Rising COVID-19 case rates in Santa Barbara County are pushing the possibility of additional business operations further into the future, while the majority of the state moves into the orange tier, the second-least restrictive reopening phase.
Beginning this week, entry into the state's orange tier is permitted for counties that maintain a COVID-19 case rate of 5.9 per 100,000 people or below for two weeks.
The Blueprint for a Safer Economy previously required a case rate of 3.9 or below, but the threshold was loosened after the state reached its goal of administering 4 million vaccines in the most disadvantaged areas, moving several counties into the next phase.
Santa Barbara County did not make the move, however, as case rates increased from 5.9 to 6.7 over the past week. The county will now spend a fourth week in the red tier, the second-most restrictive reopening phase.
"We have not met the orange tier criteria at this time even though the threshold has been broadened. We have some work ahead of us," county Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said Tuesday.
Cases have been rising specifically among county residents in their 20s, as well as those working in offices or clerical settings. Regions seeing the highest case rates include Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Goleta, and the North County unincorporated area, according to county data.
SLO County residents 16 and up vaccine-ready
All San Luis Obispo County residents 16 years of age and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, expanding access to another 54,000 individuals, officials said Wednesday.
"This is a milestone we have been looking to for the past year and I encourage everyone in our community — including those who have been eligible for some time — to take this opportunity, get the vaccine, and help put this pandemic behind us," said county Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.
Residents are invited to sign up for the county's online vaccine registry to receive an appointment at one of the county's community vaccination sites, a process which could take a few weeks.
Residents under the age of 18 are only permitted to receive the Pfizer vaccine, per FDA guidelines.
Daily COVID-19 cases
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 28 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths from the illness on Wednesday.
According to county public health data, 33,408 total COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, and 194 cases remain active.
As of Wednesday, 26 individuals were hospitalized for COVID-19, including six in the intensive care unit, according to county data.
In Santa Maria, 50 out of 11,242 total COVID-19 cases remain active and 153 individuals have died from the illness.
In Orcutt, four out of 1,768 total cases remain active and 29 individuals have died.
In Lompoc, 21 out of 3,550 total cases remain active and 53 individuals have died.
In the Santa Ynez Valley area of Solvang, Buellton, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez and Ballard, four out of 989 total cases remain active and 17 individuals have died.
In the North County area of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe, eight out of 1,274 total cases remain active and 22 individuals have died.
The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department reported 22 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths from the illness on Wednesday.
Confirmed cases in the county now total 20,671, and 216 cases remain active, according to county public health data.
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