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Santa Barbara County meets state criteria and gets ready for careful reopening with the RISE program

Reopen rally
John Palminteri
Marches to fully reopen cities and counties in California are taking place weekly. (Photo: John Palminteri)
RISE plan to reopen
John Palminteri
Plans to partially reopen cities and counties in California are taking place . (Photo: John Palminteri)
RISE plan
John Palminteri
Plans to partially reopen cities and counties in California are taking place . (Photo: John Palminteri)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - It won't be a turnkey plan but the RISE guide will help Santa Barbara County and its paralyzed communities a chance to open up under a new plan that has the approval of Governor Gavin Newsom.

RISE stands for Reopening in Safe Environment. It will be presented to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Supervisor Das Williams said the county has received word that it can move forward with reopening phases if certain health care, sanitation and spacing rules are met. That will help employees and customers to have a safe environment even if there's no vaccine for COVID-19.

The county says in its report six unique factors will be a concern.

  1. The popularity of Santa Barbara County as a tourist destination. It is likely that tourism, especially from other California regions, as well as cruise ships, including some epidemic hot spots, will increase as people tire of stay-at-home orders and the weather warms.
  2. The influx of a significant number of college students who have spent time outside of the area and potentially returning with COVID-19 with or without symptoms. If these campuses decide to re-open, there could be an increased risk at the community level.
  3. A lack of immunity among the majority of residents given a relatively low prevalence of COVID-19 during the first wave as compared to other areas of California.
  4. The dynamic movement of the farmworker labor force.
  5. An ever-increasing population of residents struggling with insecure housing.
  6. Lompoc penitentiary is a large congregate living environment.

The county wrote a letter to Gov. Newsom asking for a reevaluation of the daily coronavirus numbers with the Lompoc Prison hot spot pulled out separately.

The Santa Barbara County Health officials said recently without that change, the county was not in compliance. Now, there's a more positive scenario.

What local leaders also needed was the formula change based on cases per population size. Recently the number of cases, hospitalizations, ICU beds and deaths were all dropping.

The county is worried that a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak could be looming if many people, ranging from tourists to students, reenter the area without any understanding of their testing, or potential to carry the virus.

The county says as it reopens there will be a close watch of the numbers to see if there is an upward trend for infections, admissions into hospitals and deaths. That will also include facility capacity, personnel available to handle the cases and the trace and track methods to know who has been in contacted with an infected person.

"Now we are asking you to put in place mechanisms at places of business to continue social distancing." said Williams.  

The RISE plan is essential as part of the reopening, "to allow people to get back to work  and avoid problems down the line for deeping poverty."

The county has several levels of information in its efforts to have a full reopening. It includes federal and state guidelines along with examples from other areas.

Currently the earliest portions of what is called Stage 2 have been announced and are being evaluated.

That includes curbside service for some retail along with the continued "to-go" service for restaurants. Many studies say however, the model to have fewer restaurant seats to meet spacing guidelines as well as a "take out" plan is not strong enough to keep some businesses open.

The James Beard Foundation reports only one in five restaurant owners believe they will survive the pandemic. They also say the Paycheck Protection Program is not strong enough to carry them and their workers through the pandemic.

Congress is currently working on a long term relief plan but the moving parts remain in dispute.

In the last few weeks there have been many "reopen" rallies with residents and business owners holding signs and marching at major locations in the area to call for a faster pace to bring the economy back.

One was held Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara and attended by about 50 people. Larger rallies, in the hundreds, have taken place in Ventura County, and throughout the state.

Williams also said parking limitations will be rolled out in some beach areas this weekend to help manage impacts from vehicles and the general public overall.

Watch for full details tonight on KEYT NewsChannel 3, KCOY NewsChannel 12 and KKFX Fox 11 news.

(More details and video will be added here later today.)

For more information about the state's COVID-19 rules go to: COVID-19.ca.gov

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For more information about the county's program go to: RISE

Coronavirus / Economy / Events / Health / Outdoors / Politics / Safety / Santa Barbara - South County / Travel

John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.

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