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County, state tracking success in reopening local economy

County, state tracking success in reopening local economy

060220 Coronavirus market

Jorge Guevara packs up produce from Rancho la Familia in Orcutt at the Orcutt Farmers Market on Tuesday. He said sales have declined after the first wave of demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Santa Barbara County is now tracking how reopening segments of the economy is affecting the spread of COVID-19 and whether the county is remaining within the state parameters through an online dashboard that’s available to the public.

County officials said they are waiting for state guidelines on reopening schools and day camps and advised the owners of nail salons and gymnasiums to make preliminary preparations for the third stage of reopening business.

The Board of Supervisors was briefed on the new online dashboard Tuesday during their weekly update on the status of COVID-19 locally.

Van Do-Reynoso, director of the County Health Department, outlined the data points the state will be tracking, including any increase in the rate of new infections, whether there is an increase in the rate of patients being hospitalized, the percentage of intensive care unit beds available and the percentage of ventilators available.

The state is looking for an average daily change in COVID-19 hospitalizations of less than 5%, Do-Reynoso said, and the county’s rate has averaged 0% over both three- and seven-day periods.

She said the state wants fewer than 8% of COVID-19 tests to be positive, and the county’s rate has been 3%, plus 20% of ICU beds and 25% of ventilators available, with the county currently at 92% and 77%, respectively.

So all those criteria are still being met, she said, but the county fell short on the required 1.5 tests per 1,000 residents. The target number for the county is 675 tests per day, but the latest seven-day average is 471.

Do-Reynoso said the Public Health Department staff believes some of the private labs are not reporting their negative test results, which could skew the numbers.

She said the county is asking private labs to start submitting those results.

The public can monitor the county’s reopening metrics at publichealthsbc.org.

So far, the county has received 1,505 self-certifications from businesses reopening in the second stage of the state’s roadmap, with 1,387 of those coming from within cities and 118 from the unincorporated areas, said Nancy Anderson, assistant county executive officer.

She said the 118 that have submitted self-certifications represents 24% of the businesses in the unincorporated areas.

“We have 24% that have gone through the process and we have 100% of the businesses open,” noted 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, adding it seems important to emphasize the process is free and can be accessed online at recoverysbc.org/reopen-your-business/.

Anderson said since the emergency rule was issued a week ago allowing wineries to serve food in their tasting rooms so they, too, can reopen, the county has received 37 permit applications.

While nail salons and gymnasiums are next in line for reopening, no criteria have been issued for self-certification by the state. But county staff noted those businesses are very similar to hair salons and barbershops, and they can do some preliminary preparations by following the guidelines for those businesses, county staff said.

After hearing the county is still awaiting state criteria for reopening schools and day camps, 1st District Supervisor Das Williams asked if the county is being penalized for asking for those criteria.

He said other counties included those in their attestations for meeting state criteria and had started opening those facilities, and he advised the staff to be more aggressive in pursuing the ability for those facilities to open.

But Lavagnino thanked the staff for its efforts to get the RISE Guide and related procedures put together so quickly and making the procedures easy for businesses to follow.

“This was so much easier than I anticipated it to be and the way government usually works,” he said. “Staff just kicked butt on this whole thing, and I really appreciate it.”

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County Reporter/Associate Editor

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.

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