Welcome to Noozhawk’s weekly COVID-19 briefing.

Giana Magnoli

Giana Magnoli (Noozhawk file photo)

I’m Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk’s managing editor.

We’re launching this email newsletter as a way for readers to stay in the loop and get all of Santa Barbara County’s important coronavirus updates in one place.

It will be emailed out every Wednesday, for free, to everyone who subscribes.

Click here to read more about our plans for the newsletter and how you can help us make it helpful, informative and interesting.

Here’s What We Know

» Everyone age 16 and older can schedule vaccine appointments now at some Santa Barbara County providers, and will be able to schedule them everywhere starting April 15. Here’s where you can look for local vaccine appointments.

» The county-run vaccination clinics are available to all residents over 16 now, and next week’s Santa Barbara site is expected to have more than 7,000 appointments available.

» On California’s myturn.ca.gov appointment site, anyone under age 50 can also sign up now at Sansum Clinic, with many available for Saturday.

» Vaccine providers have administered more than 220,000 doses so far.

» Santa Barbara County is still in the “red” tier of California’s reopening system, which means some indoor operations are allowed with limited capacity. To get to the less-restrictive “orange” tier, the county must report fewer daily new positive cases than it is right now.

» People vaccinated for COVID-19 can gather in small groups indoors, without masks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

» Starting April 15, counties in the red tier can have outdoor gatherings of 25 people, private events (like receptions and conferences) of 50 people outdoors or 200 “if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination,” and 100-person indoor events if attendees are vaccinated or tested, according to the California Department of Public Health. The guest limits are higher if Santa Barbara County advances to the orange tier next week. Indoor events are limited to 100 people in the red tier, or higher if all guests are fully vaccinated or have proof of recent negative test results.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

Local vaccine providers are distributing more and more doses in recent weeks, and an estimated 17.7 percent of county residents were fully vaccinated as of Monday.

Who Can Get Vaccinated in Santa Barbara County

Vaccine doses in Santa Barbara County

Everyone age 16 and older can start booking vaccination appointments now, and that expands statewide on April 15.

Make sure to double check which vaccine is being provided for teen appointments: The Food & Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in people 16 and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for 18 and older. Vaccine clinical trials for younger children are underway.

Business Reopening

More indoor businesses were allowed to serve customers again when the county moved to the red tier — like restaurants, gyms and movie theaters.

There will be fewer restrictions in the orange tier, whenever the county moves there, and Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the tier system will be eliminated June 15 if cases keep dropping and vaccination efforts stay steady.

“We can confidently say by June 15 we can open up business as usual,” he said, with mask wearing and “ongoing vigilance.”

By the Numbers

On March 30, and again this Tuesday, Santa Barbara County reported a higher number of new cases than the week before.

County Public Health Department officials have attributed this vaguely to reopening, but the number of cases is keeping the county in the red tier, while many others throughout California are advancing to the less-restrictive orange tier.

New cases in Santa Barbara County

Each new case represents a person who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19. Active cases are the number of people who recently tested positive and are still considered infectious in the county.

Fewer active cases means less virus transmission in the community. With less person-to-person spread of the virus, more things are considered low-risk and fewer people get sick from COVID-19.

How to Help Stop the Spread

You’ve heard it all before: wear a mask, stay six feet from other people, wash your hands, avoid large gatherings and nonessential travel. Make sure your mask fits your face well, or you can double up for better protection.

The public health guidelines are based on what scientists know about this virus: it spreads person to person through very small respiratory droplets in the air — not just from coughs and sneezes, but from breathing, talking and singing.

That is why outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities, and wearing masks is probably the greatest way to protect yourself and people around you from possible infection, according to Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer.

Get Outdoors

Fortunately, Santa Barbara County is full of opportunities for outdoor recreation, and most of it is free to access.

There are beautiful parks and preserves, hiking trails with views of the coast and the mountains, open spaces where you won’t feel crowded by other people, bike trails and paths to explore, and miles of coastline (foot-dipping optional).

If you’re exploring open spaces, More Mesa in Goleta and Ennisbrook in Montecito are beautiful year-round.

Your Questions on COVID-19 Vaccines

Readers have sent us dozens of questions about COVID-19, vaccination, business reopening rules, in-person school and other pandemic-related issues. Please send yours to news@noozhawk.com and we’ll try to include them in future newsletters and Noozhawk Q&As.

Watch the Latest County COVID-19 Briefing

The April 2 briefing includes updates from Santa Barbara County Public Health director Van Do-Reynoso and Dr. Henning Ansorg.

YouTube video

(CSBTV20 video)

Reader Resources

» Click here to subscribe to Noozhawk’s free weekly newsletter on the COVID-19 crisis.

» Click here to join our Hawks Club with a financial membership commitment to help Noozhawk continue to expand our local news coverage.

» Here’s a list of vaccine providers offering appointments in Santa Barbara County.

» Read Noozhawk’s guide to signing up for a vaccination or testing appointment by phone.

» Find more local pandemic-related information on the county Public Health Department website and the county’s COVID-19 recovery page with resources for business reopening, rental assistance, food assistance and more.

» Read more stories in Noozhawk’s Coronavirus Crisis section.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.