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School waiver process begins in Santa Barbara County, but COVID concerns rise in Isla Vista

Santa Barbara County Health officials say they will issue school waivers soon to districts that comply with protocols. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Santa Barbara Supervisors
John Palminteri
Santa Barbara County Health officials say they will issue school waivers soon to districts that comply with protocols. (Photo: John Palminteri)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County has a mixed update on its COVID-19 status, with good news about schools, a drop in dangerous numbers in an area of concern and a new hot spot.

County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg says he is now able to issue school waivers for on campus learning in specific instances.

"For elementary schools, this process will be available in the county for grades K-6," he said.

The schools must make sure they abide by strict cleaning and disinfection, controls at entrances and exits, a health screening for the staff and face coverings for children third grade and up.

"Our significant decrease in the transmission rate in the county makes us eligible to allow for waivers in the elementary schools ," said Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.

An application will be available this week and strict protocols have to be met.

"Allow for two weeks between planned opening date and complete application of the waiver," said Ansorg.

The county's report shows the numbers in the Santa Maria area which have been the highest in the county are coming down.

There has been a focused outreach in multiple languages there.

"Over a two week period we see a 41 percent decrease in new cases.  And that is significant," said Health Director Van Do-Reynoso.

Santa Barbara area numbers have also gone down, by 25 percent.

"We are starting to see compliance, people are doing it," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gregg Hart. He warned, "This is the moment when the risk is....people get lax again." Hart said if there is a pause on efforts,  that will, "put us right back to where we were and we can't have that happen."

The county also heard a "red flag" has occurred in Isla Vista.

This has been possibly linked to the limited return of student residents to do their remote learning at Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara from their apartments and rental homes. "Isla Vista has increased by 255 percent  going from 22 cases to 78 cases during this two week period."

Last weekend there were several larger gatherings and parties observed on several streets.

"We need an all hands on deck effort in Isla Vista and I don't think we have it yet," said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann

The county is immediately launching a new message aimed directly at young people.

For more information go to : Santa Barbara County Health

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John Palminteri

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