County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg decided that vaccinated individuals may remove their masks indoors, in keeping with new state rules, but recommended keeping them on, nonetheless. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

As of February 16, masks may come off indoors in Santa Barbara County for vaccinated people, health officials announced on Thursday. In reversing course from statements made yesterday, Public Health officials stated they had analyzed data trends, observing Omicron, while more transmissible, resulted in “shorter periods of illness, fewer hospitalizations, and a lower death count for fully vaccinated community members.”

The county would be following the state’s guidance issued on Monday, which “requires masking for unvaccinated individuals in all indoor public settings” as well as anyone and everyone in higher-risk places like aboard public transit and in congregate living quarters. Additionally, masking will be required for everyone in settings such as K-12 schools, childcare, shelters, health-care locations, and jails and prisons.

Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso stated in a press release that residents “have learned how best to protect ourselves” after 23 months of pandemic. The release goes on to state that people should consider their personal risk, and that of those they live with, as the virus continues to circulate, albeit at lower levels, recommending that even vaccinated people consider masking when indoors in public. Public Health also recommended keeping in mind that the vaccination status of others in a crowded place is unknown and reminded that good ventilation was key, as was awareness of case rates should you travel.

“We are calling upon our community to act in the best interest of themselves and their neighbors,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county health officer.

Vaccinations against the virus that causes COVID-19 are still free of charge and widely available at Public Health, pharmacies, and medical providers. A full list is available at

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