Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Santa Maria resident’s upside-down flag protest bothers neighbors

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 5:06 PM

As protestors gather in the streets of cities throughout the country following the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd, who died after a police officer pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes, at least one local resident is choosing to protest from inside his own home. But his method of doing so has drawn complaints and criticism from his neighbors.

Stephen Siemsen, who lives in Quail Meadows East—a manufactured home park off South College Drive in Santa Maria—displays an American flag upside-down in a window of his home. Siemsen said he decided to hang the flag this way following President Donald Trump’s photo-op at a church near the White House on Monday evening.

STAY-AT-HOME PROTEST Neighbors who live near veteran Stephen Siemsen have complained about his decision to display an upside down American flag as part of the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHEN SIEMSEN
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHEN SIEMSEN
  • STAY-AT-HOME PROTEST Neighbors who live near veteran Stephen Siemsen have complained about his decision to display an upside down American flag as part of the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
According to national media reports, police officers used tear gas to clear out people who were peacefully protesting outside the White House prior to the president walking to a nearby church with a Bible in his hand. Siemsen, who served in the U.S. Army for 34 years, was also appalled by Trump’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 in order to deploy federal troops to suppress riots in cities throughout the country.

“My Army is being used against my fellow citizens,” Siemsen said.

Siemsen, like his father and grandfather, entered the Army through the draft. During his decades of service, he learned that the Army doesn’t serve a flag or a president. Rather, he said, the Army serves the Constitution. His decision to turn the flag upside-down is an extension of this belief: He doesn’t support the president, but he supports the country.

But not all of his neighbors see the situation the same way. At least one neighbor who spoke to Siemsen said he doesn’t think the flag should be displayed upside-down. Others have driven by his house and scowled at him for the display.

After receiving complaints from residents in the park, Quail Meadows East manager Julie Johnson sent Siemsen an email requesting him to take the flag down or fly it right-side up. Johnson declined to comment on the situation when reached by phone.

In the email, which Siemsen shared with the Sun, Johnson cited a federal code regarding respect for the American flag.

“The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property,” the code states.

Johnson also cited park rules and regulations that state residents and guests may not engage in conduct that constitutes as a “substantial annoyance” to other residents.

“There have been multiple complaints about the American Flag being flown upside-down,” Johnson said in the email. “Many residents are finding this very disrespectful, offensive, and consider this annoying conduct.”

Siemsen said that he’s well aware of the language in the flag code, and that from what he’s seen and read, an extreme danger to lives and property exists throughout the country.

For Siemsen, this is a way for him to protest while still abiding by the statewide stay-at-home order. As for his neighbors who are complaining about the way he’s chosen to display his flag, they’re missing the point, Siemsen said. Similar to how people only focusing on the looting are also missing the point, ignoring the thousands of people protesting peacefully throughout the country.

“Some in my neighborhood are discussing the flag, but not the reason why it is displayed as it is—the same with the looting,” Siemsen said. “This is a distraction from the real issues confronting our country.” ∆

—Zac Ezzone

SLO Police Chief defends use of tear gas on June 1 protesters

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 4:27 PM

A mostly peaceful and hours-long protest ended in turmoil on June 1 after the San Luis Obispo Police Department used pepper ball rounds and tear gas to disperse a crowd of protestors who allegedly refused to move along, a move that police and city leaders say was a necessary last resort.

TENSE Protesters stand face-to-face with law enforcement officers outside of the SLO Police Department on the afternoon of June 1. - PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
  • PHOTO BY PETER JOHNSON
  • TENSE Protesters stand face-to-face with law enforcement officers outside of the SLO Police Department on the afternoon of June 1.
At a press conference in city hall on June 2, SLO Police Chief Deanna Cantrell said that while the city supports the ongoing peaceful protests against racism and police brutality, protesters on June 1 tested the police department’s resources. She said they blocked traffic on city streets and Highway 101, gathered outside the police department for hours, and eventually refused to move away from the intersection of Santa Rosa and Mill streets, near both a freeway entrance and the SLO Police Department.

“We had all of our resources in the entire city dealing with this,” Cantrell said at the June 2 press briefing. “And so our ability to provide public safety for the rest of the city and the rest of the citizens was severely diminished.”

The June 1 protest in San Luis Obispo was just one of many uprisings across the state and country aimed at drawing attention to and stopping police brutality and racism. The nationwide movement was sparked by the recent death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, who died after a police officer pinned him to the ground on May 25.

