By Raiza Giorgi


Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said he was excited to see the trend of cases coming downward after the fiasco of underreported cases to the State. Public health officials have a disclaimer on their status report dashboard while they waited for the state to clear a backlog of underreported cases. 

After working for two weeks straight to ensure that the case count matched the State records, Ansorg added he feels confident in starting to accept waivers for K-6th instruction at schools. 

“Kids especially in the smaller ages and grades need to have in-person learning. The schools are being given strict guidelines in this application for the waiver which will need to have support from staff and parents,” Ansorg said. 

Reopening waivers will have to submit evidence they consulted with labor and parent organizations, as well as development plans for reopening including daily health screenings, face screenings of either a mask or a face shield with cloth underneath for students third grade and above and cleaning routines, Ansorg explained. 

Ansorg also clarified school staff will have to do routine screenings, roughly once every two months to pick up any incedental positives. The county will support the teachers and staff as they are classified essential workers and provide webinars and how to do contact tracing if there is a positive staff or student. 

The case count for the county is trending downward and to come off the state’s monitoring list, the county will have to show only 450 cases in a two-week period. That number is derived from only 100 cases per 100,000 people in the county, of which Santa Barbara has 450,000 residents. 

“I saw that Santa Cruz and San Diego Counties just came off the monitoring list, so if they can do it I am confident we can get there soon as well,” Ansorg said. 

In the Santa Ynez Valley, the COVID-19 cases have remained low since reporting started in mid- March. There have only been 87 positive cases and currently there are two active cases as of Tuesday, Aug. 18. Active cases meaning those individuals are currently in the two-week recovery period from being identified as positive. 

The application will be available to districts on Friday, and letters will be sent to all school district superintendents to let them know of the waiver, Ansorg said. 

The waiver will take up to 14 days to decide and the districts will have to make their reopening plans made available on their websites for the public to view. 

Santa Ynez Charter School said their district has the waiver on the board’s agenda for their meeting next Tuesday, Aug. 25, and will have to check with their staff and parents. 

Solvang Elementary Superintendent Dr. Steve Seaford sent a ParentSquare message to parents on Tuesday saying he wasn’t wanting to move forward at this time. 

“Given previous stakeholder input and discussions, about a return to campus, I know there are mixed feelings about this. Please know that we have a plan to transition to a hybrid instructional model. However, given waiver requirements, we aren’t prepared to put that plan in place right now. Waiver requirements put the burden of COVID-19 testing and contact-tracing on the teachers and district. Consequently, I feel like the state and county public health departments’ plans, in effect, seek to deputize schools to do the work they have been hard pressed to do themselves. If the state and county are able to provide testing and contact-tracing resources to us, we would seriously consider a waiver and refine plans to implement a hybrid instructional model,” Seaford wrote. 

Santa Ynez Valley Christian Academy will be applying for the waiver as soon as possible, according to school staff. 

When asked some parents said they are wanting to get their kids back to class. 

“I am confident in the safety of all if Los Olivos School opens. The administrators, teachers and foundation have been extremely prudent and thoughtful in their planning for reopening,” said Charlotte Dicke, who has a child at Los Olivos School District. 

Buellton parents Jenny Thompson said she is also wanting her kids to get back to class as well. 

The teachers would have to get regular COVID-19 tests, that wasn’t known how often though, and kids would only have to take the test if there is an outbreak identified, Ansorg added. 

“We need to balance the needs of the kids in school and physical safety,” Ansorg said. 

Ansorg as always is urging everyone to continue following public health recommendations of wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance from others, and avoiding gatherings and crowds. 

The Star has reached out to several other local valley districts and private schools to see if they will be applying. Check back for updates to this story when we get more information.