Santa Barbara County supervisors say state didn’t notify them prior to recent business closures

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Local business owners weren’t the only ones surprised last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to close some sectors in Santa Barbara County. It appears local officials were caught off guard as well.

During the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting on July 7, 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said that the state didn’t notify the county that some local businesses would have to close until Newsom made the announcement in one of his daily press conferences. Later in the day, the state sent out its mandates that county health officials then had to interpret and implement.

“I’m sure people who are not involved in government think this is all seamless, and it’s easy, and the state mandates are clearly communicated to local governments that are easily executed,” Hart said. “That is not the case. This is extraordinarily not that system.”



On June 28, the state recommended bars close in certain counties that were experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, including Santa Barbara. The county issued a health order carrying out this recommendation the next day.

On July 1, the governor announced during a press conference that indoor operations of certain businesses—including restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, zoos, museums, cardrooms, and family entertainment centers—had to close in Santa Barbara and other counties on the state’s watch list.

That state’s watch list consists of counties that are failing to meet specific metrics aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19. Santa Barbara has been on the list for more than two weeks straight due to increases of confirmed cases in the county.

WAITING Santa Barbara County 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said some COVID-19 testing sites are returning results in five to eight days, which is too late to conduct effective contact tracing. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • WAITING Santa Barbara County 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said some COVID-19 testing sites are returning results in five to eight days, which is too late to conduct effective contact tracing.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said that while he knew the county was on the state’s watch list, he was surprised when the governor mandated counties to roll back reopening efforts rather than just pause them.

“I’m not sure how much more you can do without severely crippling the economy,” Lavagnino said.

This isn’t the only source of friction between the county and state. During the July 7 meeting, Hart said that the state-operated COVID-19 testing sites in the county are returning results to people in five to eight days, which is longer than anticipated. He said this slows down the county’s contact tracing efforts because people are getting results back when it’s too late to be effective.

Hart said this slow down in test results isn’t unique to the county and it’s a result of testing becoming limited again as many areas of the country are experiencing a surge in case numbers.

“The system of providing tests is getting wobbly again,” Hart said.

As of July 7, 3,742 people have tested positive for the virus in Santa Barbara County and 30 people have died. There are 432 active cases in the county, including 67 people who are in the hospital and 18 who are in the intensive care unit. ∆



—Zac Ezzone

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