Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

New COVID rules from the state were issued on Monday, but Santa Barbara County’s health officer order regarding masking will remain in effect.

Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, who heads California Department of Public Health and is the State Public Health Officer, said things were moving in the right direction and he was able to order some modifications to the COVID prevention measures in place: “Omicron has loosened its hold on California,” he said, “vaccines for children under 5 are around the corner, and access to COVID-19 treatments is improving.” The new rules for the state are as follows:

  • As of February 7, the visitation requirements imposed on January 7 at long-term care facilities expired.
  • As of February 16, the definitions for mega events reverts to the presurge numbers of 1,000 attendees for indoor and 10,000 for outdoor events.
  • As of February 16, the indoor masking requirements also reverts: Unvaccinated people will be required to wear masks indoors; everyone in a high-risk setting like public transit or a congregate care facility must be masked.
  • Workplace rules are unchanged and follow CalOSHA.

Much of California remains in the Centers for Disease Control’s red zone for high levels of community transmission, including Santa Barbara, said Jackie Ruiz, spokesperson for County Public Health. For that reason, in Santa Barbara County, and in many counties with health officers, the indoor masking requirement will remain in place for the moment. “We are looking closely at what the state has done,” Ruiz said, and evaluating whether to lift the order at its current expiration at the beginning of March or earlier.

Santa Barbara’s most recent health order essentially requires masks to be worn indoors when in public or within businesses, which are recommended to make masks available.

Ruiz added that Santa Barbara has no health officer order for mega events or congregate care facilities, other than the state rules. At vulnerable congregate living situations, such as skilled nursing homes, she said, each may make its own rules and requirements for visitation and vaccination status for both residents and visitors.

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