[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 Jade Martinez-Pogue with information about what to expect now that California’s statewide reopening tier system has ended.

This newsletter is emailed every Wednesday —  for free — to everyone who subscribes

Here’s What We Know 

» As COVID-19 vaccination rates are increasing statewide and the number of new cases trends downward, the state ended its color-coded reopening framework on Tuesday. That means most businesses can reopen without reducing indoor capacity or requiring physical distancing, while updated mask guidelines allow fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in some settings.

» Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 public health officer order expired Monday, and the Public Health Department now defers to the state order.

» The county government has fully reopened its public facilities to the community as of Wednesday. While visitors, employees, vendors and consultants will not be asked their vaccination status prior to entry, they will still be required to wear face coverings while participating or attending in-person meetings. Click here for a full list of the county buildings that have reopened.

» On Monday, Public Health Department officials reported zero new coronavirus cases. “We can’t remember a time when we had zero cases except before we had our first case in March 2020,” department director Van Do-Reynoso said.

» There have been 35 new cases reported over the past week, averaging five new cases per day. This represents about a 30% drop in new cases from the previous week.

» Three coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in Santa Barbara County in June, with no deaths reported in May.

New Masking Guidelines 

Now that California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy tiered reopening system has ended, county residents can expect life to return to more of a pre-pandemic normalcy, public health officials say.

Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people are still required to wear masks in indoor public spaces and businesses.

Fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear face coverings in most public indoor settings, except in situations where masking is required for everyone and when required by businesses or venues. Some government offices and libraries have decided to continue requiring masks for everyone, for now.

Masks will still be required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, on public transit, indoors K-12 schools, child-care facilities, health-care facilities, long-term care facilities, shelters, and correctional and detention centers.

Businesses can choose to require masks of all customers, implement a COVID-19 vaccination verification system, or post signage explaining the rules and use the honor system, said Public Health Department director Van Do-Reynoso.

“The state is leaving it up to businesses to essentially come up with their own system for asking customers about their vaccination status,” she said.

No one can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or event, creating a safe space for those who are comfortable with wearing a mask, Do-Reynoso said.

“June 15 is the beginning of our return to normalcy (but) the virus is still rampant in parts of the world, parts of our country and parts of our state, so the only protection we have is really to have that vaccination rate go up and, meanwhile, until we get to that level, precautions and good judgment are still needed,” Do-Reynoso told Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli last week.

Click here for the Public Health Department’s full guidance on masking.

Workplace Guidelines

Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 current workplace safety guidelines, which require that all employees wear face coverings and maintain physical distance, were still in effect as of Wednesday. 

For now, unless a business or entity is assured of 100% vaccination, everyone must be masked.

The Cal/OSHA board was scheduled to meet again Thursday and may change the rules. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that he plans to issue an executive order following the June 17 meeting that would allow fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks at work.

Rules for ‘Mega Events’ 

As of Tuesday, large indoor and outdoor events like concerts, fairs, plays, parades and sporting events are allowed to take place without limiting capacity or having physical distancing.

The state has issued rules for so-called mega events, which are indoor events with more than 5,000 people and outdoor events with more than 10,000 people.

Masks are required at both indoor and outdoor mega-events, regardless of vaccination status, and operators of outdoor mega-events are required to have masks available for all attendees.

Organizers of indoor mega events are required to verify that attendees are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of the event’s start time.

Organizers of outdoor mega events are strongly encouraged to verify vaccination status or a negative test, but it is not required, according to Dr. Henning Ansorg, Santa Barbara County’s public health officer.

These guidelines will remain in effect through Oct. 1.

Public health officials said Monday that they do not expect mega events to be hosted in the county, but local residents may attend them in other areas.

Tuesday night in Los Angeles, a sellout crowd of 52,078 packed Dodger Stadium to watch the world-champion Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-3. It was the largest attendance for a professional sports league game in the United States since the pandemic started.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

As of Monday, 47% of all Santa Barbara County residents were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the county’s Community Data Dashboard.

Among residents eligible to be vaccinated (12 years old and older), 56% of county residents have been fully vaccinated.6

Local vaccine providers have administered more than 448,500 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

Vaccination rates are higher for residents over the age of 50, and county vaccine providers are now focusing on increasing vaccination rates for younger adults and children, according to the Public Health Department.

“Vaccination is the gold standard in terms of protection, but if someone can’t get vaccinated, those safety measures that we have at our disposal — masking, social distancing, being outside — will lend (unvaccinated people) more protection,” county Public Health Department director Van Do-Reynoso said.

Toll on Agricultural Workers 

At least 64 agricultural workers in the county died of COVID-19, Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland reported in her story investigating outbreaks in the hard-hit industry.

A countywide task force was assembled and community partners collaborated to create targeted testing and vaccination access for local farmworkers.

Click here to read her story, “Prevention Efforts Aimed at Farmworkers Crucial in County’s Fight Against COVID-19.”

Got Questions?

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.

Reader Resources

» There is more information here about what businesses can expect now that the state has reopened.

» Click here for the Public Health Department’s full guidance on masking.

» Find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near you on the county website, publichealthsbc.org/vaccine, or at myturn.ca.gov. Some facilities offer walk-ups as well as appointments.

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

Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue, Noozhawk Staff Writer

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.