Following the state’s new tiered COVID-19 framework, Santa Barbara County was assigned to Tier 1 of the new system, meaning that it exceeds seven new cases daily per 100,000 people and has a higher than 8 percent test positivity rate.
The four-tiered system, announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, looks at new cases per 100,000 people per day and the testing positivity rate. Both are measured by a seven-day rolling average, with a seven-day lag, according to Van Do-Reynoso, director of the county Public Health Department.
The new change was made because disease transmission is so variable during a pandemic, Do-Reynoso said.
“Because of this variability, it makes more sense to look at it over a seven-day average,” she said during a briefing Tuesday before the county Board of Supervisors.
“The driving force is really the transmission of the disease, and these new methods are the way to differentiate between widespread transmission and lower transmission rates,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, public health officer.
Counties in the purple Tier 1, described as “widespread,” have more than seven new cases per 100,000 people and a higher than 8 percent testing positivity rate. Tier 2, which is coded red and categorized as “substantial,” has between four and seven new cases per 100,000 people per day, and a positivity rate between 5 percent and 8 percent.
Counties in the orange “moderate” Tier 3 have between one and 3.9 new cases per day, and a testing positivity rate between 2 percent and 4.9 percent. The last tier, marked yellow and described as “minimal,” encompasses counties with fewer than one new case per day and a positivity rate of lower than 2 percent.
According to the new framework, a county will remain in a tier for a minimum of three weeks before being able to advance to a lower tier, with the exception of counties in Tier 1.
A county can move forward only one tier at a time, even if metrics qualify for a more advanced tier, Do-Reynoso said.
The county’s tier status was effective Monday, and the next assessment is scheduled for Sept. 8.
Santa Barbara County Public Health reported two additional COVID-19-related deaths on Tuesday. Both residents were older than ago 70 and had underlying health conditions. One lived in Santa Maria, and the other lived in the North County unincorporated area.
There were 23 new cases reported Tuesday, bringing the county to 209 total active cases. That makes for a 2 percent daily positivity rate of testing and a seven-day rolling positivity rate of 4.1 percent.
Of the new cases, 11 were in Santa Maria. The unincorporated areas of the North County and the Lompoc Federal Prison each had three new cases. The new cases at the prison were the first reported since Aug. 3.
Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley, Lompoc and Orcutt reported one new case each. Geographic locations were pending on two cases.
COVID-19 hospitalization numbers dropped by seven to 36 on Tuesday, with 17 of those being treated in intensive-care units.
The new tiered framework also allows counties to reopen sectors in a very “methodical and slow-measured manner,” according to Do-Reynoso. The tiers themselves provide a framework for which industries can reopen different services on each level of the system, according to Nancy Anderson, county assistant CEO.
Because Santa Barbara County is classified as Tier 1, Ansorg issued a Health Officer Order on Monday that allows for some previously closed sectors to reopen indoor services with modifications. Hair salons and barber shops may reopen indoor operations with modifications. Malls, libraries and retail stores can all allow indoor occupancy at 25 percent capacity. Common areas and food court dining areas must remain closed, Ansorg issued.
Ansorg also emphasized the importance of masks to prevent virus transmission. He has long said that any sort of face covering is better than nothing, but recommended surgical masks with adjustable metal nose pieces as the best protection for the wearer and others, and then cloth masks, such as double-layer cotton. The medical-grade N-95 masks provide the best protection, but should be reserved for healthcare workers, Ansorg said.
He advised against wearing the N-95 masks with valves, since they do not block a person’s own respiratory droplets, and said buffs/neck gaiters and bandanas generally do not work as well because of the material and fit.
While all precautionary measures are helpful in slowing the spread of the virus, Ansorg said masks are the most important.
“If we had to grade it by what is more important — hand washing, social distancing or wearing a mask — if we could only do one of the three, I would recommend the mask,” he said.
As of Tuesday, 16 county schools had applied for reopening waivers, Ansorg said. Of those, only two were public schools. All K-12 county schools would be allowed to reopen for in-person instruction once the county advances to a less-restrictive tier.
“We should all be united by the framework in attempting to reduce transmissions,” Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Das Williams. “The only way we’re going to get out of this is to reduce transmission.”
Difference from previous day
Santa Barbara County Region New positive cases reported in past two weeks (increase/decrease from previous week) Santa Maria +250 Orcutt +29 Guadalupe and North County unincorporated areas +40 Lompoc +80 Santa Ynez Valley +32 Isla Vista +19 Western Goleta Valley and Gaviota +40 Goleta +27 Santa Barbara and Mission Canyon +113 Carpinteria and South County unincorporated areas +9 Santa Barbara County Public Health Department Sept. 1 Total positive cases 8,164 +21 COVID-19-related deaths 95 +2 COVID-19 patients in county hospitals 36 -7 COVID-19 ICU patients 17 -1 Total test results 120,075 +1,234 Seven-day average test positivity rate 4.1% -0.5% New cases reported Sept. 1 Active cases by area Total reported cases by area Deaths reported by area South County: Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria 0 4 178 6 Santa Barbara and Mission Canyon 1 21 1,093 11 Goleta 0 3 212 4 Isla Vista 0 4 146 1 Western Goleta Valley and Gaviota 0 22 171 1 Santa Ynez Valley 1 8 119 2 Lompoc, Vandenberg Village, Mission Hills 1 23 654 8 Lompoc federal correctional complex 3 3 1,022 3 Santa Maria 11 81 3,574 51 Orcutt 1 7 269 3 North County: Guadalupe, Cuyama, New Cuyama, Garey, Casmalia, Sisquoc 3 16 351 5 Pending location 2 17 375 – Santa Barbara County total 23 209 8,164 95
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— Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.