COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted Tuesday, but Masking Will Be Around for A While

By Sharon Byrne   |   June 24, 2021

Tuesday marked 453 days since Governor Newsom issued the first stay-at-home order for California. It also acted as a Reopening Day, of sorts, with all tiered systems of restrictions lifted for California. Santa Barbara County barely squeaked into the yellow tier one week ago. Now all the tiers are gone.

What does reopening and lifting of the tiers mean? Besides restaurants, retail, and businesses returning to full capacity, it means vaccinated people can go without masking in most situations, aligned with CDC guidance.

According to a presentation made by Santa Barbara County Health to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, all people, both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated, must wear masks in these settings:

•Public transit (examples: airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares)

•Transportation hubs (examples: airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation)

•Workplace: Masks must continue to be worn on the job. Cal/OSHA will be reviewing its masking guidance for employers and workers on June 17

• Indoor K-12 schools, childcare facilities, and other youth settings

• Healthcare settings (including long-term care facilities)

• Homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers

• Correctional facilities and detention centers

• Businesses that choose to require masks for all customers

Events both small and large will still be impacted by health protocols until at least October 1, 2021, with County Health indicating mega events are large crowds of greater or equal to 5,000 people indoors or 10,000 people outdoors.

These events are considered higher risk for COVID transmission due to:

•Spending extensive periods of time physically close to a large number of people, thereby increasing the risk that respiratory particles will be transmitted

•Attendees usually include participants from multiple states and countries who may be infected with more infectious COVID variants

• Effective contract tracing is difficult due to the nature of these events

This will impact indoor events (conventions, conferences/expos, sporting events, and concerts) in the following ways:

•Requires verification of fully vaccinated status or a pre-entry negative test for all attendees

•Face coverings are required regardless of vaccination status

This will also impact outdoor events (music or food festivals, car shows, parades, sporting events, concerts) in the following ways:

•Verification of fully vaccinated status or a pre-entry negative test for all attendees is strongly recommended

•Face coverings are required regardless of vaccination status. Venues are required to have masks available for all attendees

• Effective June 15, 2021, through October 1, 2021

During Tuesday’s meeting, First District Supervisor Das Williams asked, “What about masking in the schools this fall?”

Many parents are surprised that they can now move about freely without masking, but their vaccinated children must still mask up for class. Per Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director, the county will await guidance from the CDC on this topic.

California created school specialists for counties (Santa Barbara has two) and a health educator, and they will be 100% dedicated to school concerns and questions, per Dr. Henning Ansorg. The CDC still recommends masks indoors for vaccinated students, so for now, the rule stands. 

Another key question is how much leeway do businesses have in requiring vaccine verification from their customers? They are allowed to implement their own system. This could take the form of asking a question to the customer or requiring a vaccination card. Cal OSHA is expected to rule on allowing workers who are vaccinated to go without masks Thursday. The governor will issue an executive order based on their decision. The expectation is fully vaccinated workers will no longer be required to mask in workplaces.

There were no new COVID cases on Monday in Santa Barbara County, with Do-Reynoso not recalling a time in which the county saw none before March 15, 2020. 

Here’s hoping we have turned a big corner into a brighter future.


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