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Improving COVID numbers explained, additional vaccines on the way

California COVID map
The latest COVID-19 map shows nearly all of California in the very restrictive purple tier. (Santa Barbara County graphic)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Health officials say the data on COVID-19 cases shows significant changes with hospital admissions going down and ICU capacity is going up.

After some stressful weeks, rising numbers, strict "lockdown" type rules, now overall, "we are trending downwards," said Health Director Van Do-Reynoso to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

As you heard yesterday the we have been moved out of the regional stay at home order.

The original stay at home order was in place because California counties were in the "toughest time of the year around December, around the holidays. It helped us avoid an even higher hospitalizations," she said. "It could have been much worse without the order is the bottom line."

Under the just-announced changes, "with regards to private gatherings, it is allowed but limited to three households. It must be outdoors, only with masking and social distancing," said Do-Reynoso.

There are other approvals for increased capacity at hotels, motels, fitness facilities, personal care, faith-based services, indoor malls, shopping center and lower-risk retail. Wineries will be able to operate without the food option requirement. Bars will still need to have food to go with their drinks.

The health department still says with improving numbers the situation is "precarious."

"We are seeing a decrease in most of our county areas. The only area that did not see a decrease and is static is Santa Barbara  and the only area that had an increase was Isla Vista," said Do-Reynoso.

Vaccine distribution shows the largest distribution to providers has gone to Santa Barbara (43%), followed by Santa Maria (25%), County wide (20%), Lompoc (10%), and Carpinteria (2%). It totals 44,825 doses. In addition, the Marian Medial Center has received 12,955 doses in an agreement with the California Department of Public Health.

The sites for vacines are at clinics, health-care providers, hospitals and pharmacies.

The initial rollout of vaccines went to hospitals to "offer the vaccines to health care workers. The hospitals had the bulk at 50%," said Do-Reynoso.

Supervisor Joan Hartmann said her constituents 75 and up have had trouble signing up on line and she asked for the process to be improved, "so they aren't so frustrated by this."

"Unless a senior is getting help," said Supervisor Steve Lavagnino "there are very few that can set it up themselves."

The county says a new system is being tested in San Diego, and it is "simple and easy to do."

Office of Emergency Management Director Kelly Hubbard says the 211 call center is getting additional attention this week to make it more efficient due to the volume of calls coming in. She says the staff is assisting those who are 75 and older with their vaccine appointments if they are having trouble with other systems.

The county says it is following up on any concerns about vaccines being given out outside of the protocols, if there is an excess supply that may spoil if not used.

Supervisor Gregg Hart was also concerned about duplicate appointments being made by people who will then bog down the system. The health department says providers are using different programs.

Supervisor Bob Nelson said some high school sports will be permitted under the current tier system He is a former coach.

Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business spokesperson Andy Caldwell was concerned about the timeline and supply line for the second doses of the vaccine.

He also said more needs to be done for restaurant owners. "There is no reason to believe that indoor dining" contributes to the spread of COVID, said Caldwell. He said the current rules are "killing" some restaurant owners. He cited the Beachside Bar-Cafe in Goleta which is closing after 36 years, and the landmark Pea Soup Andersons in Buellton which is for sale.

Supervisor Hart did not appear at the meeting in person. He announced that a staff member had come in contact with someone with COVID, and he has chosen to quarantine.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and NewsChannel 12. To learn more about John, click here.

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