The Public Health Department announced Friday that Santa Barbara County will see a significant influx of vaccines in the next two weeks, an action that state and local officials say could help dissolve the tier system by May.
During a Friday press conference, Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said the county expects to see a “significant increase in vaccine allocation” in the coming weeks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom echoed a similar sentiment during a separate press conference Friday morning, saying the state is expected to receive 1.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for allocation next week.
With increased supply comes greater distribution, and as millions more are vaccinated in the coming weeks, Gov. Newsom said the tier system could become a thing of the past in the near future.
“We’re anticipating within five and a half weeks we can eliminate all of the tiering, so to speak, and make available vaccines to everybody across the spectrum because supply will exponentially increase,” Gov. Newsom said during the press conference.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, voiced support for Gov. Newsom’s projection during the county’s meeting Friday.
“We (Drs. Ansorg and Do-Reynoso) both feel that we are reaching a pivoting point, we are reaching a level where quite a few people have the opportunity to sign up for vaccine appointments,” Dr. Ansorg said. He noted that with more vaccines on the way, doses could be available for anyone who wants one by May 1.
Currently Santa Barbara County has administered more than 135,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The county is currently operating in the Phase 1B stage, which offers vaccines to those 65 and up, as well as school teachers and agricultural workers.
In Phase 1B, people ages 16 through 64 can also qualify for the vaccine if they have comorbidities or remain at high risk of death from COVID-19. For those in Phase 1B who are still awaiting a vaccine, Dr. Do-Reynoso announced that vaccine appointments can be booked starting at 9 a.m. Monday for vaccine distributions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
During the press conference, Dr. Ansorg said the county will likely offer vaccines to all people ages 50 and up when moving to the next vaccine phase in the coming weeks.
On Friday, the Public Health Department reported 43 new cases of COVID-19 and one death. The individual who died was over age 70, had underlying conditions and lived in the communities of Mission Hills and Vandenberg Village in Lompoc.
Santa Maria reported the greatest number of new cases Friday, with a total of 12.
The unincorporated area of Goleta Valley and Gaviota reported eight new cases, and Lompoc reported seven new cases.
Santa Barbara reported five new cases Friday, and all other areas reported fewer than four cases.
As of Friday, Cottage Health reported a total of 293 COVID patients in their care across all campuses. In Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, 197 are acute care patients, and 27 acute care beds remain available. In addition, 13 patients are on ventilators, and 98 ventilators remain available.