Could rising COVID-19 case counts prompt another mask mandate in Santa Barbara County?

Posted at 9:38 AM, Jul 31, 2021

As COVID-19 cases rise, health officials are contemplating reimplementing mask mandates in some parts of the state.

Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg says an uptick in COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County is concerning, and if cases continue to rise at this rate, another mask mandate may not be out of the question.

During a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Ansorg spoke about why we are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

"We now experience the pandemic of the unvaccinated. It is unnecessary and completely preventable. This new surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths is affecting the people who do not get vaccinated for whatever reason," he said.

Due to individuals choosing not to get vaccinated, restrictions lifting, and the contagious delta variant, cases are increasing.

"Basically in the old tier system, we made it from the yellow to the purple tier almost in a three-week period... so very rapid increase in cases overall," Ansorg said.

Ansorg says they have received requests from business owners to issue a mask mandate so they can enforce mask-wearing among customers, but the thought of another mask mandate leaves some community members feeling uncomfortable.

"I'm against it as a mandatory thing. You know, if individual businesses want to enforce that, it's their right, but as a government mandate, I don't think it should come back," said San Luis Obispo resident Justin Machado.

"It actually concerns me greatly. I'm an immune-compromised veteran and I'm also the parent of a child who's not old enough to be vaccinated, so both of those things make me worry about, you know... I just see so many people that are going out unmasked and not thinking about their kids are walking there right with them," said San Luis Obispo County resident Michelle Cook.

Dr. Ansorg says another mask mandate will depend on the development of cases in the county and they will look at the case count again next week.

"If the case rate is going significantly up, we are definitely considering this for Santa Barbara County," he said.

According to Ansorg, the majority of vaccinated individuals who are infected with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms and usually do not experience shortness of breath. Ansorg recommends everyone wear a mask in crowded areas.

"The more people are vaccinated, the faster we get out of this and forget about masks," he said.

Sr. Ansorg recommends vaccinated individuals who know they have been in close contact with a person infected by COVID-19 to get tested.