Frequently Asked Questions


Coronavirus is a type of virus that causes diseases of varying severities, ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory disease. COVID-19 is a novel (new) coronavirus that is a new strain that has not been identified before in humans.

There has been an outbreak of new illness called coronavirus disease COVID-19. While the illness started in China, people with the virus have been confirmed in several countries including the United States. Since this virus is very new, health authorities are carefully watching the situation and learning more about how this virus spreads. This situation is quickly changing and the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) provides updated information as it becomes available.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) is working closely with the California Department of Public Health and the CDC to respond to the outbreak of coronavirus disease COVID-19. SBCPHD is communicating with local health care providers on how to safely and effectively evaluate people exhibiting potential COVID-19 symptoms. This situation is changing rapidly, and the SBCPHD will provide updated information as it becomes available.

Some patients have pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure and in some cases death.

If you have traveled from an affected area, there may be restrictions on your movements for up to 2 weeks. If you develop symptoms during that period (fever, cough, trouble breathing), seek medical advice. Call the office of your health care provider before you go, and tell them about your travel and your symptoms. They will give you instructions on how to get care without exposing other people to your illness. While sick, avoid contact with people, don’t go out and delay any travel to reduce the possibility of spreading illness to others.

A Stay at Home order went into effect on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The order is in place until further notice. It covers the whole state of California.

These efforts have allowed the state to move forward on our roadmap for modifying the statewide order.

Most businesses are now allowed to re open with modifications. The State of California has issued Industry specific guidelines which can be found in the following locations:

All businesses in Santa Barbara County are required to file an attestation before opening. The form is located here.

A list of Business that that must remain closed can be found in Health Officer Order 2020.12 at this link: https://publichealthsbc.org/health-officer-orders/

• Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.
• There is no treatment specifically approved for this virus.
• Testing results may be helpful to inform decision-making about who you come in contact with.

Santa Barbara County health care leaders are working together to provide COVID-19 testing for everyone in our community.  Please visit our testing page for locations and link to scheduling an appointment: https://publichealthsbc.org/testing/

If you answer no to all three questions, you are not currently a candidate for testing and should not go to any health care facility to ask for testing at this time.

We are asking all community members to follow these instructions so that the most vulnerable residents can be tested and receive the care they need. If you are sick please follow the home care guidelines below. The instructions are the same for both tested and not tested ill persons.

Please see the “Required Isolation” documentation linked  below on how to provide care for yourself or another ill person in your home. This information is for anyone who is sick, regardless of whether or not they were tested for COVID-19.

REQUIRED ISOLATION at Home After your COVID-19 Test: [ English ] [ Español ]

Currently, those at greatest risk of infection are persons who have had prolonged, unprotected close contact with a patient with symptomatic, confirmed COVID-19 and those who live in or have recently been to areas with sustained transmission.

The available data are currently insufficient to identify risk factors for severe clinical outcomes. From the limited data that are available for COVID-19 infected patients, and for data from related coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, it is possible that older adults, and persons who have underlying chronic medical conditions, such as immunocompromising conditions, may be at risk for more severe outcomes.

Early information shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:

  • Older adults (65+)
  • Individuals with compromised immune systems
  • Individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease

If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or health condition, it is important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease, including:

  • Isolate at home and practice social distancing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay away from large gatherings and crowds.
  • Consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social, or commercial networks.

Face Coverings Within Santa Barbara County

The intent of the Health Officer Order is to TEMPORARILY require the use of Face Coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.

A face covering made of cloth, fabric or permeable materials, without holes that cover only the nose, mouth, and surrounding areas of the lower face. 

Facial coverings with one-way valves do not comply with the Health Officer Order as they permit respiratory droplets that may easily escape placing others at risk.

CDC guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html 

All individuals over the age of 13 years old unless an exception applies (for exceptions, see question below on when face coverings are not required).

Unless an exception applies, all individuals must wear a face covering when:

  1. In line to enter a business;
  2. Conducting business through a car window or walk-up counter;
  3. Obtaining healthcare, mental health, or veterinary services at facilities that provide such services, unless specifically directed otherwise by an employee
  4. Using public transportation, private car service, or a ride-sharing vehicle;
  5. Driving or operating a public transportation, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle regardless of whether a member of the public is in the vehicle;
  6. At the workplace or at off-site work locations any time they are:
    • Interacting in person with a member of the public;
    • Working in any space visited by members of the public;
    • Working in any space where food is prepared, packaged for sale or distributed to others;
    • Working in, or walking through common areas where social distancing of 6 feet or more cannot be maintained; or
    • In any room, or enclosed area when people are present.

