County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices title=
County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino During Tuesday's Board of Supervisor's Meeting
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By edhat staff

New data shows most of the local COVID-19 spikes are due to office spaces as County Supervisors debate closing indoor activities for places of worship.

During Tuesday's Board of Supervisor's meeting, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso stated contact tracing for the first week of November showed a sharp decline in COVID-19 positive cases within the agricultural community and a drastic increase in clerical/management work.

From March to November, the agricultural industry has consistently been an occupation with a high percentage of disease transmission, but the latest data shows infections within offices are much higher, even outpacing healthcare workers. 


Chart showing occupations of COVID-19 positive cases from November 1 through 7.

Do-Reynoso stated her department feels this increase is due to a combination of people telecommuting less and growing comfortable with co-workers and colleagues where they lessen mask-wearing, physical distancing, and disinfecting of workstations.

Alternatively, the decrease in agricultural cases was credited to increased community partnerships and outreach programs.

For the first week of November, the highest infected occupations were office jobs followed by college students, teenagers, and retired/unemployed people. When asked why the high number of retirees and unemployed, Do-Reynoso stated it may be due to discretionary time on their hands. 


COVID-19 positive cases by occupation from Nov 1-7 compared to the full pandemic since March

The Church Debate

While discussing the openings and closing of businesses in the purple tier, Supervisor Steve Lavagnino took issue with places of worship being required to close indoor operations while businesses like Costco and Walmart were allowed to remain open.

Do-Reynoso stated that she understood the state's unease with faith centers is the context of how people gather indoors. Compared to a shopping run, church services generally take longer than 15 minutes and can be several hours, there's usually singing which can spread particles, and a deeper familiarity with people that leads to a lack of social distancing or face coverings, she said. 

There have also been published large-scale outbreaks from church events throughout the state and nation, and Santa Barbara County's first set of cluster cases was due to an indoor church event, said Do-Reynoso.

Lavagnino persisted and proposed the county write a letter urging the Governor to reconsider places of worship to not be singled out and given the same latitude that Costco and Walmart have within the purple tier.

Supervisor Peter Adam agreed and called the majority of these rules draconian while Supervisor Das Williams hopped on board stating he cannot condone a framework that gives more rights to commercial activities than places of worship.

Chair of the Board, Supervisor Gregg Hart, jumped in and urged supervisors to avoid such a divisive approach and remain respectful of each other's individual views and approaches to the pandemic. 

"We will find ourselves very quickly split and divided and sending letters and posturing on public health matters during what could be the worst phase of this pandemic and I would urge my colleagues to think very carefully about the implications of this decision today," said Hart.

Lavagnino countered by saying the board has already done that by voting on mask mandates. "Let's be honest, Governor Newsom is not sitting on the edge of his chair waiting to hear what Supervisor Lavagnino thinks about this."

"Then why are you proposing this motion?" asked Hart.

"Because I think it's a symbolic measure of telling people that we respect their ability to go out and worship," said Lavagnino who stated he can't see church services being a superspreader event.

In the end, the motion passed 3-2 with only Supervisors Hart and Joan Hartmann voting against it.

Increased Numbers and a Purple Tier

Similar to trends within the state and nation, Santa Barbara County saw a 148% increase in active COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, said Do-Reynoso.

Every area within the county saw a sharp increase in active cases except for Isla Vista that went from 37 active cases to 13 and Lompoc that went from 25 to 20.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued the county a 7.1 adjusted case rate (up from 4.3 last week) and a 2.7 positivity rate (up from 1.8). 


Map of California tier assignments on November 10 (left) and November 16 (right).

Throughout the state, 40 counties moved back into more restrictive tiers with only 18 counties staying the same. There are 41 counties in the most restrictive purple tier, 11 in the red tier, 4 in the orange, and 2 in the yellow.

On Sunday, CDPH noted the average 6,000 daily COVID-19 cases had increased to 11,000 daily cases within just a few days. Governor Newsom announced Monday he is pulling an emergency brake in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy resulting in 94.1 percent of California’s population in the most restrictive tier. 

It's been nearly eight weeks since Santa Barbara County was in the purple tier which requires the closure of most indoor operations. Retail can remain open indoors but at only 25% capacity where all dining, gyms, and theatres must operate outdoor only.

