[Editor’s note: Noozhawk’s weekly COVID-19 email newsletter is delivered to subscribers on Wednesdays. You can sign up here. We are republishing the newsletters on the website so more readers have access to them.]

Welcome to Noozhawk’s Weekly COVID-19 Briefing.

I’m Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz with the latest COVID-19 news in Santa Barbara County.

This newsletter is a way for Noozhawk readers to get important updates in one place.

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

Here’s What We Know 

» The trend of COVID-19 cases declining in Santa Barbara County continues. There were 1,228 cases reported in the county in the week ending Tuesday — a 54.2% decrease from the previous week, which had 2,680 cases, according to Noozhawk’s data tracking.

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

» The graphic below shows the case rate decreasing from the surge’s peak in January. A case rate of 257.6 per 100,000 people means about 1,159 daily new cases for the county’s population size.

» Hospitalizations in the county have also been decreasing, with 82 coronavirus-positive individuals hospitalized as of Tuesday, 14 of them in intensive-care units. The week before, on Feb. 8, there were 92 such hospitalizations, including 17 in ICUs.

» As of Tuesday, 1,111 COVID-19 cases are considered still infectious or active, about half as many as the previous week.

(Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk illustration)

» The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has reported about 80 coronavirus-related deaths of county residents in the past two months, including 14 in the week ending Tuesday.

» Dr. Dan Brennan, a Santa Barbara pediatrician and Noozhawk columnist, answered a number of commonly asked questions from readers about COVID-19 in children, vaccinations and school safety measures. The full Q&A can be read here.

Indoor Mask Mandate Changes

Santa Barbara County public health officials lifted the county’s indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals Wednesday to align with California’s masking requirements, which were lifted Tuesday.

Masks will still be required for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public spaces, and masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in public transportation settings, K-12 schools and child-care facilities, health-care facilities, correctional facilities, shelters and some other care facilities.

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

“This should not be misunderstood as us saying masks are no longer relevant or necessary,” Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s health officer, said during the department’s COVID-19 update for the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

“In fact, that would be ill-advised. … At this time, the (California Department of Public Health), as well as the Public Health Department locally, are strongly recommending to continue to wear a self-protective, high-quality mask in all public indoor settings.”

The county Public Health Department previously said in November that it would not end its indoor mask mandate until the county has a daily case rate below 6 cases per 100,000 people for two consecutive weeks.

According to the Community Data Dashboard, the case rate as of Feb. 11 is 35.7 cases per 100,000 people. 

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

While the indoor mask mandate remains in place for K-12 schools, state Health & Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Monday that the state will be reassessing the requirement at the end of February.

Public health officials and medical professionals are recommending that people think about wearing more protective masks, such as N95 and KN95 masks and surgical masks, rather than cloth masks, for better protection against infection.

Santa Barbara County suggests wearing surgical masks, double-masking with a surgical mask and cloth mask on the outside of it, or N95/KN95 mask if available.

The California Department of Public Health graphic below shows the differing degrees of protection given by different types of masks compared to wearing no mask at all.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

As of Monday, 71.4% of eligible Santa Barbara County residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and nearly 80% of eligible residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The highest rate of fully vaccinated individuals is among the 75-and-older age group at 87%. Children ages 5 to 11 have the lowest rate, at 23%.

Public Health Department director Van Do-Reynoso told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that 65% of children ages 5 to 11 in California are not fully vaccinated, and 79% of local children in that age group are not fully vaccinated.

According to the Community Data Dashboard, Santa Barbara County providers have administered 768,547 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 149,661 of those being booster doses.

Just over 67% of all Santa Barbara County residents, including those not yet eligible, have been fully vaccinated.
More information on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and upcoming vaccine clinics in the county can be found on the Public Health Department’s vaccine page at https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/.

Got Questions?

Readers have sent us scores 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 Feb. 15 Board of Supervisors meeting included a briefing with COVID-19 updates from Public Health Department director Van Do-Reynoso and Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s health officer.

Click here to watch it on the county’s YouTube page

Reader Resources

» Find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near you on the Vaccine Finder search function of https://www.vaccines.gov/search/. You can search for providers by location and by specific vaccine available (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson). You can also find providers on the county website, publichealthsbc.org/vaccine, or at myturn.ca.gov. Some facilities offer walk-ups as well as appointments.

» Text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) for a list of vaccine providers in English, or text your ZIP code to VACUNA (822862) for a list in Spanish. 

» There are free COVID-19 testing facilities around the county.

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

» Click here for Noozhawk’s complete Coronavirus Crisis coverage.

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Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at sguentz@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.