Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 health officer order will expire at 11:59 p.m. Monday, and the Public Health Department will defer to state orders starting Tuesday.
The change comes as California eliminates the reopening tier system and updates mask guidance to no longer require face coverings for fully vaccinated people in most settings.
COVID-19-related workplace protections are still in effect, and the Cal/OSHA board is meeting later this week to consider changes to those rules.
Starting Tuesday, state and county mask guidance will continue to require face coverings for unvaccinated people over the age of 2 in most public indoor settings.
Fully vaccinated people won’t have to wear face coverings in most public indoor settings, unless it’s required by the business or venue.
Masks will continue to be required for everyone on public transit, indoors for K-12 schools and childcare and other youth settings, healthcare facilities, long-term care facilities, and shelters.
“Businesses may still choose to require masks to be worn by patrons. For this reason, Santa Barbara county residents should always have a mask available,” according to the Public Health Department.
The new public health officer order includes the new face coverings guidance; continues current rules for K-12 schools and childcare programs; and introduces rules for “mega events” larger than 5,000 people indoors and 10,000 or more people outdoors.
“Although Santa Barbara County does not have venues which would hold a capacity to be considered a mega event, it is likely that residents will travel out of county for such events,” Public Health officials said Monday.
The UC Santa Barbara Events Center Thunderdome seats more than 5,000 people indoors, but most other local large venues have a lower capacity.
The California Department of Public Health will still issue public health recommendations and guidance, but they won’t be mandatory, according to Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, the state public health officer.
“It would be wonderful if the worldwide coronavirus pandemic were truly over, but the fact is, June 15 marks the beginning of our return to normalcy in California, not the end of the pandemic,” wrote Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county public health officer, in a community message last week.
“California is enjoying the lowest COVID-19 case rate of any U.S. state, and hospitalizations are near record lows, but the virus can still infect persons without immunity and lead to severe illness.”
He summarized the changes coming Tuesday:
» No more physical distancing requirements for attendees, customers, and guests at almost all businesses and other institutions (except public transportation, health care settings, correctional institutions, and homeless and emergency shelters).
» No more occupancy capacity limitations for indoor businesses.
» Restrictions at restaurants, open bars, and buffets will go away.
» Organizers of indoor events with more than 5,000 people, such as a basketball game etc., will be required to either verify that attendees are fully vaccinated or have tested negative within 72 hours of the event’s start time or they can choose to have everyone wear a mask.
» Organizers of large outdoor events with more than 10,000 attendees should follow the new masking guidance.
» The requirement/recommendation for testing and vaccine verification will remain in effect through Oct. 1, though state officials will assess conditions prior to that to determine how, or whether, to update or extend that guidance.
» California’s travel advisory will be retired. We urge everyone to follow CDC travel advisories.
Click here to read the rest of Ansorg’s message about the June 15 changes.
“Use your best judgment in regards to being masked in a crowded situation where you don’t know people’s vaccination status or don’t know people’s disease status,” County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso told Noozhawk last week.
For parents with young children who cannot be vaccinated yet, or anyone else unvaccinated, Do-Reynoso suggests trying to minimize higher-risk situations.
“Vaccination is the gold standard in terms of protection, but if someone can’t get vaccinated, those safety measures that we have at our disposal – masking, social distancing, being outside – will lend the family more protection,” she said.
County Public Health officials will continue to monitor novel coronavirus case rates, track variants, and hold COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
This week, the county reports 47.1% of residents are fully vaccinated.
When broken down by age group, older adults have higher vaccination rates than younger adults. Older adults also got earlier access to the vaccines.
As of Sunday, more than 80% of people had been vaccinated or partially vaccinated in the age groups 50 and older. In the 16-29 and 30-49 age groups, 57% of local residents have been fully or partially vaccinated.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in children aged 12-15 in May, and 31% of residents in that age group are already fully or partially vaccinated (about 7,000 people).
The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are widely available in the county, for free, and some providers no longer require appointments.
Find a vaccine provider near you on the state My Turn website, at myturn.ca.gov, and the county vaccine page at publichealthsbc.org/vaccine.
Read “What Can I Do Now That I Am Fully Vaccinated?” by Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.
— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.