Do-Reynoso stated there may be additional guidelines from the state that could include a 10:00 p.m. curfew advisory requiring businesses to close at a certain time and revisions to restaurants and capacity at essential businesses.

School Operations & Vaccine Planning

Do-Reynoso confirmed this emergency brake pulled by the Governor does not alter state guidelines governing school reopenings.

Schools that are already opened may remain open as long as they follow CDPH guidance. Schools who have not reopened may provide in-person instruction under the elementary school waiver process, or through small cohorts. Otherwise, schools may not reopen for in-person instruction until the county has remained in the substantial red tier for two weeks.

The county has a plan developed with CDPH and local partners on how to prepare and administer a COVID-19 vaccine.

There is currently a workgroup with members who include hospitals/clinics, Public Health Department, fire agencies, community health centers, the county joint infomation center, UCSB, residential care facilities, pharmacies, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and more.

The objective is to coordinate and share information between Public Health and partners on how to provide vaccinations as well as campaigns to get accurate and timely information to the public.

A presentation on this group's progress will take place at the Board of Supervisors meeting on December 8.

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Basicinfo805 Nov 19, 2020 07:53 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

3-2 vote IN FAVOR OF letting churches reopen. Who the hell voted for that? I'll tell you who - DAS WILLIAMS, LAVAGININO , AND ADAM. I get the last two - predictable. But hey Das, what the heck? I knew you were a clown already, and I'd never vote for you, but I'm just hoping everyone else knows what you're all about and you lose whatever you run for next.

Voice of Reason Nov 18, 2020 05:01 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Our political leaders in California (and many other states) aren't adhering to the same rules they're imposing on the rest of us, rules that are supposed to be "for our safety". If covid was so dangerous that politicians feel the need to make these draconian rules, rules that violate our state constitution (per recent court ruling), rules that violate our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (a tenant of the Declaration of Independence!) yet at the same time disregard those rules, how can you still follow them? If covid was so dangerous as to require such extreme measures you'd think the people enacting those measures would follow them? They have all the data and science so they would know best, but they see the data and science and it tells them its safe for them to skirt the rules they themselves imposed. I hope that posters here aren't reflective of our greater community; it is despicable what you're forcing upon others, which destroy other peoples lives, families and mental well being, with nothing to back up that it actually prevents the spread of covid. If California wasn't spiking and the restrictions were actually working, that would be great, we've solved covid. But it isn't working! You are free to stay in your home the rest of your life, I hope that many posters here do exactly that. It is not neighborly, it is not American, and it is simply not right for you to force others to abandon their businesses, to lose their homes and jobs, to see their kids mentally regress, to not see their family, friends, or worship how they see fit, all while pretending your doing it out of a place of virtue for the greater good. You're being selfish.

ChemicalSuperFreak Nov 18, 2020 05:14 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Surprised me too, at how quickly this exploded here in SBC. I had initially claimed purple tier by Thanksgiving, but I meant by next week. In the past 7 days our %-positivity went from 2.1 to 3.2, and our 7-day average case rate went from 7.8 to 12.8. We are testing more in the past few weeks, so I expect the case-rate to increase, but the %-positivity which has been stable for so long is now moving quickly in the wrong direction.

Lorax Nov 18, 2020 12:43 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Way to go BOS! Good job with push back ,enough of the overreach. Wish they would give that push back to the teachers union. Glad you defended people's right for Chruch worshop in doors. They are taking all precautions and should have the same rights as all the schools that remain open. All private and other school districts execept our horribly mismannaged Santa Barbara School District under the control of teacher's union are fully open and will remain open even with this teir change. Even our Governor himself has enrolled his kids in private schools!

Andrea Smith Nov 18, 2020 11:45 AM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

I love how these clearly non-church goers like to comment as if they know something about church. Our church has been super careful - outside events, masks, distancing and not drinking from the same "goblet" [what a weird comment]. The did ONE inside event with very few people, masks and major distancing. Now, they are VOLUNTARILY taking people's temperatures for OUTSIDE ONLY events, to assuage fears as there are older folks who attend. So, unless you are a church goer or believe in God please keep your comments to yourself, unless you know what you are talking about.

