Santa Barbara County moves to least restrictive level
Santa Barbara County officially qualified for the yellow tier of COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday after nearly seven weeks in the orange tier.
The yellow tier, which is the least restrictive of the state’s tiers, will go into effect at 8 this morning.
Under yellow tier restrictions, restaurants, gyms, wineries, movie theaters and places of worship can open at 50% capacity indoors. In addition, retail stores can open with no capacity limitations.
To reach the yellow tier, the county maintained an adjusted case rate of less than two cases per every 100,000 residents, a testing positivity rate of less than 2% and less than 2.2% positive tests for the health equity quartile. As of Tuesday, the county’s case rate stands at 0.9 cases per 100,000, the positivity rate is 0.7%, and the positive tests in the health equity quartile stands at 1%.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, told the News-Press the move to the yellow tier is “excellent news” and confirmation that the county’s case rate is going in the right direction.
“I think it’s really reassuring just to have confirmation that our case rate is indeed still downtrending, and that is, of course, very reassuring for the Public Health (Department) to see that (trend) factually and (to see) that even loosening up restrictions hasn’t had a negative effect,” Dr. Ansorg said.
The county’s tier shift comes just one week before the state will dissolve the tier system completely, essentially ridding the state of mask mandates and most COVID-19 restrictions.
Going into next Tuesday, Dr. Ansorg said the county stands at a good place in terms of immunity thanks to the vaccine rollout.
“We have (nearly) 65% of the eligible population that has at least one shot, and 55% have a complete regimen of vaccination,” Dr. Ansorg said. “In addition to that, there are some people who acquired natural immunity by going through the infection. So the estimation is that about 75% have immunity right now in Santa Barbara County and Southern California all together.”
Once the tier system is discarded, Dr. Ansorg said it’s likely masks will become optional in most spaces.
The health officer said by next week, people will likely not need a mask to enter a grocery store.
In addition, the county and the state will no longer enforce a mask mandate after June 15, leaving it up to business owners discretion for service requirements.
In workplaces, however, employees will be expected to follow Cal/OSHA standards for masking.
Residents can also expect to see mask requirements for large-scale indoor events, or even events outdoors where lots of people are crammed tightly in certain areas, such as concerts.
For struggling industry sectors, the move to the yellow tier and the impending end to the tier system means things may finally be starting to look normal.
Kristen Miller, the president and CEO of the South Coast Chamber of Commerce, said she is hopeful the new tier assignment will bring more opportunity for recovery.
“The yellow tier indicates even more opportunity for our economy to reopen,” Ms. Miller told the News-Press. “While we are just a week away from the end of tiered regulations, every day that businesses can be allowed to operate without constraints is beneficial to our economy and to the individuals whose businesses have been most impacted by COVID. We are also encouraged by the continued reduction in cases and effectiveness of the vaccination in our community.”
To help businesses navigate the June 15 reopening, Ms. Miller said the Chamber of Commerce plans to issue guidance through a second installment of the Roadmap to Recovery — a comprehensive plan that supports business recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic.
With immunity climbing across the region, the county’s daily case rates remain low. As of Tuesday, the county reported six new infections and no new deaths.
Two cases were reported in both Santa Barbara and Orcutt, and one case was reported in the North County areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe. One case is pending.