Check back here for the latest news on the coronavirus and its impacts around Santa Cruz County. The most recent updates are added at the top.
For continuing in-depth coverage, visit: goodtimes.sc/category/santa-cruz-news/coronavirus/
To learn about action you can take now, whether you’re seeking assistance or want to find ways of supporting the community, visit: goodtimes.sc/santa-cruz-coronavirus-resources/
June 5, 11:10am: County unveils vendors for senior meal program that may soon expire
The Santa Cruz County government announced that five local food businesses have been chosen to deliver fresh, nutritious meals to hundreds of local seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Great Plates Delivered serves food to vulnerable older adults through a federal economic stimulus for restaurants. In May, Santa Cruz County sought applications from local restaurateurs and caterers to prepare and provide meals. A committee chose four restaurants and one caterer. The chosen businesses are Back Nine Grill and Bar, Johnny’s Harborside, Roaring Camp, Pearl of the Ocean, and Swing Time.
Great Plates Delivered began its meal deliveries during Memorial Day weekend, and it has now served thousands of meals to 413 participants, according to a county press release, with additional applicants pending approval. The program delivers more than 1,000 healthy meals to older adults each day, the county reported. The Area Agency on Aging, Community Bridges, 211 Santa Cruz County, Grey Bears, Senior Network Services, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Volunteer Center and the city of Watsonville all participated on the steering committee.
Great Plates Delivered will expire June 10 unless the federal government grants the state of California’s request for a 30-day extension. County leaders are awaiting FEMA’s response to the state. Seventy-five percent of Great Plates is funded through the federal CARES Act, with the state providing 18.75% and the rest coming from Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.
Also this week, the county approved a plan to expand outdoor shopping and dining, local court leaders laid out a plan to resume jury trials, and SAVE Lives Santa Cruz County leader Margaret Lapiz spoke to GT about the state of contact tracing.
The pace of new coronavirus cases appears to have slowed since the county first announced its post-Mother’s Day clusters, although the lag between new infections and positive results could be longer than two weeks. There have been 221 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Thursday at 5pm by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 32 have required hospitalization, and 177 have recovered. Statewide as of Thursday, there have been 119,807 Covid-19 cases and 4,422 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Santa Cruz County health leaders cancelled yesterday’s weekly press briefing without providing a reason.
June 1, 9am: State approves county’s reopening plan
The state approved Santa Cruz County’s application to move to Stage 2 of California’s reopening plan. The approval allows activities including dining at restaurants and the reopening of barbershops and hair salons, as long as practices are in place to help limit the spread of Covid-19.
Santa Cruz County Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel issued an order Saturday that went into effect immediately. The order mostly aligns with the state’s restrictions and regulations for Stage 2, while keeping in place the requirement for face coverings and limits on beach use.
There have been 217 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Sunday, May 31, by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 32 have required hospitalization, and 154 have recovered. Statewide as of Saturday, May 30, there have been 110,583 Covid-19 cases and 4,213 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 29, 12pm: Board approves county variance application
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to approve a variance application that will be submitted to the state.
The county’s application to move to Stage 2 of the state’s reopening plan now goes to the California Department of Public Health for approval. State review could take up to one week, according to county officials.
If approved, “the variance would allow local restaurants to offer limited indoor/outdoor dine-in services with modifications to protect the health and safety of staff and customers,” according to a county press release. “Barbershops/hair salons would also be allowed to offer limited services, such as haircuts, weaves and extensions, braiding, lock maintenance, wig maintenance, hair relaxing treatments and color services.”
The county does not have the authority to open up additional sectors of the economy. State guidance for establishments that would be allowed to reopen soon can be found at covid19.ca.gov/roadmap-counties.
There have been 206 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Tuesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 30 people have required hospitalization, and 137 have recovered. Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been 101,697 Covid-19 cases and 3,973 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 27, 4pm: County moves up key step toward reopening
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors scheduled a special meeting for Friday, May 29, potentially charting a faster path to more reopenings under state guidelines.
The board will vote on whether to approve paperwork the county needs to submit to the state to apply for a variance. If approved by the board, the county’s application would then go to the California Department of Public Health for approval. State review could take up to one week, the county noted in a press release today. The board vote had initially been scheduled for the next regular meeting on June 2.
The variance would allow for the opening of shopping malls, swap meets, in-restaurant dining and schools—all with modifications. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday said counties that have met variance requirements and received approval from the state may also allow hair salons, barbershops and dine-in restaurants to reopen.
The county does not have the authority to open up additional sectors of the economy. State guidance for establishments that could reopen can be found at covid19.ca.gov/roadmap-counties.
Friday’s Board of Supervisors meeting can be viewed online at santacruzcounty.us.
There have been 205 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Tuesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 30 people have required hospitalization, and 137 have recovered. Statewide as of Monday, there have been 96,773 Covid-19 cases and 3,814 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 26, 11am: Crowded beaches, reopenings expected
Over the weekend, groups of visitors crowded onto Santa Cruz County beaches, despite warnings from county Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel.
Although Monday was more low-key than previous Memorial Days, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ashley Keehn says sheriff’s deputies made contact with 2,240 individuals or groups on beaches over the three-day weekend. They issued 15 shelter-in-place citations and 107 parking citations. Keehn says parking citations were mostly on the North Coast, where deputies saw large crowds.
