Santa Barbara Health Officer Sees Light at End of COVID-19 Tunnel

County on Cusp of Entering Yellow Tier; State Set to Fully Reopen June 15

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department Dr. Henning Ansorg, updates the community on the on going COVID-19 virus response in Santa Barbara April 8, 2020. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Santa Barbara County has trended into the less-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening system, with the current community case rate now below the threshold of 2 cases per 100,000 residents, officials announced Friday. 

For Santa Barbara to be officially placed into the yellow tier, which would allow more businesses to open with fewer restrictions, it needs to maintain a sub-2 case rate for two full weeks. Most of the state remains in the orange tier, with a few counties in Central California still stuck in red.

Thus far, Santa Barbara County has administered 221,038 first doses and 175,629 second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, director of the Public Health Department. Just under 90 percent of doses received by the county have been administered, with the remaining 11 percent committed toward clinic appointments.

Based on the total number of eligible residents living in Santa Barbara, 61.3 percent have received at least one dose with 49.4 percent now fully vaccinated, Do-Reynoso was happy to announce. No new deaths have been reported since late April, and hospitalization numbers are the lowest they’ve been since the beginning of the pandemic.

Do-Reynoso was especially pleased that 15 percent of 12-15 year olds, the most recent age group to become eligible, have now received their first doses. “That is an amazing feat to be celebrated,” she said.

The age breakdown of fully vaccinated county residents is as follows:

16-29 years old ― 40 percent
30-49 years old ― 43 percent
50-64 years old ― 66 percent
65-75 years old ― 67 percent 
75+ years old ― 73 percent

Mobile vaccination clinics have made dozens of stops in recent weeks, Do-Reynoso said, including at swap meets, farmers’ markets, and grocery store parking lots. 

Cottage Health, pharmacies, and other health-care providers have been especially critical in ramping up vaccines for 12-15 year olds, she explained, which has allowed certain celebrations and graduation ceremonies to take place.

“School staff, families, and students have worked so hard to make plans to honor special occasions,” she said. “I’m glad we can reach this milestone.… Our heroes this week are the 12- to 15-year-olds and their families who took the step in getting their first shot this week.”

Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s health officer, said the steady decline in deaths and hospitalizations around the state is directly attributable to an increase in vaccinations. As of this week, he said, 60 percent of California residents have received at least one shot.

Come June 15, when the state tier system is set to expire, Santa Barbara can expect all of its businesses to reopen their doors without COVID-19 restrictions, and fully vaccinated people will no longer need to wear a mask in most situations, Ansorg said. California will, however, mandate that organizers of indoor events with more than 5,000 attendees require proof of vaccination or documentation of a recent negative COVID test.

UCSB and the Public Health Department, Ansorg went on, have partnered to conduct a high-volume of tests to suss out variants. But a well-inoculated population is the best defense against any new strains, he said. 

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel that we have all been waiting for,” said Ansorg of Santa Barbara’s steadily declining numbers. “We can finally safely engage in normal life again. As the public health officer, I thank you for that.”


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