Public health officer says nearly 90% of community should get shots
To reach herd immunity, “close to 90%” of the community needs to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Dr. Henning Ansorg said during a press conference Thursday.
Before the Delta variant traveled to the U.S., the Santa Barbara County public health officer thought herd immunity could be achieved when 70% are vaccinated.
When this highly contagious variant began to spread, it launched a race against the clock — a race lost as Santa Barbara County stands at 62.2% of eligible residents fully vaccinated.
“In late May and early June, we experienced only minimal community transmission, and most of us thought that we could have reached herd immunity, and the pandemic would be essentially over . . . Unfortunately, the new Delta strain of this virus emerged rapidly in late June and July, causing a steep rise in cases and hospitalizations,” Dr. Ansorg said. “This version of the virus is behaving very differently from previous types.”
The Delta variant has an incubation period of four days, compared to previous variants’ seven-day period, he said.
Delta also replicates faster and lingers longer. It clings to the respiratory tract easily and securely.
“All these new features enable the Delta variant to be almost as contagious as chickenpox,” Dr. Ansorg said.
It also is transmissible by vaccinated individuals.
“Vaccinated persons are fortunately very well protected from serious illness and death from COVID, so please don’t get me wrong. The vaccine is absolutely worth it,” he said.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the public health director, presented data showing that 89% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated. The remaining 11% are not in critical condition.
Dr. Ansorg later clarified that the vaccinated patients in the hospital are often elderly, immunocompromised or medically fragile.
When asked whether the county may return to a tiered system, Dr. Do-Reynoso stressed personal responsibility through masking, vaccination and social distancing.
“We are in such a different state than we were a year ago when the tiered system was put in place,” she said. “We didn’t have vaccination widely available; we do now.”
Some familiar procedures are coming back, such as the indoor mask mandate that goes into effect at 5 p.m. today.
“It’s about saving lives, and so we are really wanting to implore every community member to comply with this indoors masking mandate,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
To keep up with increased cases, Public Health is “scrambling” to get contact tracers and will be working throughout the weekend to catch up with an “overwhelming number of cases,” she said.
Dr. Do-Reynoso and Dr. Ansorg emphasized COVID-19 vaccines throughout the media briefing.
“We can get out of this pandemic,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said. “We can assure safety for our children, safety for our families and our businesses and our essential workers if we focus on getting vaccinations.”