Later today, Newel is expected to release a revised shelter-in-place order allowing for more uses, including office spaces, car washes, pet grooming, and expanded childcare, as well as outdoor museums and open galleries in public spaces—all with modifications. Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he is paving the way for additional uses, including expanded retail and churches.
There have been 200 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Monday night by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, and 133 have recovered. Statewide as of Sunday, there have been 94,558 Covid-19 cases and 3,795 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. Nationwide, the death count exceeds 98,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 1,662,000 total cases. Over the weekend, the New York Times ran an entire front page listing the names of many of those who have lost their lives, with a quick note about each of them. “They were not simply names on a list,” the Times wrote. “They were us.”
May 22, 6:30pm: County Sees Covid-19 Uptick, Clusters in Watsonville
Four clusters of Covid-19 cases have been identified in the Watsonville area, all of them associated with large family gatherings, Santa Cruz County officials announced Friday.
There have been at least 186 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the county, 78 of which have been linked to the Watsonville area. After initially showing signs of tapering off, the number of cases has increased 20% in a week’s time.
A county press release sent out Friday indicated that the recent loosening of restrictions and increased testing account for part of the jump, but the county says that the public’s failure to follow shelter-in-place orders contributed to the uptick. The nascent increase could jeopardize much-anticipated efforts to reopen more sectors of Santa Cruz County’s economy.
Investigations into the clusters are ongoing, but all have been attributed to close contact between households during family gatherings, including a multi-generational Mother’s Day celebration and another large assembly involving individuals who traveled from out of state.
In a video posted to social media, Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker called for the community to follow the county’s health orders during the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend.
Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel warned yesterday that, if the beaches become crowded this weekend, she’ll likely have to shut them down entirely for July 4.
Statewide as of Friday, there have been more than 88,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 3,600 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. Nationwide, there have been 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 94,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Globally, there have been close to 5 million cases and 320,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
May 21, 6pm: County to start reopening next week
A revised shelter-in-place order that will go into effect next week will put Santa Cruz County mostly in line with California’s roadmap for reopening.
The county’s new shelter-in-place order will take effect at 11:59pm Tuesday, May 26, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said in a press conference this morning. The county will have different restrictions than the state in three key areas, Newel said, including keeping the face covering requirement, restricting hotel, motel and vacation rental stays to only essential workers, and continuing limits on beach use. Otherwise, the county will align with state guidelines starting next week “assuming that there are no significant worrisome changes to our data” in the meantime, Newel said.
Earlier this week, the state relaxed its guidelines for counties to move into what state officials are calling “Stage 2” of a resilience roadmap, which allows for reopening of certain workplaces and resumption of activities considered low-risk. California’s statewide shelter-in-place order has been in effect since March 19.
Santa Cruz County has met all of the state indicators for moving into Stage 2 of reopening and is now working on applying for clearance from the state to proceed, county officials said today. That application will be up for approval by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors at their June 2 meeting.
The county Health Services Agency also launched a new website showing its progress on reopening and providing information about its SAVE Lives initiative. Led by longtime health-care executive Margaret Lapiz, SAVE Lives will offer a framework for allowing businesses to reopen in compliance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide plan. The county’s SAVE Lives website offers industry-specific guidance on operations, information on the county Economic Recovery Council, and an interactive map with details for local testing sites, including who can be tested.
The website is at santacruzhealth.org/savelives.
There have been 174 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to updated information provided Wednesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, and 127 have recovered. Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been more than 84,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,436 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 20, 6pm: Tracking local Covid-19 cases
Around the country, the coronavirus is taking a disproportionately heavy toll on people in racial and ethnic minority groups, both in the number of cases of the illness and the death rate from it. Factors such as living conditions, work environments, underlying health conditions, and access to care may all play a role in these disparities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
California is no exception, with statewide data showing black and Latino Californians face a higher share of fatalities relative to their portion of the population, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s a perfect storm to create a disadvantage in these communities, that we need to respond to. And we are,” California’s state health officer Dr. Sonia Y. Angell told the New York Times last month.
In Santa Cruz County, some disparity can be seen in the rate of Covid-19 cases among Hispanic and Latino people compared to their share of the county’s population.
Of the 168 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County as of Tuesday, 40.48% have been among Hispanic and Latino people, who make up 34.1% of the county population according to U.S. Census Bureau Data. Another 54.76% of cases have been among white and Caucasian people, who make up 56.9% of the population, and 4.76% of cases have been among people who identify as another race or ethnicity.
Santa Cruz County health officials are also offering a look at where the Covid-19 cases have been locally. Watsonville has had the highest number of cases, with 60 known cases of Covid-19, followed by unincorporated parts of the county with 45 cases. There have been 43 cases in the city of Santa Cruz, six cases each in Capitola and Scotts Valley, and there are eight cases under investigation.
Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 25 have needed hospitalization, and 125 have recovered. The county is regularly updating this information and has more details, including cases by age and gender, on their website.
Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been more than 84,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,436 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 19, 1:30pm: Santa Cruz city offices reopening
After shutting down almost all in-person operations, the city of Santa Cruz has started reopening some of its public office counters, City Manager Martín Bernal announced in a May 17 newsletter email.