Protestors first gathered at Mission Plaza in downtown SLO around 2 p.m. on June 1. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Central Coast residents marched through downtown and to the police station, where, near the intersection of Walnut and Santa Rosa streets, Cantrell said law enforcement kneeled with protestors “in solidarity and in support of racial justice.”

Eventually the protesters increased in numbers and, a little before 5 p.m., Cantrell said protestors pushed past police and onto Highway 101, where they blocked traffic for about 15 minutes. The marchers moved back to Santa Rosa and Mill, where they remained peacefully for hours.

As night started to fall, law enforcement, which included agencies from throughout SLO County, became concerned that protesters would try to get back onto the freeway in the dark. Cantrell said there were also concerns that officers would be needed elsewhere in the city—because of alleged posts on social media calling for vandalism and looting throughout the day.

Law enforcement then deemed the protest unlawful and a risk to public safety. They asked protest leaders to move away from the police department and freeway entrance, but Cantrell claims protestors refused to move. One protest attendee told New Times she couldn’t hear what officers were announcing and that protest leaders were trying to get people to leave, but they wouldn’t.

The decision to shoot pepper balls—small rounds that release chemicals similar to pepper spray—into the crowd came after several warnings. Tear gas, Cantrell said, was released at about 8:30 p.m. after protestors threw rocks, water bottles, and fireworks at law enforcement in response to the pepper balls.

“That decision didn't come lightly,” Cantrell said in an emotional speech at the press briefing. “It's a heavy, heavy burden to have to make that decision and know the impact that it's going to have on, not only your own staff, but on the community that normally loves you, that's going to be very mad at you.”

About four protesters were arrested and released, and Cantrell said there were no reported injuries. Later that night, a few businesses in downtown SLO were vandalized. Cantrell said while suspects in those incidents have been arrested, it’s not clear whether they were associated with the protest.

“I know the city knows that we support your first amendment rights. We’ve demonstrated it over and over and over again over the last several years, your right to gather and express in a peaceful way,” Cantrell said at the briefing. “But what will not be tolerated by this police department or any police department in our county are actions of vandalism, unsafe behavior, damaging property, theft, arson, or any other acts of violence to people or property.”

SLOPD’s use of tear gas has been widely criticized by community members who say the protest was peaceful.

Although the June 1 protest followed on the heels of another local march and rally hosted by R.A.C.E. Matters SLO County, which was run without issue, the two events didn’t have the same organizers. There are more local protests scheduled for the coming days, and City Manager Derek Johnson said the city will be watching and waiting to see what happens before imposing a city curfew, a tactic taken in a number of cities across the U.S., including Santa Maria.

The decision, Johnson said, ultimately lies with him.

“So I’ll be evaluating both today and tonight and making a decision as needed,” he said. ∆

—Kasey Bubnash

Monday, June 1, 2020

Santa Maria mayor sets city curfew after night of unrest

Posted By on Mon, Jun 1, 2020 at 5:45 PM

Peaceful protesters in Santa Maria joined cities on the Central Coast and nationwide over the weekend to protest the murder of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground on May 25. But after the sun went down on Sunday, May 31, a different scene unfolded near city hall.

Videos circulating on social media showed cars driving in circles around a fire at the intersection between South Broadway and East Cook Street, adjacent to city hall, as some folks watch and others film the scene.

The next day, as Mayor Alice Patino addressed the media and community members in a news conference, the pavement was charred where the fire sat the night before. Across the street, some of the Santa Maria Town Center mall’s windows were shattered. A teal Santa Maria Glass Co. truck was parked outside Macy’s, and a repairman installed new glass at the department store.

Patino addressed the crowd surrounded by Santa Maria City Council members, announcing an emergency citywide curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., effective immediately through June 8. Patino called for “meaningful dialogue and constructive action,” denouncing the chaos of the night after the protests had finished around 6:30 p.m.

“People came to our beautiful city to do a peaceful protest, and I want to thank them for that,” she said. “Then, other people came in to destroy the message that had been conveyed earlier.”

BROKEN GLASS: Santa Maria Glass Co. repairs shattered windows at the Santa Maria Town Center Mall on June 1. The city now has a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. due to the unrest that unfolded after a peaceful protest on May 31. - PHOTO BY MALEA MARTIN
  • PHOTO BY MALEA MARTIN
  • BROKEN GLASS: Santa Maria Glass Co. repairs shattered windows at the Santa Maria Town Center Mall on June 1. The city now has a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. due to the unrest that unfolded after a peaceful protest on May 31.
Later, Patino said, “We need justice for the black lives that have been lost.”

Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt, president of the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP, spoke after Patino, reiterating her organization’s support of peaceful protests.

“We’ve had hundreds of marches,” she said of the city’s past. “We’ve never had an incident.”

Santa Maria Police Chief Phil Hansen referred to the destruction after the protests, saying,“What happened here is not representative of this community.”

Santa Maria Councilmember Gloria Soto also gave her support to peaceful protesters in a phone call with New Times earlier that day.

“My deepest condolences are with [George Floyd’s] family right now, and not just his, but the many families who have lost loved ones due to the racial inequities that exist in our country,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do. … I stand in solidarity with the peaceful protesters from yesterday.” ∆

—Malea Martin

Hundreds gather in SLO to protest police violence against people of color

Posted By on Mon, Jun 1, 2020 at 4:43 PM

On May 31, R.A.C.E. Matters SLO County organized a local Act Now for Justice rally in Mitchell Park as part of the national movement against police brutality and outrage at the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 
NO JUSTICE NO PEACE Hundreds of San Luis Obispo community members, wearing masks, rallied on May 31 against police violence against people of color. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • NO JUSTICE NO PEACE Hundreds of San Luis Obispo community members, wearing masks, rallied on May 31 against police violence against people of color.


On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested Floyd, 46, after a deli employee accused him using a counterfeit $20 bill. Officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck and back for more than 8 minutes while he pleaded with police that he couldn’t breathe, eventually losing consciousness.

Opening up the rally, R.A.C.E. Matters SLO County founder Courtney Haile thanked attendees for showing up and demonstrating to the nation that “San Luis Obispo, like many cities across America, have had enough."

“What did it take for this moment to have awakened? How much black trauma, dehumanization, and disregard for black life must we see on camera before we transform this country,” Haile said. “We’re here for black life, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, so many more, and those who have not been filmed.”

Haile told New Times she felt great and astounded by the number of attendees as R.A.C.E. Matters mobilized to create this event the day before it occurred.

She anticipated the event would garner about 50 to 100 people and envisioned passing a bullhorn around so people could vent and speak their truth.

Considering the current public health crisis, she said, there was a larger turnout than expected and a diverse spectrum of ages.

Some held signs that said, “Black Lives Matter More Than White Feelings.”

“No Justice. No Peace,” another read.

The message, she said, is to support black lives and not just black individuals that get killed and “become famous for a couple of weeks.”

“It’s not just posting #BlackLivesMatter, or it’s not just reacting to one black man who was killed on camera; it’s paying attention to how black people are treated and feeling in your community,” she said.

Other speakers shared their experiences of being a person of color in San Luis Obispo, and the rally also included music, poetry, an African libation ceremony, and 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence for Floyd.

Tianna Arata told her story about organizing a peaceful protest with friends and her mother on May 28 in San Luis Obispo. A man approached her group, Arata said, and told them they “didn’t belong here” and if they didn’t like it they could “go back to Chicago.” She said the man came back with his car and ran into the group that was on the sidewalk.

“Had my white mom not been there to shelter me, I have no doubt in my mind he would have tried to run me over,” she said. “Everybody loves to point the blame and say San Luis is such a nice community. It’s so beautiful. There’s so much opportunity here. But you know what we lack? We lack diversity. We lack a voice. We lack community.”

Once the rally ended, Haile said the attendees organically started walking toward downtown San Luis Obispo to march.

Local high school students organized another peaceful protest on June 1, which began at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, and attendees marched through the streets once again.

Aside from rallies and protests, Haile said activism can include donating, documenting with photographs, talking with friends and family, and educating yourself on laws and public policies. ∆
—Karen Garcia

Friday, May 29, 2020

SLO and Santa Barbara counties roll out new COVID-19 testing pop-up clinics

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 5:13 PM

Residents of Guadalupe, Cambria, and Los Osos will soon have a chance to be tested for COVID-19 without leaving their hometowns.

A push to expand free COVID-19 testing opportunities to underserved communities begins in the city of Guadalupe on May 30 and 31.

