(Most) Local Businesses Permitted to Open Indoors
At a Board of Supervisors hearing on Tuesday, Santa Barbara County’s Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso announced that the county, after meeting several decreasing COVID-19 case rate thresholds, would be entering the less restrictive Red Tier outlined in California’s pandemic blueprint.
Do-Reynoso reported that COVID-19 case rates have decreased 42% over the last two weeks, and hospitalization rates have decreased 34%; ICU rates also continue to decline. While the numbers have declined in the majority of the county’s communities, case rates continue to climb in the unincorporated area of Northern Santa Barbara County. “Despite this, the winter surge is now over,” Do-Reynoso said. “We definitely can celebrate experiencing these downward trends. But I want to stress: we have to stay vigilant collectively as a county so we can continue to see these decreases.”
Do-Reynoso said that residents in all areas of the county should continue to wear masks, practice social distancing measures, and reduce gathering in groups. Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg added that if residents let their guards down, Santa Barbara could experience what is happening in Europe: a third wave of virus surge and therefore another shutdown. “Even though we are able to open up more, we have to be very, very diligent to avoid what is happening in Europe. We need to wear masks in public, and need to socially distance. It’s vital to preventing another surge,” he said. California remains under a travel advisory restricting travel further than 120 miles from home; those who choose to travel further are asked to self-quarantine for 10 days upon their return.
Local businesses are eager to reopen within the Red Tier guidelines. The retail and shopping center sectors are permitted to reopen with 50% capacity – up from 25% – with reduced capacity for food courts. Restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters, museums, and zoos and aquariums are able to open indoors with 25% capacity. Gyms and fitness centers can also reopen indoors, with a limited 10% capacity.
It is expected that later this week, the State will announce that live performances may resume as of April 1, with a max 20% capacity. Amusement parks will also likely be able to open April 1, at a max capacity of 15%. And in June, sleepaway camps will be allowed with modifications. As of now, wineries, breweries, and distilleries in the county are still not permitted to be open indoors.
The County continues to vaccinate those over age 65, as well as first responders and those residents in certain professions. On Monday, the County also announced that people age 16-64 could be eligible to receive the vaccination if they are deemed to be at the very highest risk to get very sick from the virus. This includes those with co-morbidity diseases or conditions including cancer, chronic kidney or pulmonary disease, Down Syndrome, organ transplants, sickle cell disease, some heart conditions, or Type 2 Diabetes. Pregnant women are also now eligible to receive the vaccine. Do-Reynoso reported that the County has received 9,080 first doses of vaccines to be administered to healthcare providers, and that next week’s allocation will be very similar. The Federal Government continues to ramp up production of the three approved vaccines, and it’s expected that a fourth version will be available before the summer. “I feel quite optimistic at this point,” said Dr. Ansorg.
If case rates continue to decline, and vaccination rates continue to increase, the County would need to be in the Red Tier for another two weeks before moving to the Orange Tier, which would further lessen restrictions.
To make an appointment for a vaccine, Do-Reynoso recommends utilizing the My Turn website at https://myturn.ca.gov. To get tested for COVID-19, residents are able to utilize the mobile testing unit that has recently relocated to East Beach. To make an appointment visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting.