Santa Barbara County will remain in the state’s purple, or “widespread,” tier for risk of COVID-19 transmission at least another week after the rate of new cases failed to drop into the red zone for "substantial" risk.

Although the percentage of positive test results — the other metric being monitored by the state — has dropped into the orange, or “moderate,” tier, the new case rate still exceeds the threshold set by the state for moving the county into the red, according to a report delivered Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors.

Van Do-Reynoso, director of the County Health Department, told supervisors both the county’s unadjusted and adjusted new COVID-19 case rates are 9.1 per 100,000 of population, while the state’s threshold for moving into the red is 4 to 7 new cases per 100,000.

The county’s percentage of positive COVID-19 tests stands at 4.8%. The threshold for the orange tier is 2% to 4.9%, while for the yellow, or “minimal,” tier it is less than 2%.

The metrics, based on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, are analyzed every Tuesday to determine the county’s tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

But even when the county does hit the threshold for the red tier in both metrics, it will have to remain there for two weeks before it's officially moved to red and any change takes place in the business sectors, Do-Reynoso said.

SB County's unadjusted case rate

A new graph based on California's tiered Blueprint for a Safer Economy shows the trend in Santa Barbara County's unadjusted rate of new COVID-19 cases from Feb. 29 to Sept. 5.

The report on the status of the COVID-19 response in the county included two new graphs based on the state’s current blueprint that clearly showed the trend of both metrics stretching back to Feb. 29 for the unadjusted case rate and March 14 for the testing positivity percentage.

“We started this pandemic really at the yellow, or the best tier to be in, and as we progressed through March into April all the way to May, we were in … the moderate tier, or the [orange] tier, and it was after Memorial Day and the reopening of many sectors that we saw an increase in our cases, the apex being around 7/11,” Do-Reynoso said.

“Early July was when restrictions were put into place, and we saw a corresponding decrease in our cases,” she said.

The graph for the percentage of positive tests began at the threshold between yellow and orange on March 14 and peaked at around 16% between March 21 and 28, then followed a general downward trend until May 9.

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On May 30, Memorial Day, the rate soared up to near 10% before curving back into a downward trend ending at Sept. 5.

“The trend that we see on the unadjusted case rate that shows a clear decline since 7/11 and then plateaus in the last couple of weeks tells the story of our struggle really well,” said Chairman and 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart.

SB County's testing positivity rate

Based on California's tiered Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a graph shows the percentage of positive COVID-19 test results in Santa Barbara County from March 14 to Sept. 5.

He said it pointed to the need for people to practice social distancing, wear face masks and wash their hands frequently.

“If people did that just a little more diligently, we could move into the red,” he said.

Operations in critical infrastructure, limited service businesses, hair salons and barbershops can be open in Santa Barbara County provided they make modifications to their operations.

All retail stores can be open but can only admit 25% of their customer capacity at one time. Once the county moves into the red tier, the capacity limit will rise to 50%.

Businesses currently open in the county include grocery stores, pharmacies, wholesale clubs, food banks, campgrounds, RV parks, outdoor recreation, community gardens, day camps and drive-in theaters.

Businesses that can operate only outdoors are gyms, fitness centers, restaurants, cafes, places of worship, museums, galleries, zoos, aquariums, protests, personal care services if their licensing boards approve, and youth sports for conditioning and skill building.