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UCSB gives health and economic update for Santa Barbara County amid surging Delta variant
UCSB Economic Forecast Project gave an update on the health and economy of SB County

In a webinar Sept. 2, the UCSB Economic Forecast Project gave an update on current health and economic conditions for Santa Barbara County.

Economic Forecast Project (EFP) Director Peter Rupert spoke on the state of the local economy and how it compares on a national level.

“Santa Barbara is looking a lot like the U.S. in many respects in terms of the trends in economics,” Rupert said.

Rupert shared data on the leisure and hospitality, and retail sectors which are meaningful indicators for Santa Barbara County’s economy. He said these markets are still below pre-pandemic levels – though retail is faring slightly better than hotels and restaurants.

The unemployment rate is 5.8% in the county. Rupert said it’s actually a good time to find a job with many businesses in need of staff. He said the timeframe for returning to a pre-pandemic economy is unknown and expressed support for vaccines in getting people back out into the community.

Currently, 65% of all eligible county residents are fully vaccinated. Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said that’s not enough.

“Roughly one-in-three eligible persons in our community is still yet to be vaccinated. That means that 133,562 people need to get vaccinated, so that we can exit out of this pandemic a lot sooner than later,” Do-Reynoso said.

She said the Public Health Department is partnering with a variety of local agencies for vaccine outreach in all parts of the county, and there has been a slight upward trend in vaccinations since FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, Cottage Health, reported on the Delta variant. She said the Delta variant is still the most prominent variant in Santa Barbara County, and throughout the state.

“Now, 98.2% of all specimens collected in California are the Delta variant,” she said.

Fitzgibbons said vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 and the Delta variant.

To find out more, visit the UCSB Economic Forecast Project or Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.
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