A sign saying face masks required on State Street. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

In the face of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) sudden guidance change last week that allows for vaccinated people to go maskless in most indoor situations, Santa Barbara County will keep its mask mandate for another month longer.

“The CDC guidance does allow for local and state governance, and based upon the Sacramento CDPH recommending that we maintain the masks indoors, we are keeping masks because we simply aren’t there yet in terms of vaccination rates,” Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said.

June 15 is the target date that the state plans to remove masks indoors, when it will also lose the “blueprint” tiered system of slowly reopening the economy and go back to much of what life was like before the pandemic. 

For now, Dr. Henning Ansorg, county public health officer, said that vaccinated people should still wear masks anytime they are indoors in public and to even keep their masks on outside if there is a crowd of others around. Vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask outside, he said, and unvaccinated people can also go maskless outdoors if social distancing is observed. He also added that fully vaccinated people can entertain other fully vaccinated people without masks if they are in their own home and not in public. 

Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson said that, although he isn’t an “anti-masker,” he is disappointed in the decision to require masks for vaccinated people, and that not requiring them for vaccinated people could have been used as an incentive to get more people vaccinated.

“I think as the science evolves, we should react to it, and it’s a huge mistake for the state not to recognize it right now,” Nelson said. “People don’t believe us anymore and don’t believe the government is going to give away that authority that they’ve taken during these emergency measures. I think this has been a huge missed opportunity for the state to show good faith.”

Do-Reynoso also gave an update on how the county is doing with COVID-19 spread. The county is still in the orange tier with an adjusted case rate of 2.1 and a testing positivity rate of 1.0 percent. 

She said that 51 percent of Santa Barbara County residents have at least one shot, and 41.1 percent are fully vaccinated.

“Part of our public is anxious to get rid of their masks, and part of our public are scared that not enough folks are vaccinated so they don’t want to take off their masks,” said 1st District Supervisor Das Williams, “and the best way to get both groups to where they’re happiest is if more people got vaccinated.”

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