The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has been using a public affairs firm to update its COVID-19 informational website and make outreach materials, and the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday extended that contract to mid-2023.

The county has had a COVID-19 response contract with Stacy Miller Public Affairs since July 2020, and the firm primarily helped build and update the website, interim Public Health Director Daniel Nielson said. The website was created to consolidate the county’s COVID-19 pandemic response information.

On Tuesday, county supervisors voted 4-1 to approve $31,500 for another nine months of work, through June 30, 2023, for a contract amount not to exceed $382,000.

The pages on vaccination, testing providers and the data dashboard are the most visited on the site, Public Health staff said Tuesday. There were 23,000 unique visitors to the site in the past 90 days.

“It’s definitely our intention with the time we’re buying with the extension to figure out how to do this work internally,” Nielson said.

County supervisors in favor of the contract said the website is an important community resource.

Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson opposed the extension because he believes Public Health and the county in general should transition to a lower, sustainable COVID-19 response level.

The Public Health Department stopped posting daily COVID-19 data updates on its websites in July.

That’s when the county transitioned to a new dashboard that embeds graphics from the California Department of Public Health rather than posting local data such as case numbers by geographic area, by age group and vaccination status.

Supervisors also approved a six-month contract with the Stacy Miller Public Affairs firm for $102,000 for “general communication support services” while the county recruited a new communications manager/public information officer to replace Gina DePinto, who left in March.

The new public information officer is Kelsey Gerckens Buttita, chief meteorologist at KEYT, who starts Nov. 1, the county announced last month.

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