As Santa Barbara County and California prepare to drop mask mandates today for vaccinated individuals in most indoor public settings, county health officials noted COVID-19 cases are dropping.
The county reported 143 new cases Monday, down 53% from the previous week, according to a presentation from the county Public Health Department’s presentation Tuesday afternoon before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon.
Active cases on Monday were 1,186, a 49% decrease from the previous week.
Numbers were lower in the health department’s latest statistics Tuesday afternoon.
On Tuesday, the health department reported 78 new cases and a total of 1,111 active cases.
Tuesday was the final day for the statewide indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals. Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties also lifted their mandates in tandem with the state.
However, masks are still required in certain settings such as schools, healthcare facilities, prisons and long-term care facilities.
Health officials recommended a “layered approach” as the mask mandate lapses, which included avoiding large gatherings if community transmission is high and getting booster vaccines when eligible. And health officials still “strongly recommend” masks for vaccinated individuals in public indoor settings.
Board of Supervisors Chair Joan Hartmann said she plans to still continue wearing her N95 mask even after the mandate ends.
According to a presentation to the board Tuesday, a “drastically” higher number of children ages 5-11 in Santa Barbara County remain unvaccinated when compared to the state as a whole: 79% of kids in the county are unvaccinated, compared to 65% in California.
As to when masking in schools might lapse, that’s up to the California Department of Public Health. The state plans to reassess COVID conditions later this month, but the county health department’s presentation Tuesday said “it is reasonable that we’re getting close to a point where state masking requirements can be relaxed.”
In Santa Barbara County, 71.4% of eligible people are fully vaccinated against COVID, according to the latest data from the public health department. Hospitalizations and deaths are also down, the data showed Tuesday.
Despite urging caution, the message Tuesday was ultimately positive: “The uncertainty about omicron is a lot lower. We now know more even than we did at the beginning of the month,” said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the Santa Barbara County public health director.