This week, the city clerk’s front desk is open, as is the fire administration’s office. Starting Tuesday, May 26, the public works counter will be open Monday-Friday from 7am-12pm to the public and from 12-3:30pm by appointment, city spokesperson Ralph Dimarucut says.
Bernal encourages residents to check the city’s website at cityofsantacruz.com before going in, as many services are available online. The city will update its website with additional information as other services open up. Bernal reminds members of the public that face coverings are mandatory, social distancing guidelines will be enforced, and anyone who’s sick should stay home.
Many local families and nonprofits need help, and the United Way of Santa Cruz County has announced that federal Emergency Food and Shelter money is available for emergency food and shelter programs in Santa Cruz County. Supplemental funds are also available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The total amount available locally is $340,000. The county’s Emergency Food and Shelter Board will determine how the funds get distributed after evaluating submitted proposals. Local government and private nonprofit organizations may be eligible to apply. For more information visit unitedwaysc.org/efsp. The application deadline is 4pm on Wednesday, May 27.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that 24 counties have self-attested and submitted containment strategies to the state, potentially allowing their stores to reopen for in-store shopping and their restaurants to reopen for on-site dining. Santa Cruz County is not among the listed counties.
The California counties that have applied are predominantly rural—the nearest one being San Benito County. Counties must meet certain benchmarks in order to reopen for additional uses.
There have been 165 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Monday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, and 125 have recovered. Statewide as of Sunday, there have been more than 81,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,334 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 18, 4pm: Family food assistance available
A new state program will offer food support to families in need amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The program will provide access to food through a Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) card for families with children who receive free or reduced-price meals, according to a press release from the nonprofit group Community Bridges. Families will receive up to $365 per eligible child to use on food.
The new program “supports the nutritional needs of underserved children in our communities and is helping fill a gap where free school lunches and afterschool programs, who cannot operate or provide food, would usually help,” Community Bridges CEO Ray Cancino said in a statement.
Families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, but who do not receive CalFresh, CalWorks, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care, must apply online before June 30 to receive their P-EBT card. The online application will be available beginning Friday, May 22, at ca.p-ebt.org.
There have been 163 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Sunday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, and 124 have recovered. Statewide as of Saturday, there have been more than 78,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,261 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 30, 4:30pm: New county order eases some restrictions
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel extended the county shelter-in-place order today, adding some beach limitations and easing other restrictions.
The revised order comes after more than a month of county requirements aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus locally. Some of the biggest changes, which will take effect at 11:59pm on Friday, May 1, include easing restrictions around moving residences and allowing activities such as construction, landscaping, real estate and golfing as long as people practice social distancing.
As we reported earlier, beaches will be entirely off-limits from 11am-5pm every day under the new order. People will be allowed to traverse beaches for water-based activities such as surfing, paddleboarding, boogie boarding, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. Outside of the 11am-5pm closures, people can also access beaches for “recreational activities to promote physical and mental health.”
The new order is in effect until further notice from the county, with no set expiration date.
There have been 131 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Wednesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 88 have recovered. Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been more tham 48,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,900 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 30, 9am: County restricts beach access following weekend crowds
Santa Cruz County is putting new beach restrictions into effect starting this weekend, citing weekend crowds along the coastline.
Beaches will be off-limits from 11am-5pm as part of an updated shelter-in-place order expected to be issued this week by Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel.
People will be allowed to traverse beaches for water-based activities such as surfing, paddleboarding, boogie boarding, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. Outside of the 11am-5pm closures, people can also access beaches for “recreational activities to promote physical and mental health,” according to a county press release.
The county prohibits non-exercise related activities such as sitting, reclining, standing, sunbathing and sightseeing on beaches under restrictions already in place aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
“Despite warnings against travelling to Santa Cruz County for beach access and against congregating on beaches, local law enforcement spent the weekend responding to numerous issues all along our coastline,” Sheriff Jim Hart said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these actions are necessary to protect the health and welfare of our most vulnerable residents. The Sheriff’s Office, the police departments and State Parks will do everything we can to support the Health Officer and enforce her revised order.”
April 29, 1:15pm: County selects recovery leader
Santa Cruz County has selected a leader to steer the community through reopening after more than a month of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Margaret Lapiz will lead SAVE Lives Santa Cruz County. She “will work with the County Health Services Agency with support from Community Foundation Santa Cruz County to increase COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and quarantine/isolation services,” according to a county press release issued today.
Lapiz brings 25 years of experience in health care operations and strategy. She was previously an executive vice president for the Permanente Medical Group and supported leadership program expansions at Netflix and the Aspen Institute. Lapiz has an MBA and Masters of Public Health from UC Berkeley.
Funding secured by Community Foundation Santa Cruz County will help cover costs related to the reopening effort, “including Lapiz’ position, enhanced testing capabilities, and contact tracing systems,” according to the county.
“As we continue the hard work of flattening the curve, we must turn an eye towards large-scale recovery efforts,” Mimi Hall, director of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, said in a statement. “The County is committed to easing the shelter-in-place restrictions so we can jumpstart our economy, but we must have safeguards in place.”
There have been 127 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Tuesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 83 have recovered. Statewide, as of Monday, there have been more than 45,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,800 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 23, 2:30pm: Face coverings will be required starting Friday night
A face coverings requirement will go into effect at 11:59pm Friday under an order signed today by Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel. It will be in effect until further notice from Newel.