The pop-up clinic, which will be run by Community Health Centers, is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both days at 4719 W. Main St. The test is free, walk-ins are welcome, and anyone is eligible to get one. Make an appointment at (805) 343-5577.
MORE TESTING New COVID-19 test sites are coming to SLO and Santa Barbara counties, similar to this state-sponsored clinic in Grover Beach. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT BRONSON
  • FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT BRONSON
  • MORE TESTING New COVID-19 test sites are coming to SLO and Santa Barbara counties, similar to this state-sponsored clinic in Grover Beach.

In San Luis Obispo County, free testing will be available on its North Coast starting next week. A mobile test site will open in the Cambria Veterans’ Memorial Hall on June 1 and June 2, and then move to the Los Osos Red Barn on June 3 and 4.

The new floating clinic is a partnership between SLO County and Los Angeles-based nonprofit U.S. Health Fairs.

After its stay on the North Coast, the site will move to Atascadero for the week of June 8. Any resident, regardless of symptoms, can sign up for a test at readyslo.org.

“Again, the testing is free,” SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said at a May 29 press briefing. “We’ve opened it to people who are asymptomatic. We’ve opened the floodgates to testing.”

The new SLO County test sites arrive amid a recent decline in testing numbers. SLO County’s May 29 report of 152 new tests marked the lowest daily uptick in more than a week. Daily counts were below average throughout the week of May 25.

Starting June 8, a state-sponsored test clinic in Paso Robles will relocate to the city of San Luis Obispo, a move that is a direct result of lackluster demand.

Borenstein said the state had planned to move the clinic out of the county entirely due to the lack of interest.

“[We asked] ‘If we get our numbers up in another location, will you stay here?’” Boresntein said. “We know there’s a lot of interest in [San Luis Obispo]. We really want to retain the state resource that’s available.”

The SLO test site will be stationed at the SLO Vets’ Hall.

Borenstein continued to encourage residents to get tested, while also noting that getting a test now doesn’t prevent locals from getting another in the future.

“A one-and-done is not the right approach,” she said. “Getting tested on any particular day is a point in time; it’s looking for virus in your system on any particular day. That doesn’t mean you might not receive infection at some point in the future, even possibly the next day.” ∆

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Santa Barbara County eases regulations, provides pathway for wineries to reopen

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2020 at 12:12 PM

Wineries and wine tasting rooms in Santa Barbara County can begin reopening as long as they serve food or contract with a vendor that does, such as a restaurant or food truck.

WINE TIME? Wineries in Santa Barbara County are now allowed to open if they can find some way to bring food into the tasting equation, thanks to an emergency rule issued on May 25. - FILE PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
  • FILE PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
  • WINE TIME? Wineries in Santa Barbara County are now allowed to open if they can find some way to bring food into the tasting equation, thanks to an emergency rule issued on May 25.
On May 25, County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato declared an emergency rule that temporarily suspends certain zoning regulations, permit restrictions, and development standards that prohibit or limit wineries and wine tasting rooms from serving food. This would allow the businesses to operate more like restaurants, which recently received approval to reopen in the county after being closed or limited to curbside service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county’s announcement comes a few days after the state approved the county’s plans to move into the next phase of the state’s reopening plan. This transition allowed restaurants—along with retail stores and other businesses—to resume operations with some modifications.

This move forward didn’t include the reopening of wineries and wine tasting rooms, which are slated to reopen when the state moves into phase three of its plan. Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t announced when this transition will take place.

The county announced it was easing these regulations about a week after the May 19 Board of Supervisors meeting, during which some supervisors suggested the county should advocate for the state to allow wineries to reopen. Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, whose district includes the Santa Ynez Valley—where many of the county’s vineyards and wine tasting rooms are located—said she believes wineries could reopen while ensuring guests stay 6 feet apart.

“Most of the wine tasting rooms that I’m familiar with are just a few people visiting at a time, and it’s very easy to socially distance in that setting,” Hartmann said.

During the meeting, Santa Barbara County Vintners Association CEO Alison Laslett said the association is working with wine groups throughout the state to advocate for the reopening of wineries. She also asked the board to consider relaxing the county’s regulations on wineries serving food, so that they could have a path to reopening.

“It’s a cumbersome workaround for our industry, because we aren’t actually a food industry and it’s not our first choice, but it’s one that we could work with through contracting with food trucks or restaurants that might get some of us back in business,” Laslett said.

The association has a list of some of the wineries that have begun reopening under these temporarily suspended regulations on its website.

—Zac Ezzone

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Santa Maria aims to ‘bridge the gap’ in blood donations

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2020 at 4:03 PM

The city of Santa Maria announced an upcoming blood drive scheduled for June 9, and is encouraging community members of all blood types to sign up to donate.

