Testing is Key to Reopening Our Community
By Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP, Health Officer County of Santa Barbara, Department of Public Health
In order to return to the things we enjoyed pre COVID-19, such as gatherings, travel, live entertainment, in-person education and indoor dining, it is critical that we increase the amount of COVID-19 testing in our County, as well as mask up, physical distance and vaccinate when it is our turn.
The state of California currently ranks Santa Barbara County in the most restrictive “purple tier,” and in order for us to move to the less restrictive “red tier,” one of the things we must do is increase our COVID-19 testing. In our County, we still have widespread community transmission, with about 25 cases per 100,000.
Right now, it is as important as ever to get tested for the COVID-19 virus because frequent testing is the best way (short of getting vaccinated once available) to make sure positive cases are identified quickly and get isolated in order to stop further spread.
Would you be surprised to learn that about 50% of infected people have NO symptoms when testing positive? The highest viral load in infected people occurs typically 48 hours before their symptoms start. Your friend or neighbor who does not look or feel sick, could spread the virus. Identifying and isolating positive virus cases and quarantining the contacts remains a very powerful tool to stem the progression of this virus.
Who should get tested? If you are planning to travel, gather (even in small groups), or be around those outside your immediate household, you should be tested for the virus, even if you feel perfectly well. If you, have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19, or anyone displaying virus symptoms, you should be tested as well. Athletic teams that are playing and practicing together are currently having their teams and coaches tested daily, and schools are encouraged to test their staff weekly or every two weeks when open for in-person instruction in the purple Tier.
Even if you don't have COVID symptoms like a loss of taste or smell, coughing, or fever, you might still have the virus and can spread it to others. It is important to continue wearing a mask, physical distance and avoid gatherings and travel. The only way to know for sure whether you have the Coronavirus is by getting tested.
Some may think that now that there is a vaccine, testing is no longer important but in reality, the Pandemic is not over yet, and it is still very important to test, isolate, socially distance and wear a mask. In actuality these measures are even more powerful than vaccination alone. Combined, they will get us beyond the Pandemic faster and with less people getting seriously ill or dying from the disease.
Please get your vaccination when it is your turn. Don’t let your guard down! Stay safe Santa Barbara County and get tested!
For a list of free COVID-19 testing sites in Santa Barbara County visit: https://publichealthsbc.org/testing/.
For more information about local public health orders, guidance, and vaccine distribution in Santa Barbara County, please visit: https://publichealthsbc.org/.