Santa Barbara moves back to most restrictive purple tier

Madison Smoak, Staff Writer

Yesterday, Santa Barbara County rejoined forty other counties in California at the purple and most restrictive tier of the COVID-19 reopening plan. Weeks prior, Santa Barabra entered the red, less restrictive tier on Governor Gavin Newsom’s four-tier reopening plan which lifted many restrictions from businesses, schools, and public activities. 

After several weeks at the red tier, Santa Barbara County remained hopeful that they were taking better precautions, according to an Oct. 27 press release from the Public Health Department. Instead, COVID-19 case rates soared upon the reopening of indoor seating at restaurants, bars, and even schools. The Halloween weekend gave rise to a more ferocious spread, according to California case rates.  

The purple tier indicates more than seven cases per 100,000 residents or more than 8 percent of test results recorded positive over seven days. For Santa Barbara County, restaurants, gyms, and the zoo are among the places that will be forced to back to a limited, 25 percent capacity, which was last seen in the final weeks of September.

As the holiday season approaches, the County encourages Santa Barbara residents to keep a distance, avoid travel, wear a mask, and wash hands with frequency. Large controversy has sparked regarding Governor Newsom’s Thanksgiving holiday guidelines to maintain and reduce case rates. 

The way that families choose to limit their interactions outside of the household while gathering for holidays can either help or hurt COVID-19 statistics in Santa Barbara and California as a whole. That being said, the University of California, Santa Barbara, located in Isla Vista, has a huge role in the county’s ability to move up a tier, claims the Santa Barbara Independent. Currently, Isla Vista accounts for four percent of Santa Barbara’s COVID-19 cases, according to The Santa Barbara Public Health Department. Cases of COVID-19 can be traced to the sorority and fraternity houses located in Isla Vista which might make or break the amount of time Santa Barbara rests at the purple tier.

Moreover, as students prepare to travel home for Thanksgiving week, the way that students and college campuses handle health and safety affects has a big effect on the local caseload. Jason Tavarez, Westmont’s Director of Institutional Resilience, discussed what the upcoming weeks might look like in regards to ensuring student and campus health safety. 

Tavarez shared that Westmont “will be doing a great deal of testing of folks coming back, and we will be urging students on campus to not meet with friends in dorm rooms and be extra diligent upon their return until a negative COVID test is in hand (of course all protocols should be followed regardless of COVID test results; we will be calling for even stricter adherence in the time between return to campus and results being obtained).”

When it comes to the county’s role, “increasing testing, improving the messaging to communities that maintain 6 feet of distance, wearing of face coverings, and avoiding crowds was the only way to flatten the curve and reduce hospitalization,” suggested Tavarez. The Independent shared that how the public treats the holiday season, especially those traveling or enjoying time outside, is critical to begin the upward hike towards the red tier once more. 

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