Andrea Smith Nov 18, 2020 02:49 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

March is when this all hit so, exactly. They stopped after that. What church are you referring to that's doing that now? None that I know of. All the ones I know have adhered to restrictions, closed, or did and continue to do everything outside even though they could go inside, they just opt not to b/c they have older parishioners that they are concerned about.

Andrea Smith Nov 18, 2020 01:05 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Uh, I was raised Catholic. Many Catholic churches no longer offer wine like that, if you went you'd know that. Some stopped years ago b/c of risk of spreading illness. And I can guarantee most if not all that still do that, definitely stopped when COVID hit. Including the offering of the host bread too.

a-1605731572 Nov 18, 2020 12:32 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Andrea, you clearly have never been to a Catholic church service. Yes, parishioners drink from the same cup and the priest gives it a measly wipe with a cloth as if that will clear away the germs. They haven't done this since COVID at my church but wouldn't be surprised if some still do in the name of God. Also, they are usually ornate looking goblets, something out of Indiana Jone's and the Last Crusade. Typical Catholic Church with its glitz and glamor.

letmego Nov 18, 2020 01:34 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Public health actually does contact tracing - you'll see the overall data on the website - "close contact" vs "community contact" vs "travel" vs "unknown". The specifics of that information is not disseminated publicly. Just like the specifics of *which* sororities and fraternities in IV with outbreaks was not public.

Do you have the actual data that shows it's not spread in offices? Public health says it is.

bumblebee Nov 18, 2020 12:40 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

"the spreading in office spaces" is not supported by data. The data above only describes in the vaguest of categories the occupation of those infected. The data presented above does not tell us where the person contracted the virus.
If Public Health has the data to show that the most transmissions have recently occurred in offices, then lets see it. But, in the meantime, they should stop drawing conclusions from data that doesn't apply. This is no way to handle a pandemic.

Ehdat Nov 18, 2020 07:24 AM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Has anyone ever figured out or invented a way to practice religion or worship at home? I'm not a religious scholar, but does god require certain rituals in certain buildings? I think it's messed up that people can go to Costco and not church. Like food is religion more expensive to have delivered?

macpuzl Nov 18, 2020 05:37 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Misrepresenting facts is very much fact-free when you base your conclusions on the misrepresentations. And the virus is not running rampant in countries that have effective protocols in place - most of Asia, Australia, Nordic countries except Sweden, for example. Politicians in power in our federal government are not listening to the epidemiologists. In fact they seem to be listening only to the voices in their heads and delusional twitter tweeters - that's why the virus is out of control.

Voice of Reason Nov 18, 2020 05:31 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

So fact-free evolved to misrepresentations. The virus is running rampant everywhere; it's doing it where there are heavy restrictions AND where there are no restrictions. Why politicians think they can control a virus, and why so many people follow them, baffles me. Politicians should be providing leadership and support for individuals to make decisions based on what is best for them and their families.

macpuzl Nov 18, 2020 03:38 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

If you were actually motivated by concerns about saving lives, instead of crying economically and politically motivated crocodile tears, what you would advocate for, based on the science of epidemiology, would be a stringent lockdown for a period of two months, coupled with a generous government economic support package like the HEROES Act. With the inadequate and fragmented policies we now have, magnified by the lack of compliance driven by social media disinformation, we are letting the virus kill both the economy and people in a way that has a much more lasting impact.

macpuzl Nov 18, 2020 03:05 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

The fact-free narrative you support is that the feeble attempts we've made to control the pandemic are killing people almost as much as the virus is, which is total BS, and not supported by any data. It's part of your social media driven idea that everything should be open and the pandemic should be allowed to run rampant because of the fallacies they promote that the virus has become less deadly and people are committing suicide in droves. It's nonsense from an alternate universe, and it's dangerous.

Voice of Reason Nov 18, 2020 02:01 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

@ 1:32. Facts now matter?
FACT: If you are under 50, seasonal influenza is more deadly than Covid-19. FACT: More children have died from influenza in 2020 than Covid-19.
FACT: There have been 299,028 excess deaths in 2020 through October 3rd, of those, 198,081 have been attributed to Covid-19.
For every 2 people that have died from covid 1 has died from our response to covid. These restrictions and lockdowns have very real life consequences that most people are intentionally ignoring. FACTS NOT FEAR! (all FACTS from CDC.gov)

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