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Santa Barbara County meets all state's criteria for allowing more businesses to open
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Santa Barbara County meets all state's criteria for allowing more businesses to open

Santa Barbara County has met the governor’s criteria for additional companies to get back to doing business, clearing the way for many of them to reopen their doors as early as next week if the state accepts the county’s attestation.

The county was able to meet all the criteria after the governor agreed to remove the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex’s COVID-19 statistics from the county data and modified some other criteria to focus on percentages instead of numbers, according to a report delivered to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. 

Santa Barbara County is now in a great position for moving from Stage 2 into Stage 2B,” said Melissa James, who worked on preparing the Reopening in Safe Environment Guide.

Santa Barbara County releases local reopening guide, confirms 15 new COVID-19 cases

Supervisors unanimously accepted the report and the RISE Guide, which was released Friday, and authorized Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county public health officer, to submit the attestation the county meets the Stage 2B criteria along with the Readiness and Containment Plan portion of the RISE Guide to the state.

Once the state posts the attestation and Readiness and Containment Plan and the county’s public health officer issues orders for various industries, businesses that self-certify they meet the orders and guidelines can reopen their doors.

That would include dining at restaurants, shopping malls, offices, personal services, schools and child care businesses.

James noted there are some inequities, including wine tasting not being allowed until the next phase even though dining in restaurants will be allowed in this phase.

Terri Nisich, assistant county executive officer, said if business owners want to make major modifications to help them take full advantage of reopening, they may need to obtain permits and pass inspections, although some may choose to reopen and make those modifications later.

The RISE Guide is posted for public comments at ReadySBC.org and includes links to guidelines and checklists businesses can use to self-certify they are ready to reopen.

“Our goal is to make this exceptionally easy,” Nisich said.

But Ansorg also noted the RISE Guide is a “living document” that may change in response to any new guidelines released by the state.

“Changes are so frequent and so rapid, no document is valid for more than a week,” Ansorg said.

Van Do-Reynoso, director of the Public Health Department, said as of Monday, the county had recorded 1,496 total cases of COVID-19, with 959 of those active, 526 fully recovered, and 43 patients hospitalized.

The state criteria call for an average of 7% or less change in hospitalizations over seven days, and Do-Reynoso said the county’s average is 2.8%.

“What’s more worrisome is the presence of disease in Santa Maria,” she said, referring to statistics showing the city at 219 cases has the highest number of COVID-19 infections outside the Lompoc prison complex.

Lompoc has the second-most cases with 102.

She said the public health department will be working with Santa Maria officials to determine the various factors causing the high number and how to reduce the spread of infection.

First District Supervisor Das Williams and 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam expressed concern about privacy issues that could be raised by the track-and-trace program to locate people who came in contact with those infected with COVID-19.

Ansorg said the county is using the same procedures already in place for tracking a multitude of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and measles, and county counsel has reviewed and OK’d the process.

Adam, who has been critical of the county, state and national response to the pandemic, questioned the process of quarantining people who came into contact with the infected and whether the disease can be boxed in.

Adam said he would vote for the recommendations but repeated his previous objections to the entire strategy and the economic damage being caused by the stay-at-home orders and social distancing.

“I find it Orwellian, this whole track-and-trace thing, and you know, especially given the fact there’s asymptomatic carriers … ,” he said, adding he’s seen studies on antibody testing that show 80 times the number of people who were infected have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. “The idea that we’re going to box anything in is absurd with it that prevalent in the community.”

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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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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