The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is urging residents to limit gatherings over the Labor Day weekend, warning that people are continuing to spread the disease through group contact.
Van Do-Reynoso, director of the county Public Health Department, said contact tracing in the month of August revealed that residents were grouping up at parties, beaches, rivers, funerals, family events and in several other areas.
"Contact tracing efforts show that social gatherings continue to be an issue in our community. We encourage everyone in our community to limit the gathering of those outside your household," Do-Reynoso said.
In order to prevent crowds over the holiday weekend, the department opted to open county beaches only to active sports such as swimming, running, walking or surfing, with general beach lounging not permitted.
"Access to the ocean water is not restricted, but sitting or lying on the beach this weekend will not be an option," 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said.
The county took the same approach with beaches over the Fourth of July weekend, something Hart said greatly helped to limit crowds and potential spread of COVID-19.
School waivers approved
Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg reported that four schools in the county had their reopening waivers approved by the state, permitting them to bring students back to campus as soon as Sept. 8.
Approved waivers permit elementary schools to resume in-person classes for K-6 students with safety precautions in place.
Waivers were approved for Howard School, Knox School, Laguna Blanca School and Waldorf School, which are all private schools in the Santa Barbara area.
According to Ansorg, 22 schools have submitted waivers, with more approvals by the California Department of Public Health expected by early next week.
Under state guidance released Aug. 25, public and private schools in Santa Barbara County are also now permitted to offer targeted cohorts for students with specific learning needs.
According to Ansorg, schools do not need to receive the county's approval to begin offering cohorts to students, unlike with the waiver process. However, they are encouraged to submit a form informing the county how many students are participating.
According to state guidelines, individual schools and districts can decide what students are eligible for cohorts, although certain students such as those in special education, English learners, and those experiencing homelessness should be prioritized.
Ansorg said the county is confident in the cohort process, even with the decreased supervision by the county.
"The guidelines are very clear, that the total number of students allowed on campus is 25% of the total population," he said. "All school campuses have been in preparation for weeks and even months, regardless of whether or not they applied for a waiver."
St. Joseph High School in Orcutt is one school that quickly pursued the cohort process, opening up slots to any student desiring further educational support.
The school closed the option to students on Friday, and is now planning out how they will accommodate those who are interested, principal Erinn Dougherty shared on Facebook.
COVID-19 cases by area
The county confirmed an additional 64 COVID-19 cases on Friday, with 8,361 cases now confirmed and 224 cases still considered active.
A total of 39 individuals are hospitalized for COVID-19, with 16 in the ICU.
In the city of Santa Maria, there are 78 active COVID-19 cases out of 3,651 total cases. Fifty-one individuals have died.
The community of Orcutt has four active cases out of 274 cases. Three individuals have died.
The city of Lompoc has 38 active cases out of 723 confirmed. Eight individuals have died.
In the Santa Ynez Valley, five cases remain active out of 122 cases. Two deaths have been confirmed.
COVID-19 in San Luis Obispo County
In neighboring San Luis Obispo County, 27 additional COVID-19 cases were confirmed Friday as well as two deaths in connection with the disease, the county Public Health Department reported.
The number of confirmed cases in the county is now 3,074, with 395 cases still active, according to county data.
One of the deceased individuals was in their 90s and had chronic underlying health conditions, while the other was in their 50s and did not have any underlying conditions. Both died at home, the county Public Health Department stated in a tweet.
The number of deaths in the county is now 22.
In an ongoing outbreak at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, 274 cases have been reported with 64 considered active in custody, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
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