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Central Coast Counties Want Out of State-Designated SoCal Region

Officials in three counties on the Central Coast are pushing back against being lumped in with Southern California when it comes to the state’s stay-at-home restrictions. With low COVID-19 case and death rates and high ICU bed availability, the counties don’t want to be penalized for their proximity to coronavirus hot zones and are asking to be considered as a separate region.

San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura are the counties that want to separate from the 11-county Southern California region, which includes the county of Los Angeles, where the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 surged to all-time highs in December. Should the three counties get their way, the state would not include the metrics of any other counties when determining pandemic restrictions. On Thursday, the region in the aggregate dropped to 0% ICU bed capacity.

“We have consistently done better in terms of disease transmission and hospitalizations than the rest of Southern California, and we think it’s fair and appropriate that is recognized,” said Gregg Hart, a Santa Barbara County supervisor.

Hart says the counties aren’t asking to get out of the stay-at-home orders that are currently imposed.

“We’re just talking about when the three weeks is up, if our ICU capacity remains below the state minimum, that would be the opportunity for us to exit the stay-at-home order.”

Currently in San Luis Obispo County, over half of the ICU beds are available.

“We are still in very much better stead,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, the county’s public health officer. “I believe that we still have the ability to control our destiny. And we would like to do that.”

Local business owners are pushing just as hard; all of the chambers of commerce in the region started a petition for independence from the SoCal region, garnering tens of thousands of signatures.

Dr. Borenstein announced she and her counterparts in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are making the same case to the state’s secretary of health. And the boards of all three counties unanimously signed a letter to the governor this week asking him to create a separate Central Coast region.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

—Greta Mart, KCBX


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