Large gatherings contributing to spike in COVID-19 cases in SLO and Santa Barbara counties

Posted at 7:13 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 22:16:24-05

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have moved back to the state's most restrictive tier and local health officials explain that large gatherings have contributed to increased case counts in both counties.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday he is pulling an "emergency brake" on the state's economic reopening process and requiring most counties to fall back into the state’s most restrictive tier. These counties represent 94% of California's population.

"Daily cases in the State of California have doubled just in the last ten days. This is simply the fastest increase California has seen since the beginning of this pandemic,” Newsom said.

Local health officials say gatherings have contributed to increasing numbers over the past few weeks.

DuringSanta Barbara County's Virtual Public Health Updatelast week, County Director of Public Health Dr. Van Do Reynoso acknowledged the risk associated with several Halloween celebrations that took place among high school students.

"With regards to Halloween celebrations on the 30th and 31st, we know there were four parties that involve high school students," she said. "Last week we had two cases and this week we have 20 confirmed total cases tied to those four parties attended by high school students."

The current Santa Barbara County health officer order states that there should be no private gatherings of any size.

SLO County Health officials are also attributing recent high case counts to large gatherings, mostly including college students.

The Georgia Institute of Technology has provided a COVID-19 risk assessment toolonline. The model demonstrates what one's risk of contracting COVID-19 is according to real-time data from U.S. counties in conjunction with the number of people in a potential gathering.

According to their model, as of Monday, in San Luis Obispo County with a gathering of 10 people, your risk is about 9%. If you increase the gathering to 25 people, the risk jumps to 22%. And at 50 people in a gathering, the risk is projected to be 39%.

California State Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly describes the risk of mixed-household gatherings.

"We know when people gather with people they do not live with, often our close friends and family members, we think it is okay to put your guard down, we think it is okay to take off your mask even for a little bit to enjoy a drink or meal but it is exactly those moments that can create a high transmission risk," he says.

Governor Gavin Newsom says that prevention, testing, isolation, and vaccination are strategies that can help slow transmission throughout California.

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department issued the following guidance Monday for residents planning to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday: