Wednesday was the first day without the indoor mask mandate
A new sign on the front door of the Santa Barbara Public Library reflected the change.
Masks are recommended if you go inside.
The word “required” wasn’t on the sign, which was from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.
That was the scene Wednesday on the first day without a mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals, who can now go inside most indoor public settings without a face covering.
Public health departments in the Tri-Counties say masks are still required of unvaccinated people and recommended for vaccinated people.
People are heeding the recommendation. The News-Press saw many people wearing masks as they left stores on State Street in Santa Barbara. They also wore them as they exited the U.S. Post Office on Anacapa Street and Costco in Goleta.
And even though masks haven’t been required outside for anyone, you can spot them on roughly half the people walking down State Street in Santa Barbara and at settings such as outdoor malls.
The last day of the statewide mandate was Tuesday, and public health departments in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties made Tuesday the last day of their mandates as well. They decided to align themselves with state guidance in light of data showing that the region is on the downslope of the omicron surge.
On Wednesday, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 157 new cases and one death. While higher than Tuesday’s number of 78 cases, it’s significantly lower than the 1,000 or so new daily cases that were reported back in early January.
That’s the story across the nation, where COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are declining.
They’re dropping to the point that Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said her agency could ease its guidance on mask wearing soon.
“We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing when these metrics are better,” Dr. Walensky said Wednesday during a White House briefing.
But she added the CDC stands ready to give stricter guidance on mask wearing if cases rise again.
For now, COVID-19 is moving in a direction where it will eventually no longer be a crisis, said Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, during the same briefing. He noted three-fourths of Americans are vaccinated.
That’s roughly the case in Santa Barbara County, where the public health department reported Wednesday that 71.4% of the eligible 5-and-older population is fully vaccinated.
Elsewhere in California, the Disneyland Resort reported it’s no longer requiring masks for vaccinated people going inside a building. That means vaccinated people can go on rides without a mask at the Orange County resort and its theme parks, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
But Los Angeles County remains weeks away from ending its indoor mask mandate, according to its public health department.
Even with the end of the indoor mask mandate, masks are still required inside in specific settings such as schools, healthcare facilities, prisons and long-term care facilities.
But Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of California Health and Human Services, said the state is reviewing its data to see when the indoor mask mandate could end in schools. He said there could be an announcement on Feb. 28 concerning a specific date for ending that particular mandate.