Credit: Eric Isaacs/

Santa Barbara County successfully made it to a case rate of 16.9 on Tuesday, lower than the 25 needed for elementary schools to reopen and close to the case rate of 14 required for youth sports to resume.

Six elementary schools — those with transitional kindergarten through 6th grade students — and one charter school had fully approved safety plans, the county’s health officer Dr. Henning Ansorg had spelled out last Friday. They are able to open as early as tomorrow, though they have three weeks in which to get organized, regardless of the case rate, which is adjusted by the state once a week.

County Public Health called this a “step forward” and iterated the safety guidelines for children, among them the need to keep children home who don’t feel well, limit gatherings with others, maintain social distancing, wear face masks, and keep a quarantine if a household member tests positive for COVID-19.

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“COVID-19 is largely transmitted in the community and not in a TK-6 school setting,” Ansorg said. “When everyone does their part to follow the safety guidelines and protocols, our children can return to school in a safe environment for themselves and for school staff.”

Testing remained an issue, health officials stated, because 50 percent of transmission happened before symptoms were apparent. As well, testing volume was a metric in getting to the red tier. Information about Public Health’s testing sites can be found here.

Sports also come with precautions, Ansorg said at a press conference on Friday, and the earliest red-tier counties could play would be February 26. For counties in the purple tier, where Santa Barbara remains, resumption of sports requires a case-rate level of 14. The next determination by California of the county’s COVID status will be next Tuesday.

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