The order, aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, generally requires businesses to take measures such as posting signs reminding people to wear face coverings.
Wearing face coverings during outdoor exercise is “recommended but not required.” People are still required to maintain at least six feet of separation from each other.
As we reported Tuesday, the order does not apply to children under the age of 12. Children under two years old are not supposed to wear face coverings due to the risk of suffocation.
Read the full order here for more details on the requirements and exceptions: bit.ly/SCCfacecoverings. There have been 114 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Wednesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 62 have recovered. Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been more than 35,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,300 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 21, 1:30pm: Face covering requirement coming soon
Santa Cruzans will soon be required to wear face coverings for many trips out of their homes under a new county order coming this week.
The order will come from Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel, according to a county press release issued today.
The order “will follow new requirements in place throughout much of the Bay Area, and is intended to further slow the spread of novel coronavirus,” according to the press release. “The order impacts public, commercial and governmental spaces where face-to-face interactions may pose a risk of transmission, including grocery stores, health care offices, restaurant pickup counters, public transit, essential government offices and more.”
An exception to the order will be in cases when people can engage in outdoor recreation while practicing social distancing. The order will also not apply to children under the age of 12. Children under two years old are not supposed to wear face coverings due to the risk of suffocation.
The CDC has a guide on how to make, wear and clean homemade face coverings. Medical-grade masks such as surgical masks and N95 masks are still in short supply, and the county is asking that such gear be reserved for health care workers and first responders. Anyone wishing to donate medical-grade masks can find out how to do so at santacruzcounty.us/ppedonate.
There are 108 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Monday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 56 have recovered. Statewide as of Sunday, there have been more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,200 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 16, 5:30pm: County questions summer Boardwalk opening, then backtracks
After saying at a press conference this morning that the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk likely won’t open this summer, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel issued a statement saying no decision has been made yet.
“I would like to clarify that no decision has been made to close the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or any other business” beyond the county’s current shelter-in-place order, which expires May 3, she said in a written statement. “While Gov. Newsom has signaled that large gatherings of people maybe difficult for the foreseeable future, I and other health officers throughout the Bay Area are working together to consider a replacement order allowing some activities to resume. I want to stress, however, that speculation about future operations at this time is premature.”
At this morning’s press conference, Newel had said: “I don’t anticipate that the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will open this summer at all. There are no anticipated mass gatherings—or really gatherings of any size—for a long time to come.”
There are 96 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Wednesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 41 have recovered. Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been more than 26,000 COVID-19 cases and 890 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 14, 6pm: City cancels several summer events
The City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department announced today it is cancelling several summer events. The cancellations include the Japanese Cultural Fair, Juneteenth, Woodies on the Wharf, and the Church Street Fair.
A city press release noted these events “draw people from all over the world,” and “these cancellations are being made out of deep concern for the health and safety of the community.”
Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings has ordered city flags to fly at half-staff from April 16-18 to honor the sacrifices of public safety workers, health care workers, and other essential employees nationwide “who have lost their lives while trying to help and protect communities from COVID-19.”
AFSCME issued a press release about the county’s second COVID-19 death, which we reported on in our live blog update earlier today. AFSCME Local 3299 said the man was a campus shuttle driver at UCSC and a member of the employee union.
“This morning, we learned that we had lost one of our valued union brothers, a devoted father and grandfather who was equally beloved by his colleagues and students at UC Santa Cruz,” the group said in a press release. “Our hearts are heavy, and go out to his family and all who are suffering due to COVID-19.”
The group also called on UC administrators to “take immediate steps to better protect workers—by ensuring they all have access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and by allowing older or medically vulnerable workers to stay home without threat to their jobs.”
April 14, 11:20am: County’s second death from the coronavirus
A second Santa Cruz County resident has died from the coronavirus, health officials said today.
The man was in his late 60s and had an underlying health condition. He was admitted to a local hospital on April 9, county officials said in a press release, tested positive for COVID-19, and died early today. He worked at a local university and caught the coronavirus from community spread.
“This man was a father and grandfather and I want to express my deepest sympathies to his family,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said in a statement. “This second death shows how serious the virus is and how necessary it is for our community to continue to shelter in place.”
The first death in the county from the coronavirus was on March 28. The man was in his early 70s and had an underlying health condition.
April 13, 5pm: City measure aims to help restaurants
With many restaurants relying on delivery as a business lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic, Santa Cruz City Manager Martín Bernal is limiting the commissions that third-party food delivery companies can charge.
Bernal signed an executive order today limiting the commissions to 15% in an effort to help ease the financial burden on restaurants. The county and statewide shelter-in-place orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus mean restaurants can’t serve patrons inside.
“Our restaurants who have been able to adapt to a takeout and delivery model have done so at a high cost,” Santa Cruz’s Director of Economic Development Bonnie Lipscomb said in a statement. “This order should help relieve some of the financial burden they have been carrying in order to keep their business open during the pandemic.”
Santa Cruz County approved a 15% commission limit today, too.
