[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.]

I’m Jade Martinez-Pogue, a Noozhawk staff writer. 

This newsletter is a convenient way for Santa Barbara County residents to get important updates in one place. With ever-changing guidelines and restrictions, this is our roundup of everything coronavirus-related in the county.

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

Here’s What We Know

» Santa Barbara County advanced to the less-restrictive orange tier on Tuesday, with new public health guidelines going into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday. 

» County Public Health Department Director Van Do-Reynoso said 52% of county residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

» The Public Health Department and other vaccine providers have thousands of appointments available each week. Cottage Health has 10,000 appointments this week at its drive-up clinic at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, spokeswoman Maria Zate said. She said there is a designated tent for “nonvehicle appointments,” but much more capacity for people arriving in vehicles. Visit the myturn.ca.gov website to find appointments near you.

» The Public Health Department has five mobile vaccination teams that are serving community groups and individuals who cannot make it to designated clinics. Workplaces, churches, housing facilities and community groups can request public health staff to come vaccinate up to 250 people. Click here to find out how to request a mobile vaccination clinic.

» On Saturday, the county reported 11 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals, the lowest number in more than five months. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

The delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses has increased substantially, and Santa Barbara County providers are vaccinating thousands of people each week.

The delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses increased substantially in April, and Santa Barbara County providers are vaccinating thousands of people each week.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk illustration)

As of Tuesday, 29 percent of the county’s entire population has been fully vaccinated, with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to Do-Reynoso. 

Providers were still pausing administration of J&J vaccine doses as of Tuesday, due to federal review related to six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot out of nearly 7 million doses administered in the United States.

Of the total doses administered, the highest percentage has gone to residents between the ages of 30 and 49.

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

Early COVID-19 vaccine doses went to residents over the age of 74 and health-care workers, and as younger people became eligible, the distribution changed.

On March 5, 80 percent of county residents over 74 had been vaccinated, with more than 26,000 doses going to people in that age group. They accounted for 36 percent of all doses then, and now, with all adults eligible to be vaccinated, it’s 14 percent, according to the county’s Community Data Dashboard.

Female county residents have received 54 percent of the doses administered, and male residents have received 46 percent of the doses.

County residents line up for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort.

County residents line up for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The gap between white county residents who have received the vaccine and Hispanic/Latino county residents who have received the vaccine has been narrowing. The most recent information on the county dashboard shows white county residents have received 31 percent of the doses administered while Hispanic/Latino residents have received 30 percent. 

Coronavirus Variant Tracking

Novel coronavirus samples are being collected and genetically tested by Cottage Health and UC Santa Barbara, and March samples included the West Coast variant and United Kingdom variant, according to the Public Health Department.

The variant research dates back to November and only includes 166 samples, according to the county data dashboard.

Despite the relatively low sample size, different strains of the virus pose a risk to county residents as they are known to be more contagious and could potentially re-infect people who already had the virus, according to county public health officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.

Business Reopening 

Santa Barbara County advanced to the orange tier of California’s reopening framework on Tuesday, which brings fewer restrictions for many industries.

Here’s what’s allowed under the orange tier:

» Restaurants: Indoor seating increases to 50% capacity or 200 people maximum

» Gyms and fitness centers: 25% capacity indoors; indoor pools can open

» Wineries and breweries: 25% capacity or 100 people indoors maximum

» Bars with no food service: Open outdoors only

» Movie theaters: 50% capacity or 200 people maximum

» Museums, zoos and aquariums: 50% capacity for indoor activities

» All retail: No capacity limits

» Places of worship: No capacity mandates, but state and county public health recommend 50% capacity limit for indoor activities.

Click here for staff writer Brooke Holland’s Tuesday story about what is allowed in the orange tier.  

By the Numbers

Over the weekend, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients fell to 11, which was the lowest number in five months. In mid-January, the number hit an all-time peak at 211 people.

January was the virus’ most deadly month in Santa Barbara County, with more than 150 deaths reported. The number of weekly COVID-19-related deaths has been trending down since then.

The Public Health Department has reported four deaths in the last two weeks, and 445 county residents have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

School Zone

In March 2020, local schools were forced to close as stay-at-home orders went into effect.

From left, Dos Pueblos High School seniors Natalie Grover, Sasha Runyen and Noel Tsoukalas create their tiles for a new campus mural during lunchtime Friday.

From left, Dos Pueblos High School seniors Natalie Grover, Sasha Runyen and Noel Tsoukalas create their tiles for a new campus mural during lunchtime Friday. The project commemorates the school experiences that DPHS students missed out on during more than a year of COVID-19 disruption.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

While some public elementary schools and most private schools began the reopening process last fall, all K-12 schools are now allowed to open for in-person instruction. Not all students are heading back yet, though, as some families decide to continue remote learning.

Read Noozhawk’s recent story to see what a day at Dos Pueblos High School looks like as students return to campus.

Where to Book a Vaccine Appointment

COVID-19 vaccines are available locally through the Public Health Department’s clinics and community providers, including hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

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

You can check for appointments on myturn.ca.gov.

Need help making an appointment? Here’s how to sign up for a vaccine appointment over the phone.

What You Can Do After Inoculation

People who have been fully vaccinated (two weeks after a second dose or two weeks after the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine) can visit other vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or social distancing.

They can also visit indoors with unvaccinated people who are considered low risk for severe COVID-19, according to public health officials.

Click here to read more about the public health guidance for people who are fully vaccinated.

Your Questions 

What are the latest travel recommendations as more people get vaccinated and the county advances to the orange tier?

The California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to travel within the United States without being tested for the virus before or after the trip, and do not need to self-quarantine.

Fully vaccinated travelers can travel internationally without a pre-travel COVID-19 test, depending on the destination, and without quarantining upon return. Anyone who travels out of the country will need to show a negative test results before boarding a flight back to the United States, and should get tested after returning, according to the CDC.

Fully vaccinated travelers should still wear a mask, use physical distancing, avoid crowds and frequently wash their hands, the CDC said. 

For unvaccinated travelers, the CDC recommends getting tested for the virus one to three days before the trip, getting a viral test three to five days after the trip, and staying home and self-isolating for a full seven days after travel. If you don’t get tested after returning home, the CDC recommends self-isolating for 10 days.

Email your questions about COVID-19, vaccination, business reopenings and other pandemic-related issues 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 16 briefing includes vaccination and case rate updates from Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso.

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

Reader Resources 

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

»  Visit the state MyTurn vaccination website to look for and book appointments, at myturn.ca.gov.

» The Public Health Department has vaccine-related information on its COVID-19 page here: https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/

» There are free COVID-19 testing facilities around the county. Here’s a list and map of the locations.

» Need a second dose? Here’s what you need to know.

» Want to host a vaccination clinic at your workplace, church or housing complex? Learn how to apply for a visit from the Public Health Department’s mobile vaccination clinic.

»  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 stories in Noozhawk’s Coronavirus Crisis section.

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at jmartinez-pogue@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.