While most city of Santa Monica employees are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, some services still need people out in the field and are adapting their operations to protect workers and residents.
In interviews with the Daily Press last week, city leaders said first responders are wearing personal protective equipment when necessary, monitoring their health and preparing for the lockdown’s possible consequences on public safety.
Santa Monica Police Department
SMPD Chief Cynthia Renaud said police officers are asked to self-monitor their health by taking their temperature at the beginning and end of each shift and use PPE in the field if necessary. Police stations and vehicles are being wiped down regularly.
Officers have arrested an average of two to three people each day since city officials declared a local emergency over coronavirus and shut down many businesses, public buildings and some outdoor spaces such as Santa Monica Pier.
“With any crime, you have to have a victim, a suspect and a location, and if you get rid of the location, the crime isn’t going to happen,” Renaud said.
But Renaud said SMPD is preparing for an uptick in domestic violence and officers are ramping up car patrols to deter people from breaking into closed businesses.
“We’re concerned about what could happen with people confined together for long periods of time, especially with the amount of alcohol being purchased right now,” she said.
Officers also have the authority to issue citations to individuals and businesses who violate state and county stay at home orders, although Renaud has directed officers to educate people about the orders and encourage compliance before resorting to citations, which can result in fines.
Individuals who break the stay at home order once can be fined $100, those who break the order twice can be fined $250 and those who break it three or more times can be fined $500. Businesses are fined on a higher schedule.
Santa Monica Fire Department
SMFD Chief Bill Walker said coronavirus hasn’t prompted significant changes to department protocol for medical aid calls because paramedics already take precautions for infectious diseases.
However, response teams are now sending one paramedic to evaluate potential COVID-19 patients so the entire team doesn’t have to put on PPE until the person is confirmed as a potential case. Walker said the department has enough PPE for the next month.
Walker said although firefighters and paramedics are concerned for their health and their families’ health, they train for crisis scenarios and feel prepared to assist during the pandemic. He said last week that SMFD had not yet encountered substantial numbers of coronavirus patients in the field.
“This is what our folks are trained to do … and we just haven’t had (a lot of people with coronavirus) in the field,” he said. “But we do foresee some tough medical challenges coming our way.”
Big Blue Bus
Big Blue Bus has suspended fares so customers can board through rear doors and maintain their distance from operators, who now carry gloves and hand sanitizer. Buses are sanitized daily.
On Tuesday, BBB officials announced that two bus operators tested positive for coronavirus last weekend. The operators last worked on Friday, March 20, driving Routes 12, 7 and 8.
In a statement issued Tuesday, King alluded to the fact that BBB and transportation agencies across the globe had lost ridership during the pandemic and said the agency will continue to provide transportation for riders who rely on it.
“We know our bus system is an essential service that people rely on and we are closely monitoring routes to continue to meet those needs,” King said.
The city is still collecting trash and recycling, but some residents have complained that their garbage hasn’t been picked up since last week.
City spokesperson Constance Farrell said residential routes were modified or consolidated last week to account for a decrease in demand for trash pickup from businesses required to close due to COVID-19. The city is also trying to minimize the number of workers needed for trash collection, she said.
“Some residential customers experienced changes to their normal collection schedule,” Farrell said. “This week we are back to the normal schedule for all residential customers.”
Farrell said customers should call (310) 458-2223 if their trash, recycling or organics have not been picked up and the city will collect the waste that day or the next.