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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 20th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 12 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 12

County successfully lobbies state to allow for faster reopening

By Zac Ezzone

After a few weeks of uncertainty, Santa Barbara County finally appears ready to begin moving faster through a roadmap that outlines modifications in the existing COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

On May 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed some businesses to reopen throughout the state in limited ways, such as retail stores only providing curbside services. He also announced that if counties meet certain metrics, dine-in restaurants, offices, and shopping malls could also reopen. 

During a county Board of Supervisors meeting on May 12, county Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso told the board that some of the metrics the state announced would be impossible for the county to reach. As a result, the county lobbied for the state to make certain changes in this criteria.

“It’s unreasonable for us to achieve that and I think that’s why we crafted the letter for your board to consider,” Do-Reynoso said.


BETTER KEEP ’EM SEPARATED
Santa Barbara County successfully lobbied the state to exclude the Lompoc penitentiary’s COVID-19 outbreak from county coronavirus numbers, enabling the county to move toward reopening more quickly.
FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS

In this letter, the county asked the state to exclude the number of COVID-19 cases in the Lompoc federal penitentiary when reviewing the county’s case for reopening. The county also pushed back on metrics regarding limitations on new cases and COVID-related deaths in a two-week period. 

During the board’s May 19 meeting, Do-Reynoso said the county was successful. The initial metrics were replaced with different, more percentage-based ones that the county has already reached. Because of this, the county is preparing to begin working with the state to reopen more businesses.

Through this process, the county Public Health Department submits various documents to the California Department of Public Health, including letters of support from local hospitals and the Board of Supervisors, attesting to the county meeting the state’s criteria. 

The state health department will review the material and post it online, where it’ll be publicly accessible. Then the county will release a new public health order dictating what businesses can reopen and guidance on steps they must take to do so safely, Do-Reynoso said. 

“There is freedom for movement, but with freedom comes responsibility,” Do-Reynoso said.

Additionally, during the meeting, county staff presented the board with the county’s own guide called Reopening in Safe Environment, or RISE. This document is supplemental to the state’s reopening roadmap, Assistant County Executive Officer Nancy Anderson said. 

The county developed the plan with the regional economic group REACH, and spoke with industry representatives as well as medical experts. RISE includes guidelines for industries that are already approved to open, as well as those that aren’t, so they can begin preparing. 

But ultimately, the governor decides when the entire state moves into the next reopening phase, which would include bars, wine tasting rooms, hair salons, tattoo shops, gyms, churches, and other industries. 

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam continues to be vocal about his displeasure over the county’s reopening pace. He said he “vehemently” disagrees with the state’s and county’s strategies and the financial constraints residents are facing because of it. 

“The longer this goes on, the worse it’s going to get and the deeper it’s going to be, and the harder it’s going to be to dig out of,” Adam said.

First District Supervisor Das Williams said where the county goes from here is incredibly important. Historically how a society reacts to a disease, he said, usually affects people more than the actual disease. But he described the county’s approach detailed in the RISE guide as reasonable.

“We can create patterns that maximize our safety but still allow people to do business, and more importantly than doing business, provide for their families,” Williams said. “I think that is the kind of pattern we need to set as a county and a society moving forward.”








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