announced plans to close Thursday as the number of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County reached 32 and the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.
Local officials announced Thursday afternoon that all events, programs and activities hosted by the city of Santa Monica and other groups will be canceled in alignment with guidances issued by state and county public health officials. Santa Monica schools closed, moved to remote instruction or canceled all non-essential events, although they confirmed that no students or staff had tested positive for COVID-19.
The list of canceled city events includes all recreational classes and the March 21 Airport Art Walk. Parks, public recreational facilities and beaches will remain open and the Santa Monica Farmers Market will remain open for the time being, said city spokesperson Constance Farrell.
All Santa Monica Public Library branches will be closed March 14 through March 31, except for the Pico Branch Library, which will close starting Friday. The Virginia Avenue Park campus facilities will be closed Friday through March 16.
The city will also close City Hall to the public and suspend all public meetings except City Council through the end of March.
Residents and businesses who need to do business with the city can call 310-458-8301, email email@example.com or visit santamonica.gov/coronavirus to get more information on how to proceed, Farrell said.
“In cooperation with federal, state and county guidance, we are taking bold and aggressive steps to reduce the spread of illness — while continuing to serve our community with vital services,” said City Manager Rick Cole. “This is a time of social distancing, but Santa Monica’s strong social fabric is what will see us through this challenging time.”
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Supt. Ben Drati said Thursday students will be dismissed from school Friday and Monday at all campuses in the district, including preschool and childcare programs.
On Saturday morning, Drati said schools will close from at least Mar. 16 to Mar. 20. The school board is meeting on Monday to finalize the length of time schools will be closed. Los Angeles Unified School District also announced plans to close schools starting Monday.
Free, grab-and-go breakfast and lunch will be offered for all students at Santa Monica High School, McKinley Elementary, Rogers Elementary in Santa Monica and Webster Elementary in Malibu.
Drati said there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus at SMMUSD schools, but a community member with children in district schools was exposed to coronavirus. At least one other individual connected to local schools may have also been exposed and campuses connected to the potential exposures include Franklin Elementary, John Muir Elementary and Santa Monica High School.
Pinsker said the district will provide more details as appropriate.
“We are committed to notifying the community if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within our school communities,” she said.
Crossroads School, a private K-12 school in Santa Monica, announced Wednesday night on its website that it would close Thursday and Friday as the school prepares to move to remote instruction in the weeks ahead.
Crossroads said it would notify families by the end of the day Friday if school will reopen Monday or if it will proceed with remote instruction.
Santa Monica College announced Wednesday that it will transition as many classes as possible to remote instruction by Wednesday, March 18. Classes will be canceled Friday, March 13 through Tuesday, March 17 to provide time for faculty members, staff and students to prepare for the transition to remote instruction.
The college remains open for business and most college operations will continue during this time. Student Services, computer labs, the library and other resources will remain open.
Select courses that require in-person instruction — for example, some performing arts, lab, and physical education courses — will continue to meet on campus as scheduled. Athletic events will continue whenever possible without spectators.
SMC President Kathryn Jeffery said the college has administered a survey to students today to assess their technology and support needs.
“Many students lack technology resources and SMC seeks to ensure that no students are left behind during this transition,” Jeffery said.
In keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding older adults being at high risk from COVID-19, SMC has temporarily suspended all classes at SMC Emeritus, the college’s program for older adults.
Officials encouraged residents to maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people, stay home if they are sick, wash their hands often and avoid touching their faces.
“We appreciate your cooperation as we all work together to follow the guidance of public health authorities to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus across our larger community,” said city spokesperson Constance Farrell.
As of Wednesday, 32 people in Los Angeles County tested positive for coronavirus and a woman older than 60 with underlying health issues died, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
On Thursday, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce issued a list of resources for local employers experiencing a slowdown in their business.
Employers may apply for a the state Employment Development Department’s work sharing program that allows them to reduce employee hours and partially offset their wages.
Businesses planning to close or lay off workers can take advantage of the EDD rapid response program, in which dedicated teams meet with employers to help avert potential layoffs and provide immediate services to assist workers facing job losses.
Any business experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day extension to file their state payroll reports and deposit state payroll taxes without penalty or interest. Employers may call the EDD Taxpayer Assistance Center at 1-888-745-3886 with questions.