To view the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s Feb. 26 press conference, please click here

Vaccine Update

  • The county has administered 87% of its doses as of Feb. 23. Out of the 83,630 doses that the county has received, 47,427 have been administered as first doses while 25,624 have been administered as second doses. Van Do-Reynoso, director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBPHD), said that the county experienced a delay in administering vaccines because of the winter storms which prolonged their delivery. Do-Reynoso said that the county expects to be “caught up” by next week. 
  • Anthem Blue Cross, a statewide system for vaccine distribution, is supposed to take over operations on March 1. However, Do-Reynoso said that the transfer is more likely to occur towards the end of March. The same is true for the program My Turn, which allows people to know when they are eligible for a vaccine. Do-Reynoso clarified that this delay will not impact the efficiency of vaccinations in Santa Barbara County.
  • California expects to receive 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week. Initially, Johnson & Johnson vaccines will not be distributed at the same rate as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, though the medical company plans on ramping up production soon, according to Henning Ansorg, SBPHD public health officer. 
  • The county is currently vaccinating people in the Phase 1A and Phase 1B categories, which includes healthcare workers, community health workers, emergency medical personnel, long-term care facility residents and staff, and residents aged 65 and older. As of next week, the county will begin vaccinating other demographics in the Phase 1B category, including emergency services workers, food and agricultural workers and education and childcare workers.
  • In the various groups currently eligible for vaccines, there are 32,330 people in the 75 and older category, 40,898 people in the 65 to 74 age group, 22,646 people in education childcare sector, 33,090 in the food and agricultural sector and 5,755 people in the emergency services sector.
  • Priority groups who work in transitional K-12 can get vaccinated at the Lompoc Valley Medical Center. The county has set aside at least 1,000 vaccines for childcare and education workers for next week. The vaccines will be prioritized for teachers and staff who work with immunocompromised students. 
  • The county and school districts have decided to vaccinate special education workers after school hours and on the weekends. In addition, vaccination appointments will be given to the Santa Barbara Education Office to be distributed based on their internal guidelines and plans. 
  • “The vaccination is meant to prevent death and severe illness for right now, but it will not stop the pandemic at this point, unless we have 90% of people getting vaccinated,” Ansorg said. “The vaccines are protecting the most vulnerable of us, mainly the elderly, from getting seriously ill, however, at our current level, unless the 13-16-year-olds mainly, start or continue with social distancing, avoidance of crowds, wearing masks — that’s how we can stop the pandemic. Ansorg clarified that this demographic should be encouraged to adhere to mitigation measures because they are more socially active and going to school soon, and many of them work as well. 
  • This weekend, Do-Reynoso said that SBPHD is piloting a vaccination clinic for farm workers who are facing linguistic and cultural barriers; 500 vaccines will be distributed. 

COVID-19 Numbers and Data Update

  • Ansorg and Do-Reynoso said that although COVID-19 cases are on the decline, the county is seeing a bit of plateau — in line with a global trend. “We are somewhat worried about the plateauing, the slowing down of the decrease in our cases and testing positively. It really speaks back to us addressing the pandemic fatigue. We’re tired of all the personal sacrifices that we’ve made,” Do-Reynoso said. “There’s some sense of just, ‘I’m done. I wanna see my family, I wanna have some parties, I don’t wanna wear that mask anymore.’ To that, our public health message is really to encourage everyone just to be vigilant a little bit longer until we can get everyone vaccinated.” 

Public Health Official Statements

  • “I’m very pleased and honored to be here today to share that there is hope on the horizon for sports and our athletes in Santa Barbara County,” Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson said. “It is essential to get back to athletics, not just for the physical health, but the mental health, of our children and our future leaders.” The county’s adjusted case rate is currently 16.9. Should the county reach 14, organized youth and adult sports, outdoor high-contact and moderate-contact practices and competitions in red and purple tier counties would be allowed. 
  • “The typically contagious person will actually not yet have any symptoms. They will not feel or look sick. They will feel great,” Ansorg said. “The highest virus load that we can measure in the mouth, in the nose, in the throat of somebody who is infected, the highest virus number is actually 48 hours before they would develop symptoms. That’s when the virus gets spread around.” 
  • Ansorg said that speaking loudly can increase the virus particles emitted from the speaker by 50%, while singing can increase the virus particles emitted by 99%. “If you combine this with getting closer to someone’s face or ear because of background music or because of a celebration mood, then that increases the virus spread significantly,” Ansorg said. 
  • Ansorg said that modeling studies have shown that 80% of virus particles in the air during indoor activities are emitted by 20% of people. 
  • Studies have shown that 80% of infections are caused by 10% of people. “We call these events super spreader events. If one person in a larger gathering or a venue spreads the virus to many more people, that’s called a superspreader event,” Ansorg said. “That is what’s currently, not just in Santa Barbara, but all over the state, the country and, actually, the world, keeping the pandemic going.” 
  • Ansorg said it is not more effective to vaccinate younger populations first, a theory that some countries and journalists have espoused. “The intention when you vaccinate the young and healthy, mobile people first is to get the pandemic under control. Ideally, you go into a neighborhood and clean them out. The virus can’t spread anymore because everyone is vaccinated,” Ansorg said. “You have to vaccinate the most vulnerable first. The ones who have the highest risk of experiencing these events … the right choice is to protect the most vulnerable.” 
  • Though the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a lower efficacy rate than Pfizer or Moderna, Ansorg said that his recommendation as a physician is to get whichever vaccine is available to you when you are eligible. “The efficacy numbers are trial numbers, so they have to come into the real world and then they get reassessed. It’s possible that the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine is getting a bad rep that it doesn’t deserve,” Ansorg said. He went on to say that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has several advantages such as only being a single dose, having very little side effects and trials show that the vaccine prevents infection, while Pfizer, Moderna and others prevent severe infection and death. Ansorg said all the vaccines are excellent. 
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Atmika Iyer
Atmika Iyer is an assistant news editor. She's a lover of loud music, loud laughs, and loud prints.