Board of Supervisors discuss state’s mask guidance
As Santa Barbara County narrowly missed yellow tier criteria Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors weighed in on the state’s current mask policy, which state officials say will remain in effect until June 15.
On Tuesday, the county’s adjusted case rate stood at 2.1 per 100,000. While this is the lowest case rate the county has seen in many months, it wasn’t enough to qualify the county for the least restrictive yellow tier.
Yellow tier criteria requires counties to maintain a case rate of less than 2 per 100,000 for at least two weeks, meaning that Santa Barbara County missed the first week qualification by only two tenths of a percent.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county public health director, told the supervisors Tuesday that if case rates continue to trend downward, the county could meet the first week of yellow tier criteria next week, putting the region on track to qualify June 1.
Yet it can be hard to project where the county’s case rate will stand even just two weeks from now, she added.
“Given what we know today, it is hard to predict when we will actually hit the yellow given that the threshold is so low,” Dr. Do-Reynoso told Supervisors. “If there is an outbreak in the next couple of days, that could keep us in the orange tier a little longer.”
In addition to this update, Dr. Do-Reynoso also informed supervisors that the state’s mask mandate would remain in place until June 15 despite updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that says people who are fully vaccinated can go without a mask in most circumstances.
The state’s stance received some pushback from Bob Nelson, the chairman of the board and 4th District supervisor, who said the state’s current measures should align with the science brought forth by the CDC.
“The CDC has come out and said this is not necessary if you’re vaccinated, and the state of California is failing to recognize that,” Mr. Nelson said.
He continued, “I think as the science evolves, we should react to it, and I think it sends the wrong message. It’s a huge mistake for the state not to recognize this right now — especially with having that incentive right now for people to get vaccinated. If that’s the goal, then get the carrot.
“Because like I said last week, people don’t believe us anymore. People don’t believe the government is going to give away that authority that they have taken during those emergency measures.”
In response to Mr. Nelson, Dr. Do-Reynoso said the county’s Public Health Department did vote to align with CDC guidance during a meeting with state officials, but the department’s vote was in the minority among other public health leaders across the state.
First District Supervisor Das Williams also weighed in on the mask matter, remarking that the best way to appease the public is to continue to promote vaccines.
“Part of our public are anxious to get rid of their masks, and part of our public is scared that not enough folks are vaccinated so they don’t want to get rid of their masks,” Mr. Williams said. “The best way to get both groups to a place where they’re at their happiest is if more people got vaccinated so more people could get rid of their masks by June (15) with less fear and less actual danger.”
The vaccine rate in Santa Barbara County remains on the rise. As of Tuesday, 51.2% of the county has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 41.2% are fully vaccinated.
With the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 12 to 15, Dr. Do-Reynoso said the county plans to expand its vaccine clinics into schools this week to reach eligible, unvaccinated students and families.
Vaccine clinics will be held at Righetti High School in Orcutt, Mary Buren Elementary School in Guadalupe and Carpinteria High School throughout this week and next. School vaccination sites in Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez are still under discussion.
As more people receive the vaccine, the Public Health Department is tracking a consistent decrease in COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday, the department reported seven new infections in the county and no new deaths.
Santa Maria reported four new cases Tuesday, and Lompoc, Santa Barbara and the North County unincorporated areas reported one new case. The county’s active case total currently sits at 68 cases.
As of Tuesday, 15 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 and three are recovering in the ICU.