[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 the latest updates on local vaccination rates and public health guidelines.

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

Here’s What We Know 

» Santa Barbara County Public Health Department officials reported 29 new novel coronavirus cases between Friday and Tuesday. There have been 50 new cases reported in the past week, averaging just over seven new cases per day. That’s a slight increase from the previous week, when the county averaged six new daily cases.

» There have been five coronavirus-related deaths reported over the past two weeks, and the county’s cumulative death toll stands at 457.

» The county ended its health order violations complaint system last week because most coronavirus-related restrictions have been lifted.

» The Public Health Department set up a free COVID-19 vaccination tent last week at the entrance of the Santa Barbara Fair & Expo as part of its mobile clinic program. Fair-goers were able to walk up and receive a free COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines are free and available throughout the county.

» All five members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors sat next to each other, without masks, at last week’s meeting. It was the first time meeting that way for board chairman Bob Nelson, who was sworn in to the job in January. All members of the public will be allowed to attend the meetings in person starting July 13.

Travel Guidelines

All five members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors sat next to each other, without masks, at the June 22 meeting.

All five members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors sat next to each other, without masks, at the June 22 meeting.  (Jade Martinez-Pogue / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County and California are now following federal travel guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All incoming international travelers, including those fully vaccinated, will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or recent recovery from the virus before coming back into the country. The proof of test or recent recovery is not required for domestic travel within the United States or for land border crossings into the country.

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to continue wearing masks on public transportation, including planes, trains, buses, airports, transit centers and other transportation hubs.

Not All Coronavirus Testing Is Free

The cost of a diagnostic COVID-19 test should be covered by health insurance plans, according to federal and state authorities. 

“Health plans must continue to cover certain COVID-19 testing for their enrollees pursuant to federal law,” according to the California Department of Managed Health Care. “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) continue to require plans to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing, regardless of whether enrollees access such tests through in- or out-of-network providers.”

The CDC defines diagnostic testing as testing intended to find current infection in people and is used when someone has symptoms of COVID-19 or has a recent exposure to the virus.

Screening testing or public health surveillance testing — apparently including elective testing for travel or pre-entry testing for events — is not treated the same way anymore, according to the DMHC

Sansum Clinic announced elective rapid COVID-19 testing for people who want to travel, attend large events, “or any personal reason not related to suspicion of COVID infection.”

These elective tests cost $100, due at the time of the test, and will not be billed to health insurance, according to Sansum Clinic.

Visit the Public Health Department’s testing page, or contact your health-care provider, for information on free testing sites.

Beyond the Blueprint in Santa Barbara County

On June 15, the state canceled its color-coded tier system, known as the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, that has guided business operations since August.

Santa Barbara County is aligned with the state and does not place any additional restrictions on business reopening or masking guidance, according to public health officials. Local public health officer orders will no longer be issued for COVID-19 community guidance.

All business sectors can return to usual operations, and employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards for workplace protections.

The county Public Health Department’s website outlines additional details about what “Beyond the Blueprint” looks like locally. Click here to check it out.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

About 49% of all Santa Barbara County residents were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Monday, and just over 58% of all eligible county residents (those over the age of 12) have been fully vaccinated, according to the county’s Community Data Dashboard.

The Santa Barbara Fair & Expo had a vaccination clinic set up at Earl Warren Showgrounds over the weekend.

The Santa Barbara Fair & Expo had a vaccination clinic set up at Earl Warren Showgrounds over the weekend.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The county reports administering more than 463,500 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including more than 237,600 first doses and 204,800 second doses.

The highest demand for vaccine doses was in April, when nearly 150,000 shots were given to county residents.

Variant Variables

Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, warned last month of the rapid spread of the Delta variant worldwide and domestically, saying that 10% of all COVID-19 cases still infectious in the United States were identified as that strain. The variant is more transmissible and, therefore, more dangerous, he said.

On average, one person infected with the variant has the potential to spread it to five or six other people, compared with two or three others, Ansorg said. The variant also has caused more hospitalizations in young people, he added.

Ansorg said that all of the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta variant, with the most reliable protection after receiving the second dose in a two-dose regimen.

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

» Click here to find out what “Beyond the Blueprint” looks like in Santa Barbara County.

» 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.