Noozhawk created this frequently asked questions page to revisit COVID-19-related information and public health recommendations, and connect Santa Barbara County residents to local resources.
This news article will be updated occasionally, and the date of the most recent update will be noted in this introduction section.
To start with, here are some resources for finding information about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 disease, vaccination, testing, public health recommendations and guidelines, and Santa Barbara County data.
» Santa Barbara County Public Health Department COVID-19 information at https://publichealthsbc.org/
» Public Health COVID-19 vaccine information page at https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/
» Public Health COVID-19 testing information page at https://publichealthsbc.org/testing/
» Public Health COVID-19 isolation and quarantine information page (including what to do if you test positive) at https://publichealthsbc.org/dont-feel-well/
» Santa Barbara County Community Data Dashboard at http://sbcdashboard.org/
» Read more stories in the Noozhawk Coronavirus section at https://www.noozhawk.com/coronavirus
» Sign up for Noozhawk’s free, weekly email newsletter about local impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic at https://www.noozhawk.com/subscribe
What Are the Common Symptoms of COVID-19?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has a list of symptoms which range from mild symptoms to severe symptoms. The symptoms may appear two-to-14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC.
People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
» Fever or chills
» Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
» Muscle or body aches
» New loss of taste or smell
» Sore throat
» Congestion or runny nose
» Nausea or vomiting
“Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness,” according to the CDC.
If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately, the CDC says:
» Trouble breathing
» Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
» New confusion
» Inability to wake or stay awake
» Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
“This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you,” the CDC says.
When Should I Get Tested for COVID-19?
People should get tested if they have COVID-19-like symptoms, says Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious diseases specialist at Cottage Health who is very involved with the county’s public health response to the pandemic.
Testing is recommended for people who have a known COVID-19 exposure (close contact with someone who has tested positive).
Some people also need to be tested for work, school, travel, events, or visiting at-risk friends or family.
There are different kinds of testing, including antigen tests (used in rapid, at-home tests) and molecular/PCR testing (used at the free, public clinics and some other sites).
People who have COVID-19-like symptoms and test positive for COVID-19 with the at-home tests do not need to take a PCR test as confirmation, she said. They should take that as confirmation they have COVID-19 and are infectious, and should isolate. (More information below on what to do if you test positive.)
Where Can I Find Testing for COVID-19?
As Noozhawk has reported before, there are a lot of different testing options locally, and the one you choose will depend on availability, what type of test you need, and the cost.
Publicly run sites in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta and Santa Barbara offer free PCR testing, and have hundreds of spots available each day. Public Health is expanding the hours of these locations due to recent testing demand, and some of the locations can handle walk-ins as well as appointments.
The county website at https://publichealthsbc.org/testing/ updates the testing locations, hours, and sign-up information frequently.
Testing is also available at doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics, and private clinics, and testing pop-ups that may or may not charge an out-of-pocket cost for the test.
Several school districts have contracted with local testing providers and have free testing available for their students and staff.
At-home, rapid tests have been in short supply recently, but are typically sold at local pharmacies and other stores. Public Health and school districts expect to start getting regular shipments of these tests to provide to community members, for free.
Santa Barbara County’s Public Health Department did a one-day giveaway of 14,000 at-home rapid test kits in early January and plans to make more available once they start getting shipments from the federal government.
The federal government has a program to send four at-home test kits to households around the country and the website went live Tuesday, a day earlier than expected. You can order the free kits here: https://special.usps.com/testkits
What Should I Do If I Test Positive?
There are different guidelines for healthcare workers, Public Health says.
In general, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should stay home and avoid other people for at least five days.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Exposed to Someone Who Tested Positive?
The Santa Barbara County Public Health page also has recommendations for people who have been exposed to someone who tested positive, or suspect they may have COVID-19.
Why Are Public Health Officials Recommending to ‘Upgrade Your Mask’ During the Omicron Winter Surge?
