The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced Thursday that it will be lifting the local Health Officer Order requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor public places, effective next Wednesday, following the state’s guidance on masking.

Masks still will be required for certain indoor settings, such as public transport, K-12 schools, child care, shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities and other care facilities. Unvaccinated individuals also will still be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings.

“We are calling upon our community to act in the best interest of themselves and their neighbors,” Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said. “We are now on the downslope of the recent surge as evidenced by our lowering case rate and test positivity along with stable hospitalizations.”

The Public Health Department also reported 244 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and two additional coronavirus-related deaths.

One individual who died was age 70 or older while the other was age 17 or younger. One individual had underlying health conditions, and neither death was associated with a congregate care site. Both individuals resided in Santa Maria.

According to the Community Data Dashboard, 96 COVID-19-positive individuals were hospitalized Thursday, with 20 of those patients being treated in intensive-care units. 

The dashboard also showed that there was a current ICU bed availability of 6.2% — although COVID-19 hospitalizations accounted for only about 31.25% of staffed adult ICU beds in use Thursday.

Of the 244 COVID-19 cases reported throughout the county, 148 were in the Santa Maria Valley and 32 were in the Lompoc Valley.

The Santa Barbara area recorded 27 cases Thursday, and the Goleta Valley had 13 cases.

Isla Vista reported eight new COVID-19 cases, and the Montecito-Summerland-Carpinteria area had six new cases.

The Santa Ynez Valley accounted for seven new cases, and five COVID-19 cases were pending geographic location Thursday.

As of Thursday, Santa Barbara County has had a total of 82,452 reported COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in early 2020, and 2,281 cases are considered still infectious.

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.