Santa Barbara County is still holding in the red tier of the state’s blueprint for reopening the economy, even though both the COVID-19 case and positive test rates rose slightly in the latest assessment, according to a report delivered Oct. 6 to the Board of Supervisors.
If the county’s red status holds until the next assessment Oct. 13, schools will be allowed to reopen their doors for full in-person instruction, the report said.
But the county now has a new metric it must meet in order to move up to the next tier in the state Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
County Public Health Department Director Van Do-Reynoso told supervisors the one-week adjusted average daily case rate as of Sept. 26 was 5.8 per 100,000 population. The previous Tuesday, the county’s seven-day case rate was 4.5.
To qualify for the red tier, representing a “substantial” risk of disease transmission, the county must have a case rate between 4 and 7, and to move up to the orange tier, representing a “moderate” risk of disease transmission, would require a rate between 1 and 3.9.
The county’s rate of positive COVID-19 test results was 3.3%, up slightly from the 3.2% rate reported Sept. 19 but still within the 2% to 4.9% range the state requires to qualify for the orange tier that would allow more businesses to open or increase their capacities.
Both metrics must be in the orange range for two consecutive weeks for the county to move to that tier, but now it must also meet the state’s new Health Equity Metric for the orange tier.
The Health Equity Metric requires the test positivity rate for the county’s lowest quartile on the Health Positivity Index to be less than or equal to 5%.
Currently, the county is solidly in the red with a health equity rate of 6.7%.
The Health Positivity Index is a tool to visualize the cumulative impact of community conditions on life expectancy at birth for nearly every neighborhood in California, according to the Public Health Institute.
California’s blueprint aims to assure all sectors of a county’s society are receiving the same attention from its public health department by comparing the test positivity rate in the neighborhoods the Health Positivity Index identifies as having the least opportunities for health with the overall test positivity rate required to move to the next tier.
However, Do-Reynoso said the state does provide an accelerated path for counties to move to the next tier.
If the county’s overall positive test rate and its Health Positivity Index’s lowest quartile test rate remain at less than 2% for two weeks and its case rate is showing a decline, the county can move to the orange tier even if its case rate exceeds 4.
Do-Reynoso said 26 waivers have been approved by the state for county elementary schools and districts, with the California Department of Public Health still evaluating three applications, including one from Ballard Elementary School.
She said the county is still working with Children’s Montessori School of Lompoc to complete its waiver application.
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