By edhat staff
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) reported the county might be able to move into the red tier as early as this Friday.
During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, PHD Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso explained statewide changes to the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” metrics that incorporate vaccination rates.
California has relaxed the thresholds of the color-coded tiers that will allow more sectors to reopen based on the number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in communities that have been hardest hit by the virus.
The state is using the Healthy Places Index (HPI), which uses various data points such as economy, education, housing, etc. that determine health outcomes. California’s 1,650+ zip codes have been divided into four quarters based on the HPI Index, generally, the higher scores correlate to higher household incomes and lower scores with lower incomes.
When California reaches 2 million vaccinations in HPI Quartile 1, the highest “widespread” purple tier will shift from 7 cases per 100,000 population to 10 cases per 100,000. Meaning, that if the 2 million milestone were reached today, Santa Barbara County would be eligible to move into the less restrictive “substantial” red tier.
As of Monday, the state calculated 1.875 million doses were administered making it possible for the 2 million mark to be met by Friday or early next week due to the current volume of vaccine distribution. Dr. Do-Reynoso called this “wonderful piece of news” and stated the tier assignments would then take place the following day instead of having to wait until Tuesday.
The next threshold is the 4 million vaccinations which then widens the “moderate” orange tier allowing a 2 – 5.9 case rate per 100,000 from the previous 1-3.9 threshold.
As of Tuesday, Santa Barbara County has an anticipated 9.7 adjusted case rate per 100,000 population, down from 10.9. This puts the county in the purple tier until the state hits the 2 million vaccination threshold. The current testing positivity is 3.6 and health equity is 5.1, both meet the requirements for the red tier.
Santa Barbara County received a 39% increase of COVID-19 vaccines this week, including the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Last week the county received 9,080 and this week it received 12,580 doses.
The county is following the state’s guidance of the 70/30 distribution model. People age 65 and older will receive 70% of the vaccine supply while other eligible sectors will receive 30%. Of the 30%, approximately 33% of vaccine appointments are open to educators, 31% to food and agriculture, 16% is a hybrid of food/ag and emergency services due to a combination clinic, 15% for childcare workers, and 5% for emergency medical services.
PHD is awaiting guidance from the state on when it can reduce the 65 years age restriction and drop it down further.
Public Health Officer Dr. Ansorg also stated the vaccine hesitancy from skilled nursing staff has gotten much better. Last month it was reported that only 30% of staff in this sector had gotten vaccinated with the majority worried about the vaccine side effects and false rumors posted on social media.
Dr. Ansorg reported it’s now 70-80% of all skilled nursing staff in the county have been vaccinated. He attributes this increase to educational outreach and people feeling more reassured after watching their peers get the vaccine.
Supervisor Das Williams expressed his concern for people trying to skip the line to obtain the vaccine and remember there are people who are still at risk of dying from the virus.
“I urge people not to use the return to normalcy as their primary motivator and still be thinking about pub health and thinking about getting economic activity and economic survivability going as the priority. And the biggest one to me is our schools and our kids mental and well being, and learning, and mental health future secured before we sort of get motivated by getting rid of the hassle of it,” said Williams.
New CDC Recommendations
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new interim recommendations for people who are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
As it states, fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors, without a mask or distanced. Fully vaccinated people can visit with unvaccinated people from a single household with those who are at low-risk of serious complications, indoors and without masks and distancing. Fully vaccinated people can refrain from quarantine and testing after being exposed to a known COVID-19 positive person who was asymptomatic.
Fully vaccinated people should:
- Continue wearing masks and physically distance in public, when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at an increased risk, when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
- Avoid medium-large in-person gatherings
- Get tested if exhibiting COVID-19 syptoms
- Continue to follow guidance from employers
- Follow CDC and local PHD travel restrictions.
Santa Barbara County logged its first COVID-19 case on March 15, 2020, nearly one year ago. Dr. Do-Reynoso said the county has experienced peaks and valleys since then with two significant surge periods.
The first surge took place in May 2020 and the second took place in December 2020/January 2021, the latter being the biggest and longest during the pandemic. Since January 13, 2021, the county has experienced a downward trend.
From February 22 – March 8, 2021, active cases have decreased by roughly 40% which is “really good news,” said Dr. Do-Reynoso.
The county’s first death occurred on April 4, 2020 and since then 424 community members have died due to COVID-19. In the past two weeks, deaths have increased by 7%. In the same time period, hospitalizations have decreased by 38% and the intensive care unit (ICU) stays are down by 12%.
As of this week, 71,851 county residents have been vaccinated. Of those, 50% are fully vaccinated.
More data can be found at https://publichealthsbc.org/status-reports/