3/16/20: Encinitas Declares COVID-19 Emergency, County Issues New Rules

Here’s the latest on the COVID-19 situation in Encinitas as of this evening, March 16. There’s a lot to tell you, so let’s get to it:

The coronavirus in Encinitas

The City of Encinitas knows of two coronavirus cases in our city. The first is a male patient in his 50s at Scripps Hospital, and I’ve been provided with no new information on this case since I wrote about it last week. The second is someone who works at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School and whose positive test was identified yesterday. A letter to staff and families from Encinitas Union School District Superintendent Andree Grey is here.

As of now in the county there are now 55 confirmed positive coronavirus cases, with a breakdown of age and gender in this table from the county.

A new coronavirus surge tent has been erected at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas. This morning not many potential cases could be seen, but it’s comforting to know they’re prepared.

New rules on bars, restaurants, schools, hospitals, gatherings and people with symptoms

The biggest development from the county today is that all bars and establishments that serve only alcohol will close, and restaurants shall close all on-site dining and go to delivery, pick-up or drive-through.

Here are the new regulations that will take effect at midnight Tuesday:

  • All public or private gatherings of 50 people or more people are now prohibited, and all non-essential gatherings of any size are strongly discouraged.
  • All bars, adult entertainment establishments and other business establishments that serve alcohol and do not serve food shall close.
  • All restaurants and other establishments that serve food shall close all on-site dining. All food service shall be by delivery, pick-up or drive-through. Social distancing shall be required for people picking up food on site. 
  • All business shall enact social distancing and increased sanitation standards and shall make every effort to use telecommuting for its workforce. All businesses shall suspend any policy or procedure requiring doctor verification for sick or other leave approval. 
  • All public or private schools, colleges and universities shall not hold classes or other school activities where students gather on the schools campus. Parents of school-aged children shall take steps to ensure said children are not participating in activities prohibited by the order. 
  • A strong recommendation is made that all persons that are 65 years or older, have a chronic underlying condition or have a compromised immune system shall self-quarantine themselves at home. 
  • Non-essential personnel are prohibited from entering into hospitals or long-term care facilitates. All essential personnel who show any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 shall be strictly prohibited from entry into hospitals or long-term care facilities. 
  • Hospitals and health care providers shall take measures to preserve resources including delaying non-emergent or elective surgeries or procedures where feasible. 
  • Hospitals, health care providers and commercial testing laboratories shall report all COVID-19 test results to the public health officer immediately after such results are received. 
  • All persons arriving in the county shall be subject to a 14-day home quarantine and self monitoring if they had traveled to or through countries on the CDC’s Level 3 countries. This includes originating or connecting flights from these countries. 
  • Persons exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate themselves in their place of residence until seeking medical care and treatment.

Encinitas declares local emergency

Also this afternoon, the City of Encinitas issued a Proclamation of Local Emergency and activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This Level 3 activation will focus on information gathering and informing Encinitas residents during this pandemic. Ultimately, the Encinitas EOC will provide centralized management of the City’s emergency response personnel, resources, facilities, and mutual aid assistance given the City. Complete information can be found here

The new normal – for now

For many of us, today was very disrupted and unsettling. On this first work day with school closed, many employees are working from home, and other Encinitans over 65 or who have a compromised immune system, are self-isolating. Most of us have encountered crowded stores with depleted shelves. The Sprouts market was so jammed at 8:15 a.m. this morning that I opted not to go inside.

Despite today’s major change of routine, the next wave is sure to arrive and be even more arduous. When businesses with greatly reduced customer traffic make the painful decision to reduce their workforce, there will be real people without work, unable to pay rent or utility bills.

I’ve asked our city manager to develop a policy that ensures that basic services, namely water, sewer, trash and electricity, remain available even if someone can’t pay their bill based on the effects of the coronavirus. It would be unthinkable to require someone to self-quarantine in a home with no running water.

EDCO, our city’s waste hauler, won’t be halting trash pickup if someone can’t pay because of the the current crisis. EDCO urges Encinitas customers who are struggling to pay their bill due to the situation to call (760) 744-2700 and make payment arrangements. SDGE has also suspended any electric and gas utility disconnections for the time being. All of our water and sewer systems are entirely government-run, so we’ll have the ability to prohibit coronavirus related water-shut or sewer shut-offs.

Supporting our students and seniors

Today at Ocean Knoll Elementary School, there were 126 lunches picked up, some for multiple kids in one family. Any student age 2 to 18 can go to any of the sites offering school-provided meals and receive food during the period of school closures. See the San Diego County Office of Education website for details and a list of locations.

Ocean Knoll is also conducting a “Learn at Home Supply Drive” asking for child-appropriate board games, puzzles, books, school and art supplies. Please only bring stuff that’s in good condition and relevant for parents trying to help their kids continue learning while schools are shuttered. Ocean Knoll is located at 910 Melba Road, and the drop-off times are any day this week from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

City of Encinitas Senior Services provides meals for seniors who need them. To receive a lunch meal, please contact the Senior Nutrition office at (760) 943-2258. We have 11,000 seniors in our community, or about 17% of the city’s population. A portion of these residents are living with very little financial cushion. Over 150 people have volunteered to help seniors – the effort has been so successful that at this point the city is not able to process or manage additional volunteers!

We have set up a special phone number and email for seniors in need.  The phone number is 760-943-2221, and the email is helping_seniors@encinitasca.gov. Both will be monitored daily. 

It’s best to livestream Wednesday’s City Council meeting

The Encinitas City Council meeting is being held at City Hall on Wednesday – there are quite a few items that we need to attend to, and it’s important that the business of running the city continues. If you attend in person, there will be “social distancing” seating with six feet of separation.  We’ll be opening extra meeting rooms to accommodate the need for additional space.

But you’re encouraged to participate in a less risky way by taking advantage of our live streaming option. You can also submit comments on any agenda item to the City Council new Online Agenda Comment fillable pdf form. Information on this form is a public record, and forms must be received by 3 p.m. on the date of the meeting. If you would like to submit comments to be read by the city clerk into the record for all to hear, there’s a box to check on the form. For more information, contact the City Clerk Department at (760) 633-2601 or CityClerk@encinitasca.gov

The city is on top of this crisis

Encinitas government, like many organizations, has both an internal and external commitment. We have a responsibility to keep our city employees safe and to limit their exposure risks. Many people need to work from home to accommodate children, and public safety personnel on the front lines need protective policies and equipment. Doing a good job managing the employees at the city is a critical piece of what we do to keep the lights on. 

We also make policy decisions about how to best protect you and provide the core government services that you depend upon, like clean water, road repair, safe parks and top-quality fire and law enforcement.

The members of our city staff, helmed by our able city manager Karen Brust, are working their tails off right now to manage the internal and external elements of running a city in the midst of a pandemic. They’re working as a coordinated, proactive team. I’m proud of every City of Encinitas employee!

And I’m also proud of the people of Encinitas. Despite the enormous stress and unreal disruption we’re going through, I’ve personally experienced many acts of courtesy, selflessness and people acting as part of a kind and humane whole. When this crisis is beaten, the spirit of Encinitas is what I’ll remember most.

In solidarity as the waters roil,

Coronavirus Resources