Santa Barbara County’s Mask Mandate Is About ‘Saving Lives’

COVID Hospitalizations 89 Percent Unvaccinated

Van Do-Reynoso | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

The number of new coronavirus infections in Santa Barbara County continues an upward ascent, among both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Eleven percent of patients admitted to the hospital for coronavirus are vaccinated, and 89 percent are not, “compelling data” that led to the indoor mask mandate that starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, August 6, for everyone over the age of 2. Other rationales given by Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso on Thursday for the mask mandate were:

•  The case rate is 3.4 times higher among unvaccinated people.
•  48 percent of cases are community transmission.
•  44 percent were transmitted through close contact.

In addition, County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg explained what’s different about the Delta variant:

•  People become ill faster, in four days versus seven days for the previous virus.
•  Delta replicates much faster and produces much higher concentrations of virus.
•  It lingers longer.
•  It locks onto respiratory tract cells more securely.

The virus’s ability to spread more quickly and easily meant human resistance required a higher level of herd immunity, Ansorg added. “Now, reaching herd immunity is more difficult,” he said. “We would need close to 90 percent of the population to be immune.” For the original form of the virus, herd immunity was more like 70 percent, he said.


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With the onslaught of cases — 95 new cases today, 104 yesterday — Do-Reynoso said members of her department were switching over to contact tracing, and recruits were coming from other departments at the county, as they had during the winter surge. She thought they’d be caught up, after working day and night, by the end of the weekend.

As for the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease or death, the vaccinated individuals in the hospital were usually quite old with less robust immune systems, Ansorg said, or people whose medications suppressed their immune system. None needed ICU care. Along with unvaccinated persons, which includes children under the age of 12, they are among the most vulnerable in the county. They were hearing personal stories of regret, Do-Reynoso said. She believed they contributed to a slight increase in people getting their first shot.

Vaccination times and places can be found at https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/. An event at Lompoc Valley Medical Center includes a school backpack giveaway from 2-6 p.m. on Friday, August 6. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Barbara hosts a walk-in clinic from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday, August 8, alongside its Fiesta mercado.

“We can get out of this pandemic,” Do-Reynoso said. “We can assure safety for our children, safety for families, business, essential workers, if we focus on getting vaccinations for everyone who is eligible.”

And she implored community members to comply with the indoor mask mandate: “It’s about saving lives,” she said.


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