Public Health Encourages Community Members to Get COVID-19 Test
By edhat staff
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) encourages community members to get tested for COVID-19 to help loosen restrictions to reopen more businesses.
During a press conference on Friday, PHD Director Van Do-Reynoso stated the active case numbers are not declining enough to meet the standards of the next lowest tier. Moving into the red "substantial" tier means more businesses can reopen indoor operations with modifications such as restaurants, personal care services, churches, movie theatres, and gyms.
Santa Barbara County is currently in the purple "widespread" tier with a 7.9 case rate per day. However, the case rate is adjusted by the state to 8.3 based on the level of testing compared to the state's average. The rate will be adjusted upwards if testing is below the average and downwards if testing is more than the average.
The county must be below a 7 case rate per day, or an average of 217 weekly cases, to qualify for the next tier. Do-Reynoso stated that increased testing will help the county achieve this goal.
Do-Reynoso also voiced her concerns about a "twin pandemic" as we enter into the flu season and urged residents to stop gathering.
Contact tracers indicated that social gatherings are the biggest issue. Over the Labor Day weekend, people tested positive for COVID-19 after attending church services, family gatherings of 15 people or more, social events with friends, meetups with three different families, house parties, and funerals.
Public Health Now Encouraging All Community Members to Get Tested
Over the past four months, the state-run COVID-19 testing sites’ utilization has fluctuated based on the need of the community. These testing sites have seen lower utilization rates over the past few weeks which has left sites with open availability for testing, states PHD.
While emphasizing the importance of those in higher-risk environments receiving testing, PHD is now encouraging all community members to be tested.
The importance of getting tested for COVID-19 has never been greater. The positivity rate and case rate, two of the most vital measures in determining our County’s allowance to move to the red tier, are dependent on having robust testing. When a county does not meet the State’s standard for testing, it can be penalized with increased positivity rate and case rate. In an effort to achieve widespread testing, community members can in turn help Santa Barbara County protect the health and safety of our neighbors while fulfilling requirements to progress in reopening.
“We are again opening up the state-run testing sites for all community members. Testing turnaround times have greatly improved thanks to state and local efforts and we are now seeing an average turnaround time for results of under 72 hours,” said Do-Reynoso. “Detecting COVID-19 remains crucial to stopping the spread of this virus and one of the best tools we have to do just that is testing.”
State-run testing sites are located in Santa Maria, Buellton, and Goleta. Appointments can be made by visiting https://lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling 888-634-1123 for those with no internet access. Testing is by appointment only.
New School Waiver Approvals
Four more elementary schools have been approved by the state to reopen in-person learning as soon as possible. They are:
Coastline Christian Academy, Goleta
Santa Ynez Valley Family School, Los Olivos
Pacific Christian School, Santa Maria
Santa Ynez Christian Academy, Santa Ynez
There are now eight K-6 schools within the county that have been approved to reopen. Overall 22 have applied with six more currently being reviewed by the state.
New Health Order for Homeless Shelter and H-2A Housing Screenings
Earlier on Friday, PHD released a new health officer order requiring temperature screening, self-evaluation, and reporting of COVID-19 cases at all homeless shelters and H-2A housing in the County of Santa Barbara.
The order was issued as an attempt to ensure good outcomes for residents in those two settings, said Do-Reynoso. Although there hasn't been a recent uptick of COVID-19 outbreaks in these settings, she stated in the past there had been one outbreak at a shelter and a COVID-19 positive case at another shelter that was quickly mitigated to prevent an outbreak. She didn't have immediate information on outbreaks at H-2A housing.
While these measures were previously mandated, the health officer order now has the weight of potential consequences and legal action if these measures aren't followed. Do-Reynoso said it has been a lengthy process in developing these guidelines and engaging stakeholders but Santa Barbara County is the first to do this.
"We're trailblazers," she said.
PHD is reporting two additional deaths of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. Two resided in the City of Santa Maria. One individual was between the ages of 50-69 and one was over 70 years of age. Both had underlying medical conditions. None of the residents reported were in congregate living facilities.
On Friday there were 30 new cases bringing the total to 8,608. Of the total, 183 cases are still active or infectious. There are currently 38 hospitalizations including 12 in the intensive care unit.
More data can be found at https://publichealthsbc.org/santa-barbara-county-surveillance-metrics/ and https://publichealthsbc.org/status-reports/.