There are 91 known cases of the coronavirus in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided this morning by county officials. One person in the county has died from COVID-19, and 37 have recovered. Statewide as of today, there have been 21,794 COVID-19 cases and 651 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 3, 3:45pm: Vacation rentals temporarily banned
Santa Cruz County spokesperson Jason Hoppin has released a statement saying that vacation rentals must comply with the new shelter-in-place order, and they are not allowed to operate under the health directive, which will be in place locally through at least May 3.
Only essential businesses are allowed to operate under the order. Travel is prohibited, except when necessary for essential services. Vacation rental owners may still provide short-term housing for essential workers, like emergency and public safety personnel.
Property owners should not use vacation rental properties to shelter in place if they have to leave another county to come here. All vacation bookings not currently in effect should be cancelled through May 3, according to a county press release. The county encourages current vacation rental occupants to return home unless they have no other place to go or are unable to safely travel. Sheriff Jim Hart and other county officials have said that failing to comply with the order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.
For weeks, health officials said there was no reason for Americans to wear masks in public. Now, new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and California’s public health officials, including from Santa Cruz County, states that covering one’s face with masks, bandannas and neck gaiters is an advisable way to slow the spread of disease. Health experts do not recommend that the public use medical masks, like N-95 respirators, which are in limited supply and in demand by first responders and other health care workers.
Public life and public spaces have obviously changed since the shelter-in-place order took effect last month, Jump bikes left Santa Cruz recently, and the bike-share program will remain temporarily suspended while the shelter-in-place order is in effect. Many parks and beaches around the state have closed. County Public Health Officer Gail Newel says she has not done that for county parks and beaches, and she believes county residents have by and large been following physical distancing guidelines and keeping at least six feet from one another. She threatened to close parks if she feels that it becomes necessary and that locals aren’t abiding by the rules.
The county has announced 59 cases of COVID-19 locally and one death.
April 1, 12:05pm: Shelter-in-place extended through May 3
The shelter-in-place order for Santa Cruz County has been extended through May 3.
The revised order, issued March 31 by County Health Officer Gail Newel, carries forward the requirement that residents stay home unless absolutely necessary for “essential” activities. That includes trips to the grocery store, bank, gas station, hardware store, and pharmacy. People can leave their homes for exercise or to take care of a family member or pet, as long as they don’t congregate in groups and keep six feet from people who don’t live in the same home.
The order could be extended past its new May 3 end date if needed to protect public health amid the coronavirus outbreak. There’s also still a statewide shelter-in-place order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The county said residents must comply with whichever is stricter of the two. If the state order lifts before the county one does, the county restrictions will still be in place. Statewide, California Superintendent Tony Thurmond has confirmed that schools likely won’t reopen by summer.
Locally, Santa Cruz County’s health leaders have launched a task force, with support from the cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville, to oversee homeless services amid the COVID-19 outbreak. For more in-depth news, check out GT’s coronavirus-related stories in this week’s issue—covering topics like Santa Cruz’s preparedness for a looming COVID-19 surge, the virus’ strain on grocery workers, what the pandemic means for UCSC students and other stories.
March 31, 3:10pm: Smoke Shop closes again
831 Smoke Shop has closed both of its locations after getting a visit from a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy, informing a store employee that the shop was a non-essential business operating in violation of the county’s shelter-in-place order.
Last week, GT reported that the shop had reopened, and it was selling products like rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, and bottled water. The store’s owner Jacob Alquadri told GT News Editor Jacob Pierce that shoppers would also be able to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products. Now, the shop owner’s wife tells us that customers were only ever allowed to buy essential goods, like cleaning supplies, in the briefly reopened smoke shop—not any smoking products. The woman, who asked not to be named, says there must have been a miscommunication between the writer and the owner, who’s from Yemen, due to a language barrier.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County has climbed to 49 as of this morning. There have been no new reported deaths since the county’s first, which happened on Saturday, March 28.
In California as of Monday, March 30, there have been 6,932 positive cases of the coronavirus and 150 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there have been 163,539 cases and 2,860 deaths nationwide. Internationally, the globe has surpassed 750,000 cases and 36,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
March 30, 12:30pm: County’s first death from the coronavirus
Santa Cruz County health officials confirmed the county’s first death from the coronavirus this weekend.
The man who died Saturday was in his early 70s and had an underlying health condition, the county’s Health Services Agency announced Sunday. He had been admitted to a local hospital on March 19 with symptoms including fever and shortness of breath, County Health Officer Gail Newel said in a press release. Our sister paper, the Pajaronian, has more.
There are 45 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the county as of the most recent count provided today by health officials.
Social distancing efforts appear to be helping slow the spread of the coronavirus. We have more on that in a story here.
Here’s what else is happening lately in response to the coronavirus:
- The county’s METRO service is doing its part by issuing a reminder to riders that they should only be traveling for essential activities. Passengers may only board with belongings that are for essential activities. For more info, visit scmtd.com.
- Community Bridges has four Family Resource Centers that are providing support to people affected by the coronavirus. The centers are open on a drop-in basis to assist with accessing benefits such as unemployment, state disability, family and medical leave, CalFresh, and emergency enrollment in Covered California. More information about each center can be found at communitybridges.org/programs.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom launched an effort today aimed at rapidly expanding the state’s health care workforce. He called for all “health care professionals with an active license, public health professionals, medical retirees, medical and nursing students, or members of medical disaster response teams” to join the California Health Corps. More information on how to register is available at healthcorps.ca.gov. Newsom also signed an executive order to assist with the push for expanding the health care workforce “to staff at least an additional 50,000 hospital beds the state needs to treat COVID-19 patients.”
