Just over a year ago, Santa Barbara County reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 15, 2020.
The past 12 months have rocked the county with major surges in cases, schools and businesses closing, sweeping unemployment, and increasing hospitalizations and deaths. But now, the county is beginning to pull itself out.
Since January, cases have begun to take a turn for the best and have been decreasing across the board. Over the past two weeks, March 1-15, hospitalizations have continued to decrease by 34 percent. Active cases have decreased 42 percent. ICU rates continue to decrease, as well. The adjusted case rate is 7.7 and the testing positivity 3.3 percent.
The county’s first COVID-19 death was on April 4, 2020. A little less than a year later, there are now 429 deaths.
The county also moved back into the red tier for the first time in months on Tuesday, meaning more businesses can open up. Restaurants can now open indoors with 25 percent capacity, retail and shopping centers can open up indoors with 50 percent capacity, and gyms can open up with 10 percent indoor capacity. The change goes into effect on Wednesday, March 17, and businesses can resume indoor operations at that time, according to Public Health officials.
The county is also receiving an increasingly larger supply of the vaccine each week. There were 9,080 doses received last week, and next week is expected to be about the same. President Joe Biden announced earlier last week that every adult in the country who wants a vaccine will be eligible to receive one by the end of May.
Though case rates are improving, the pandemic is still hitting the labor market hard week by week, even a year in. Initial and continuing jobless claims were announced last Thursday, and initial claims for first-time unemployment insurance rose by 9,000 to 745,000 people. Those with continued claims continue to decline.
Resources to help cities and counties recover from the pandemic have come a long way since the start of the pandemic. The president signed the American Rescue Plan at the pandemic’s one-year mark — Santa Barbara County gets a direct allocation of $86.6 million. The county has also increased funding for small business resources like the Paycheck Protection Program.
Overall, Santa Barbara County can finally be optimistic again after such a hard year. President Biden said during his remarks last week that he hoped that by the Fourth of July, the nation would be closer to “normal.” However, 1st District Supervisor Das Williams made it clear on Friday that Santa Barbara may not quite be able to reach this goal.
“As the ones who actually have to execute what the president says, it’s very unrealistic,” Williams said, and added the goal would be realistic only if there were a massive increase in federal vaccine allocation. He estimated that it will take around 70 weeks for everyone in Santa Barbara County to get vaccinated, saying that the county is still hoping for an increase in vaccination supplies.