Face coverings are not required for individuals who:

  1. Work alone in a space that is not regularly visited by the public (e.g. a private office or single room);
  2. Work within a stable group of not more than 12 of the same individuals provided they don’t:
    • Interact with the public;
    • Work in a location that is open to the public;
    • Handle, prepare, or package food; and
    • Work in conditions where they will come into contact with others outside the stable group while at work.
  3. Are age two years (24 months) or less due to the risk of suffocation;
  4. Are driving alone or exclusively with other members from the same living unit;
  5. Have been advised by a medical professional that wearing a face covering may pose a risk to the individual for health-related reasons;
  6. Work in an environment where wearing a face covering would create a risk to performing the individual’s job; and
  7. Have trouble breathing; are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance.

Wearing a face covering is recommended but NOT ordered while engaged in outdoor exercise such as walking, hiking, bicycling, or running.  Individuals engaged in such activities should maintain at least 6 feet of separation from all other people.  It is also recommended that these individuals should bring a face covering and wear it in circumstances when it is difficult to maintain social distancing.

Many online stores sell face coverings.

Face coverings can be easily made with ordinary household items such as bandanas, t shirts and scarves. This CDC video demonstrates how to make a face covering with t shirt material: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPx1yqvJgf4

Masks are becoming more and more available and can often be purchased at pharmacies, and big box stores.

For more information about Health Officer Order NO. 2020-10, please visit: https://countyofsb.org/uploadedFiles/phd/PROGRAMS/Disease_Control/Corona/Health%20Officer%20Order%202020-10.pdf

Temporary Eviction Moratorium Due to Coronavirus COVID-19

On March 24, 2020, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance, amending Chapter 44 of the Santa Barbara County Code, to suspend evictions arising from loss of income or substantial medical expenses related to COVID-19 until July 28, 2020 (the “Urgency Ordinance”).

The Urgency Ordinance allows unincorporated Santa Barbara County commercial and residential tenants to defer rent payments when they are unable to pay because of income reductions due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Urgency Ordinance became effective immediately on March 24, 2020. Tenants must provide written notice of their request for rent deferral within 7 days after the rent is due.

We are not permitted to provide legal advice to the public. Legal Aid may provide technical assistance at 805-963-6754.

If you paid rent to your landlord previously but cannot pay your current rent due to a loss of income attributable to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disaster, you may be able to remain in your current housing and defer rent payments. 

The Urgency Ordinance allows you to delay paying all or part of your rent by sending a written notice to your landlord within 7 days after your rent is due. For example, if your rent is due on April 1, 2020, you would need to send the notice on or before April 8, 2020.

The written notice must demonstrate inability to pay the full amount of rent due to reasons related to COVID-19, including by not limited to the following:

a.  Tenant was unavailable to work because the tenant was sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or caring for a household or family member who was sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19;
b.  Tenant experienced a lay-off, loss of hours, or other income reduction resulting from COVID-19, the state of emergency, or related government response;
c.  Tenant needed to miss work to care for a child whose school was closed in response to COVID-19; or
d.  Substantial out of pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19.

Your written notice needs to include documentation or objectively verify a substantial decrease in income, such as medical records and bills, layoff or termination notices, income or revenue records, child care expenses, or other documents that show a substantial household income decrease as a result of COVID-19.

The Urgency Ordinance creates an “affirmative defense” to eviction for nonpayment of rent. If a landlord files an action against a tenant for nonpayment of rent, the tenant can defend themselves in court by evoking the Urgency Ordinance and demonstrating they sent written notice and supporting documentation to the owner within 7 days after rent was due. In court, the tenant will need to produce the documentation of substantial decrease in income related to COVID-19 that was contained in the written notice to landlord.

The County Urgency Ordinance’s rent deferral and eviction protection expires on July 28, 2020.  However, California Courts will continue to suspend eviction (and foreclosure) proceedings statewide until 90-days after the Coronavirus state of emergency is lifted.

The Urgency Ordinance does not specify a payback period at the present time. Tenants may still be responsible for late payment fees contemplated in a private lease agreement. Owners and tenants are encouraged to work together to develop mutually acceptable repayment schedules.

Stop the Spread of COVID-19

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Therefore, someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.
    Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person in China. There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus. To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals. For more information on the many benefits of pet ownership, as well as staying safe and healthy around animals including pets, livestock, and wildlife, visit CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website.


Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings, not a surgical mask or N-95 respirator, in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. Recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing, washing your hands, and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months.  At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer.  There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.

Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. You can learn more about who is most at risk for health problems if they have COVID-19 infection on CDC’s current Risk Assessment page.

Social distancing is a practice recommended by public health officials to stop or slow down the spread of contagious diseases. It requires the creation of physical space between individuals who may spread certain infectious diseases. The key is to minimize the number of gatherings as much as possible and to achieve space between individuals when events or activities cannot be modified, postponed, or canceled. Achieving space between individuals of approximately six feet is advisable.

Additionally, there is a particular focus on creating space between individuals who have come together on a one-time or rare basis and who have very different travel patterns such as those coming from multiple countries, states or counties.

