Santa Barbara County Health Department Director Van Do-Reynoso, Ph.D. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Santa Barbara health officials Dr. Van Do-Reynoso and Dr. Henning Ansorg gave updates on the county’s COVID-19 status during a virtual press conference Friday.

While the statewide case rate is approaching a record low, the same cannot be said for Santa Barbara County, they explained. “Unfortunately, our case rate is inching upward,” Do-Reynoso said. “Definitely in the wrong direction.”

If the trend continues, the county will not be able to move into the less restrictive Orange Tier, she said. Santa Barbara remains in the Red Tier, where it has been since March 16. Its adjusted case rate ― now at 5.3 percent ― must fall below 4 percent to reach Orange status.

Ansorg also voiced his concern with the county’s upward trend, saying health officials are searching for an explanation. Possible reasons for the uptick include newly reopened activities, higher than average increases among young people, and the presence of variants, Ansorg said.

However, Ansorg clarified that while local health officials have seen an increase in the U.K. variant in county data, it is not to the same extent as other parts of the country.

Both Do-Reynoso and Ansorg urged community members to do their share and continue to social distance, get tested, and stay masked.

Pivoting to vaccination efforts, Do-Reynoso reported that Santa Barbara County has received 194,360 vaccine doses thus far. Of these, the county has administered 101,535 first doses, 54,661 second doses, and 4,720 single doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Currently, the 50+ population is eligible for vaccination as well as those in the 16-49 age range with serious health conditions. 

But starting on April 15, all residents ages 16+ will be eligible, regardless of underlying conditions. 

Dr. Ansorg said he was “very pleased” with the county’s vaccination progress thus far and encouraged residents to register for their vaccination as soon as possible. 

Ansorg reported that in Santa Barbara, around 50 percent of the 65+ population is fully vaccinated and 20 percent of residents aged 16+ are vaccinated.

“The vaccines continue to prove to be very safe and effective,” he said.

Toward the end of the update, Do-Reynoso commented on new state reopening guidelines that are set to take effect on April 15. The updates most notably allow for some indoor live events and gatherings ― including concerts, theater shows, conferences, and so forth ― to resume, even for regions in the Red Tier. 

Do-Reynoso said the county intends to follow the new guidelines and will adhere to tier-specific standards. “Santa Barbara County will fall in line with the recently released guidelines from the state,” she said. 

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