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Vaccine Booster Shots And The Winter Outlook For The Coronavirus: Your COVID-19 Questions Answered

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Ventura County is continuing to push those who are unvaccinated to get protected, noting that the vast majority of new cases of the coronavirus are people who are unprotected by shots.

Ventura County's Public Health Officer says the number of those in region's hospitals, because of the coronavirus, is eight times higher among the unvaccinated.

The latest COVID-19 surge on the Central Coast may be easing but the numbers are still concerning. Ventura County reported 214 new cases Wednesday, and Santa Barbara County had 117.

Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties have now had a combined 159,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Even though the state hasn’t used its COVID-19 color tiers for some time now, if it was using the system Ventura County would be in the most restrictive tier.

"If we still had the purple, we'd be in purple," said Ventura County Public Health Director Dr. Robert Levin. "We're on a general downward trend, as is the state, but we've had over the last couple of days a little upwards blip. Hopefully it's headed down."

Dr. Levin says they are watching the situation closely to see if there are Labor Day related increases. He says if it happens, it would become apparent in the next few days.

The public health official says the region’s newly diagnosed cases continue to be largely being driven by the unvaccinated. "We're still seeing this surge among the unvaccinated," said Levin. "We're seeing at least eight times more people are unvaccinated who are being quite ill than the vaccinated."

The county’s Public Health Officer admits the situation is frustrating for those in the medical community, with vaccine readily available for months, yet some still refusing to protect themselves and others.

We’ve been hearing experts discuss the possibility of booster shots. Pfizer and Moderna acknowledged this week the effectiveness of vaccinations may wane over time. Dr. Levin thinks the government could act on the booster shot question in the next few days.

We’re close to moving into the fall and winter months, when colder weather means people spend more time in close proximity indoors. It’s the time of year the virus hit the crisis stage last year. What is Dr. Levin expecting?

"I don't think we're going to be seeing a huge surge like we saw months ago," said Levin.

The health official says while wearing masks can be frustrating, some good things have come from it. He says not only has it helped to limit the spread of COVID-19, it’s impacted the flu season in the region. Ventura County didn't report any flu-related deaths last season, while the county had more than 40 the year before.

Dr. Levin says while he is hopeful the COVID-19 crisis will ease in the region during the next few weeks, it’s not going to disappear. He thinks the virus could be something we’ll need to learn to cope with for the next few years.

While the crisis may not be as severe as it was a year ago, the deaths continue. The 14 additional COVID-19 related deaths in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties during the last week brought the region’s total since the start of the pandemic to 1,898 people lost.

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.