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Santa Monica in the Year of COVID
By Jorge Casuso
March 16 , 2021 -- One year ago today, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Santa Monica. Since then, 4,488 cases and 156 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in the city of some 93,000.
Three days before the first case was confirmed, the City followed Los Angeles County's lead and declared a health emergency. That first order was followed by 33 emergency supplements, or approximately one every 11 days.
Santa Monica has also instituted some of the strictest health orders in the nation and enforced them with fines. As of Monday, City enforcement staff had conducted 63,466 interactions with businesses and 36,434 "face covering interactions."
A total of 233 business citations have been issued, along with 299 construction stop work orders. Enforcers also have issued 104 face covering citations. As of mid-February, they had ejected more than 1,100 customers from local businesses.
According to City officials, Santa Monica has lost 130 small, locally owned businesses since the pandemic began. A recent City business survey indicates that "many more are facing closure in the months to come."
Following is a timeline based on information from articles published in the The Lookout over the past year.
Friday, March 13 -- City Manager Rick Cole, acting as the Director of Emergency Services, issues a local emergency proclamation. The following day, the City halts water shutoffs and late penalties for water bills and parking tickets, and institutes eviction protections against tenants affected by the virus.
The emergency order, and all subsequent supplemental orders, must be ratified by the City Council within seven days of their issuance.
That day, Santa Monica College (SMC) closes as it transitions from "in-person classes to a remote learning environment."
Monday, March 16 -- The first case of the coronavirus is confirmed in Santa Monica. City Hall closes. So does the Pier. Following Los Angeles' lead, Cole also bans dining out and closes "non-essential businesses," including gyms, fitness centers, spas and salons.
Thursday, March 19 -- California Governor Gavin Newsom orders California's 40 million residents to stay home after state health officials estimate 25.5 million Californians could be infected over an eight-week period. Two months later, on May 19, the state had a total of 81,828 confirmed cases.
Friday, March 20 -- Confirmed cases in Santa Monica reach four. A total of 292 cases and two virus-related deaths are confirmed across the County of more than 10 million residents.
Sunday, March 22 -- Santa Monica closes its beach parking lots after thousands flock to the city's coastline in defiance of State orders to stay at home. That day, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Santa Monica rises to seven.
Monday, March 23 -- City Manager Rick Cole authorizes fines of up to $1,000 for those who violate orders to stay at home or shut down non-essential businesses. Fines are also authorized for visitors to the Pier and for landlords who fail to halt tenant evictions.
Wednesday, April 1 -- The number of coronavirus cases confirmed in Santa Monica passes the 50 mark, reaching 53 after four cases are reported. A total of 3,518 coronavirus cases have been identified in LA County.
County health officials warn that "a significant number of people (are) infected with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic and capable of spreading the virus to others."
Friday, April 10 -- Under a new emergency order, Santa Monica customers who don't wear face coverings or maintain social distancing can be refused service and fined between $100 and $500. Businesse that fail to comply can be fined between $500 and $1,000.
Monday, April 13 -- Less than a month after the lockdown, Cole reports the City is facing a $226 million budget gap by July 2021 that will force it to immediately slash services and offer buyouts to several hundred employees.
Sunday, April 16 -- Exactly one months after its first case is confirmed, Santa Monica marks its 100th coronavirus case.
Friday, April 17 -- Cole offers his resignation after coming under increasing pressure for his handling of the COVID-19 emergency.
Monday, April 20 -- A study released by County health officials finds that the coronavirus is far more widespread and far less deadly than previously thought. The results of the groundbreaking anti-body test suggest that between 221,000 and 442,000 adults have had the infection.
Thursday, April 30, 2020 -- Interim City Manager Lane Dilg extends the City's temporary eviction moratorium , giving tenants who can show they were unable to pay rent due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus crackdown a year from the moratorium's end to come up with the back rent.
Friday, May 1 -- The unemployment rate in Santa Monica skyrockets from 4.2 percent in February to 17.4 percent in both April and May.
Tuesday, May 5 -- The City Council votes to quickly lay off as many as 247 full-time employees, resulting in sweeping cuts to programs and services that will affect the daily lives of Santa Monica's 93,000 residents.
Sunday, May 10 -- Santa Monica marks its biggest weekly spike in confirmed cases with 63. Two Santa Monica residents who had the coronavirus die that week, bringing the citywide total to 11.
Thursday, May 14 -- Following the County's lead, the City Manager issues an extended order the requires Santa Monica residents to wear cloth face coverings in public.
Friday May 29 -- With the number of weekly cases dropping, Santa Monica, follows County orders and allows salons, barbershops and restaurants to begin offering limited in-person services. Non-essential retail businesses are also allowed to reopen.
