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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 27th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 48

Newsom lifts regional order, Santa Barbara County back to purple tier

By Malea Martin

Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted his regional stay-at-home order on Jan. 25, but this doesn’t mean that all bets are off for COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, counties will be judged individually in the state’s tiered reopening system. 

Nearly all of California’s counties—including Santa Barbara County—remain in the purple, most restrictive tier. 

With the state’s regional stay at home order now lifted, counties will once again be guided by the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening system, where Santa Barbara County remains in the purple, most restrictive tier.

The stay-at-home order was first enacted on Dec. 3, when Newsom’s office announced that falling ICU availability statewide warranted restrictions that were more stringent than what was within the Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework. The state was divided up into five regions, with Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties placed in Southern California. If a region’s ICU capacity dropped below 15 percent, it had 24 hours to implement the order. 

At the time, Southern California’s ICU capacity was already low enough to send it into lockdown as soon as the new rules went into effect. With the order came a slew of closures and restrictions, including restaurants only being allowed to provide takeout and pickup, and hair salons being required to shut down entirely.

But from the get-go, the state also established a way out: “Counties are eligible to come off the Regional Stay-at-Home Order after three weeks if their hospital ICU capacity projected four weeks out reaches 15 percent,” Newsom’s Dec. 3 order stated. 

As of Newsom’s Jan. 25 press conference, Southern California was projected to have 33.3 percent ICU capacity by Feb. 21—the highest in the state. The other four regions are also expected to exceed 15 percent ICU capacity by Feb. 21.

Newsom said the state looks at current ICU capacity, community transmission, regional case rates, and the proportion of cases admitted to the ICU to make its projections.

“Remember, ICU is a lagging indicator: What’s happening with positivity rates, case rates, community spread, really is the forecast that gives us confidence on where we will land in a number of weeks,” Newsom said. “There are variables that are constantly changing, but again, these are the projections.”

While these projections allowed the state to lift the regional stay-at-home order, Newsom emphasized that “we are not out of the woods.” 

“Now that we are in the purple tier for those vast majority of counties, it means restaurants can open for outdoor dining with modifications, nail, hair salons can open with modifications, certain youth sports can resume for competition in particular, with, again, modifications and considerations,” Newsom said. 

Santa Barbara County still has a long road ahead before it will be able to move up in the tier system. As of Jan. 19, Santa Barbara County had a 16 percent positivity rate, and its adjusted case rate was 64.6, according to state data. To move into the red tier, the county must have a 5 to 8 percent positivity rate, and just four to seven new daily cases per 100,000.

However, Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said at a Jan. 22 press conference that the county appears to have passed the peak of its curve.

“The data that we are running is showing that our case rate and test positivity have peaked on Jan. 9, and have since decreased,” Do-Reynoso said. “While case rate and test positivity remain high, they have been decreasing in the last 13 days. Case rate decreased by over 20 percent, and testing positivity decreased by 13 percent.”

Despite the encouraging moves, as Do-Reynoso emphasized a few days earlier, the county is currently still struggling to meet hospital needs. According to data presented at the Jan. 22 press conference, the county had 0 percent adjusted ICU availability that day.

“We do expect a high number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for the next few weeks to come, because of our high case rates,” Do-Reynoso said. “[We] are unfortunately experiencing a large number of deaths. … It is really important to remember that, and maintain your due diligence.” 

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Where do you stand on youth sports during the pandemic?

It's too soon—we're still living in a pandemic.
Low-contact sports are one thing, football and basketball are another.
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They should have been allowed back months ago; our youth need sports.

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