March 28, 8:15pm: Expected surge in cases could strain local hospitals
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel told KSBW on Friday that the local Health Services Agency is expecting a surge in cases of the new coronavirus that will exceed the current capacity of beds. There are 39 confirmed cases in the county, as of the tally provided Friday by officials.
In addition to existing brick-and-mortar hospitals, the county has a temporary hospital facility in Watsonville that could be deployed, and it’s in the process of setting up alternate care sites.
We’ve asked county leaders about the local capacity for beds and about the availability of COVID-19 tests. Officials have not yet responded. We’ll provide an update here when they do.
Over the past week, Yelp partnered with GoFundMe to create fundraisers for small businesses, given the strain that the pandemic is having on the economy. The arrangement drew a swift backlash after many business owners began to publicly ask why they weren’t contacted before the pages launched. Here in Santa Cruz County, fundraiser pages for both Zachary’s and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing have come down. Many others are still up.
We reported Friday that the state was closing several local state parks and beaches to vehicular traffic. The city of Santa Cruz added to those closures by blocking off parking lots on West Cliff Drive, including ones at Cowell Beach, Steamer Lane and Lighthouse Field. Residents may get out of the house for exercise, but the government requires everyone must keep at least six feet from one another when they do so.
The Santa Cruz parks department is promoting ways to recreate remotely. For more information, visit cityofsantacruz.com/virtualrecreation.
Lastly, the city’s Public Works Department has made announcements of its own. Through April 10, residents may leave out an extra bag of trash for garbage collection at no extra cost. The bag may go on top of or next to city trash bins.
Officials also want to remind city residents not to flush wipes, feminine products, diaper liners or plastic dog waste bags down their toilets. During the early phases of panic buying a few weeks ago, many wipes began flying off store shelves. Some wipes are touted as “flushable” or “biodegradable.” They are not. Such products can create sewer back-ups. They belong in the trash.
March 27, 5:25pm: UCSC student tests positive
UCSC leaders have announced the first positive case of COVID-19 in the university community. The student was last on campus March 16 and is doing well, according to the announcement.
School administrators are coordinating with public health officials to determine whether other members of the campus community may have been exposed. Earlier today, the county’s Health Services Agency announced that the number of local cases had climbed to 34.
The Washington Post and New York Times are both reporting that the U.S., which recorded its first confirmed case two months ago, now has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, as reported by state health departments. The nation first passed 10,000 cases on March 19. On Thursday, the U.S. became the country with the most confirmed cases.
President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act today to make General Motors manufacture ventilators to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
March 27, 11am: Some state parks closed
Anyone looking to drive into the woods in order to blow off some steam might want to make sure the roads are open first.
California Parks and Recreation began closing some public lands to vehicular traffic earlier this week. As revealed on the Santa Cruz County Twitter feed yesterday, that includes some local parks and beaches. As of this morning the affected spaces include Castle Rock State Park, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Manresa State Beach, Natural Bridges State Beach, New Brighton State Beach, Seacliff State Beach, and the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.
Under the shelter-in-place orders that are in effect because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Cruz County residents are allowed to leave the house for exercise, as long as they stay at least six feet from others.
As of yesterday, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency updated the count of confirmed local COVID-19 cases to 32, and the California Department of Health announced that the number statewide is up to 3,006. There have been 65 deaths statewide. The county has not reported any local deaths from the virus.
In case you missed it, non-essential businesses are still closed, but a local smoke shop reopened after it began selling medical supplies, cleaning supplies and bottled water. Also, our writer Wallce Baine talked with Bookshop Santa Cruz operator-owner Casey Coonerty Protti about how her business is coping with these times.
March 26, 10:45am: Protecting the front line
Here’s a way to help the health care workers on the front line of the coronavirus response: Santa Cruz County set up an online system for anyone wishing to donate personal protective equipment.
The equipment has been in short supply nationwide as health care workers treat the influx of patients with COVID-19. There are more than 68,000 cases in the country, according to the latest tally by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Santa Cruz County has 25 confirmed cases.
Groups or individuals with extra personal protective equipment can fill out a form to start the process at santacruzhealth.org/ppedonate.
Equipment they are seeking includes:
- Eye protection such as goggles and face shields;
- Antibacterial and disinfecting wipes, typically alcohol or bleach based (unopened). No baby wipes;
- N-95 and surgical masks (in unopened containers/boxes);
- Medical gowns, including disposable gowns, as well as cloth surgical and hospital gowns in good condition.
Also, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC this morning that most Americans will be receiving stimulus checks within the next three weeks. After a unanimous 96-0 Senate vote to approve the measure, the House now has to approve the package before it goes to President Donald Trump’s desk.
The cash transfers would come in the form of direct deposits from the federal government. Under the plan, a $1,200 deposit would go to most adults who make $75,000 or less annually, according to past tax returns. A $500 payment would also be sent to cover every child in qualifying households. The plan additionally includes more than $600 billion in business loans, beefed-up unemployment insurance, expanded health care funds and increased aid to state and local governments.
