Gyms and fitness facilities in Santa Barbara County are likely to begin reopening from the COVID-19 shutdown by week’s end, but not without some heavy lifting by owners and patrons.
State health officials have given the go-ahead for them to reopen as soon as Friday — along with bars, hotels, indoor museums, zoos, wineries, campgrounds, and other entertainment venues, according to Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer.
He and other Public Health Department officials plan to meet Wednesday to review the county’s status in terms of meeting various reopening metrics, and an updated health order is expected that day as well, Ansorg said Monday at a COVID-19 press briefing.
If all goes as planned, gyms and the other businesses can begin opening Friday, but they will have to meet “quite stringent requirements” in terms of sanitation, spacing of clients and equipment, Ansorg said.
Machines will be placed farther apart, and will need to be sanitized between each use.
Patrons and employees likely will be screened for fever and other symptoms, and will be asked to wear masks, especially when social distancing is not possible.
Reservation systems may be enacted to limit the number of patrons at the facilities at any one time.
“It’s going to look quite alien at the gyms,” Ansorg said.
State health officials also announced Monday that movie theaters and other entertainment venues will be allowed to begin reopening, although again with stringent requirements and limited capacity.
Theaters will have to restrict attendance to 25 percent of capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower, and will have to space out customers at least six feet apart in the seats.
Also on Monday, county Health Director Van Do-Reynoso reported that COVID-19 “outbreaks” have been reported at two skilled-nursing facilities in the county: the Country Oaks Care Center in Santa Maria and Valle Verde in Santa Barbara.
Country Oaks had five residents and five staff confirmed with COVID-19, Do-Reynoso said, while Valle Verde had a single case, which still qualifies as an outbreak.
“One critical area is disease transmission in skilled nursing,” Do-Reynoso said. “We’re working with facilities on plans for baseline testing and surveillance testing.”
All 14 skilled-nursing facilities in the county will complete baseline testing for residents and staff by the end of June, Do-Reynoso said, which amounts to about 1,000 residents and 2,000 staff.
“Outbreaks in a skilled-nursing facility is a very serious situation,” Do-Reynoso said, noting the frail nature of their residents.
Monday’s announcement about further reopening came on a day when Santa Barbara County reported nine new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county’s total to 1,817.
Of those, four are in Santa Maria, two are in Santa Barbara, one in Lompoc, one in the unicorporated North County, and one in Goleta.
There were 43 people being treated in local hospitals, an increase over the previous two weeks, but ICU patients have remained relatively stable at nine, Ansorg said.
Since Friday, the county has added 30 cases, with almost half in Santa Maria, which has been hard hit by the virus. That followed Thursday’s spike of 50 cases, with 45 in Santa Maria.