Increasing the vaccination rate in Santa Barbara County will be key to reaching the highly coveted yellow tier of COVID-19 restrictions, officials from the Public Health Department said during a Friday press briefing.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director, told reporters that she does not anticipate the county moving into the least restrictive tier of the state’s system next week, citing a slowing vaccination rate as one of the main factors. She said in order to increase the county’s chances of moving into the yellow tier before the system is disbanded June 15, vaccine rates must increase.
“We know safety precautions can get us to reduce the case rate — that is, the masking, the social distancing and now the vaccination rate,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said Friday. “I would say that we need to continue doing what we know, and what we’re not doing enough is getting all of our community vaccinated. I don’t know when we will reach the yellow tier … but given the June 15 deadline of lifting the tiers, I’m just not sure if we will get there. We need to double down and get vaccination rates up and continue meanwhile to practice masking and social distancing.”
Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, said the county is seeing the biggest uptick in cases among the under 18 population in the county. A few outbreaks have been reported at local high schools, mostly occurring on sports teams, Dr. Ansorg said, adding that only 40% of the county’s high school-age population is vaccinated.
In addition to vaccinating the rest of the adult population, Dr. Ansorg said giving shots to high school students will be critical moving forward.
“Having students vaccinated will greatly improve safety and help the whole community reach herd immunity,” Dr. Ansorg said Friday.
With the Food and Drug Administration expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for kids 12 and older next week, Public Health officials say they will quickly pivot to accommodate the next eligible age group through mobile clinics at schools and other community locations.
Already, the department has mobilized nearly 60 mobile clinics in the last three weeks to vaccinate individuals at their workplaces, places of worship and even in restaurants and markets.
“The mobile clinics are needed now to make sure that (the vaccine) is available in communities in places that individuals are comfortable getting their vaccinations,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
In recent weeks, the U.S. has seen an uptick in individuals refraining from receiving their second dose of the vaccine.
According to Dr. Do-Reynoso, health care workers have reported that 7% of people in Santa Barbara County are not returning for a second shot. To alleviate this issue, the public health director said health care workers are working diligently to contact individuals who need their second shot and reschedule appointments.
As of Friday, 61% of county residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 44.9% of that population is fully vaccinated.
Cases continue to decline in the county, and on Friday, the Public Health Department reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths. The total active case count stands at 110.
Lompoc reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and Santa Barbara reported three new cases. Orcutt and the Santa Ynez Valley reported two new cases, and both Santa Maria and Isla Vista reported one new case.