The pop-up donation center will be located at the Santa Maria Public Library from noon to 4 p.m. and run by Vitalant, a nonprofit blood service provider that supplies blood to local hospitals.
OUT FOR BLOOD Vitalant and the city of Santa Maria are teaming up for a blood drive at a pop-up donation center to make up for pandemic-related supply shortages. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • OUT FOR BLOOD Vitalant and the city of Santa Maria are teaming up for a blood drive at a pop-up donation center to make up for pandemic-related supply shortages.

According to a city press release, local Vitalant centers— in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara—currently only have a two-day supply of multiple blood types, which is “half the sufficient amount needed to treat the typical amounts of patients.”

City of Santa Maria Public Information Manager Mark van de Kamp told the Sun about some of the obstacles that Vitalant has faced during the pandemic in keeping its blood supply up.

“There’s always a need for blood, but the pandemic has disrupted the typical blood donation supply from schools and universities,” van de Kamp explained. “Vitalant used to have … different schools, universities, and colleges that would often have blood drives. But because of COVID-19 impacts, that’s been disrupted.”

Van de Kamp said that decreased ease of access also hampered the usual amount of donations.

“Vitalant’s no longer allowed to have its blood donation bus go out to different areas, so instead they have to have pop-up blood donation rooms. … So that impedes on the ease of going out to do it.” he said. “I think also, with the stay-at-home order, people were reluctant in some cases to go give blood. But it actually is treated as an essential need, and so it’s OK to leave the home to go donate blood.”

Van de Kamp also emphasized that donations are typically used locally, so blood donors can feel good about helping out a fellow community member in need.

The city’s management analyst, Briana Martenies, told the Sun that with blood supplies “at a critically low level,” the city is partnering with Vitalant to “help bridge that gap” between getting people to come out and donate. With the pop-up station on June 9, the city hopes to make it easier for people to donate by providing an additional, safe, and convenient location.

“Everything that we’re being told from the federal government, from our state government, is saying that blood donation during this pandemic is safe,” Martenies said. “Vitaliant is well aware of the safety precautions that need to be taken. … It’s going to be a nice large room, so everyone will be well-spread out during the donation process.”

The city encourages all blood type donations, but is in particular need of donors with type-O negative blood, as these red blood cells can be transfused to anybody. Additionally, donors with type-AB (positive and negative) are needed, as their plasma can be transfused to anybody.

To reserve a time slot as a donor, visit blood4life.org and search for sponsor code 2017. To schedule an appointment, call (805) 542-8500. ∆

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

SLO County allows salons, barbershops, places of worship to open

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 6:36 PM

Say goodbye to split ends and boxed hair dye, SLO County, because the moment we’ve all been waiting for is here: Salons are officially allowed to reopen.

SLO County gave the green light to local salons, barbershops, and places of worship in an announcement released late in the afternoon on May 26, just after the California Department of Public Health announced that such organizations would be allowed to operate in all California counties approved for accelerated reopening.
READY FOR A CUT SLO County announced on May 26 that salons, barbershops, and places of worship will be allowed to reopen with safety restrictions and practices in place. - FILE PHOTO BY HENRY BRUINGTON
  • FILE PHOTO BY HENRY BRUINGTON
  • READY FOR A CUT SLO County announced on May 26 that salons, barbershops, and places of worship will be allowed to reopen with safety restrictions and practices in place.

SLO County was the 29th county to meet the state’s accelerated reopening criteria, and was sanctioned to do so in mid-May.

"Together, Californians have limited infections in our state, and because of that work, many counties may make a decision to restart modified hair and barber services," State Public Health Officer Sonia Angell said in a May 26 press release. "However, COVID-19 is still present in our communities, and we are still at risk. As we venture outside our homes, it is critically important to keep physical distance, wear face coverings in public, and wash hands frequently to help protect yourself and those around you."

There will, of course, be service restrictions and safety requirements for all organizations that choose to open their doors.

Places of worship can begin in-person services and funerals but only at a maximum 25 percent capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower. Religious children’s classes are still prohibited, according to the SLO County press release, and virtual activities are encouraged.

In barbershops and salons, services are limited to those that can be provided with both the workers and customers wearing face coverings. All face-related services—from eyebrow maintenance to beard trimming—are still prohibited, along with nail care, spas treatments, and massages.

