Santa Barbara County supervisors and health officials focused on vaccinations but found uncertainty about how mask requirements in classrooms this fall could affect students during an update on the pandemic June 15.

Van Do-Reynoso, director of the County Public Health Department, explained what lifting the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy means for residents and businesses and clarified some of the restrictions still in place as the economy reopens.

"Today is the day we have been waiting for for such a long time," Do-Reynoso said. "It's been 453 days since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued California's first stay-at-home order."

She added, "June 15th marks the beginning of our journey towards full recovery from COVID-19 pandemic."

Chairman and 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson also noted the county reported no new cases of the disease June 14.

"We can't remember a time when we had zero cases other than before our first case, which was on March 15, 2020," Do-Reynoso agreed.

Do-Reynoso provided statistics on vaccinations in the county that showed 55.6% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated and 64.2% of those eligible had received at least one dose, although only 47.1% of the entire county population is fully vaccinated.

The three oldest age groups, spanning from 50 to 75 and older, have the highest vaccination rate, with 69% to 74% fully vaccinated, while only 48% and 49% of the two age groups from 16 to 49 are fully vaccinated and 17% of the 12-to-15 age group is fully vaccinated.

Do-Reynoso said the county is now focusing its vaccination efforts on that youngest age group.

Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s health officer, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may release vaccines for use in children ages 2 to 12 in the fall. He added that the state has created special school nurse and education specialists dedicated to COVID-19.

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He said one nurse will be assigned to North County schools and one to South Coast schools this fall.

But in response to board questions, Do-Reynoso said it’s unknown if the requirement for students to wear masks in classrooms will be lifted or still in effect when the new school year starts in the fall.

Chairman and 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson said there is a lot of underlying frustration in the public and he’s heard a lot of teenagers say they don’t intend to get a second dose of the vaccine if they will still have to wear masks in the classroom in the fall.

Nelson said the state is taking the wrong approach to encouraging vaccinations by still requiring masks in classrooms.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he’s hearing a lot of people say they’re hesitant about getting vaccinated because the vaccines have only been approved for emergency use.

He said he hopes when vaccines receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there will be a big rush of people wanting to get the vaccine — but he also said he didn’t think that was likely.

Nelson cautioned against “beating people up over personal choice,” but 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said not getting vaccinated goes beyond that.

“It is not just about a personal decision,” Williams said. “It is not just about a decision to protect yourself. It’s about protecting other people.”

Series: Recent Santa Barbara County Supervisors coverage

Read this collection of stories on Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors from the past year. Read all of our coverage of county government online.

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