After attending President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress as a virtual guest, Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso spoke with Rep. Salud Carbajal about the local impacts of federal health funding and the next steps in conquering COVID-19.  

Do-Reynoso, as well as San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Penny Borenstein, were invited by Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) to attend the April 28 event in honor of their leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic for their respective counties. 

Along with updates regarding the country's progress since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, including reaching the goal of administering 200 million vaccines in 100 days, Biden also touched on a new jobs plan, increased child care opportunities and the recent prevalence of hate crimes. 

"I am tremendously honored to witness our president's first joint address as your guest," Do-Reynoso told Carbajal after the event. "As I was listening to our president, I was profoundly touched by his address on so many levels — as a mom of a college-age child, as a wife, as a woman, as an Asian American."

The health director, who has become the face of Santa Barbara County's COVID-19 efforts, explained how the Public Health Department has used the $11 million provided through the American Rescue Plan to expand vaccination opportunities.

Of the allocation, the department will give $5.2 million to community health clinics and just over $4.9 million to Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, according to Do-Reynoso. 

"With this support, we have been able to offer over 24,000 vaccines in three-equity based clinics and through our mobile clinics. In addition to these mass vaccine and mobile clinics, we have also been able to continue free COVID-19 testing at mobile health centers," Do-Reynoso said. 

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Looking ahead, she said the department hopes to use additional federal funds for new technology, health-care facility improvements, increased pediatric care in Santa Maria and increased health-care access, along with distribution of vaccines.

"The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department continues to work with our health-care providers and our community partners to make sure vaccines are widely available throughout the county in every community," she said. 

Borenstein also extended gratitude to Carbajal for his invitation to the address, as well as Do-Reynoso for her partnership in navigating the past 13 months. 

"We have been tied at the hip in the Central Coast response to this life-changing and career-changing event that has occurred to us, and there’s nothing better than partnership and the sharing of ideas," she said.  

Carbajal, Borenstein and Do-Reynoso also discussed the importance of sharing accurate information about vaccines moving forward in order to reach those who still might be hesitant. 

"Dispelling those myths [and] that erroneous information is the challenge we now face. Our job now is to remind people of the benefits and the minimal risk that exist for people who take it," Carbajal said. 

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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