Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso hands out at-home COVID-19 tests during a Jan. 22 event at a Santa Maria healthcare center. The rapid tests are available for free at some county clinics and other locations.
Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso hands out at-home COVID-19 tests during a Jan. 22 event at a Santa Maria health care center. The rapid tests are available for free at some county clinics and other locations. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Noozhawk created this frequently asked questions page to revisit COVID-19-related information and public health recommendations, and to connect Santa Barbara County residents to local resources.

A January version of this article focused on finding novel coronavirus testing during the wintertime Omicron variant surge in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

In the spring, Santa Barbara County has been experiencing low community transmission of the virus and most public health restrictions have been lifted, including mask mandates for most indoor public spaces. 

Public Health officials are starting to wind down some resources in response, including contact tracing investigations, free public testing sites, local data reporting and mobile vaccination clinics.

Novel coronavirus testing and COVID-19 vaccinations are still widely available in Santa Barbara County.

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

» Cough

» Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

» Fatigue

» Muscle or body aches

» Headache

» New loss of taste or smell

» Sore throat

» Congestion or runny nose

» Nausea or vomiting

» Diarrhea

“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, according to the CDC:

» 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 states.

When Should I Get Tested for COVID-19?

People should get tested if they have COVID-19-like symptoms or have been exposed to someone infected with the novel coronavirus, according to California Department of Public Health guidance.

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, according to public health officials.

They should take that as confirmation that they have COVID-19 and are infectious, and they 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 to choose will depend on availability, what type of test is needed, and the cost. 

Publicly run sites in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta and Santa Barbara offer free PCR testing, but all are expected to close by the end of June.

County health care centers are planning to increase their internal testing capacity to help make up for those state-run sites closing, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said. 

The county website at publichealthsbc.org/testing/ includes local testing locations, hours and sign-up information. 

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. 

The state’s MyTurn website includes a way to search for testing and vaccination locations: myturn.ca.gov/testing.html for testing and myturn.ca.gov/clinic.html for vaccination.

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department graphic)

At-home, rapid tests are typically sold at local pharmacies and other stores.

The federal government has a program to send up to eight at-home test kits to households around the country, and there are ways to have health insurance reimburse the cost of purchased test kits.

What Should I Do If I Test Positive? 

All the isolation and quarantine recommendations for the public are on this page: publichealthsbc.org/dont-feel-well/.

There are different guidelines for health care workers, according to Public Health. 

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.

Read more about that here: publichealthsbc.org/dont-feel-well/.

What COVID-Related Restrictions Are In Effect in Santa Barbara County and California? What About Travel Requirements?

The state and county public health departments have ended mask mandates for most indoor, public places, although some institutions have their own rules in effect such as theaters and colleges. 

Public transit, health care facilities and some other institutions still require universal masking, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention frequently updates the requirements for domestic travel (within the United States) and international travel on its website. 

Click here for CDC domestic travel guidance. 

Click here for CDC international travel requirements.

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 will work. 

Vaccination opportunities are also available on the state’s MyTurn page, where people 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 that 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 age 16 or 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 people can receive the booster dose of their choice. The CDC recommends the Pfizer and Moderna boosters over Johnson & Johnson booster shots.

According to MyTurn, the California online vaccination sign-up portal, booster eligibility as of March is:

» Ages 12 to 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 five months ago.

» Moderna — Received second dose at least five months ago.

» Johnson & Johnson — Received single dose at least two months ago.

(Santa Barbara County Public Health Department graphic)

Federal agencies have approved additional doses for immunocompromised individuals and older adults (age 50 or older).

People vaccinated for COVID-19 outside the United States may be eligible for booster doses, according to the CDC. More information is available here. 

Symptoms and Resources for People With Post-COVID Conditions or ‘Long COVID’

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department recently added resources on its website for people who have previously been infected with the novel coronavirus and are experiencing “returning illness, recurring health problems, or a range of new symptoms four or more weeks after having COVID-19.”

This is called long COVID or post-COVID conditions, and people experiencing these health issues are sometimes called COVID long-haulers. 

Click here for more information. 

“Anyone who had COVID-19 can develop post-COVID conditions, including people who had COVID-19 with no symptoms or very mild symptoms. It can happen to people in any age group but appears to be less common in children compared to adults,” Public Health states. 

Symptoms of post-COVID conditions can vary dramatically from person to person but may include one or more of the following:

» Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

» Tiredness or fatigue

» Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise)

» Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)

» Cough

» Chest or stomach pain

» Headache

» Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

» Joint or muscle pain

» Pins-and-needles feeling

» Diarrhea

» Sleep problems

» Fever

» Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)

» Rash

» Mood changes

» Change in smell or taste

» Changes in menstrual period cycles

More Information and Resources

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 publichealthsbc.org/

» Public Health COVID-19 vaccine information page at publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/

» Public Health COVID-19 testing information page at publichealthsbc.org/testing/

» Public Health COVID-19 isolation and quarantine information page (including what to do if test is positive) at publichealthsbc.org/dont-feel-well/

» Santa Barbara County Community Data Dashboard at sbcdashboard.org/ 

» California COVID-19 data is at covid19.ca.gov/

» Read more stories in the Noozhawk Coronavirus section at noozhawk.com/coronavirus.

» Sign up for Noozhawk’s free, weekly email newsletter about local impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic at noozhawk.com/subscribe.

Have More Questions? Get in Touch! 

We want to hear from you. Send your COVID-19-related questions to news@noozhawk.com and let us know how we can provide helpful, useful reporting to the Santa Barbara County community.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.