Despite steadily falling numbers, including hospitalizations and positive test rates, Santa Barbara County remains stuck in the top purple tier of the state’s new color-coded COVID-19 tracking system, meaning the virus is still considered “widespread” in the region and many nonessential indoor businesses remain closed.
Santa Barbara health authorities announced Tuesday a seven-day average case rate ― one of the key metrics of the new four-tiered system ― of 8.3 new cases per 100,000 county residents. That figure needs to drop to 7.0 for the county to enter the lower red tier and allow for more business reopenings. Officials noted Santa Barbara’s number was 9.0 on August 31. They expressed guarded optimism the region could reach 7.0 by the end of September.
Neighboring Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties remain in the top purple tier, as well. When the new system went into effect on August 31, 38 of California’s counties were purple, nine red, nine orange, and two yellow. Since then, five counties have dropped from purple to red.
Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s infectious-disease expert, called the decreasing hospitalization rate in the area “a really tremendous win.” It’s been cut in half over the last couple of months, she said. Fitzgibbons also urged Santa Barbara residents to start preparing for the flu season by getting a flu shot and being mindful of their health. “Please, please, please take care of yourself now,” she said. “Think about ways to enter flu season as healthy and safe as possible so you and your loved ones can stay out of the hospital.”
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