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COVID-19 numbers fall in Santa Barbara County sending optimism up

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The latest numbers on COVID-19 cases has dropped to barely a blip on the screen in the last reporting period.

19 cases were reported, with zero deaths and empty Intensive Care Unit beds. This, by no means, is the end of the line as health officials will be quick to tell the public. This is the lowest number of ICU cases "since we started tracking last April 2020," said Santa Barbara County Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso.

She says the county will remain in the Orange tier for now, and has not met the requirements to go to a lower or yellow tier.

The latest numbers show county residents 16 years of age or older that are fully vaccinated is now at 48.6 percent.

For those getting one shot there is a 62 percent level.

Supervisor Joan Hartmann says while the numbers are good, the goal is, "we need to get to 80 percent." She encouraged all efforts to continue to do community outreach because, "it matters for your family and your community."

Widespread efforts are underway to get as many people vaccinated as possible, leaving no gaps in the health safety net that would possibly allow the virus to spread or a variant to take hold.

Santa Barbara County Supervisors have been encouraged by the latest information, but continue to urge the public to complete their vaccinations.

Supervisor Das Williams says, "Everyone wants this chapter of their lives to be over."

He says the way to do that is to get to "herd immunity as soon as possible." He says the new information about vaccinations for lower age groups will add another demographic for the calculations.

Do Reynoso says she believes children need to be included in the drive to complete vaccinations because they can transmit the virus.

The state is hoping to reopen by mid-June just before the start of summer.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend will be the anniversary of the outside dining permission allowed in the City of Santa Barbara.

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said, "One in three vaccinations in Northern Santa Barbara County has taken place at Allan Hancock College." He made note of this as the college is set to celebrate its 100th anniversary later this month.

There are many interpretations of the changing rules on wearing masks indoors when less than six feet from each other. The California Occupational Safety and Health rules still require them, but changes could be made after a meeting on May 20.

Lavagnino says he wants to show the public the return to normal as soon as possible. The board was among the first to wear masks at its meeting and with that he says, "we need to be just as swift in removing them when they don't make sense anymore."

Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Bob Nelson says he has information that more people would get their vaccinations if "masks would go away."

Fully vaccination members of the public continues to be the statistical group used by the state to determine the population percentage that has been protected. One suggestion has been to also add in the number of people that have gone through COVID, but health officials do not agree. They have strongly encouraged those with COVID to also get vaccinated.

"Risks are low but the risks of having an insufficient number of people vaccinated are high," said Williams who is concerned about where the numbers are in the current report.

The supervisors talked about techniques for communicating their message without "shaming" those who have not received their vaccination.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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