SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Just days into the Red Tier under the state's COVID-19 reopening plan, Santa Barbara County Health officials are already using the moment to encourage the public to work hard in hopes of upgrading to the next tier.
That would be the Orange tier. It allows for more indoor capacity at restaurants, retail stores and churches as well as the reopening of live performance venues.
With this being spring break for many schools, families have considered traveling short to moderate distances. County Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso suggests families stay together. She also said, "If you gather, keep it small, keep it outside and keep it short."
The message of caution remains strong.
"We really need to focus and adhere so we can continue to see a decrease in case rate and testing positivity. That is the only way we can get to the Orange Tier," she said.
Health officials say they expect a significant allocation of the vaccine this week.
Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said during the March Madness college basketball championship, "sports bars are absolutely unsafe. You are shoulder-to-shoulder shouting for your preferred team and so forth, and that's absolutely the scenario for super-spreading events."
He reminds bar owners to follow the guidelines in the health order pertaining to their operations based on whether or not they serve food.
Walking downtown, a Santa Barbara resident Jim Field said, "if we say things are going okay, now we need to dial it back again, you're going to come up with a big problem." He was worried after seeing spring break crowds in Florida and hoped there were no large gatherings ahead locally.
The message is: stay on guard and remain focused. "And adhere to our health precautions so we can continue to see a decrease in case rate," said Do-Reynoso.
Health officials urged people not to treat this as if the pandemic is coming to an end or is over.
"We still have widespread or significant transmission of the disease in the community," said Ansorg. "We could easily risk another surge in cases if we stop with masking and distancing."
For some residents, seeing the increase in the vaccine, the economic impacts, and the case rate dropping. "I think we should get back to normal," said resident and former business owner Kay Bowman. "I mean, look at State Street, it has been devastated. And look at the restaurants, I have heard there's no plan to go back to 100% inside at the restaurant."