The majority of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19-related deaths for the past three months have been people younger than 70, a reversal from the first 15 months of the pandemic.
Through June, 71% of the 457 COVID-19 deaths were in people 70 years old and older.
Older adults account for 11% of the county population and for 7% of novel coronavirus cases from March 2020 to June 2021, and they had a higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, according to the Public Health Department.
People over 75 were prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations in late 2020 and early 2021, as were residents in skilled nursing and other long-term residential-care facilities for the elderly.
The over-75 age group has an 79% vaccination rate in Santa Barbara (with another 7% partially vaccinated), and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients are eligible to receive booster shots.
The Delta variant of the novel coronavirus caused an increase in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country this summer, and the average age of people dying of COVID-19 has been decreasing, according to news reports.
In July, August and September, 17 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported in people 70 and older, which is 41% of the 41 deaths with age information available in Santa Barbara County, according to Noozhawk data tracking.
The 50-69 age group accounted for more deaths: 18 compared to 17 in the older age group.
Six deaths have been reported in people under 50 in July, August and September.
Public Health reported another two deaths in the first four days of October (which may have occurred in September, due to reporting delays), including one person in the 50-69 age group and one in the 30-49 age group.
The county does not report COVID-19 vaccination status for local deaths, but statewide and national trends show a significantly higher death rate for unvaccinated people compared to those who have received the vaccine.
“From August 29, 2021, to September 4, 2021, unvaccinated people were 17.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people in California,” according to the California Department of Public Health.
County and state public health departments also have been reporting higher novel coronavirus case rates and COVID-19-related hospitalization rates for unvaccinated people.
Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso recently reported that the median age of vaccinated COVID-19 hospital patients in August was almost 30 years older than the median age of unvaccinated patients: 80 years old compared to 52 years old.