Santa Barbara County is closing in on reentering the state’s COVID-19 Red Tier for the first time in months — allowing more business operations, like indoor dining, to resume.
The county’s adjusted case rate, or the number of new cases per day for every 100,000 residents, is currently at 9.7. Santa Barbara must achieve a new case rate of between 4-7 in order to drop down from the more restrictive Purple Tier.
The California Department of Public Health is currently attempting to administer 2 million vaccines to those living in the state’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. Once the agency reaches its goal, officials recently announced, the standard for entering the Red Tier will be widened to 4-10 new cases per 100,000 residents ― which Santa Barbara County currently meets.
“The state has administered 1.875 million vaccines in [the most vulnerable neighborhoods] so far,” said Santa Barbara’s Public Health Director, Dr. Van Do-Reynoso. “So it is conceivable that by Friday or early next week we will be moved into the red.”
The state’s next goal is to administer four million vaccines to people living in the most vulnerable areas, and at that time the standards for all tiers will shift again.
LOCAL VACCINATION EFFORTS
This week, there was a 39 percent increase in the county’s vaccine allocation. It received 9,080 vaccines last week and 12,580 first doses this week — including the new Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.
The Public Health Department is continuing its 70/30 vaccine split this week, too. Seventy percent of the vaccines are allocated for health-care workers and those 65 and older, and the other 30 percent is split between workers in emergency services, childcare and education, and food and agriculture.
Some members of the public and supervisors pushed back on the allocation for farmworkers, an underserved group who are typically Latino and low-income. Already, Latinos have been disproportionately impacted because they make up 48 percent of the county population while making up 73 percent of the cases.
“My office has been really active in working with the ag community to try to find a way to get more vaccines, not pointing fingers as much as looking under every rock possible,” said Bob Nelson, 4th District Supervisor. “I am frustrated by our inability to send more vaccines to the ag and food worker community.”
For now, Do-Reynoso said her department is “well-invested and supportive” of the agricultural and food workers and that the allocation is the most they are currently able to give.
The Centers for Disease Control also offered new interim recommendations for fully vaccinated people. Part of the guidance allows for fully vaccinated people to visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing as well as visit indoors with unvaccinated people who are low risk and from a single household.
Do-Reynoso said her department is working on drafting local recommendations based on the new guidance, but that getting the vaccine does not mean that life “goes back to normal.” Fully vaccinated people should still take precautions and wear masks and socially distance in public, avoid medium-large gatherings, and get tested if experiencing symptoms, she said.
BY THE NUMBERS
The county’s COVID-19 metrics are still steadily declining.
Over the past two weeks, active cases have decreased by 40 percent. There are currently 272 active cases. Hospitalizations have continued to drop over the same time period by 38 percent and intensive-care-unit levels decreased by 12 percent.
Because deaths occur roughly two to eight weeks after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, the death metric is delayed. In the past two weeks, death rates have increased by 7 percent, bringing the county total to 424 people lost to the virus.
Nearly a year into the pandemic — from March 15, 2020 through March 8, 2021 — 32,414 cases have been reported in Santa Barbara County. As of this week, 71,851 county residents have been vaccinated, 50 percent of whom are fully vaccinated.