All residents 16 and older can get vaccine; officials eye fourth wave developing in East
All Santa Barbara County residents 16 and older can now get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The County Public Health Department announced late Monday that all residents in that age group are eligible for vaccine appointments at clinics in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be distributed at the Hilton Beachfront Resort in Santa Barbara to residents 18 and older today and Thursday. Community members 16 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria all week long.
By April 15, all participating pharmacies, hospitals and health care providers will open appointments to everyone 16 and older.
“We have reached a critical moment in our vaccination efforts where all groups able to receive the vaccine are now eligible at County Public Health Community Vaccination Clinics,” Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s director of public health, said in a statement. “Now is the time to encourage your family members, neighbors, co-workers to do their part and receive the vaccine as soon as they can.”
This announcement comes just days after Cottage Health reached a milestone of 50,000 vaccine doses administered, inching closer to a victory in the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic on the Central Coast.
Since its first vaccine clinic in January, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital has quadrupled its daily vaccine distributions, now inoculating about 2,000 people per day. Cottage Urgent Care locations in Goleta and Buellton have also joined the effort, administering 3,450 vaccines thus far, according to a news release.
Cottage’s distribution efforts account for roughly 30% of all vaccines distributed in the county. As of Friday, the county’s Public Health Department has distributed more than 160,000 vaccines.
“We are very excited to have been able to administer that many vaccines to the community and to help our community start to fight this virus and pursue immunity and protection,” Dr. David Fisk, medical director of infection control and prevention at Cottage Health, told the News-Press Monday. “Ultimately, if we can get the levels high enough, it will not only help those who are vaccinated but those who are unable to get the vaccine for whatever reason.”
The news from Cottage comes at a time when local officials are eyeing a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases that is surging in parts of the Midwest, East Coast and even in the Pacific Northwest. While California is not seeing evidence of a fourth wave yet, health officials are urging community members to remain vigilant.
“There is definitely concern (about a fourth wave) because infections can surge if people let their guard down too soon … Everyone needs to still keep their guard up and avoid crowds and avoid travel,” Dr. Henning Ansort, the county’s public health officer, told the News-Press Monday.
Just a few weeks ago, cases in Santa Barbara County were trending downward week after week. But now, Dr. Ansorg said progress has stalled.
Last week, the county’s case rate was 5.2 per 100,000, and in just a few days, the case rate rose to 6.9 per 100,000 as of Monday.
“The ripple effect is daunting sometimes as far as how a virus this contagious can spread,” Dr. Ansorg said. “And that can change on a dime in a matter of days.”
States such as Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and New York are experiencing what officials believe is the fourth wave of COVID-19 cases due in part to new virus variants, such as the aggressive U.K. variant, spreading among unvaccinated folks.
The U.K. variant is known to be more contagious and more infectious among younger individuals. California has the fifth highest number of cases tied to the U.K. variant at 873 cases statewide, according to CDC data.
The nation’s top health officials are eyeing the spread of the South African and Brazilian strains of the virus, though the U.K. variant is far more widespread.
County Public Health officials and researchers from the UCSB virology lab are monitoring the presence of virus variants in Santa Barbara County. While data is still forthcoming, officials have detected the presence of the U.K. variant in the county in testing samples they have reviewed thus far.
With the variants becoming more prevalent in the state and across the nation, Dr. Fisk said it is likely the county will see an uptick in cases in the coming weeks and months, but officials are still unsure of how high case totals will climb.
“Our hope is that the spread and resurgence won’t be as high in January, but we really don’t know,” Dr. Fisk said. He raised concerns over the U.K. variant overtaking the prominent California variant, adding “this is essentially a really critical time for people to get vaccinated and encourage as many people to get vaccinated as soon as they possibly can to blunt that fourth wave.”
Dr. Ansorg echoed this point, adding that he is hopeful the state could be spared from a big surge of cases due to its robust and widespread vaccine rollout.
“It’s basically a race between how fast can these new virus types spread and how fast can we vaccinate as many people as possible.”