Two additional cases of the delta variant have been identified in Santa Barbara County through ongoing COVID-19 variant surveillance efforts, public health officials said Friday.
The variant cases were identified by the UC Santa Barbara Virology Laboratory, whose staff then informed the county Public Health Department, public health spokeswoman Jackie Ruiz said.
Department officials did not clarify whether the new cases are active.
The delta variant, originally confirmed in India, has been identified as a variant of concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to its increased transmissibility. Two cases were previously confirmed in Santa Barbara County in April and one was confirmed in San Luis Obispo County on June 29.
Currently available vaccines are effective against the delta variant, and public health officials are urging all residents age 12 and older to ensure they complete their two-dose vaccine series for full protection. An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose.
“These cases serve as a reminder that even as our progress continues towards the end, our community is still in a pandemic," said county Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso. “We have a tried-and-true method of preventing severe illness and hospitalization from the COVID-19 delta variant, and that is getting vaccinated. If you are eligible and have not yet been vaccinated, we urge you to get your first shot as soon as possible.”
As of Thursday, 59% of eligible county residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and 67% have received one dose, according to county public health data. However, officials also reported in mid-June that 12% of residents who received a first dose, or around 28,000 people, never received their second dose, leaving them vulnerable to variants.
Going into the Fourth of July weekend, county Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg reminded residents to maintain COVID-19 precautions including mask-wearing in crowded spaces, social distancing and gathering outdoors rather than indoors whenever possible.
“As we approach the upcoming holiday weekend, we advise all community members, whether vaccinated or not, to remain vigilant and practice the safety precautions that have led us in the right direction,” Ansorg said.
Vaccines are free and available to all residents age 12 and up, regardless of documentation status. To make a vaccine appointment, visit myturn.ca.gov, or call the Santa Barbara County vaccine hotline at 211 and select option 4 for assistance.