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COVID-19 mask requirements not going away anytime soon on Central, South Coasts

Mika Baumeister
Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties still have indoor mask requirments in place as protection against the spread of COVID-19.

Public health officials say even with lower new case numbers of the virus, it's too soon to talk about relaxing restrictions.

New COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop on the Central and South Coast. But, public health officials say it’s still too soon to talk about lifting indoor masking requirements.

Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin believes the masks are a factor in helping to stop the most recent surge of the virus in the state. He said even if the mandate is lifted, it could return again if needed.

"I can't present any firm, hard hurdles that we want to get over, or in this case under," said Levin, as he was responding to questions about timing of the easing of restrictions. "The concept is when we lift this mandate, we are going to say we are going to lift it temporarily. We want to keep open the possibility there's going to be a winter surge."

Speaking at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting, Levin was quizzed by County Supervisor Kelly Long. "If a person chooses to wear a mask, to me, that's their choice," said Long.

But Levin said we also need to take into consideration the public well-being. "There is a general downward trend of cases of COVID-19 in our state," said Levin. He said even though some counties don't have mask requirements, they benefit from people electing to wear masks anyway.

Dr. Levin said the mask requirements are part of the reason the state’s schools have been so successful in reopening its schools. And, he noted only 1.2% of schools in the country have had a COVID-19 closure since reopening. Levin says vaccinations and mask wearing have helped keep schools safe.

Levin said a private school in the county, which wasn’t enforcing mask wearing, had a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Public Health Officer said they are still having to deal with a segment of people believing totally false information. He says they include things like rumors the vaccinations contain tracking devices, or that there are hazardous materials in COVID-19 swab tests.

Levin said the latest statistics continue to overwhelming illustrate the effectiveness of vaccinations. Looking at some September numbers in the county, he said those who were unvaccinated were twelve times more likely to be hospitalized for serious illness as a result of the virus.

Santa Barbara Country is reporting 69% of its eligible residents are fully vaccinated, San Luis Obispo County is at 64%, and Ventura County is at 73%.

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.