Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg has announced a new indoor mask mandate in response to the dramatic increase in Delta cases. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg announced Tuesday that masks will be required indoors in all publicly accessible spaces — regardless of vaccination status — throughout Santa Barbara County. The new mandate goes into effect Friday, August 6, at 5 p.m. 

This new mask mandate comes as county health officers continue to track a dramatic increase in Delta cases. At an internal county briefing Monday, Ansorg noted that 85 percent of all active COVID cases involve the Delta variant. 

Citing these numbers, Ansorg stressed the extent to which the Delta was a “game changer.” Delta variants pack 1,000 times the viral load as the initial COVID virus that struck the United States. Even people who’ve already been vaccinated carry this enhanced viral load, meaning they can function as potent spreaders even though they have few if any symptoms. 

Typically, people who’ve been vaccinated do not experience nearly as severe symptoms as people who have not been vaccinated. That being said, one-seventh of the individuals hospitalized currently were vaccinated against COVID. The rest were not vaccinated at all, underscoring the extent to which the unvaccinated are functioning as kindling in this latest surge. 

With this year’s Fiesta celebration set to start on Wednesday, some supervisors, such as Das Williams, reportedly expressed concern about large numbers of visitors thronging to Santa Barbara from elsewhere in the state. California currently ranks as third highest of 50 states in new COVID cases.

It remains to be seen how the new mandate will be enforced. 

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