[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.]

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

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

Here’s What We Know 

» New COVID-19 cases and coronavirus-positive hospitalizations are still declining in Santa Barbara County, and the peak of the winter surge in cases may have passed, according to public health and hospital officials.

» The majority of infections, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 have been among people who are not fully vaccinated. Since May 2021, Santa Barbara County residents who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 have made up 63% of cases, 79% of hospitalizations and 89% of deaths. Read the full story here.

» Eighteen people died of COVID-19 in the week beginning Jan. 23, according to the county Public Health Department. That is the highest weekly total since February 2021.

» The county has reported 48 coronavirus-related deaths in January, and that number will likely increase due to delays in reporting. Deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate are counted in this category, according to the Public Health Department, which has reported 623 deaths to date.

Mask Mandates Lifting for Fully Vaccinated People

California’s statewide mask mandate for indoor, public spaces is to end Feb. 16 for counties that do not have their own mask requirements in effect.

Unvaccinated people will still be required to wear masks in all indoor, public spaces.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department on Thursday announced that it will follow the state’s lead and end the local universal mask mandate next week.

Throughout California everyone is still required to wear masks on public transit, in health-care settings and care facilities, K-12 schools and other youth settings, correctional facilities, and homeless and emergency shelters, regardless of vaccination status.

New Cases, Hospitalizations Still Declining 

“It appears that COVID hospitalizations are continuing to decline, but at a slower pace,” Steve Popkin, CEO of Lompoc Valley Medical Center, said in a community message last week.

chart showing COVID-19-positive hospitalizations over time

(Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk illustration )

“The typical pattern in the county has been a fairly steep decline in hospitalizations, followed by a one-to-two week plateau period where the numbers go up or down a little, followed by another more significant decline.

“However, as they say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

During this winter surge in new cases, the Lompoc Valley Medical Center saw its peak number of coronavirus-positive patients in mid-January, Popkin said, while other local hospitals peaked a week or so earlier.

The number of active coronavirus cases (people who have recently tested positive and are still infectious) countywide has dropped to about 2,000 in the past two weeks from about 6,000, which is a sign of decreasing community transmission.

How Many Local COVID-19 Hospital Patients Are Admitted for Something Else? 

Noozhawk readers have asked how many of the coronavirus-positive people in hospitals were admitted because of COVID-19 and how many were incidental cases, i.e., they went to the hospital for another medical issue but tested positive when they were admitted.

Local hospitals have reported that 25% to 33% of recent positive patients hospitalized countywide came to the hospital for another reason and were found to be infected by COVID-19 after testing, while the remaining patients came specifically because of COVID-19.

Read the full story here. 

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.  

COVID-19 Vaccines for Young Children 

Children 5-to-11 years old are the Santa Barbara County age group with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate: 20% of them are fully vaccinated and another 10% have received one shot of the two-dose series. 

chart showing COVID vaccination rates by age group

(Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk illustration )

There are free vaccination clinics being held throughout February at local elementary schools and community centers to improve access to the shots. Scroll down to view the current calendar.

Most of the locations have pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech doses available in addition to Pfizer-BioNTech doses for older children and adults and booster shots; Moderna booster shots; and Johnson & Johnson doses and booster shots.

calendar of local vaccination clinics

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department illustration )

The county Public Health Department’s COVID-19 vaccine information page is at https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/.

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