Less than a week after Santa Barbara County began rolling out its second phase of reopening businesses in the county, it also announced on Friday that it will be mandating the use of face coverings in public places beginning May 26. 

Santa Barbara County first released its phase two reopening guidelines on May 21, allowing businesses like dine-in restaurants, schools and some offices to resume business. Max Abrams / Daily Nexus

Face coverings will be required while in line for and inside businesses — including restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies and government agencies — as well as all healthcare facilities and when using public transport, ride-sharing services and private car services, according to the order. Employees of transportation services and businesses will also be required to wear face coverings. 

Those who work alone or at businesses not open to the public and in groups of 12 people or less are exempt from the new order. The new mandate also does not apply to children under 13, as well as those who are unable to wear face coverings for medical reasons.

The order will remain in place until at least June 30, barring earlier removal by the public health department. Failure to comply with the new mandate, which constitutes as a misdemeanor, could be punishable with a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment or both, according to the order. 

A face covering is defined as “a covering made of cloth, fabric or permeable materials, without holes, that covers only the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face,” according to the order, and includes scarves, bandanas, homemade coverings and masks, among other variations. 

Residents who do not own face coverings can receive one for free at the Santa Barbara Administration building lobby, the Santa Barbara Health Care Center or the Santa Maria Health Care Center, the order stated. 

Santa Barbara County first released its phase two reopening guidelines on May 21, allowing businesses like dine-in restaurants, schools and some offices to resume business, according to a press release issued by the county. Within Isla Vista, restaurants like Woodstock’s and Rockfire Grill have partially reopened for dine-in meals, although public spaces within restaurants, like bars and gaming areas, must remain closed.

Businesses that are allowed to reopen in this phase will be required to make modifications to decrease the risk of coronavirus spread, including new safety training for staff and enforcement of social distancing for patrons, according to the press release. 

Businesses must also “review state and local guidance, complete a COVID-19 Prevention Plan, and self-certify that they can open safely,” to receive a certificate from the county and reopen legally, according to the press release. 

“This next phase of our reopening process will help get more Santa Barbara County residents back to work, while ensuring that local businesses modify operations to keep their customers and workers safe,” according to a new health order issued by the County’s Public Health Department in response to the phase two approval.

The phase two reopening is part of a four-stage Reopening In Safe Environment (RISE) plan from California Gov. Gavin Newsom to safely reopen the state amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

On May 19, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved draft attestation to confirm that the county is meeting reopening standards. The state approved the attestation on May 20, allowing an “exciting next step for our entire community,” Van Do-Reynoso, director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said in the press release.

Additionally, Santa Barbara County is implementing a program to help businesses expand into “public right-of-way outdoor areas” in the county’s unincorporated regions to help advance social distancing protocols, the press release read. A second phase of the project is in development to help businesses expand onto private property, like parking lots. 

On the evening of May 21 in Isla Vista, the Study Hall Bar and Grill was open for business in direct violation of the state and county stay-at-home orders — and the phase two guidelines — after it was seen serving at least 10 people without masks.

When Gov. Newsom declares that eligible counties can move into Stage 3, higher-risk businesses like hair and nail salons, gyms, churches and hotels will be identified to reopen. 

Correction [05/26/2020, 1:24 p.m.]: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that face coverings will be mandated in all public spaces. The article has been corrected to accurately detail which public spaces require face coverings. 


Holly Rusch
Holly Rusch (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2022-23 school year. Previously, Rusch was the University News Editor and co-Lead News Editor for the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com or hollyrusch@dailynexus.com.