COVID-19 response plan battles its own break down as health officials constantly pivot – KEYT

Gregg Hart

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Listing areas of conflict and issues with changing health orders, the public and health leaders have been open about the frustrations taking place, many in the last week.

A presentation to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors even included a rare rant from normally calming Chairman Gregg Hart.

Hart was not happy with mixed messages late last week about businesses that could open and others that were urgently closed along with the wording used. Some changes came only hours apart and there were cases where verbal information conflicted with written information until it was “cleaned up.”

Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said was even caught off guard by a change that came in last Thursday after 10 p.m. when she had already gone to bed unusually early.

She woke with an “Oh my gosh” moment. She immediately started communicating to those in the bar business about conditions that could allow them to stay open and not have to close.

That was done on a county holiday, Friday, for the 4th of July. She said many staff members who were off, came back in to service, to act on the latest needs from the public.

Finding out where the coronavirus is growing in the county is an around-the-clock job. Do-Reynoso says, “We have expedited the disease investigation process. We have 68 contact investigator contact tracers. ”

She said outside help is needed. “We have 15 contact investigator contact tracers coming from the state this week and an additional 15 next week.” The extra staff, she says, will help the county exceed the state’s expectations.

Data shows from the health department shows close person to person contact and community transmissions are the top two ways the virus is spreading.

UC Santa Barbara is assisting with undergraduate students and graduate students doing work on demographics and geographic graphics.

The latest numbers can be found here: Santa Barbara County Public Health – COVID-19

The county also warns, just because businesses have reopened, it does not mean the virus is defeated.

“We must wear a mask and we must socially distance,” said Do-Reynoso.

For people who have had a test and get negative results, it is a “false sense of security,” said Do-Reynoso who cited you could get it sometime right after the test if you are not careful.

“Behavior must change,” she said. “You must wear a mask, you must socially distance, you must wash your hands and you must not touch your face.”

Hart said the testing machines are overworked right now and were not built for 24 hour use.

In public comment, Anna Maria Gott was concerned about the spike in cases among young people. She wanted to know what is being done to deal with that increase. “A lot of it has to do with parties and very large close gatherings, ” she said. Gott called their actions irresponsible.

Gott says it is frightening to go into downtown Santa Barbara because distancing in some areas is smaller than four feet, instead of the required safety zone of six feet.

When asked if our local hospitals have out of the area patients, that have been transferred to Santa Barbara County, she said that information was being gathered. Overall to this point, she said there were four, and they have all been discharged.

The spread of the disease in farmworker communities remains a serious concern in the county. It is especially focused on the H2A close proximity farmworker housing. Health officials are learning more about living conditions.

There is an aggressive outreach underway. Messages have gone out in 10 languages and some are in media public service announcements.

Testing is also being done on a limited basis in Guadalupe and Cuyama. These are locations beyond the three other designated sites in the county. The health department is considering other sites in the future.

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said the county should also “looking at other kind of permit relief. Overall as low as people’s water heaters. We have a fee.” He said there should be “all kinds of fee relief and reductions as we go through a time when people are struggling. There’ s a lot of business people out there struggling to keep their doors open.”

Questions were also raise about which agency is able to enforce rules about masks. The health department says there’s a broad authority by the Sheriff and every law enforcement concerning Covid 19.”This gives us the band width to make sure the health officer order and face mask requirements are followed,” said Do-Reynoso.

Here’s how to: Report a violation

Supervisor Das Williams says from the data he says he wants to know “where we are getting the most infections and why.” He says members of the public are, ” very alarmed right now and understandably so. I want us to remain focused on where our trouble spots are.”

High incidents have been reported with farm workers and health officials are learning more about living conditions.

“I know the growers have measures in place,” said Do-Reynoso. She is coordinating enforcement through the Agricultural Commissioner, Public Health and Cal Osha.

Williams says, “this is a trouble spot for us. Responsible employers are already doing this but there may be some folks who are not.”

Supervisor JoanHartman reminded the board, ” if we don’t comply with the guidelines (from the state) there are serious consequences.”

Watch tonight on KEYT NewsChannel 3, KCOY NewsChannel12 and KKFX Fox 11 news.

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

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