To the glee of golfers, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced on Friday that golf courses could reopen — with strict social distancing guidelines.
At the Santa Barbara Golf Club, the city’s municipal course, the first tee-off is scheduled for 6:09 a.m. Saturday.
“It is going to be a great opprotunity for people to get exercise and breathe fresh air, and have a little camaradarie with friends from a safe distance,” said Randy Shannon, the club’s general manager. “It is a great opportunity, as long as we can abide by the directions.”
Parks & Recreation Director Jill Zachary said the city has been working closely with CourseCo, the private company that operates the golf course, to prepare for a potential reopening for the past week. CourseCo, she said, has implemented all of the social distancing requirements to ensure public safety.
Among the rules, only one person will be allowed in a golf cart, guests must pay with credit cards and not cash, players must maintain a 6-foot distance, doors will be propped open to avoid touch points, and all ball washers have been removed from the golf course to reduce touch points. Cups also have been raised above ground level, and flag sticks have been removed.
The allowances of all golf courses to open was just one of the clarifications announced at Friday’s public health department press conference. The county releases a definitive list of essential businesses that can remain open, businesses that can remain open in modified form, and those that must close. The county also clarified rules for outdoor recreational activities.
County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said church and faith-based organizations are encouraged to offer their services though online streaming.
“But if provided in person, these faith-based services must occur outdoors,” Do-Reynoso said. “All persons attending the activity must be inside a motor vehicle occupied only by persons in the same household or living unit, and not to exceed five persons.”
All motor vehicles at the gathering must maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from other vehicles. All people must remain in their vehicles. The churches cannot provide restroom facilities. No “tangible products” or food products can be transferred to the motor vehicles.
Dr. Henning Ansorg said that golfing and tennis are allowed, along with walking, running, biking and hiking.
“When exercising, while maintaining safe physical distance, the benefits to people’s health will outweigh the risk of spreading infection,” Ansorg said.
He said people should still avoid gathering in groups and continue to stay at least 6 feet apart, and wear face coverings. He said the results of social distancing behaviors today will bear out in two to three weeks.
“If the virus is spreading more widely, it takes a certain amount of time for new infections to show,” Ansorg said. “If we were to stop with social distancing now, our infection rate and severe illness and hospitalizations would go up, and we would not be able to meet the necessary requirements for reopening.”
Gregg Hart, chairman of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and who leads the afternoon daily press conferences, noted that the heat wave hitting Santa Barbara will spark people to hit the beach. He said sheriff’s deputies will be monitoring the beaches. Those who violate the county’s order can be fined $1,000.
“This weekend, as we all know, will be particularly difficult,” Hart said. “I know that many of us will want to get outdoors. Please remember to be smart in choosing outdoor activities. I know it is very hot and we all need to cool down. If you can, please get out early and exercise while it’s cool, and please respect our physical distancing guidelines.”