Sunday, June 7 -- Santa Monica surpasses 300 confirmed cases after seeing cases spike to 52. A total of 20 Santa Monicans who were infected have died.
Wednesday, June 24 -- More than three months after shutting down, the Pier begins a phased reopening. The following day, the City Manager gives merchants and restaurants the go-ahead to expand in front of their businesses as the City moves to safely reopen after the shutdown.
Monday, June 29 -- Confirmed coronavirus cases in Santa Monica reach 400, as the County surpasses 100,000 reported cases. The 41 cases reported in Santa Monica the week ending June 28 is the highest weekly tally since a record 52 cases were confirmed during the first week of June.
Thursday, July 2 -- The Interim City Manager issues an emergency supplemental order clarifying that the face coverings must be worn when "individuals are or can be in contact with or walking near or past others who are non-household members in both public and private spaces."
July 13, 2020 -- A record 65 weekly COVID-19 cases are confirmed in Santa Monica. The County begins re-shutting businesses in an effort to curb a spike that has, in fact, resulted in fewer deaths and serious illness.
Thursday, July 23 -- After shutting down some 100 businesses for failing to comply with health orders under the cornonavirus emergency, County Health officials announce they will step up enforcement.
Sunday, July 26 -- The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Santa Monica surpasses 600. There is a total of 37 cornonavirus-related deaths. According to County health officials, of the 4,375 residents who have died with COVID-19 countywide, 92 percent had underlying health conditions.
County officials attribute the spike -- mostly among younger residents -- to businesses reopening and large, ongoing protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.Monday, July 27 -- Major social media outlets censor a viral video featuring renown Santa Monica pediatrician Dr. Robert C. Hamilton, who calls for the reopening of schools, saying that data indicate that "children are not the drivers of this pandemic."
Wednesday, August 5 -- The City issues a warning it will begin enforcing its face covering order, with those in violation facing an initial fine of $100. It is one of the few California cities to impose such fines.
Sunday, August 23 -- Weekly coronavirus cases rise in Santa Monica, as the number of hospitalizations across LA County continue to drop. Two virus-related deaths are reported in the city, bringing the total to 39.
Tuesday, August 25 -- Santa Monica cracks down on "super spreader" gatherings of more than 20 people, with violators facing fines and having their water shut off.
Sunday, August 30 -- Weekly COVID-19 cases in Santa Monica remain stable with one additional death, as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report the steepest weekly drop in nationwide deaths since the pandemic began.
Saturday, September 12 -- Three Santa Monica elementary schools open their playgrounds to the community under an agreement between the School District and the City.
Sunday, September 13 -- The number of weekly coronavirus cases in Santa Monica drops to the lowest level in nearly four months, with 17 cases reported. The number of deaths is adjusted down from 43 the previous week to 41. That number will hold for more than two months.
Sunday, September 27 -- COVID-19 cases in Santa Monica inch up after falling to the lowest level since May.
Wednesday, September 30 -- The unemployment rate in Santa Monica drops to 11.9 percent in September, from a high of 17.4 percent in April and May. Still, it is nearly triple the unemployment rate before the pandemic.
Thursday, October 8 -- City officials announce that 12 playgrounds will reopen six months after they were shuttered. The reopening comes one week after Los Angeles County officials gave cities the go-ahead to open the playgrounds as long as health protocols are followed.
Friday, October 9 -- The World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19 Dr. David Nabarro urges world leaders to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method.”
Monday, October 12 -- City Manager Lane Dilg orders street performers to wear face coverings and bars them from performing "during their most crowded times." The City also stops issuing permits for performers at the Pier, Third Street Promenade and Transit Mall through the rest of the year.
Sunday, October 18 -- Five new weekly cases of the coronavirus are reported in Santa Monica, the fewest since the pandemic first hit the beach city on March 16.
Tuesday, October 20 -- The City announces it is deploying “Health Ambassadors” to ensure compliance with emergency orders. They will help code enforcers, who have conducted 35,059 business checks and issued 854 warnings and 126 citations.
Sunday, October 25 -- The total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Santa Monica surpasses 1,000 after registering the second-highest weekly total. No new deaths are reported.
Sunday, November 15 -- The number of weekly coronavirus cases hits a record 131; the number of deaths remains at 41.
Sunday, November 22 -- The number of deaths and seriously ill patients remains below previous spikes, as Santa Monica and LA County prepare another crackdown to curb "alarming levels" of cases.
Two deaths are reported in Santa Monica, the first in more than two months.
Wednesday, November 25 -- More than six months after State health officials estimated the number of infections could reach 25.5 million, California has 1,144,049 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Monday, November 30 -- LA County goes into lockdown after health officials report coronavirus cases remain at "alarming levels" despite some of the strictest health mandates in the nation.
