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Santa Barbara County law enforcement reminding residents to stay home, not forcing
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Santa Barbara County law enforcement reminding residents to stay home, not forcing

Members of Danielle Murillo's family gathered in the parking lot of CVS in Orcutt on Sunday night for some face time, and to take a break from being cooped up at home during the statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

They arranged their vehicles in a circle in the parking lot off Clark Avenue and Bradley Road and even maintained social distancing. Within minutes, however, a deputy pulled up and politely reminded them of the stay-at-home order, Murillo said. 

The executive order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 19 requires California's 40 million residents to indefinitely stay at home except for essential travel, such as shopping for necessities and exercise, and to maintain at least six feet between each other to curb coronavirus spread. 

People with jobs in more than a dozen broad categories of "critical infrastructure sectors" may still go to work. 

The latest figures released on Sunday show there are at least 4,643 confirmed cases and 101 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the state, according to Department of Public Health officials. 

At least 64 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Santa Barbara County, public health officials said. 

Murillo's cousin drove from Sacramento to visit just before the executive order went into effect, but she didn't get a chance to see him until Sunday night when they all met at the CVS parking lot. 

Murillo, a local school district employee who lives alone, said home confinement has given her lots of time to think about her son, who died of a drug overdose in 2018. 

"We were all kind of going stir crazy, and we thought let's all just gather somewhere and meet," Murillo said, adding that the deputy was "super nice" and understood the situation. 

"Saturday I had a really rough day and I just needed to get out," Murillo said, adding that she doesn't believe anyone reported her gathering. 

Since March 23, when they began tracking calls, Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management officials have received at least 64 calls from people alerting authorities to people disobeying the order, according to spokeswoman Jackie Ruiz. 

The calls included reports of people not staying home, practicing social distancing and nonessential businesses operating, Ruiz said, although she wasn't able to provide a breakdown of numbers.

Ruiz believes many of the calls are misunderstandings of the order, and said enforcement is not an issue at this point. 

The Santa Maria Police Department on March 20 reported a flood of calls reporting people outside their homes and urged residents to refrain from making such calls. 

The Santa Maria California Highway Patrol on March 25 dispelled rumors on social media that they were asked to enforce the stay-at-home order. 

"It's more of a social contract, like the governor said," Ruiz said. "It's more about education than legal enforcement."

Enforcement, if necessary, would involve a deputy explaining the order, Sheriff Bill Brown said. But noncompliance could eventually lead to a misdemeanor citation, or possibly arrest and jail time, he added. 

Sheriff's deputies and other county law enforcement, however, have been instructed to limit arrests to keep people out of jail to limit coronavirus exposure. 

Coronavirus Series: Local impact and reaction to COVID-19 on the Central Coast

We are working hard to get answers about the impact and reaction to the coronavirus in Santa Barbara County, this is a collection of those stories. Do you have a question about coronavirus in Santa Barbara County? The Santa Maria Times news staff will work to answer your questions. Post them to our Facebook page, or email MCooley@SantaMariaTimes.com.  You can support the work of local journalists working hard in your hometown by signing up for a News+ Membership online

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