Public Health officials and medical professionals are recommending that people think about wearing more protective masks, such as N95 and KN95 masks and surgical masks, rather than cloth masks, for better protection during the current surge in cases.
Santa Barbara County suggests wearing surgical masks, double-masking with a surgical mask and cloth mask on the outside of it, or N95/KN95 mask if available. Public Health officials also recommended double-masking during the 2020/21 winter surge in cases.
This winter’s surge involves a more contagious variant of the novel coronavirus and the county is reporting never-before-seen numbers of new positive cases as of mid-January.
What COVID-Related Restrictions Are In Effect in Santa Barbara County?
The state and county public health departments have mask mandates in effect, but have not indicated any other pandemic-era restrictions will be implemented during the current surge in novel coronavirus cases.
Instead, individual institutions are deciding whether to close or change their service models.
Some libraries and museums have closed, events have been canceled or moved to virtual formats, and some colleges have pushed classes online at the beginning of their winter terms, including UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College.
As of January 2022, there is a local and statewide mask mandate in effect for public, indoor spaces. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people are required to wear face coverings to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in these spaces.
California’s color-coded tier of restrictions was eliminated in June 2021, but there is a vaccination-or-test requirements for ‘mega events’ — more than 500 people indoors.
There are also vaccination mandates for certain workplaces, including healthcare facilities, and vaccination-or-test requirements for visitors to healthcare facilities and skilled nursing homes.
Where Can I Get Vaccinated in Santa Barbara County? Where Can I Find Vaccines For My Kids?
COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots of the vaccines are widely available in Santa Barbara County and the rest of California.
Visit the Public Health Department vaccine page as a starting spot to find providers (pharmacies, doctor’s offices, county-run pop-up clinics) and a time that works for you.
Vaccination opportunities are also available on the state’s MyTurn page, where you can directly book appointments for some providers.
The graphic explains which COVID-19 vaccines are approved and available for each age group in the United States.
The pediatric Pfizer vaccine is a smaller dose, and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has been holding vaccination clinics at schools and other youth-focused organizations since kids became eligible to get shots in November.
The CDC recommends adults receive the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of concerns of rare blood clots called thrombosis, with thrombocytopenia syndrome found in some individuals who received the shot from Johnson & Johnson.
Can I Get A Booster Shot Yet?
People 16 and older are eligible to receive booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccines, depending on the timing of their primary vaccine series.
“Mix and match” boosters have been approved, which means you can receive the booster dose of your choice. The CDC recommends Pfizer and Moderna boosters over Johnson & Johnson booster shots.
According to MyTurn, the California online vaccination sign-up portal, booster eligibility as of January 2022 is:
» Ages 12-17: A booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine is available to people who received their second dose of Pfizer at least five months ago.
» Age 18 and older: May receive a booster dose of their choice if the minimum time has passed since completing their primary vaccine series:
» Pfizer – Received second dose at least 5 months ago.
» Moderna – Received second dose at least 5 months ago.
» Johnson & Johnson – Received single dose at least 2 months ago.
People vaccinated for COVID-19 outside the United States may be eligible for booster doses, according to the CDC. More information is available here.
The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus appears to be more contagious than the Delta variant, which became the dominant strain in California in summer 2020 due to its contagiousness.
Santa Barbara County has been reporting record-breaking numbers of new cases in January 2022.
In the first two weeks of January, the county reported 13,019 new positive cases, which represents 20.5% of the total cases reported during the entire pandemic.
Even though the hospitalization rate seems lower for people infected with the Omicron variant compared to previous variants of the virus, the county is reporting far more cases than ever before.
If you multiply a small percentage by a very large number, “you still come up with a scenario where hospitals are strained, and not just to take care of COVID-19 patients but also to take care of other diseases,” Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said on Jan. 11.
Have More Questions? Get in Touch!
We want to hear from you. Send your COVID-19-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can provide helpful, useful reporting to the Santa Barbara County community.