6 Months of Responding to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
September 17, 2020 2:30 PM
by Lindsay B. Call
If we were to go back six months and try to predict what life would be like now, it would be difficult to conceptualize. The COVID-19 public health emergency has changed how we work, spend time with our loved ones, and interact with our community. It has upended every aspect of life. In every aspect of this crisis, we have worked to implement public health guidance provided by the State and the County to keep our Santa Monica and regional community safe.
As of the six-month mark, Santa Monica’s total confirmed COVID cases are among the lowest in LA County and among the lowest of our peer cities on the Westside of Los Angeles. This has taken much collaborative effort on the part of our community, businesses, and city teams. Yet we are still in the midst of a health emergency and we have more work to do. Continued success in combating the spread of COVID-19 requires everyone to keep complying with public health measures, particularly wearing a face covering and physical distancing.
As an organization, COVID-19 has forced our City to shift our focus to emergency operation goals while continuing to provide exceptional services in a changed environment and supporting economic recovery. Essential City personnel have worked continuously throughout the pandemic to serve the Santa Monica community by answering and responding to 9-1-1 calls, delivering high-quality water to each household, and keeping our community moving on public transportation, just to name a few. Even as City staff have faced challenges and fears associated with the spread of COVID-19, I’ve been humbled and amazed by staff’s dedication to show up to work each day, their commitment to take a daily health screening, wear a face covering for their entire shift, and work as a team to continue to deliver critical services to residents and businesses.
In addition to ensuring critical functions are maintained, staff from across the City made a tremendous effort to swiftly close some City facilities and shifted many operations to a virtual environment to protect the public and staff. Now, many are working to reopen programs allowed by the current Health Officer Order to safely serve Santa Monica families.
Since the first week of statewide business closures, City staff have been mindful of economic recovery and focused on continuously supporting our small local businesses from facilitating widespread curbside pick-up to quickly creating a process to expand outdoor dining and other services. The business community has shown incredible adaptiveness, with 119 restaurants reapplying for outdoor permits in one week.
Our local COVID-19 response has primarily focused on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our community and providing a safety net for our residents. Below are some of the City’s efforts over the last six months.
- Issued 25 supplements to our local emergency since March 13.
- Implemented a local eviction moratorium, our first supplement, and we’ve continually revised to provide critical protections as a community of 70% residents.
- Suspended preferential parking, extended permit deadlines, and did not charge rent for City-owned leases.
- Brought services online, including the permit counter, building/safety, and have held 33 public meetings via teleconference since March.
- Ensured all City personnel working on-site had the personal protective equipment and sanitation equipment they needed to do their job safely and protect the public.
- The City’s Code Enforcement has been working hard to ensure Health Officer Order requirements are implemented across the City. This team has issued a total of over 120 business compliance citations and 110 stop-work orders, completed almost 31,000 business compliance checks, and completed 4,900 face covering checks.
- Because Santa Monica is 8.3 square miles, we are able to care for our community and check in on people who may need extra support during the emergency. Through the over 7,770 calls made to Santa Monica’s COVID-19 hotline and the more than 7,000 COVID-19 survey respondents, City staff were able to identify and respond to Santa Monica’s needs and priorities. Here are some highlights:
- Created the Emergency Housing Assistance program
- Distributed over 80,000 pounds of food in partnership with the Westside Food Bank through the Santa Monica Virginia Avenue Park Food Pantry serving nearly 4,000 households
- Created an emergency motel shelter project, which served 26 high-risk people experiencing homelessness from May 29 through July 1. Santa Monica’s homeless street teams continue to engage and support the unhoused in Santa Monica.
- Made 3,287 outreach calls to seniors and connected with 720 individuals on their unique needs
- Hosted a food distribution event providing fresh produce from local farms to approximately 1,500 households in three hours
- Developed the santamonica.gov/coronavirus website to host Santa Monica specific information about COVID-19. The website now has over 595,000 views and we update it daily – don't forget to track it regularly.
We have been able to work with our community partners, local businesses, and non-profits to support economic recovery through the Santa Monica Cares program. Below are some of the results from the last six months.
- Created an economic recovery task force with 17 multi-disciplinary members to coordinate efforts towards a healthy financial future for Santa Monica. You’ll begin to see Santa Monica Shines around town, reminding the importance to support our local businesses during this challenging time.
- Distributed 10,000 face coverings to non-profits and community partners to protect our most vulnerable community members and the staff and volunteers that serve them.
- Provided 5,800 public health education signs, decals, and posters to local businesses.
- Purchased over 50,000 face masks for use by local businesses to encourage customers to continue to frequent Santa Monica businesses, even if they forgot their face covering.
- Created and continue to maintain Santa Monica’s Open for Business Map to support changes in operations and Health Officer orders.
- Launched the Santa Monica Shines COVID-19 Assurance Program for businesses to support their efforts to reopen and meet all LA County health regulations. Nearly 100 businesses have signed up for the program to ensure they provide a safe environment to provide services to the community.
Last updated on September 17, 2020
While we are seeing signs of improvement in Santa Monica and the Los Angeles region, with deaths, new cases, and hospitalizations declining since mid-July, it’s important to keep the significant disease burden faced by our community and the loss of life at the forefront. 6,231 LA County residents, including 41 Santa Monicans, have died from COVID-19. Los Angeles County’s Director of Public Health, Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd shares the County’s condolences in this way.
“Tens of thousands of people are facing a future without someone they love because that person has passed away from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to all of you who are grieving, and again we are so sorry for your loss.”
As we look ahead to the next six months, we must continue to reflect on the reality of the pandemic and let it drive us to be vigilant in our new normal. We must all do our civic duty and continue to take individual public health actions to protect the health of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors and minimize the impact of this pandemic on our economy. While we’ve accomplished great things, we must remember our small actions play the biggest role in ensuring we maintain progress in the months ahead. Remember:
- Don’t go out if you are sick.
- Wear a face covering whenever you’re outside of your home.
- Maintain six feet distance from non-household members and do not gather.
Wash and sanitize your hands frequently. Thanks for your actions to keep our Santa Monica community healthy.