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SB County Public Health explains confidence in reopening despite more cases, hospitalizations

State Street promenade
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People stroll and bike down State Street in downtown Santa Barbara after it was closed to cars last month.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Even with increasing positive tests and more hospitalizations, Santa Barbara County Public Health leaders are confident that the County can continue to reopen safely.

Several new businesses, including bars, gyms and movie theaters, were allowed to reopen beginning Friday.

The County reported two new deaths and 61 new coronavirus cases Friday. Officials quickly clarified that the 61 cases were artificially inflated, after a glitch caused 38 positive tests to go unreported over a recent 12-day span before they were added together all at once.

Positive tests and hospitalizations are rising in the county. Public Health says, however, that the increasing numbers also come with some context.

Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg says significantly more people in the County are being tested now. He also says that while the county could only test ill people before, they now can test anyone, regardless of symptoms.

Many of the people testing positive now are healthy and asymptomatic, and may or may not be infectious at the time of their positive test, according to Ansorg, who also cited lower intensive care unit admissions across the county compared to a month ago.

“The virus is still spreading,” he said. “However, currently it appears that less people are experiencing severe illness than our daily case reports might suggest.”

Ansorg says positive test results have increased since Memorial Day weekend, when more businesses reopened, but that Public Health "has not seen more severe illness across the county, as we might have expected."

"Therefore, we do feel confident that our continued phased opening of additional industry and business sectors, as of today, are a responsible move," Ansorg said. "Providing our communities continue to do their part with physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and practicing excellent hand hygiene."

With regard to more people gathering at recent rallies and protests against racial injustice, Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart and Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso say they've seen nearly all protestors and organizers wearing masks.

Do-Reynoso and Ansorg say they are confident that the county's residents will continue to strictly follow the health guidelines.

If an outbreak were to occur and the county begins to fall short of the benchmarks needed to remain safely open, Do-Reynoso says the state would intervene and offer assistance before restrictions were tightened or businesses were closed again.

“We together will be monitoring ourselves,” she said. “It will not be overnight where will pull the lever. It will be continuous conversations with a lot of heads up when we get into that ‘Danger Zone.’”

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Ryan Fish

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