San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties meet the new rules Gov. Gavin Newsom released May 18 for when counties are ready to reopen but Santa Barbara County does not.
In order to move forward with reopening, counties have to meet several criteria, including:
• Stable hospitalizations of COVID-19 individuals on a seven-day average of daily percent change of less than 5 percent or no more than 20 COVID-19 hospitalizations on any single day in the past 14 days.
• Less than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days or less than 8 percent testing positive in the county.
San Luis Obispo County has had the lowest count of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Tri-Counties. According to the state’s official roadmap to recovery, SLO County has had 15.1 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 14 days, well under the guideline of no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents.
Ventura County is also ready to reopen. The county has had 255 new cases within the past 14 days, for a total of 29.9 cases per 100,000 residents, but only 3.5 percent testing positive, according to Ventura County CEO Mike Powers.
Santa Barbara County is nowhere near ready to reopen. At 945 new cases in the past 14 days, the county has 207.1 cases per 100,000 residents. Of those cases, 797 are part of an outbreak at the federal prison complex in Lompoc, which means that Santa Barbara County has no real say or jurisdiction about how to handle those cases going forward.
There are also additional guidelines counties need to meet. The counties must test extensively to reopen – they can’t not look for cases. According to other guidelines put forward by the governor, there needs to be a minimum daily testing of 1.5 residents per 1,000 residents, which the state says can be met through a combination of testing those with symptoms and “targeted surveillance.” County health leaders have to justify their reasoning if they don’t think they need such an extensive level of testing.
The testing needs to be accessible and available for at least 75 percent of residents. Specimen collection sites need to be within 30 minutes of driving time for residents in urban areas, and within an hour for those in rural areas. And if someone does test positive, there needs to be sufficient contact tracing so public health staff can work with the infected person to help them remember everyone they have had close contact with during the time they may have been infectious.
The state also put guidelines on how much surge capacity county hospitals must have, and how the counties plan to prevent and mitigate the virus’ spread through vulnerable populations, such as those in nursing homes and the homeless.
Those guidelines include needing counties to have plans concerning PPE and protecting essential workers, both in and out of health care settings, but those requirements were left vague and up to individual counties.
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