SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Watching thousands of people descend on popular Central Coast locations in the last two weeks for Spring break and Easter week, health officials are nervous over another coronavirus surge.
Crowds have been arriving at a steady pace to the beaches, dining areas, wine and beer spots, and landmarks such as Stearns Wharf.
The latest numbers in Santa Barbara County have been showing a soft decline in the virus, but at times a plateau. The impacts of another surge, if it occurs, will not be seen until about two weeks from now.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Monday, "I know that travel is up, and I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw over the summer and over the winter again."
She says, "I will tell you the truth even if it is not the news you didn't want to hear."
Saying she is scared at this point, ""I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom." This comes as a ten percent increase in COVID hospitalizations across the nation has just been reported in the last week.
European nations who have had a new surge are being watched very closely to detect a pattern that may come to the U.S.
"We have so much to look forward to," said Walensky. "But right now I am scared."
Several states in the last week have seen an increase in the virus and hospitalizations.
This comes at a time when vaccinations are on the increase. "We are rolling them out very fast," said Walensky.
"Hold on a little longer," she said. "We are not powerless."
Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg, said Friday, "We can easily revert and see an uptick.”
Medical leaders are working to prevent a fourth surge.
In the last week, under red tier rules, there's been more of a sign of people getting out. Thousands were in the Funk Zone, Stearns Wharf, and the Promenade. While the majority of people were wearing masks, not all were.
Movie theaters have reopened with a limited capacity, restaurants are seating inside again, and next month Southwest Airlines begins service to the Santa Barbara airport. That alone is expected to bring a new wave of tourism. Normally it is welcomed, but during a pandemic it could also be cause for worry.
"27 states are up again uh I think if are are not careful, yes I think we might go backwards again," said one visitor Martin Lizarraga while taking time off from his teaching job and strolling State Street.
"I think if you have vulnerable family members you better take it very seriously," said San Mateo resident Judy Aptekar. She too was on a vacation.
Some of the people said if there is going to be a surge it is going to come from the younger demographic or from people who have said even though the vaccine is available for them, they are not going to get a shot.
"The biggest concern I have is number of vaccine negaters," said Robert Aptekar. "As the vaccination rolls come in I think there is going to be a lessening, potentially lessening of a problem"
The latest COVID-19 cases have shown the highest rate of infection is in the population aged 49 and younger.. That may change next month when more adults can get their vaccination.
Rose Lizarraga said, "we're fully vaccinated and I hope everybody else is taking the opportunity to get vaccinated to get this under control. My kids wear a mask, my parents wear a mask, everybody wears a mask, we don't socialize like we used to."
In the meantime, those who are following the CDC and state health guidelines whether they are local residents or on the road, are by now - fully aware of the safety protocols that have been required during the pandemic.