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COVID-19 daily numbers dropping in Santa Barbara County, enforcement actions released

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - With an enthusiastic report, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said, "we are heading downward to a good direction."

She thanked the community for "their commitment and their vigilance by wearing their mask, keeping their distance and limiting their gatherings."

In early January, the region was getting only a small shipment of the vaccine, about 2000 doses. This month the trend is up. " We are getting an infusion (of vaccines)" said Do-Reynoso. 9000 doses were delivered for the week of February 23.

This past weekend the farmworker vaccination pilot program took place. The county health department provided 496 vaccines last Sunday at the Santa Maria Health Care Center. The work was done in a collaboration with several outreach and medical groups along with the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner.

More of the clinics are being planned in the weeks ahead.

The majority of the staff was bilingual along with five interpreters.

Do-Reynoso said it was a "roaring success."

Looking ahead, the vaccine health care workers, and those aged 75 and older can still get their vaccination shots. Newly eligible recently has been the 65 and older population and this week, the new group includes those in emergency services, food and agriculture, education and child care.

The new distribution is a 70/30 plan.

70 percent will go to health care system for those 65 and older and educators with a priority need. That will include those working with students who are unable to wear masks or need support that does not come with physical distancing. Also on the list will be staff who have direct contact with students with minimal or no mixing.

30 percent will go to emergency services, food and agriculture and child care.

10 percent of each allocation is going to the educators.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also on the way. It only requires one shot. The previous two vaccines required two shots.

The new vaccine also does not need ultra-cold storage. It provides protection against severe disease and death. Health officials also say it has less side effects and provides quicker protection.

With the recent changes, outdoor high contact sports will soon resume such as football, basketball, hockey, rugby, rowing, soccer, water polo and rowing.

Parents would have to sign a consent for their kids in these sports, according to health health officials.

On going tests have been reemphasized. "More testing will lead to more reopening ultimately," said Do-Reynoso.

Supervisor Joan Hartmann had a concern about the vaccination and its effectiveness against spreading the virus.

"It is not fully clear that someone who has been vaccinated can spread the virus," said Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.

Supervisor Das Williams was encouraged to see educators in line for the vaccinations.

He also noted there were people from out of the area or who misrepresented themselves trying to get the vaccine recently. He cited "a tech worker from Palmdale," as an example.

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said the county needs to motivate people that "we can get back to normal."

Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg also says visitations for the elderly in care homes are allowed

"There are two motivations to get vaccinated," he said. "If they were to catch COVID not to get severely ill or die. That is a huge contingent of the population and that is their motivation."

There are people who want to see things open up ( the younger generation) "that is a huge motivation," he said.

So far the county has received 1600 complaints about COVID rules violations. 43 percent are within the county's jurisdiction. The others are sent to the appropriate government agency or city.

Office of Emergency Management Director Kelly Hubbard says all complaints have to be verified to start a corrective action. 3 administrative citations have been issued, and all are in Isla Vista. She says other actions have resulted in a remedy for the offenses.

The county says major offenders include gym and fitness centers.

A violation of the Health Officer Order can be a $1000 penalty.

Complaints have been "all across the board" with gyms and fitness, restaurants and churches.

Hubbard says when a personal visit is made by the county, they have very few repeat offenders.

Santa Barbara County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni says going to insurance companies when a violation is verified is another way to get compliance. For example, "a fraternity may be more afraid of losing their insurance than getting a citation," he said.

When it comes to indoor dining, the county says in order to go from the current purple tier of restrictions to the red tier, after qualifying with the appropriate numbers, it will take affect the following week. However, the state is looking to "modify the red tier criteria." That could be released at any time and is anticipated this week.

"I think it is an outstanding policy to allow businesses to move in to the right-of-way.' said Supervisor Steve Lavagnino. He hopes it can stay after the pandemic is over as "one of the only good things that happened during Covid."

Supervisor Bob Nelson said many businesses he has spoke to have tried to stay open during the pandemic, and in some cases, against the health officer order.

One public speaker, Terry Strickland, a north county restaurant owner, said the county's device for public comments was difficult and not user friendly via the telephone. She encouraged the board to allow the public back in the building to comment on agenda items face to face."

She also said California should look at other states such as Texas and open up certain sectors much faster, including schools. There was also a request to study the mental health impacts on student-athletes who are not allowed to participate in some sports.

There will be more announcements about the vaccine supply and possible changes in the coronavirus restrictions in the next few days, according to health officials.

For more information go to : Santa Barbara County Health Department

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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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