Before SLO County organizations reopen, they must complete and sign the county’s “Ready to Reopen” toolkit certification form for each for each facility. The toolkit and reopening criteria can be found at emergencyslo.org/reopen. ∆

Women’s March SLO initiates a campaign to promote wearing a face mask

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 4:12 PM

San Luis Obispo County received the green light to continue through Stage 2 of California’s Resilience Roadmap, effectively allowing businesses to resume dine-in services and in-store shopping. As the local economy begins to reopen, Women’s March SLO County created a campaign to promote the continued use of face coverings in public spaces.

On May 23, the organization initiated the #WearAMaskSLOCounty campaign to educate the community about the impacts of wearing a mask and the goal of protecting the community at large.
TAKING ACTION Women’s March SLO promotes wearing face coverings with the campaign #WearAMaskSLOCounty. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WOMEN’S MARCH SLO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF WOMEN’S MARCH SLO
  • TAKING ACTION Women’s March SLO promotes wearing face coverings with the campaign #WearAMaskSLOCounty.


Organization spokesperson Andrea Chmelik said the campaign is about taking action.

“One of the things that can be disconcerting to people is the difference between taking action and being mandated to take action,” Chmelik said. “Women’s March SLO advocates for mask-wearing in situations where social distancing is not possible because we know that, with or without a mandate, being the change we want to see is one of the most important things we can do to help our community stay healthy.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (asymptomatic) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

SLO County officials haven’t mandated the use of face coverings, however the county offers guidelines about it. Face masks should be worn by health care workers, some first responders, those who are sick, and people who can’t maintain a 6-foot distance. Face coverings should not take the place of staying home except for essential activities, washing your hands, and maintaining safe social-distancing.

“Women’s March SLO has shown that when people speak up, leaders change. That said, we cannot always wait for our leaders. We must be the change,” Chmelik said. “Health is not a partisan issue. We have lost 100,000 Americans to COVID-19 and we are nowhere near the end of this crisis. … We have the power over the outcome here in our county.”

Chmelik said the Women’s March urges the community to share this campaign with respect and kindness.

“As always we look to change behavior, not attack people,” she said. ∆

Friday, May 22, 2020

Santa Barbara County health order allows businesses to expand outdoors

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 4:34 PM

After demonstrating that the Santa Barbara County is meeting state standards for safely reopening, and successfully gaining state approval to do so, County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg issued a new health officer order on May 21 to officially allow additional business and workplace reopenings.

NEW ORDER Santa Barbara County restaurants are now allowed to be open for dine-in customers, with modifications. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SY KITCHEN BY ROB STARK
  • FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SY KITCHEN BY ROB STARK
  • NEW ORDER Santa Barbara County restaurants are now allowed to be open for dine-in customers, with modifications.
“The types of businesses allowed to reopen in this latter phase of Stage 2 include dine-in restaurants (with modifications), schools and child care, retail stores and shopping malls, and some offices,” a May 21 press release from the county’s Public Health Department states.

Santa Maria Public Information Officer Mark van de Kamp told the Sun what this new order means for local businesses.

“On Wednesday of this week, the state told the county they could move into late stage 2, so then everybody had to wait for [Ansorg] to issue a health order,” van de Kamp said. “That’s what gave the green light for those businesses to now move forward with doing the self-certification, filling out the forms, and making sure that they have all the measures in place to keep their customers and the workers safe.”

These include businesses completing a COVID-19 Prevention Plan and self-certifying that they can open safely. All these requirements are detailed on Recovery SBC’s Reopen Your Business webpage.

The county’s May 21 press release also announced the Small Business and Community Partnership Enhancement Program, which “allows businesses or other organizations to expand into adjacent public right-of-way outdoor areas in the unincorporated areas of the county to accommodate required social and physical distancing protocols and safe practices.”

Soon, the release stated, the program will also “allow expansion onto private property, such as parking lots.”

While this allowance affects only the unincorporated areas in the county, the city of Santa Maria launched a similar program on May 22 that allows some businesses to temporarily utilize parking spots and lots for their operations. Such an allowance would give restaurants, for example, the ability to seat more patrons outdoors and increase their safe capacity.

“Retail businesses and restaurants may designate non-ADA parking stalls as assigned parking areas for merchandise or food pick-up, or for delivery services,” a May 22 city press release stated. “Restaurants may use their parking lot to establish outdoor dining areas.” ∆

—Malea Martin

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