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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Voice of Reason Nov 18, 2020 01:45 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

@12:33 I'm glad you bring that up, not pushing views on others. Such a hypocrite! What you've been pushing for with continued lockdowns and restrictive measures is destroying lives and livelihoods. Andrea isn't pushing anything on anyone, let her be, let everyone else be, mind your own businesses and if you choose stay home until there is a vaccine go for it, stop pushing your views onto others.

PitMix Nov 18, 2020 01:15 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Arguing with faith based people really doesn't get you anywhere. Muslims, hindus, buddhists, protestants, catholics, mormons, evangelicals- they all seem to be willing to defend their particular faith above all others. In the meantime, what kind of world has it gotten us? How many kids live in poverty and go to bed hungry each night? If there are aliens, they have probably posted a big warning sign above the earth telling everyone to beware the humans.

mp805 Nov 18, 2020 12:57 AM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

Such a shame Gavin Newsom is a loss cause then...hope he enjoyed his $5000 dollar dinner at the French Laundry in Napa...What did he say “I should have stood up and ... drove back to my house…The spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted,” he said. “ I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”

Bene Nov 18, 2020 06:14 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

I agree that church and worship should be respected. But it is not respectful of God to "play chicken" with Him, by choosing to sing shoulder to shoulder at church, then demand that He exempt you from contracting the virus just because you are doing so in a church. That would be like driving in front of a semi-truck and expecting God to intervene.

Voice of Reason Nov 18, 2020 09:19 AM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

@9:06, March/April was a long time ago. We've come a long way since then; not only has covid become considerably less deadly, everyone has changed how they behave, their hygiene practices, how they socialize, eat, shop, worship, etc. To many are stuck in the mindset we had in spring, millions of California's will not die. If you want to lockdown till the virus is gone that is your personal choice and not one that can or should be imposed on others.

Voice of Reason Nov 18, 2020 08:44 AM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

@6:24 our churches in Santa Barbara have NOT been super spreader events. How people have behaved in other cities/state/countries is not how we're acting here in SB. If you want to look elsewhere for examples look at Sweden, they kicked our a*s in how they handled the virus and now they're solid and unrestricted while the rest of Europe spikes. Look at Florida, they removed all restrictions over a month ago yet here in restrictive CA daily cases have increased the same amount or more than as Florida. If our restrictions are working shouldn't daily cases be increasing much slower than Florida where there are no restrictions? If not, why are we doubling down on something that isn't working? We don't need blanket rules from politicians who don't live in our communities who don't even follow their own rules. At this point in the pandemic we're perfectly capable of determining what's best for our own communities. It is not the governments job to make decisions for us, it's the governments job provide guidance and support to enable us to make our own decisions.

Voice of Reason Nov 18, 2020 09:21 AM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

That is how it should be 9:08, each community and individual makes their own decisions. Had all these restrictions actually worked in a measurable way that would be one thing, but they didn't and the virus has proven time and time again it is going to spread regardless of what the government says can and can't be open.

a-1605719332 Nov 18, 2020 09:08 AM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

VOR - I have been to church recently. My church does not feel comfortable opening indoor services. I watched the board meeting and Van also said the churches they spoke with were not comfortable. But I have seen friends who go to other churches and they tried to greet me with hugs and handshakes and invited me over for dinner so....

PitMix Nov 18, 2020 07:12 AM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

VOR, there are ways, but they are not following them. The evangelical services they show have people packed in, no masks, and singing and praising away. Are you saying that other denominations are socially distancing and praying quietly? I'm okay with letting Darwin fight it out with Jesus, but I wish they would stay away from me.

Voice of Reason Nov 17, 2020 09:36 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

@6:22 you obliviously haven't been to a church/temple/mosque/bar in a long time, probably since well before the pandemic. Just like there are ways to go back to work safely, go back to school safely, go back to a barber safely, there are ways to go back to our places of worship safely. How easily so many have thrown out other peoples right to worship, the freedom to practice their religion, scares me more than Covid-19.

LOCALISH Nov 19, 2020 06:49 PM
County Supervisors Debate Church Reopening as Data Shows COVID-19 Spikes in Offices

That is 100% incorrect. The term, ‘herd immunity’, was coined by researcher, A W Hedrich, after he’d studied the epidemiology of measles in USA between 1900-1931. His study published in the May, 1933 American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that when 68% of children younger than 15 yrs old had become immune to measles via infection, measles epidemics ceased. When a child gets measles naturally they have lifetime immunity vs. a much shorter time of immunity with vaccines.


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