Protect Yourself and Your Family

Wash your hands with soap and water, and rub for at least 20 seconds.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a handkerchief, sleeve or arm. Do not use your hand.
  • Stay home if you have a fever, cough, have trouble breathing and feel tired.
  • Avoid people that are sick.
  • Get the flu vaccine to protect against the flu or symptoms such as the new coronavirus.

The timely implementation of aggressive strategies that create social distance and those that reduce close contact of people not regularly together, including limiting gatherings, has proven effective in prior pandemics at delaying rates of transmission and reducing illness and death.

To protect public health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, gatherings as described below should be postponed or canceled across the state of California until further guidance is issued by the California Department of Public Health. The California Department of Public Health finds the following: • All gatherings should be postponed or canceled. This includes gatherings such as concerts, conferences, and professional, college, and school sporting events. 

A “gathering” is any event or convening that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space.

We do not have information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Pregnant women also might be at risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality compared to the general population as observed in cases of other related coronavirus infections [including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)] and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, during pregnancy.

Though person-to-person spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been observed in the United States among close contacts, this virus is not currently spreading among persons in the community in the United States and the immediate risk to the general public is low. Pregnant women should engage in usual preventive actions to avoid infection like washing hands often and avoiding people who are sick.

Are pregnant women with COVID-19 at increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes?

We do not have information on adverse pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women with COVID-19. Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, has been observed in cases of infection with other related coronaviruses [SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV] during pregnancy. High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.

Are pregnant healthcare personnel at increased risk for adverse outcomes if they care for patients with COVID-19?

Pregnant healthcare personnel (HCP) should follow risk assessment and infection control guidelines for HCP exposed to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Adherence to recommended infection prevention and control practices is an important part of protecting all HCP in healthcare settings. Information on COVID-19 in pregnancy is very limited; facilities may want to consider limiting exposure of pregnant HCP to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, especially during higher risk procedures (e.g., aerosol-generating procedures) if feasible based on staffing availability.

Can pregnant women with COVID-19 pass the virus to their fetus or newborn (i.e. vertical transmission)?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly by close contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets. Whether a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or neonate by other routes of vertical transmission (before, during, or after delivery) is still unknown. However, in limited recent case series of infants born to mothers with COVID-19 published in the peer-reviewed literature, none of the infants have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, virus was not detected in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.

Limited information is available about vertical transmission for other coronaviruses (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV) but vertical transmission has not been reported for these infections.

Are infants born to mothers with COVID-19 during pregnancy at increased risk for adverse outcomes?

Based on limited case reports, adverse infant outcomes (e.g., preterm birth) have been reported among infants born to mothers positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy. However, it is not clear that these outcomes were related to maternal infection, and at this time the risk of adverse infant outcomes is not known. Given the limited data available related to COVID-19 during pregnancy, knowledge of adverse outcomes from other respiratory viral infections may provide some information. For example, other respiratory viral infections during pregnancy, such as influenza, have been associated with adverse neonatal outcomes, including low birth weight and preterm birth. Additionally, having a cold or influenza with high fever early in pregnancy may increase the risk of certain birth defects. Infants have been born preterm and/or small for gestational age to mothers with other coronavirus infections, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, during pregnancy.

Is there a risk that COVID-19 in a pregnant woman or neonate could have long-term effects on infant health and development that may require clinical support beyond infancy?

At this time, there is no information on long-term health effects on infants either with COVID-19, or those exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 in utero. In general, prematurity and low birth weight are associated with adverse long-term health effects.

Is maternal illness with COVID-19 during lactation associated with potential risk to a breastfeeding infant?

Human-to-human transmission by close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 has been reported and is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when a person with infection coughs or sneezes.

In limited case series reported to date, no evidence of virus has been found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. No information is available on the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through breast milk (i.e., whether infectious virus is present in the breast milk of an infected woman).

In limited reports of lactating women infected with SARS-CoV, virus has not been detected in breast milk; however, antibodies against SARS-CoV were detected inat least one sample.



 All programs that choose to remain open must continue to stay in compliance with Community Care Licensing. Programs are asked to adhere to the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Preschool and Child Care Guidance and Community Care Licensing Program Information Notice.

Treatment of COVID-19

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often.

 There is no specific antiviral treatment for people with COVID-19.

Community Resources

Resource and Referral (R&R) agency’s primary function is to provide childcare resources and information to families. During a State of Emergency, it is critical for families to have access to these services. Children’s Resource and Referral staff are available to help families find alternative childcare during the COVID-19 crisis. For assistance finding childcare contact:

Children’s Resource & Referral of Santa Barbara County
124 W. Carmen Lane, Suite C
Santa Maria, Ca 93458
Web site: https://www.sbfcc.org/
Monday -Friday 8:00 –5:00
Note: The Santa Barbara Office Location is closed.