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With improving COVID-19 data, Santa Barbara County dropping to less restrictive red tier

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With dropping COVID-19 positive cases, Santa Barbara County is now moving into the less-restrictive red tier. That will take effect Wednesday, according to the Board of Supervisors.

That means more businesses will be opening or adding capacity and schools can continue to implement their in-person teaching on different levels.

Restaurants, serving outside now, will be able to open inside with a 25-percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Retail sites will be able to have an inside capacity of 50-percent.

This week the county receives 9080 first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Health officials say it is about the same as last week.

Santa Barbara County Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said, the state anticipates by the end of the month the My Turn online program, through the California Department of Public Health, will be the way the public will be able to schedule its future vaccinations. The site already alerts users the demand will be high.

Do-Reynoso said, "The public has to remain vigilant in their protections, by wearing masks and keeping away from large gatherings." She also said, "Spring break is right around the corner," which is a warning against big group parties that normally occur with college-age adults.

Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said, "There is still a California travel advisory in place. Anyone who travels 120 miles from home should self quarantine."

"We need to avoid what's happening in Europe. They are experiencing their third wave," said Ansorg. He suggested precautions have been dropped by many people there. Here he urged the public to continue to "wear masks in public and socially distance from others."

Supervisor Gregg Hart says he has been talking to the public frequently about their experience with the vaccination clinics. "There has been a radical shift," he said with how comfortable the public has been with the process. He also said, "They are more accepting about the amount of time it will take to get the vaccine."

Ansorg says a fourth vaccine is in the works and that will add to the efficiency and outreach of the vaccination program.

Supervisor Das Williams said there's a lot of enthusiasm about the vaccination clinics and the arrival of the vaccine. He said however, "It is still going to take awhile." Even if the current rate of vaccine delivery is doubled, "it will take 27 weeks" he said, to get to 85 percent of the eligible adult population.

There is also a worry about those who will not take the vaccine.

"That's going to be a big problem," said Hart. "That will slow us down to getting to herd immunity."

For those awaiting the reopening of sports and live performance venues, starting April 1 an approval is expected for 20 percent capacity under the red tier with certain protocols including advanced seating reservations. There have been no firm projections on full capacity at these venues.

Assistant County CEO, Nancy Anderson said the signing of the American Rescue Plan 2021 last week by President Joe Biden, Santa Barbara County will be receiving $86.6 million dollars.

There will also be millions of dollars for programs impacting homelessness, emergency housing, and homeowners assistance funds.

The county is also working with the Economic Development Collaborative for regional resources for business, consulting, funding and strategic initiatives for the regional economy.

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said the county's website is a key source to moving people forward to their recovery.

For those who are opposed to taking government bail out funds he has a message. "If you have suffered a loss, and I don't know what business hasn't, this money is for you. Get in line and figure out how to access it," said Lavagnino.

He said by not taking the money it does not go back into the government treasury to bring down the national debt or some other similar use. He said it would just go to another city or county with a request.

Tonight there will be a "Reopen Our Cities" rally a Santa Maria City Hall. It is called a protest of one year of COVID-19.

Business Matters / California / Community / Coronavirus / Crime / Economy / Education / Health / Lifestyle / Local Politics / Money and Business / Outdoors / Politics / Safety / Santa Barbara - South County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
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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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