The good news is that the numbers of COVID tests, positive cases, and people hospitalized are dropping throughout Santa Barbara County. By statewide standards, the county qualifies in the “low” tier. Accordingly, restrictions are being relaxed and more signs of a return to a time before COVID are beginning to appear. For example, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office has reinstated visitation at the county jail. And after a 30-month hiatus, the 560 members of the Jehovah’s Witness community have announced that they will resume their door-knocking efforts to spread the word within Santa Barbara city limits, adding that they supported the wearing of masks and vaccinations throughout the COVID pandemic, as it reflected the sacredness with which they regard life and the love they have for their neighbors. In the meantime, county supervisors voted to spend an additional $30,000 on a public information contract to keep the county website and dashboard with COVID factoids operating.
Supervisor Bob Nelson cast what he described as a “symbolic” vote against the spending, saying the county needed to embrace the “new normal” in which COVID is an endemic rather than a pandemic. His was the only vote opposed. Supervisor Joan Hartmann noted that 400 people a day were still dying from COVID nationally — down from 3,000 at its peak. With winter coming, she argued, and so many potential variants and subvariants likely, the county’s public information effort remained necessary. Currently, there are 17 people hospitalized in Santa Barbara County with COVID; of those, one is in the ICU. To date, there have been 722 confirmed deaths since the pandemic was declared.