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COVID hospitalization in Santa Barbara County becomes a concern again

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The latest numbers show Santa Barbara County's hospital rates are still a concern and are not as low as health officials would like going into the winter months and the holiday season.

"Our hospital capacity is unstable," said Santa Barbara County Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso.

Recently after a period of stabilization, daily rates started rising and vaccination rates plateaued.

"This is critical, it is very critical to safeguard our hospital capacity especially now during the winter months given that historically we will see an increase in hospitalization due to respiratory illnesses," said Do-Reynoso.

The recent mandatory indoor mask rule will be in place until December 4 but could be expanded. If the mask mandate is lifted locally it could still be required by a state health order in schools, places of employment or other indoor settings.

Some counties are looking at a lower threshold for lifting their mask mandates including a county with an 80 percent vaccination rate. There will also be a regional conversation about how the rules should be set going forward.

"We are seeing an uptick of cases in L.A.," said Do-Reynoso. She said that invariably means there will be an impact in the next two weeks.

"Mobile vaccination clinics work," she said. Last week the outreach included Santa Barbara High School, the Boys and Girls Club in Santa Maria and the Carpinteria Children's Project. Currently, there are 28 active outbreaks. 21 are in schools.

There's also talk about when California will move from a pandemic to an endemic state. While some counties have a low case rate, many are not in the same situation.

With the release of the new oral COVID medicine, "That is one more tool we have in our fight against COVID," said Do-Reynoso.

The county says it has received religious exemption requests from employees who do not want to get vaccinated. The process for that exemption involves filling out a statement and it is evaluated by a county team, but no exemptions have been rejected.

During public comments, there were strong requests to drop the mask mandate that remains in place.

For more information go to: Santa Barbara County Public Health

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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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