In case you’ve missed the recent coverage in our sister paper, the Pajaronian, Santa Cruz Superior Court started holding some judicial proceedings outdoors on the courthouse steps. Meanwhile, the California National Guard has been helping with Second Harvest Food Bank distributions. Suzanne Willis, Second Harvest’s development and marketing officer, noted that the officials are not there for immigration enforcement.
March 24, 5pm: Food Not Bombs, city of Santa Cruz spar over homeless responses
A war of words has erupted in Santa Cruz between the city and Food Not Bombs over the way each has responded locally to the COVID-19 pandemic that now stretches across the globe.
Last night, Keith McHenry spent $5,000 toward renting hotel rooms and handing out 81 vouchers for those rooms to local homeless people. In a blog post, Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills criticized McHenry, the cofounder for Food Not Bombs, for not complying with social distancing requirements mandating that everyone stay at least six feet from one another. He accused McHenry of staging a rally last night. “Gathering in large groups is reckless, irresponsible, and is a crime we enforce,” Mills wrote.
McHenry says it wasn’t a rally, at all. “It was survival,” he tells GT. McHenry says that homeless people came out to the clock tower on the corner of Water Street and Pacific Avenue to get his hotel vouchers. More than an additional 100 showed up who he was not able to give vouchers to. McHenry says he has been trying to get homeless people to keep six feet from another, but he adds that it can be difficult because many of them can be very distrusting. Consequently, they view the pandemic as a hoax. “It’s a big pain in the ass, getting people to social distance,” he says.
McHenry says the city should be more concerned with complying with social distancing at the Salvation Army’s Laurel Street shelter than bugging him about his group’s gatherings.
McHenry also runs through a list of people who he believes he will be feeding after the crisis continues and triggers a global crash, a chain of events that he considers an inevitability. “I’ll be feeding Mills and his family if they stick around Santa Cruz,” McHenry says. “I will be feeding Martín Bernal and his family—and Justin Cummings. I’ll be feeding him.”
March 24, 12:30pm: Eviction moratoriums approved
The Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency announced more cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total number of local cases up to 24. The county has not reported any deaths from the virus.
This morning, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors passed a moratorium on evictions for commercial and residential tenants. The Watsonville City Council passed similar protections last night, and the Santa Cruz City Council will consider such a measure later today.
In terms of comparatively good news, Keith McHenry announced that the Santa Cruz Chapter of the California Homeless Union Officers and Food Not Bombs housed 81 people last night in local hotels. Food Not Bombs spent $5,000 yesterday on hotel rooms for the homeless, McHenry reports. He says the group needs another $5,000 today. For information, including how to donate, visit foodnotbombs.net.
March 23, 3:30pm: Being beach savvy; divvying out protective equipment
There are now 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county, according to the tally provided today by the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency.
As the virus continues spreading, Santa Cruz County officials urged travelers to avoid crowding the beaches. Outdoor exercise is allowed and encouraged as long as it follows social distancing guidelines, officials noted, but “large gatherings are a violation of local and state orders meant to protect the health and safety of all Californians.” Violations are subject to citation and arrest.
“Santa Cruz County is a popular destination for college students during this time of year,” Sheriff Jim Hart said in a press release. “However, the County is asking everyone to adjust their routines in order to protect everyone’s health including their own, as well as the operations of our critical health care infrastructure.”
The shelter-in-place orders issued in Santa Cruz County and statewide are aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 30,000 people nationwide and hundreds of thousands globally.
The county is releasing nearly all of its stockpile of 27,000 N95 masks to local healthcare facilities including hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and emergency medical services providers. Distribution “will be done according to highest medical priority” amid a global scarcity of masks. Personal protective equipment that healthcare providers need, including gowns, coveralls, goggles, face shields, and respiratory masks, is in short supply.
March 20, 4:25pm: Triage facilities for the homeless, reevaluating evictions, and more
It can be difficult for Santa Cruz’s homeless residents to comply with social distancing guidelines calling for everyone to stay at least six feet from one another.
With that in mind, the city of Santa Cruz has announced new triage centers to help homeless individuals who wish to get out of encampments—as reported by the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The first such facility opened today at Lot 17, across the street from the Kaiser Permanente Arena. A similar facility will likely open on Coral Street, near the Housing Matters campus. Others could soon be on the way. The Lot 17 site has tents with adequate spacing between them. Individuals do not need to be showing symptoms in order to be admitted. The idea is to get the homeless out of encampments.
“There’s a recognition that obviously we have to protect members of the homeless community that are out and about and who could potentially be hugely impacted by the virus—as well as impact the wider community,” City Manager Martín Bernal tells GT. Bernal credits Susie O’Hara, assistant to the city manager, with leading the charge on this issue.
Although the homeless are exempted from shelter-in-place orders, Gov. Gavin Newsom and local health officials have been talking all week about finding ways to protect them.
Some individuals may be moved to other facilities, like hospitals or hotel rooms within 72 hours, if they need additional attention. The city has also installed hand-washing facilities around town.
“What we’re really trying to do is protect the health and safety of our community and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” says Mayor Justin Cummings.
• The Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency posted on its website that there has been another confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county, bringing the total number of known cases locally up to 15. The county has seen no reported deaths from the virus. Statewide, there have been 1,006 positive cases and 19 deaths, according to the state health department.
