Little Uptick in New COVID Cases in Santa Barbara County

CDC Recommends Second Booster Shots for Some

Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg (September 24, 2019) | Credit: Paul Wellman

As word spreads internationally of yet another more contagious mutation of the COVID-19 virus, the Centers for Disease Control recently advised that immunocompromised people and adults 50 and older take another booster shot. In Santa Barbara County, the vaccine is still free and available at medical offices and pharmacies.

The county’s health officer, Dr. Henning Ansorg, said “almost no COVID cases” were being found among county clinic patients currently, and according to the county dashboard, the daily case count is in the high twenties, down from the hundreds during the Omicron surge in January and February of this year. California cases statewide have been slowly growing from a low of 1,959 last Wednesday to 2,078 today, but Ansorg stated such small fluctuations, whether upward or downward, were not unusual and could be due to reporting delays.

The new mutation is an Omicron variant called XE and was first identified in Great Britain, where researchers had sequenced only 630 cases as of last weekend. The XE variant has been found in New England, but on the West Coast, the majority of virus sequences are still the two Omicron variants — the BA.1 and newer BA.2 — that are “parents” to XE, which has bits and pieces of both. All the variants — from Alpha through to Omicron — have each been more contagious than the last, but the Omicrons have so far not proved to be more dangerous. The vaccine and boosters work against Omicron, but an early study from Israel indicates a fourth shot of Pfizer confers increased immunity for about four weeks.

Vaccination in Santa Barbara County has hit 80 percent of eligible residents — those 5 years old and older — and 72 percent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated with single or two-dose shots. Among the roughly 400,000 eligible residents, 160,243 have had booster doses. Hospitalizations for COVID are down to eight patients as of Monday, with one person on a ventilator in an intensive care unit. COVID-19 remains a serious disease; though newer mutations seem to be less deadly, 675 people have died in S.B. County since the pandemic first hit in March 2020, and 10 died this March.

Eligibility for the second booster depend on age and level of immune-system compromise, said Public Health spokesperson Jackie Ruiz, and people should wait until four months after their last vaccine. Children 12 and older who’ve had an organ transplant or are immunocompromised by health conditions may get a second booster of the Pfizer vaccine. People 18 and older with similarly compromised health are eligible for a Pfizer or Moderna booster. And people 50 and older may generally get the booster of their choice.

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