The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department revealed 28 previously unreported COVID-19 deaths Friday afternoon.
The department, citing a data error on its end, said the new deaths were not reported from June 22 to July 27. There have now been 60 COVID-19 related deaths in Santa Barbara County.
The department’s error did not impact the normal notification process to families, according to Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director.
“This delay in reporting happened because of a process error as we transitioned from a manual process for disease investigation to the state’s CalConnect platform for investigation and contact tracing,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said. “To rectify this going forward, we have established improved processes to ensure accurate COVID-19 death counts.”
Moving forward, the county will now report deaths directly from death certificates as they received them.
“As such, we anticipate that death reporting will likely be delayed for a few days due to processing time and, in situations where death is a coroner’s case, we may not have confirmation for several months,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
The additional deaths do not play a role in the county being on the state’s monitoring list.
“While these stats and the increasing numbers are serious, they are not considered as part of the state monitoring metrics. The six include positivity rates, testing numbers, case rate, as well as hospital capacity in ICU and ventilators. They do not include death rates,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
The problem was first identified on Wednesday and, over the next 48 hours, the county was able to confirm the additional 28 deaths.
Of those, 16 of them came from Santa Maria, which now has 34 total deaths. No other city in the county has more than six deaths.
The cities of Santa Barbara and Lompoc each reported three additional deaths. Each city has reported a total of six deaths due to the coronavirus, according to the county data.
Broken down by race demographic, 22 were listed as hispanic and six were listed as causasion.
Additionally, 16 of those deaths were in people over the age of 70, nine came from the 50-69 age range, two came from the 30-49 age range and one came from the 18-29 age range.
Nineteen of the newly reported deaths came within the first three weeks of July. The county reported five deaths in the last week of July.
Twenty of the deaths are reported from the hospital, two died at their homes and six passed away from care facilities.
“The county is committed to ensuring we are providing accurate, transparent and timely information about the coronavirus in our community… We’re being fully transparent about this issue. There is no way to sugarcoat this news,” 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said.
“This new information underscores the severity of COVID-19. There’s a strong link between the increasing number of cases, increasing hospitalizations and increasing deaths. This disease is very dangerous to many people who are getting ill and dying. And many of those who’ve recovered are experiencing lingering medical complications that could be very serious.
“The scale of this tragedy is growing each day. We need to honor the people who are sick and have died by doing everything we can to stop the spread of this virus.”
The county also reported 74 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 6,167. There was not a single day this week where the county reported more than 100 cases.
“I was encouraged by those numbers myself and I hope that this is not just a short-lived trend, but continues in the right direction, so I’m hopeful,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer.
Dr. Ansorg did note that the transmission rate in the county is still very high, as seen in the state’s metric of the case rate per 100,000 people over 14 days, which is over 200.
“Today, (however), this case rate fell for the first time in many weeks, which I find very encouraging. Our goal is to reduce this case rate to below 100 and I know that we can get there in a matter of weeks if we all do our part,” Dr. Ansorg said.
Of the overall cases, 249 are still considered active, or still infectious, according to the county’s website. That number is down 41 from Thursday’s total.
Of the active cases, 85 people are recovering in the hospital and 28 are in the Intensive Care Unit.
The majority of the cases announced Friday came out of Santa Maria, which announced 47 new cases. Santa Maria has the most cases by city in the county, with 2,789. Of those, 97 are active and no other city has more than 50 active cases.
Santa Barbara reported five new cases, bumping the city’s total to 768 with 44 of those being active. The city of Lompoc and the communities of Montecito, Summerland, Orcutt each recorded four new cases each.
The unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and the city of Guadalupe announced two new cases, while the cities of Orcutt and Goleta each reported one new case.
There were also no new cases in the Federal Prison Complex in Lompoc, which, according to the county’s website, has no current active cases.
Dr. Ansorg credits the dip in cases as a result of the messaging from the county and the responsibility shown by each resident after seeing the results of the spike in the case numbers.
“I do believe that people are taking the messaging more seriously with regard to wearing a face mask. There’s also nationally and internationally more information coming out all the time about how important it is. We have to update our recommendations continuously because we find out new facts about this virus and how aggressive it actually is and that it does spread through the air, which we didn’t have proof of before and therefore I think people are listening,” Dr. Ansorg said.