Santa Barbara County fully reopens
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — After more than a year of restrictions, masking and lockdowns, the day that many business owners have been anxiously awaiting has finally arrived.
California imposed the first statewide shutdown in March 2020 and is among the last to fully reopen, though businesses have operated at reduced capacity for months.
Today, the state is fully reopening its economy by ditching the tier system and rolling out a revised set of guidelines for masking and social distancing.
California has lifted all capacity and social distancing restrictions and updated its mask guidance, declaring that fully vaccinated individuals can go maskless in most settings.
Santa Barbara resident Michael Kramer enjoyed lunch with a few friends at Pascucci Restaurant.
"People that have been concerned about protecting themselves and protecting others will probably continue to wear their masks,” he said. “Now people that feel comfortable, don't have to feel guilty walking around the street without a mask."
Over at The Cruisery on lower State Street, most people preferred to keep their masks on while walking in.
"It was always a fight to get them to wear them throughout COVID,” owner Aron Ashland said. “Now it's almost seemed like everyone who came by was already wearing one."
However, those who are not fully vaccinated are still expected to wear a mask in all indoor and public settings.
Yet, this has created confusion for local businesses trying to figure out how to enforce this updated guidance.
"I don't know how I would be the expert to find someone that had a fake vaccine card,” Ashland said. “But that's basically what we've been charged with doing."
Julie Bustad was visiting town from Los Angeles and wasn’t satisfied with the new mask rule.
"I have a problem with the so-called honor system,” she said. “Where you can just say that you're vaccinated."
Over at Joe's Cafe, customers enjoyed sitting at its’ bar for the first time in 15 months.
Even though the restaurant wasn't quite as busy as a typical weekend, its entire staff looks forward to getting back to business as usual.
“At the end of this week, you'll see that things have evolved into questioning where did the pandemic go,” Joe's Cafe manager Joey Somerville said.