Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Santa Barbara transit agencies — from bus to train to airplane — are agreeing that masking, while preferable, is no longer mandatory. It feels as if the COVID-19 pandemic is finally winding down, after two years, thousands of illnesses, and 681 deaths in Santa Barbara County. Both county and state public health departments, however, are reporting slight increases in cases, a fact that has two mitigating elements.

First, with so much home-based self-testing ongoing, it’s likely that cases are going undercounted. Second is that fact that rapidly changing variants and reporting issues make the hospital bed count a better statistic of disease. So far, in both the county and the state, that number is decreasing.

Sign up for Indy Today to receive fresh news from, in your inbox, every morning.

The research so far indicates although the variant currently going around, the Omicron BA.2, is more transmissible and responsible for infecting non-vaccinated folks, it has not been as deadly for most people, said Dr. Henning Ansorg, the County of Santa Barbara’s health officer. This is widely reported as due to the availability of vaccines that work against the variant, as well as the number of people who survived the illness and are less affected by Omicron.

An average of about 58 new cases were reported this month, but case spikes of 123 and 289 were recorded in late March and early April. These were due to backlogged data reporting, Ansorg explained. The more reliable metric of hospitalization showed a low of four patients in the county last week and eight on April 19. No COVID patients have been under intensive care for the past week, a feat Santa Barbara hasn’t seen since May 2021. The CDC COVID Data Tracker, which Ansorg cited as the best source for information currently, is “green” for the county, indicating a “low” level of coronavirus based on hospital admissions (1.2 per 100,000 population), percent of hospital beds with COVID patients (0.9 percent), and case rate (27.77 per 100,000 persons).

Deaths are still being attributed to coronavirus, however, at a rate of about two per week this month. Ansorg noted that Omicron has proved deadly for mostly the vulnerable people with chronic disease, or those who are elderly, immunosuppressed, or unvaccinated.

Support the Santa Barbara Independent through a long-term or a single contribution.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.