Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Amid the clashes of information over the course of the pandemic, two reliable facts emerged: Hospitalizations accurately measure the spread of disease, and vaccinated people are less likely to be in a hospital.

Though the medical community is bracing for the cold North American winter and an explosion of the new Omicron variant, it’s the highly contagious Delta variant that’s raising infection levels around the world, and in Santa Barbara.

Two weeks after Thanksgiving festivities brought groups of people into close contact with one another, often indoors, the active number of cases in Santa Barbara rose by 58 percent to 493 from 313. That’s according to County Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard update for December 7. Hospitalizations were up 16 percent, and the case rate — which needs to drop to 6 for three weeks before masks can come off — bounced up to 14.3 from a low of 9.2.

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The virus that causes COVID-19 has the ability to reinfect people who had already recovered from the disease, as well as infecting people who have received the vaccine. However, the symptoms in both cases are often mild. State numbers for November compared test results, hospitalizations, and deaths among vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated people were hit several times higher than those who had been vaccinated.

In Santa Barbara County — which only collects vaccination information for positive test results — of the roughly 1,200 cases in November, 75 percent were unvaccinated. The county has lost 550 people to COVID-19, 25 of them in November and two already in December. Nearly all were elderly or had an underlying medical condition.

South Africa, which was the first to sequence the Omicron variant, is struggling to vaccinate its populace, which is at about 25 percent fully vaccinated. By comparison, the least vaccinated state in the U.S., Wyoming, is at 58 percent; the most vaccinated, California, is at nearly 69 percent, as is Santa Barbara County.

Though Omicron is two to three times more contagious than Delta — it’s been found to have adopted some of the common cold virus’s genes — so far, nine Omicron cases have been sequenced in the state. No cases have been found in Santa Barbara County yet.

At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff continues to cover every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Support the important work we do by making a direct contribution.


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