Starting today, certain businesses can reopen indoor operations at reduced capacity
Santa Barbara County is now officially in the red tier.
The change will allow certain businesses to reopen indoor operations at reduced capacity and goes into effect at 8 a.m. today.
At noon Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Agency secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that Santa Barbara County has moved from the most-restrictive purple tier in the California Department of Public Health’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy to its second highest tier, the red tier, indicating “substantial” COVID-19 transmission.
Other counties that have moved into the red tier include Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Yolo counties. Amador, Calaveras, and San Francisco counties have moved into the “moderate” transmission orange tier.
Before this was made official, the county moving tiers was discussed during a COVID-19 update at Tuesday’s Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting.
According to Public Health director Van Do-Reynoso, the two weeks between Sept. 7 and 21 saw a unanimous decrease in new cases in all localities of Santa Barbara County. COVID-19 hospitalizations during this period decreased by 30%, med-surg rates by 19% and ICU rates by 50%.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in the county per day per 100,000 people is 4.8, which qualifies for the red tier, and the positivity rate is 3.2%, which qualifies for the orange tier. Under the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a county’s color-coded status is determined by its most severe metric.
Santa Barbara County entering the red tier will begin a gradual reopening of businesses’ indoor operations. Gyms and fitness centers will be able to operate at 10% capacity, while museums, zoos and aquariums will be able to operate at 25% capacity.
Places of worship, movie theaters and restaurants will be able to operate indoors at 25% capacity with a maximum of 100 people.
And all retail businesses will be able to operate at 50% capacity.
Businesses that will not be able to reopen indoor operations in the red tier include bars, breweries, distilleries and family entertainment centers.
According to Dr. Do-Reynoso, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department will announce its guidance for Halloween to curb a possible spike in cases due to holiday gatherings.
“Halloween cannot be celebrated in the same manner as previous years because we are in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve made huge strides, and we’d like to maintain the gains,” she said.
The sentiment to remain vigilant throughout Halloween and subsequent holidays was echoed by 2nd District supervisor and board chair Gregg Hart.
“We really cannot be in a situation where we’re going back and forth between the colors. The consequences of that are really serious and severe for everybody,” he said.
In other business, with a 4-1 vote, the Board of Supervisors passed an urgency ordinance to temporarily prohibit evictions for commercial tenants who fail to pay rent due to COVID-19-related financial impacts.
Board vice chair and 4th District supervisor Peter Adam was the lone “no” vote on the grounds that he saw no need to prohibit evictions of commercial tenants. He explained that due to current economic conditions, landlords are in little hurry to kick tenants out when it’s not clear that they’ll get another commercial tenant to replace the evicted one. He added that extending an eviction moratorium doesn’t address the main reason businesses are struggling to stay afloat.
“You may want to put a Band-aid on, but the root cause of this is our failure to open,” he said.
The new urgency ordinance extends the previous urgency ordinance prohibiting commercial evictions that expires today. Under the new ordinance, evicting commercial tenants whose failure to pay rent is due to COVID-19 fiscal impacts will be prohibited through Jan. 31.
Under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-80-20, counties are authorized to temporarily suspend commercial evictions through March 31.
For a commercial tenant to avoid eviction, the tenant needs to provide written notice to the owner and provide documentation like a “Declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress” that demonstrates failure to pay rent is due to the pandemic.
The commercial tenant must also pay 25% of each rental payment due from Sept. 1 to Jan 31.