Hartmann takes over as chair
Supervisor Joan Hartmann stepped into her new role as chair and heard a COVID-19 update during the Board of Supervisors’ first meeting of the year.
Passing along the literal and metaphorical gavel, Supervisor Bob Nelson thanked the Board for never having to use it.
“This Board has not been a partisan Board,” Supervisor Nelson said in the meeting. “As the world around us gets more divided, we have done a good job at staying united and focusing on the goal of delivering local government to our constituents.”
Accepting the position as Chair for 2022, Supervisor Hartmann additionally thanked the Board for their decorum throughout a challenging year.
“It’s been a very demanding year. However, a number of people have remarked on how well our Board gets along,” Chair Hartmann said in the meeting. “We owe a lot to Supervisor Lavagnino’s wit, Supervisor Hart’s optimism, Supervisor Nelson’s ‘seek something for everyone’ solutions and Supervisor Williams’ fearlessness.”
In their first meeting, the newly positioned Board heard a COVID-19 report from Santa Barbara Public Health Department representatives Dr. Van Do-Reynoso and Dr. Henning Ansorg.
According to the Public Health Department, active cases are up 80% with a two week average of 6,513 versus a prior 3,628 cases.
“We are hypothesizing that these records are due to the Omicron variant,” Director of the PHD Dr. Do-Reynoso told the Board.
The CDC projects that 95% of cases are the omicron variant in “Region 9,” which includes the central coast.
Dr. Do-Reynoso then explained the current peak in relation to previous spikes in cases by using the preferred metric of cases per 100,000 people.
The alpha variant peak was 99.4 cases per 100,000 while the delta variant peak was 31.2.
The omicron surge is currently peaking at 187.8 cases per 100,000 people.
This spike in cases is having a significant effect on hospitals, as Dr. Do-Reynoso explained they are approaching the “red zone” for hospital bed use. The “red zone” means there are less than 35% of hospital beds available.
Case rates are also spiking particularly amongst unvaccinated individuals, according to the Public Health Department.
“Case rates among unvaccinated individuals increased around 301%,” Dr. Do-Reynoso told the Board. “In our community, people who are unvaccinated are about 2.7 times more likely to get COVID-19 than vaccinated individuals.”
In response to Supervisor Lavagnino’s request for good news, Dr. Do-Reynoso shared some positive strategies that the Public Health Department is implementing.
“The fact that we were able to order 80,000 at-home antigen tests on a weekly basis to flood our community is a good strategy,” Dr. Do-Reynoso told the Board. “The fact that we are expanding our COVID testing sites is another piece of good news.”
Dr. Do-Reynoso and Dr. Ansorg explained how the omicron variant interrupted conversations to move from pandemic to endemic.
“The fastest path to living with COVID is not necessarily the best path,” Dr. Ansorg told the Board.
Dr. Ansorg explained that while a small percentage of individuals with the omicron variant end up in the hospital, as the case numbers rise that number of individuals within the small percentage also rises.
Other than the COVID-19 update, the Board heard an update from the Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission regarding the new County Supervisorial map.
Of the many changes, the most dramatic are West Cuyama Valley moving from District 5 to District 1, Isla Vista and UCSB moving from District 3 to District 2, the Lompoc area moving from District 4 to District 3 and the Guadalupe area moving from District 3 to District 5.
“I want to thank everyone for volunteering to be on the Commission,” said Supervisor Das Williams. “Without the participation from the community, the process would fall apart.”
The County Executive Office also proposed an amendment to cannabis business licensing fees.
The Board unanimously approved staff recommendations.
The Board also unanimously approved an ordinance which requires an electronic campaign disclosure.