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Encinitas City Hall, Public Works and the Senior Center are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many services will continue online or over the phone. Courtesy photo/City of Encinitas
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Encinitas suspends in-person services, group activities in response to coronavirus

ENCINITAS — With two confirmed coronavirus cases so far in Encinitas, the latest news is that the City of Encinitas is temporarily suspending in-person contact, shifting many city services online and over the phone.

The closure of all public counters at Encinitas City Hall, Public Works and the Senior Center went into effect March 18, following closures this week of all K-12 schools for at least two weeks.

City officials also suspended youth, senior and other programs involving a large number of participants, such as sports teams. Group activities offered by community organizations, including the YMCA, libraries and the Boys & Girls Clubs, have also been suspended.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear wrote on her website on March 13 that some of these facilities are remaining open, even though group activities are canceled.

On March 16, Encinitas activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Level 3, the lowest level of activation, for the purpose of information gathering and dissemination related to the COVID-19 situation. The EOC will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The mission of the Encinitas EOC is to respond to catastrophic events by providing centralized management of the city’s emergency response personnel, resources, facilities, and mutual aid assistance given the city.

Also on March 16, the county announced 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.

The first COVID-19 patient in Encinitas is a male in his 50s at Scripps Memorial Hospital.

According to a Scripps spokesperson, the patient is being treated in a negative pressure room designed to contain viruses. The hospital released a statement indicating the rest of the facility is unaffected and safe for other patients.

The second confirmed case is an individual associated with Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School, whose positive test was identified March 15. Encinitas Union School District officials have not specified whether the individual who tested “presumptive positive” for coronavirus is a student, staff or teacher at the school.

“We have all been preparing and working to slow the spread of the COVID-19 and it is unsettling to have this happening in our community and our schools,” EUSD Superintendent Andree Grey wrote in a letter to staff and families March 15. “With our schools closed over the next few weeks, we are hopeful having students and families at home will reduce illness.”

In response to local concerns over obtaining everyday supplies, such as toilet paper, Blakespear urged residents not to hoard essentials and other items from local supermarkets.

“If you’ve been to the supermarket over the last few days, you’ve seen that many people are buying huge quantities of supplies,” she wrote on March 13. “It started with items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but now pasta, milk and other basics are also running very low in some stores. I urge everyone to buy what you need for a modest cushion, but to allow others the chance to buy these staples too.”

Blakespear likened this to the turn of the millennium and Y2K doomsday prepping when predictions about gas shortages caused long lines at the gas pumps.

“It was entirely unnecessary,” she wrote. “I know it’s hard to resist the hoarding urge when everyone in the market seems to be snatching every last item off the shelves. We all need to pull together and make sure these staples remain for everyone. The vast majority of us should be able to safely and calmly go to the supermarket in a few days.”

Blakespear added that it’s also important to help local businesses stay solvent during this health crisis. She said ordering food to be delivered or picking up food from restaurants is always a good option “if you’re trying to limit exposure.”

In terms of helping people get by, Blakespear said she’s asked the 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,” Blakespear wrote.

Blakespear said that even with the enormous stress and unreal disruption everyone is going through, she’s personally experienced many acts of courtesy, selflessness and people acting as part of a kind and humane whole.