Eased restrictions now in effect
Santa Barbara County officially moved into the orange tier of COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday.
The move paves the way for expanded capacity in restaurants and businesses and signaling a phased return for live events and amusement parks.
Within the orange tier, restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship, museums, zoos and aquariums can open indoors at 50% capacity indoors. Gyms and wineries can open at 25% capacity indoors, and amusement parks are cleared to reopen at 25% max capacity. Gyms and hotels can also reopen their indoor pools under the new tier assignment.
In addition, bars that do not serve food can reopen for the first time outdoors in the orange tier. Family fun centers can also offer bowling again in the new tier assignment.
Live events can also make a comeback in the orange tier while following certain guidelines. Venues with a capacity of up to 1,500 can accommodate a maximum capacity of 15% or 200 people, wherever is fewer, and 35% of those guests must show a negative test result or proof of full vaccination.
Venues with a capacity over 1,500 can operate at 10% capacity or 2,000 people, whichever is fewer. They will also follow the 35% guideline for negative test results or proof of vaccination.
The county Public Health Department released new guidelines for business operations within the orange tier late Tuesday, which will officially go into effect at 8 a.m. today.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s Public Health director, informed the Board of Supervisors about the move into the orange tier during a meeting Tuesday. In anticipation of the long-awaited move, board members wore orange ties and neck scarves during the meeting.
As of Tuesday, the county’s case rate of 4.5 per 100,000 seats the region well within orange tier criteria, which requires a case rate between 2-5.9 per 100,000. To qualify for the orange tier, counties must also maintain an adjusted case rate of 2-4.9% testing positivity and a positivity rate of 5.3% in the health equity quartile, which is a state measure of the most at-risk communities.
Officials began gearing up for a move into the orange tier since reaching the red tier March 16. Within the last four weeks, the county experienced a sustained plateau in case rates that initially prevented the county from moving into the orange tier at the same time as Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
But cases are declining once again, and Santa Barbara is currently seeing a positivity rate of 1.8%, Dr. Do-Reynoso said Tuesday.
To reach the next tier, the minimally restrictive yellow tier, the county must remain in the current tier assignment for three consecutive weeks. Then, for two consecutive weeks, the county must maintain a case rate of less than two cases per 100,000, a positivity rate of less than 2% and less than 2.2% positivity in the health equity quartile.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Dr. Do-Reynoso also provided the board with an update on the status of vaccine distribution in the county. Currently, 52% of the county has received at least one dose and 29% of the county is fully vaccinated.