One quarter of the 1,497 COVID-19 cases reported in Santa Monica since March 16 have taken place over the past three weeks.
Monday, December 1 -- LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl makes national headlines when it is learned she had dined at a Santa Monica restaurant hours after voting to ban dining out. Kuehl, who lives in Santa Monica, had called dining out "a most dangerous situation" that puts people's lives at risk.
Monday, December 7 -- In the midst of the latest coronavirus crackdown, a record 197 cases and five deaths are confirmed in Santa Monica the week ending December 6.
Friday, December 11 -- As local COVID-19 cases reach record levels, Santa Monica reopens playgrounds under revised guidelines with the go-ahead from County public health officials.
Monday, December 14 --Santa Monica reports a record 244 COVID-19 cases the week ending December 13, reflecting a countywide surge that persists despite strict health orders.
New vaccines released under President Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" program begin arriving in LA County, which receives 82,873 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and distributes them to 83 acute care hospitals.
Monday, December 21 -- As Los Angeles County enters its third week of lockdown, Santa Monica continues shattering local coronavirus records -- with 316 cases confirmed the week ending December 20.
Monday, December 28 -- For the fourth straight week, Santa Monica tops its record for weekly coronavirus cases with 365 cases.
The surge comes amid a regional Stay At Home Order issued on December 6 that prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes non-essential businesses and requires 100 percent masking and physical distancing.
Thursday December 31 -- The unemployment rate in Santa Monica drops to 8.3 percent in December, down from 11.9 percent in September, although it is double the 4.2 percent before the pandemic.
Monday, January 4, 2021 -- Weekly coronavirus cases in Santa Monica drop for the first time in five weeks, but the number of virus-related deaths spikes to a record 12.
The number, however, reflects deaths that took place several weeks earlier, since it can take officials as long as two weeks to confirm and report a coronavirus-related death.
Of those who died with the virus in LA County the previous year, 86 percent had serious underlying health conditions.
Monday, January 11 -- The drop in cases the previous week is followed by a surge -- from 282 cases to 357, seven shy of the weekly record.
A record 16 residents die with the virus, bringing the total number of virus-related deaths to 88. Total cases reach 3,258.
Tuesday, January 26 -- After using $117 million in one-time funds to balance an already pared-down budget in June, the City Council votes to use $14.6 million of the $20 million it had squirreled away for a winter COVID-19 surge.
City officials forecast Santa Monica is not expected to fully recover from the coronavirus shutdown for at least another four years.
Monday, January 25 -- The number of coronavirus cases drops for the third week in a row. The downward trend in cases comes as the State lifts its Regional Stay Home Order and allows a number of activities as long as social distancing is maintained and face coverings are worn.
Monday February 15 -- The number of weekly COVID-19 cases in Santa Monica drops to its lowest level in more than three months, with 70 new cases reported the week ending February 14.
The City continues to deploy its "Emergency Order Compliance Group" -- composed of code enforcement officers and health ambassadors -- seven days a week to ensure residents and businesses are complying with local health orders.
Enforcement officials announce that more than 1,100 customers have been ejected from local businesses.
February 22, 2021 -- The School District and local teachers union sign an agreement that allows elementary schools to reopen on a limited basis as early as March 15 -- one year after shutting down.
Under the agreement, elementary schools would open a maximum of two days 15 days after vaccines are made available to teachers and school personnel.
Monday, February 22 -- The weekly number of coronavirus cases in Santa Monica drops below 100 for the first time in nearly four months, with 82 cases reported for the week ending February 21. Three Santa Monica residents who were infected with the virus die.
Wednesday, March 3 -- A survey released by Apartment list finds that rents in Santa Monica rebounded for the first time since the coronavirus shutdown began, while the city's home prices were the third highest in the nation.
Sunday, March 7 -- City officials announce Santa Monica would receive $26.7 million in federal funding -- a "small fraction" of the revenue lost due to the coronavirus shutdown -- as part of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill headed for final approval.
California -- which is expected to have a $26 billion windfall entering its next budget cycle -- would receive approximately $26 billion from U.S. taxpayers.
Tuesday, March 9 -- School District officials announce they have reached an agreement with the local teachers union to implement a five-day school week at elementary schools starting April 12.
Under the agreement, students will attend school "on-site/in-person" four days per week and engage in one day of "synchronous/asynchronous learning."
Monday March 16 -- One year after the first coronavirus case was reported in Santa Monica, the number of cases reaches a total of 4,488, while the number of those who have died with the virus reaches 156.
A total of 58,715 Santa Monica residents have been tested for the virus. As of March 8, a total of 22,316 had been vaccinated.
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