[Editor’s note: Noozhawk recently launched a weekly COVID-19 email newsletter that 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.]

It’s Brooke Holland again, a Noozhawk staff writer.

From mask guidelines and the vaccination progress to the color-coded reopening system for California, this newsletter is a way for Santa Barbara County residents to get important coronavirus updates in one place.

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

Here’s What We Know

» For the second week, Santa Barbara County was categorized in the orange tier of California’s reopening system. The county needs to report fewer new positive COVID-19 cases to advance to the less-restrictive yellow tier. Here’s what is allowed in the orange tier.

» The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that people do not need to wear masks outdoors in most settings.

» The single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is available again this week in Santa Barbara County after reviews found it to be “safe and effective in preventing COVID-19,” and “potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older.”

» The Santa Barbara County call center is now closed on Sundays. The 2-1-1 call center (call 2-1-1, extension 4 for English and extension 5 for Spanish) is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday to help schedule vaccination or testing appointments, or answer coronavirus-related questions. If calling from out of the area, or with an out-of-area cell phone number, reach the call center by dialing 800.400.1572.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

Graphic showing regional breakdown of vaccinated residents

The South County region has had the most residents vaccinated for COVID-19 so far, according to the Public Health Department.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk illustration)

As of Tuesday, 29% of the county’s estimated 460,000 residents was fully vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the Public Health Department.

Business Reopening

Additional indoor activities are allowed in the less-restrictive orange tier, including wine tasting rooms in Santa Barbara County.

New tier-level restrictions went into effect April 21, with the latest guidelines increasing capacity limits at restaurants, retail stores and gyms, among other businesses in the county.

How About Performances and Events?

Live performing arts and ticketed events are returning soon to Santa Barbara County.

More gatherings and private events are allowed now, including wedding receptions, conferences and live performances.

Several local theater operators were still hashing out reopening details when Noozhawk reached out last week, but here are their plans so far.

few of Santa Barbara’s iconic annual community events have been canceled again, for the second year in a row, while other organizers are going ahead with plans for virtual or in-person activities.

The Santa Barbara Fair & Expo won’t happen this month, but will be rescheduled for June, according to Earl Warren Showgrounds. The Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration won’t hold a parade in June, but will have some virtual and in-person events to look forward to.

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? A drive-through Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday at the Santa Maria Fairpark, 937 S. Thornburg St.

Click here to read Noozhawk’s story, “Santa Maria Strawberry Festival to Serve Up Drive-Through Event.”

New Outdoors Mask Guidance

The CDC says people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear a mask in most outdoor settings, except crowded events.

Outdoor activities are safer for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and the CDC released guidance Tuesday on which activities are considered more, and less, safe.

Bicyclists ride along waterfront path

Bicyclists ride along the Santa Barbara waterfront pathway with Stearns Wharf in the background.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The CDC recommends everyone continue to wear masks in indoor public settings, which is also required by local public health officer orders.

Current health orders also require face coverings in some outdoor areas open to the public.

People are considered fully vaccinated at least two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, or at least two weeks after they receive a single-dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Available Again

At the direction of the California Department of Public Health, Santa Barbara County will resume administering the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. Distribution of the vaccines were paused during federal review related to six cases of a rare type of blood clot among the nearly 7 million doses administered nationally.

The Food & Drug Administration and the CDC conducted “a thorough safety review” of the vaccine and determined it is “safe and effective in preventing COVID-19” and “potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older,” the Public Health Department said in a statement.

“We acknowledge that our community may still have reservations, but please know that Public Health remains committed to providing transparency about the vaccines being administered and also providing different options countywide for vaccination,” Public Health director Van Do-Reynoso said.

Click here to read a CDPH fact sheet:“Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Benefits and Risks.”

The J&J vaccine will be available this week through the Public Health mobile vaccine program, according to the county, and people will have the option to select a different COVID-19 vaccine at those clinics.

No cases of the rare blood clots have been reported in someone who has received the J&J vaccine in Santa Barbara County, the Public Health Department said. More than 14,000 people in the county have received a J&J shot.

COVID-19 Testing

Testing efforts continue across Santa Barbara County and everyone is eligible.

A flow chart shows recommendations for COVID-19 testing and where to get access to free tests in Santa Barbara County.

A flow chart shows recommendations for COVID-19 testing and where to get access to free tests in Santa Barbara County. (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

“Anyone who is experiencing symptoms, has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, lives or works in a congregate setting, or who is an essential worker should get tested,” Public Health says. The county encourages “all community members” to get tested.

As of Tuesday, more than 597,900 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the county.

The chart below, via the county Public Health Department, helps outline when to get tested, and where to get a free test.

By the Numbers

The number of COVID-19-positive hospital patients peaked in mid-January and has dropped to low levels in April.

The number of COVID-19-positive hospital patients peaked in mid-January and has dropped to low levels in April.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk illustration)

Santa Barbara County reported eight COVID-19 patients being treated in local hospitals on Monday, the lowest daily number reported countywide since March 30, 2020, according to data tracking by Noozhawk. The Public Health Department started reporting COVID-19 hospitalizations on March 25, 2020.

Got Questions?

If you’ve already had COVID-19, do you still need to get vaccinated?

“Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19,” according to the CDC. “That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.”

The county’s Public Health officer, Dr. Henning Ansorg, said the vaccines provide higher protection against emerging virus variants, and it appears the immunity triggered by the vaccine “is more robust than the natural immunity” that comes from a previous infection.

Everyone 16 and older is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination, and appointments are far more plentiful now than they have been since vaccines first became available in December.

Find vaccine providers through the MyTurn.ca.gov website, or check the Public Health Department website.

Readers have sent us dozens of questions about COVID-19, vaccination, business reopening rules, in-person school and other pandemic-related issues. Send your questions 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 23 briefing includes COVID-19 case rates, vaccination distribution and other pandemic-related updates from county public health officials.

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

Reader Resources

» Find vaccine providers and available appointments through the state’s MyTurn website at myturn.ca.gov.

» There are free COVID-19 testing facilities in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Isla Vista, Lompoc and Santa Maria.

» 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.

» Read more of Noozhawk’s coverage in our Coronavirus Crisis section.

Help Support Noozhawk Today

Based on the feedback we’ve been getting from readers, our weekly COVID-19 Updates are a hit.

Day and night for more than a year, Noozhawk’s team of professional journalists has been working diligently to bring you thoroughly reported, trustworthy news and information about the coronavirus — as well as the breaking news and other Santa Barbara County local news coverage you rely on.

Noozhawk’s website and newsletters are free for everyone because we believe our community is stronger when everyone has access to quality journalism. But the work we do is not free to produce. We’re supported by people like you: readers, advertisers and sponsors.

Your paid membership in our Hawks Club ensures that we can continue to deliver the news you need and want. If you’re not already a member, will you become one today? And if you are a member, can you make an additional contribution to keep Noozhawk soaring?

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Thank you for your support.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.