SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Summer travel and the spread of the latest COVID-19 variant have some people nervous but, for now, there's no mask mandate in place on the Central Coast beyond the current recommendations by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
Even with protections and ongoing caution, the White House says President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19. His symptoms are reported to be mild.
There are still requirements for masks in certain locations including heath care offices, homeless shelters and correctional facilities.
The CDPH also says:
Additionally, masks are strongly recommended for all persons, regardless of vaccine status, in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public); on public transit (examples: airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares); and in transportation hubs (examples: airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation). Surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit are highly recommended.
Without waiting for a formal order, some members of the public have begun wearing masks again and others are being more careful about when and where they put themselves into crowded settings.
Organizers of recent festivals and events have noted a drop in attendance compared to pre-COVID years and they attribute that to a combination of factors including inflation, gas prices, and also the public's concern over health and safety issues relating to the coronavirus.
COVID-19 case numbers are up this summer, but no change in the mask rules has been announced by health officials at this time. The positivity rate in California this week is 16.1% according to the CDPH.
"With this new variant you can get infected by just passing someone that's unmasked," said downtown shopper Ann Patterson. "Wear a mask when you go inside. Any place where there's a lot of people, grocery stores, drug store, any store."
Student Andrew Sheshunoff was with his brother and just bought a new mask. "We don't want to contribute to the spread and we just want to be careful and keep everyone safe." His brother Ian said, "at school we wore masks basically constantly after wearing a mask seven hours a day you get used to it ."
Electrician Chris Lenci was going from one job to another and said he is going with his instincts and has a mask ready at all times. "You can feel it. Ya know, you just kind of go - this doesn't feel right. I keep it handy on tight events." He said he recently had one for a concert where there were crowds.
On board a plane, Patterson said, "I would say only about ten-percent of the people on the plane were wearing masks. I wore mine the entire time I was in the airport and the entire time I was on the plane."