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COVID-19 outbreaks across Santa Barbara Co. spark push for more vaccination outreach

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Posted at 3:56 PM, Jul 27, 2021

Outbreaks of COVID-19 across Santa Barbara County have public health officials concerned.

Multiple outbreaks have been reported in just the past week, including at the Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria.

Since then, the shelter and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department have been working together to try and get those who are unvaccinated, vaccinated.

According to county public health officials and shelter staff, a total of 22 positive cases among both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents were confirmed at the shelter. Out of those 22 cases, one was a staff member.

"In the homeless community, folks that are dealing with severe mental illness or substance abuse have a lot of tendency on any kind of vaccination or anything that we are advocating for them to do,” said Good Samaritan Director of Shelter Operations Kristen Cahoon.

The vaccination rate at Good Samaritan is 20 percent, according to Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, which is the lowest rate compared to other shelter locations across the county.

The public health department is working to change that.

"We not only are providing isolation and quarantine, we are also providing vaccination clinics on-site as well,” Do-Reynoso said.

Although there have been some breakthrough infection cases, shelter officials say those who were vaccinated suffered very minor symptoms.

"It does not mean that the vaccine is not working or that it is worthless. The vaccine is 100% effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID,” said Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.

The shelter is among eight active outbreaks in the county, according to health officials, with another being at a South County school that had 23 student cases.

As for the shelter, they say they have COVID-19 safety protocols like spacing out, mask-wearing and daily temperature checks.

"You know, we see more and more how important vaccinations are,” Cahoon said.

The shelter has closed intake and will continue to monitor those who were infected closely with the help of the public health department.

Shelter officials say they’re not allowing anyone who does not work or stay at the shelter on the premises right now to ensure everyone’s safety. They do add if there are families or veterans who need a place to stay, they can still contact them and get them situated somewhere else.

Prior to the outbreak, capacity was at 80 percent, but shelter officials say they are now looking at this again in the midst of what's happening.