• The strict shelter-in-place order—mandating that residents stay home, unless absolutely necessary for “essential” activities—just got a lot bigger. Last night, Gov. Newsom issued a statewide shelter-in-place order, similar to one that was already in effect in Santa Cruz County and surrounding areas.
• Community Bridges announced Thursday that it is expanding its Lift Line services to all Santa Cruz County seniors over the age of 60 and people with disabilities, regardless of income. The program provides free transportation for grocery store trips and essential medical appointments. To schedule, call Lift Line at 688-9663, Monday-Friday 8am-4pm or Saturday-Sunday 8am-3:30pm. If possible, call one or two days in advance.
• Congressmember Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel) will host a telephone town hall on the local and federal response to COVID-19 tonight at 6pm. Healthcare professionals and members of the Small Business Administration will join him. Click here to sign up or visit panetta.house.gov for more information.
• Santa Cruz METRO is making changes to its schedule effective Monday, with all service running on the Saturday-Sunday schedule until further notice. For full schedule and timetable information, visit scmtd.com.
• Both the Santa Cruz City Council and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to consider moratoriums on evictions for commercial and residential properties at their March 24 meetings. The city is encouraging people to participate online or via Community Television since there will be limited seating due to the public health requirement that people maintain a six-foot distance from others. Public comments can be sent to the city clerk for inclusion during the meeting. For more info, visit: cityofsantacruz.com/government/city- council/council-meetings.
• The Sentinel reported that 99 Bottles will be closing indefinitely. Owner Mia Bossie cited COVID-19 as the reason. “There’s just no way we’re going to survive this,” she told the Sentinel.
March 19, 3:45pm: The community mobilizes
Santa Cruz County officials set up a call center to help answer residents’ questions about the coronavirus outbreak. You can call 454-4242 from 8am-6pm, Monday-Friday. Residents will be directed to the appropriate resources when calling that number.
Citing “overwhelming call volume,” the county is asking people to refrain from calling the County’s Public Health Division or Communicable Disease Unit. People can visit santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus for up-to-date information that may answer many questions.
A free webinar will be held Friday, March 20, at 3pm to provide guidance and resources for businesses. The webinar will be shown on CommunityTV and streamed on the County’s Facebook page, or it can be viewed here: zoom.us/j/589373809.
Volunteers created a hub of information to help with technical support for students who are learning at home and residents who are working from home. They are offering support with networking or technical issues, and they are looking for people willing to help provide this kind of assistance. To learn more, visit cruz.one.
Community Foundation Santa Cruz County created a Local Response Fund with a focus on assisting residents facing financial hardships caused by the public health emergency. The fund will provide financial support for groups in Santa Cruz County that serve vulnerable populations amid the COVID-19 response.
Tax-deductible donations can be made at cfscc.org/donate/COVID. Donations will be accepted as long as the need continues. Contact the Community Foundation at 662-2061 or [email protected] for help making a donation.
March 19, 2:30pm: Life during shelter-in-place
The Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency announced that, as of Wednesday, there are now 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county.
In case you missed it, our sister paper the Pajaronian ran a guide of what is and isn’t allowed while the shelter-in-place order is in effect. We’ve added this to our continually growing list of resources about the coronavirus and understanding the impacts locally.
Also, while the sheriff has the authority to make arrests and issue fines of up to $1,000 to people violating the shelter-in-place order, he says doing so will not be the priority of his deputies. Santa Cruz Superior Court announced changes, including the delay of all criminal, civil and probate cases until April 17. Santa Cruz METRO buses are still running. As we reported Wednesday, some grocery stores have introduced senior-only hours at the beginning of each shopping day.
March 17, 4pm: First responders prepare
Fire departments in Santa Cruz County are testing quick response vehicles to “better respond to calls and protect residents and first responders,” according to a county press release. This will help all local fire agencies be ready if there is increased call demand.
Before residents call 911, county health officials are asking people to:
- Consider home isolation and self-treatment if experiencing mild symptoms like cough
- Call a local clinic or your primary care physician for instructions on treatment
March 17: More confirmed cases
The total number of confirmed cases in Santa Cruz County reached 13, according to health officials. The latest tally is continually displayed on the county Health Services Agency page.
March 17, 7am: Police operations
Santa Cruz City Police said they are adopting “preventative operational protocols” to help ensure the health of personnel and the community. Their guidance includes:
- Officers may ask to speak with complainants outdoors when possible and will try to keep a distance of 5-6 feet between people.
- Officers will have the discretion to handle some complaints by phone.
- Some thefts, frauds, or minor incidents (that are not in progress) may be triaged over the phone and determined if an additional in-person response is needed.
- Written statements can be emailed to officers.
March 16, 7:45pm: Business resources
In response to the shelter-in-place order across the county that required any non-essential businesses to close, the City of Santa Cruz’s Economic Development Department is compiling information to help businesses. Business leaders can find resources about emerging state and federal programs providing assistance in the wake of the public health emergency. The U.S. Small Business Administration will be providing disaster loans for businesses in the county.
March 16: Shelter-in-place issued
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel issued a shelter-in-place order directing residents to only leave their house for essential activities such as trips to the grocery store, bank, gas station, hardware store, and pharmacy. The order is in effect through April 7, though it could be extended. Read the full order.