Public Health Officials Detail Farmworker Vaccination Pilot and COVID-19 Updates
By edhat staff
Santa Babara County Public Health Officials provided an update on COVID-19 in the county and a pilot program that vaccinated farmworkers.
During Tuesday morning's Board of Supervisors Meeting, Public Health Department (PHD) Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso called their latest vaccination effort of agricultural workers a success.
This past Sunday, PHD partnered with several community partners to administer 496 COVID-19 vaccines at the Santa Maria Health Care Center.
The goal was to work through cultural and linguistic barriers faced at vaccination clinics in order to respond to the unique needs of the communities represented, said Dr. Do-Reynoso.
The majority of the staff were bilingual, able to interpret in Spanish and Mixteco, offering information on legal, medical, and wellness support services offered by the county. The community partners included Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), Herencia Indigena, Ag Commission, and the Growers/Shippers Association.
Dr. Do-Reynoso said the pilot program went so well that other county officials are interested in learning the processes and procedures to potentially replicate the program in their counties.
Supervisor Das Williams applauded the program while also admonishing a handful of people for egregious "lifeboat behavior" as they attempted to receive a vaccine without meeting the appropriate qualifications.
He referenced a tech worker in Palmdale claiming to be an agricultural worker, someone delivering groceries to their parent claiming to be a caregiver, and a resident of Los Angeles. All were turned away by staff, he said.
"I hope people will think about their actions before they do that," said Williams.
Photo: MICOP / Facebook
Vaccine Allocations and Educators
Santa Barbara County received a 22% increase in vaccine supply from last week. With additional vaccine production and federal partnerships, vaccines are increasing, said Dr. Do-Reynoso.
The new Johnson&Johnson vaccine received approval with the state expecting upwards of 380,000 vaccines, although it's unclear how many Santa Barbara County will receive at this time. This new vaccine differs from Pfizer and Moderna as it's a single-dose vaccine, it can be stored in regular refrigerator temperatures, and it protects just two weeks after the shot. It also provides strong protection against severe disease and death, has less serious side effects, and performs against variants, said Dr. Do-Reynoso.
This week the Phase 1B group of educators, childcare, grocery/agricultural, and emergency medical service workers became eligible to receive the vaccine. The county is adhering to the state's 70/30 model, 70% of vaccines will go to the healthcare system to serve people aged 65 and over. The remaining 30% will be reserved for all other eligible groups.
For the TK-12 educators, the priority groups were determined by school superintendents as follows:
1. Staff serving students who are unable to wear masks, medically fragile, or require support that does not allow physical distancing.
2. Staff with significant contact with others in-person and/or close proximity to others, and mixing across multiple stable groups and/or locations.
3. Staff working in-person with direct contact with students or other staff with minimal or no mixing.
4. Staff working in-person with limited exposure to other people or working remotely.
The Lompoc Valley Med Center will be vaccinated the first priority group this week during evening and weekend clinics.
PHD will be meeting with stakeholders in the higher-education groups to determine their vaccinations.
Youth Sports on the Horizon
When the county's case rate falls below 14 per 100,000 population, high-risk youth sports will be allowed to reopen outdoors.
These sports include basketball, football, hockey, rugby, rowing, soccer, and water polo. Weekly testing will be required for athletes who are at least 13-years-old and coaches of football, rugby, and water polo. Test results must be available within 24 hours of competition.
More guidance is available here.
COVID Complaints: Gyms Consistent Rule Breakers
PHD officials stated they have received 1,649 complaints of COVID-19 rule-breakers since August 19, 2020. Of those, 43% are within the county's jurisdiction with the rest being referred to cities and state regulatory agencies.
The repeat offenders within the county are 32 gyms/fitness studios, 7 churches, and 36 restaurants with the remaining 113 are in various sectors. PHD officials stated very few consistently rebuff the rules and education usually equals compliance.
When a complaint is received, it's referred to the proper jurisdiction, then it's substantiated by an official where it's often suggested to educate rather than enforce. If the violations are egregious and confirmed in-person or through an inspection, enforcement is considered.
For the complaints within the county, the most serious were three citations were issued in Isla Vista and seven misdemeanors have been referred to the District Attorney's office from the Sheriff. All seven were in Isla Vista.
The downward trend continues in the county with active cases decreasing by 45%, hospitalizations by 50%, and ICU stays by 32% from February 15 through March 1. In the same time period, however, deaths increased by 17%.
The state's "Blueprint for a Safer Economy" still has Santa Barbara County within the purple tier. The county's case rate is now 13 per 100,000 population, adjusted from 15. The testing positivity rate crept into the red tier at 5.1%, but the health equity metric is still in purple at 8.2%
"This is good news, this is what we need to see," said Dr. Do-Reynoso.
On Tuesday, PHD reported 40 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths.
Two individuals were 70+ years old and one was 50-69 years of age. All three individuals had underlying health conditions and one death was associated with an outbreak at a congregate care facility. The individuals lived in the City of Lompoc and the City of Santa Barbara, and one location is pending.
There have now been 416 deaths.
Currently there are 325 active cases within the county. Of those, 59 are hospitalized with 17 in the ICU.
More data can be found at publichealthsbc.org.