Santa Barbara County is working with its neighboring San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties to see if it’s possible to develop a regional set of thresholds for eliminating the requirement that people wear masks indoors.
County Public Health Department Director Van Do-Reynoso told the Board of Supervisors about the potential collaboration Tuesday during a report on the status of COVID-19 that included a look at the metrics some other counties have set for dropping their mask mandates.
“Santa Barbara may be better [in virus transmission] than other counties,” Do-Reynoso said. “Whatever happens around the corner, we’ll be better as a region.”
The county’s daily case rate is dropping and fell 17% over the last two weeks, she said, but it was still at 9.5 per 100,000 as of the middle of the week of Oct. 27.
Currently, the county’s threshold for dropping the mask mandate is when the daily case rate is less than 6 per 100,000 population for two consecutive weeks.
San Luis Obispo County’s daily case rate was listed as 14.7 per 100,000, while Ventura County’s rate was 11.3, both as of Nov. 10.
Do-Reynoso showed a graph illustrating that unvaccinated residents are keeping San Luis Obispo County from reaching the unmasking threshold, with the daily case rate among vaccinated individuals at 3.3 per 100,000, while the rate among unvaccinated people is 18.3 per 100,000, resulting in the average rate of 9.5.
“[The graph] illustrates one of the clearest things,” 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said. “The best way to get out of this is to get vaccinated.”
Other counties have stepped up that threshold and added other requirements for dropping their mask mandates.
Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley require the daily case rate to be less than 7 per 100,000 for three consecutive weeks along with a testing positivity rate of less than 8.
In addition, their hospitalization rates must be low and stable, as determined by each county’s health officer, and 80% of the total population must be vaccinated or eight weeks have elapsed after emergency vaccine use was authorized for children age 5 to 11.
Those criteria are the same for Ventura County, except the vaccination requirement applies to 80% of the people who are eligible to receive the vaccine.
San Luis Obispo County requires a case rate less than 7 per 100,000 and a testing positivity rate or 8 or less for only 10 days, with hospitalizations considered low and stable.
Los Angeles County requires the same daily case and testing positivity rates for three weeks, but it increases the criteria for hospitalizations to less than 600 for three-straight weeks and for 80% of all residents age 12 and older to be fully vaccinated.
L.A. County also requires no reports of significantly circulating virus variants that could threaten the effectiveness of the vaccines.
“When does pandemic end and endemic begin?” 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino asked.
“That’s a conversation that would happen at the state level with [California Department of Public Health],” Do-Reynoso responded.
A handful of residents again criticized the board, Do-Reynoso and County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg over the push for vaccinations and the indoor mask mandate.
Karen Murphy asked supervisors to remove the mask mandate immediately because of its impact on social interaction and her connection to the community.
“My 2-year-old child has spent three-quarters of her life seeing people wearing masks,” Murphy said.
Aimee Smith accused the board and Public Health Department of spreading “vaccine propaganda,” and Amy Blair said they are using percentages and statistics “to propagate fear.”
Matthew Strespek, who at a previous meeting said he had a medical exemption to wearing a mask, again said he’s being denied access to public transit, stores and other buildings.
“We’re going to begin litigating, injunctions and citizen arrests, which is our rights as Californians,” he said.
Once again, that angered Williams, who said citizen’s arrest is “a thinly disguised threat of violence. It’s really a threat of kidnapping by force.”