COVID Trends Improve as Vaccines Continue to Roll Out

After Stay-at-Home Order Lifted, Some Businesses Reopen Outside

Residents 75-years-old or older drive through to get the Covid-19 vaccine in Goleta. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Though the COVID-19 virus is still ravaging the state and county, public health experts are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

From January 11 to 25, Santa Barbara County has seen a 31 percent increase in cumulative recovered cases, a 23 percent decrease in active cases, and a 42 percent decrease in current hospitalized cases. Unfortunately, there was also a 34 percent increase in cumulative deaths, and the intensive-care-unit capacity is well over 80 percent. 

Credit: Courtesy

The new downward trend comes after the county was under a regional stay-at-home order for weeks. Just one day before, the order was lifted based on four-week projections that put Santa Barbara and the rest of the Southern California region above 15 percent intensive-care-unit capacity. 

“The regional stay-at-home order helped us avoid an even higher hospitalization and fatalities,” Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said at the Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting. “It could have been much worse without the order, is the bottom line.”

The projected capacity is based on the current estimated regional intensive-care-unit capacity available, the measure of current community transmission, the current regional case rates, and the proportion of intensive-care-unit cases being admitted. 

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Now Santa Barbara County will operate under the tier system in the purple tier again, so services and activities, like outdoor dining and personal services, may resume immediately with required modifications. The full list of which businesses can operate outdoors in the purple tier can be found here. Although this is an improvement from the stay-at-home order, many businesses are still not satisfied.

“On behalf of a coalition of approximately 100 local businesses, I encourage you to open the Central Coast,” said Terri Stricklin, manager of the Hitching Post in Casmalia, to the supervisors. “You all know the devastation to small businesses these lockdowns have caused. The governor lifting the stay-at-home order, allowing restaurants and other businesses to now open outside, comes at a time when we are not only having colder weather but rain and strong winds that are wreaking havoc on tents, temporary structures, heaters. How are we supposed to accommodate our customers in these conditions?”

To open the coast as Stricklin said would require the county moving out of the most restrictive purple tier. The county’s adjusted case rate and positivity rate matter the most when it comes to moving out of the purple tier. The adjusted case rate, currently at 49.5, is the number of new cases per day for every 100,000 residents of the county averaged over a week. To move out of the purple tier and into the less-restrictive red tier, that rate must be between 4 and 7.

The positivity rate, currently 13.3 percent, is the number of confirmed positive COVID-19 tests in the county divided by all the tests administered overall. 

Vaccine Ins and Outs

Do-Reynoso estimated that Santa Barbara County has administered between 65 and 75 percent of its vaccine allocation. She said those doses that haven’t made it into an arm yet have appointments attached to them. Compared to the rest of the state, Santa Barbara is doing well on vaccine rollout.

Do-Reynoso also laid out for the first time where in the county the vaccines are going to. Out of the total 44,825 vaccines, the City of Santa Barbara received the most at 19,500, while Carpinteria received the smallest amount at 900 doses. Marian Medical Center received a separate 12,955 doses as a part of a state allocation.

Hospitals distribute 50 percent of the 44,825 vaccine doses while clinics follow close behind with 42 percent of them. Pharmacies distribute 7 percent of the doses, and health-care providers distribute the remaining one percent.  

Several of the supervisors had concerns with the sign-up system. For those 75 and older, getting online is not always easy to do alone. First District Supervisor Das Williams suggested that there be a system in place beyond dialing 2-1-1 where county employees help seniors make their appointments or even do it for them. 

Getting seniors signed up for an appointment wasn’t the only issue. Second District Gregg Hart asked about those who “make an appointment and continue shopping for sooner appointments,” therefore taking up several appointment slots at one time. Do-Reynoso told him that all providers have different scheduling systems, but she assured him any vaccine from a canceled appointment or no-show automatically gets used for the next day.

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