Public Health Officials Discuss School Waivers and Face Coverings
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara County Public Health officials discussed the progress of school waivers and the importance of wearing face coverings during Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.
School Waiver Progress
Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg reported the Public Health Department (PHD) has received 14 applications for the school waiver process.
Of the 14 submitted, 10 have been reviewed by a PHD epidemiologist and pediatrician. These applications are expected to be sent this week to the state for a final verdict on approval. The remaining four applications will be sent early next week.
So far two public school districts have applied for the waiver but the rest are private schools. The following schools that have applied as of Monday are:
- Coastline Christian Academy
- Cold Spring School District
- Howard School
- Knox School
- Laguna Blanca
- Montecito Union School District
- Pacific Christian Elementary School
- Providence School
- Santa Ynez Valley Christian Academy
- SYV Family School
- Valley Christian Academy
- Waldorf School
A representative from Crane Country Day School stated their application was also submitted to PHD on Friday.
PHD is reserving two hours at county healthcare centers in Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara for teachers to get COVID-19 tested.
Once Santa Barbara County moves into the red zone, all K-12 schools will be allowed to apply for reopening.
Rating Face Coverings
Dr. Ansorg provided examples of masks to show County Supervisors which ones are most effective and which are less effective, and how research has expanded on this topic.
"We have gone a long way. At the beginning of the pandemic, I'm guilty myself of having had a significant initial hesitation against the wearing of masks, that was under a very different scenario and in light of the scarcity of evidence for the benefits," said Dr. Ansorg.
"Now that this has been a worldwide pandemic going on for more than 9 months, initially starting in Asia, obviously there is much more evidence out there so there is very clear evidence now that wearing a mask for the general public is clearly favorable. Masks do not have to be perfect to be effective, that's a very important message that I want to stress today."
The most effective mask is an N95 without the filter. This mas is designed for healthcare workers, is fitted, well-sealed, and comes in a variety of sizes.
A surgical mask has three layers of protection with a metal band for the nose. These generally provide a better fit than cloth masks and are surprisingly protective to the wearer from droplets, almost as much as N95 mask, said Dr. Ansorg.
The cotton two-layer masks, often the creative hand-sewn ones, due reduce droplets as studies show. Other materials such as microfiber combined with cotton also work well. A recent study reported at least a double layer of cotton or microfiber mix is good and an additional third layer will improve the quality of the overall effect, said Dr. Ansorg.
Face coverings that are not recommended are the N95 masks with a filter and neck gaiters. The filtered N95 mask works well during fires and while in construction zones to reduce inhaling harmful particles, but the filter is not a good source of control to prevent the user's out-breath.
Neck gaiters are better than nothing, said Dr. Ansorg, but the spandex type of material is porous and not the optimal material for a mask. Bandanas are also not the best option as they have a poor fit.
"Masks don't have to be perfect to work, the most important part is that a lot of people wear them and wear them on a regular basis," said Dr. Ansorg.
He went on to say they reduce infections by huge amounts as the worse spreaders are asymptomatic carriers.
When asked by supervisors if there are people who should not wear masks, Dr. Ansorg stated children under the age of two years old should not wear a mask. Medical exemption can be provided for people with severe lung disease or severe anxiety/claustrophobia.
However, there is no scientific evidence supporting a harmful increase in C02 from wearing a mask and it does not replace the benefits of physical distancing, said Dr. Ansorg.
Data Trends in Santa Barbara County
Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso stated COVID-19 cases have increased by 9% in the past two weeks, but the rate of increase is at a gradual and slow pace. Active cases have decreased by 18%, hospitalizations have decreased by 31%, and intensive care unit stays have decreased by 18%.
Additionally, in the past two weeks, the areas of Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Lompoc, north county incorporated, Goleta, Montecito/Carpinteria/Summerland, Orcutt, and Isla Vista have seen a decrease in cases. The area of northern Goleta and unincorporated Gaviota as well as Santa Ynez has seen an increase in cases.
Do-Reynoso attributed the recent downward trend in Isla Vista due to a call to action with community and school working together, making traction.
"I really believe that Isla Vista is going to be a model," said County Supervisor Joan Hartmann. "We have student leaders out there who are really taking the message seriously and working with their peers. What's really exciting is there's a lot of research at UCSB that I hope we can pilot and we can be a model for the rest of the country."
Based on the state's new monitoring system, Santa Barbara County remains in the highest purple zone of widespread virus infections.
As of Monday, the county is at 9.0 daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population and a 6.5% positivity rate. To move into the lower "substantial risk level" section that's color-coded red, the county will need to lower its daily new case rate to a 7 or less.
By Wednesday the county expects to have these new metrics and methods reflected on their website.
On Tuesday evening, PHD reported 23 COVID-19 cases and 2 additional deaths. Both residents were over 70 years of age and had underlying health conditions. One lived in the City of Santa Maria and the other lived in the North County Unincorporated area.
Santa Barbara County's death toll is now 95 due to COVID-19.
The grand total of cases is 8,164 with 209 of those active. There are currently 36 hospitalizations including 17 in the ICU.
More information can be seen here: https://publichealthsbc.org/status-reports/