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With holidays around the corner, what can the Central and South Coasts expect from COVID-19?

South Coast health experts say if you are getting a Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot, they are interchangeable, and you can get either one as your third shot.

One of the region's top health officials says he doesn't expect to see the mask mandate easing soon.

The holiday season is at hand. What can we expect from COVID-19?

With colder weather here, and people spending more times indoors, one of the region’s top public health officials thinks we may see a bump in new cases, but nothing like what we saw last year.

"We have two things going for us, at least," said Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County’s Public Health Officer. "One of course is our constantly increasing vaccination rate. The second is we are by and large complying with mask wearing."

He says he thinks we will see a surge, and while it will be longer, and more spread out, it will also be at a much lower levels numbers-wise than last year.

While most people are vaccinated, there are still lots of questions. For instance, for those who are fully vaxxed, should you still get tested sometimes?

"The two major things are if you feel sick, get tested. And if you had, or may have had a close exposure to someone who has confirmed COVID, get tested," said Levin

And, what about if you are going to get together with family members over the holidays, especially those who are older? Dr. Levin says even if you are fully vaxxed, getting tested isn’t a bad idea.

"I think that is a good idea, if you are going to see people who are immunocompromised or elderly," said Levin.

As for boosters, Dr. Levin says if you've had Moderna or Pfizer, you can get either as your third shot. He says while there are no definitive test results for Johnson & Johnson, he would recommend people getting J&J initially either get Moderna or Pfizer as their booster.

The Ventura County Public Health official says the county is doing well enough that it isn’t taking steps like Los Angeles County. LA County is requiring bars and nightclubs to require proof of vaccination for admission. A negative test will no longer work.

Levin says he doesn’t see Ventura County’s indoor masking requirements being relaxed before the end of the year. The new case numbers are still too high.

He says to consider easing the mask mandate, the county’s new numbers would need to be below seven per 100,000 for at least three weeks. The latest number is above nine per 100,000.

He says the good news is that a year ago, about 15% percent of the county’s population over 12 was considered to have immunity because they had the virus. Between vaccinations and those who are unvaccinated and had the virus, the immunity rate may be somewhere between 75% and 90%.

That means while we might see a winter and holiday bump in numbers, it’s expected to be nothing like the crisis which filled the region’s hospitals a year ago.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.