Santa Monica went into lockdown Monday as confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County continued to climb and employees in three Santa Monica offices tested positive for the virus.
Under emergency orders from local officials to slow the spread of COVID-19, schools, public buildings, bars, theaters, gyms and salons closed for two weeks, restaurants halted dine-in service and Santa Monica Pier shut down indefinitely for the first time in its history. The city of Santa Monica put a temporary moratorium on evictions for renters financially impacted by coronavirus and its impacts on businesses.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Monday that the county had 94 confirmed coronavirus cases, at least 15 of which resulted from community spread. On Monday night, Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer released a list of county communities with coronavirus cases, showing that Santa Monica had one confirmed case.
“Because testing limitations still exist, the best approach is to practice social distancing at every opportunity, assuming that many people can be infected,” a spokesperson said.
As the nationwide number of cases reached nearly 4,000 and the death toll reached 68, President Donald Trump said Monday that people should avoid gatherings of 10 or more and Gov. Gavin Newsom said Californians older than 65 and those with chronic health conditions, who are most at risk of dying from coronavirus, should self-isolate at home.
While public health officials said Monday night that Santa Monica had one confirmed case, three Bergamot area offices — Colorado Center, Water Garden and Universal Music’s offices on Colorado Avenue — said over the weekend they each had an employee who had recently tested positive for the virus and closed temporarily for cleaning.
Newsom said Sunday that more than 8,000 California residents have been tested for coronavirus and the state will ramp up testing in the days ahead. The state is in the process of procuring 750 hospital beds in vacant facilities to supplement California’s roughly 80,000 beds.
City Manager Rick Cole’s executive orders aligned with actions taken by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to promote social distancing in the L.A. area. Garcetti ordered restaurants to only offer takeout and delivery and closed bars, gyms and theaters. At the state level, Newsom directed bars, nightclubs, brewpubs and wineries to close and restaurants to cut seating capacity by half.
Local restaurants asked the community to continue ordering delivery so they could continue paying workers, assuring customers that they were sanitizing their facilities frequently and directing workers to stay home if they are sick.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District closed schools for three weeks effective Tuesday, following guidance from public health officials. The closure will run into a two-week spring break, closing schools, childcare, preschools and adult school for a total of five weeks.
Around the state, 85% of public school students stayed home Monday as districts closed with assurance from Newsom that they would continue to receive funding.
While no cases of coronavirus were confirmed at any SMMUSD campus, a parent who may have been exposed to the virus and another individual connected to local schools may have exposed students at Franklin Elementary School and Santa Monica High School.
SMMUSD teachers will move lessons online and free breakfast and lunch will be available for pickup at four campuses.
As businesses closed and parents were forced to skip work to take care of their children, Santa Monica enacted a temporary moratorium on evictions for renters who can’t make rent due to the impacts of COVID-19.
“Our community is over 70% renters and this order provides our them the security of housing during this difficult time,” Cole said. “We recognize that the vast majority of landlords will act responsibly, but this order serves to ensure no renter loses their home due to a crisis beyond their control.”
Under the emergency order, renters may not be evicted if they lose income because they get sick, are ordered to self-quarantine, receive extraordinarily expensive medical bills, have to care for a household or family member with the virus or take care of a child attending a school that has closed.
The order includes a temporary ban on water and sewer shutoffs for all residents and businesses and a 60-day suspension of late fees on parking tickets. On Monday night, the city suspended preferential parking rules and street cleaning.
Santa Monica homeless shelters and outreach workers tried to prevent coronavirus from spreading to the homeless population, who are disproportionately older and have chronic health conditions.
Homeless service providers enforced social distancing and sanitation protocols in shelters and distributed hygiene supplies to people on the street, although outreach teams said they will soon run out of supplies such as hand sanitizer that have been bought out in stores and online.
After a run on sanitary supplies and staple foods at local grocery and convenience stores that lasted through the weekend, many grocery stores in Santa Monica restocked their inventories — except for highly in-demand wipes, toilet paper and dry goods.
Newsom announced plans Sunday to move the state’s homeless population into state-owned trailers, hotels, motels and other indoor facilities to protect the vulnerable population from coronavirus, although he did not provide a timeline.
“We need to get people out of encampments and into environments where we can address their health,” Newsom said.
On Monday night, Santa Monica officials said the city is expanding access to washing and restroom facilities for people experiencing homelessness, especially in high-traffic areas and parks. The city is ready to offer local support to any regional efforts to expand shelter capacity, officials said.
The city will soon update santamonica.gov/coronavirus with ways for residents to volunteer to support vulnerable community members.
This article was updated Mar. 17 at 10:37 a.m.