While the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department did not provide an update on coronavirus cases on Saturday, health officials are expressing a growing concern on a recent spike in hospitalization and admissions to local Intensive Care Units.
Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg reported Friday that 65 patients are receiving treatment at local hospitals, including 17 ICU patients. He explained that after a person tests positive, the first three to five days are critical to determine if the patient gets ill, and if so how “rapid” their health decreases.
“If you only have 30 patients in all of our hospitals in the county, you only have 30 ticking time bombs where you can anticipate a very rapid decline in the care. Today, we’re at 67, so that is a significant increase in numbers over a couple of weeks. Therefore, I feel more concerned.
“The clinicians in the hospital call me and text me and call me again and tell me, ‘Dude, do something. We are really concerned here.’”
The county’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remains at 2,319.
The county paused on further reopening Friday, which would have allowed some personal care facilities, such as nail salons, to reopen. The county has been placed on the state’s watch list because it has failed to meet the proper metrics regarding hospitalizations and ICU patients.
Dr. Ansorg explained that the best way to slow the spread of the novel virus is to reduce mobility.
“Locally, we tried to promote a safe and responsible reopening of businesses because economic recovery is essential for our health and well being as much as the avoidance of infection,” he said. “In order to be successful with striking this balance, everybody has to play their part and support the measures that have proven to reduce the spread of the virus.”
Health officials are monitoring an outbreak at the County Oaks Care Center in Santa Maria and have reported five other skilled-nursing facilities that have reported residents or staff who have tested positive. Officials did not reveal which facilities have registered positive tests.
During Friday’s press conference, county Health Director Dr. Von Do-Reynoso explained the logistics of the county’s contact tracing, and urged the public to work with contract tracers in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. She also discussed the importance of wearing face coverings, though said that the coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing, washing hands and staying home when you are ill.
Dr. Do-Reynoso said she has been in communication with Santa Maria city officials and other stakeholders to address the outbreak in North County. With 44 new cases reported in Santa Maria Friday, the city now has 746 confirmed coronavirus cases. She will be briefing the Santa Maria City Council on the topic on July 7, while the county will also continue using prevention messaging through various mediums.
While Sheriff Bill Brown revealed additional cases at the County Main Jail, he said there are plans in place to manage the outbreak and address numbers that may increase in the near future.
At least two inmates have tested positive and 13 staff members. Of the staff, five are custody civilian staff in the custody records bureau, along with eight custody deputies. This includes three line level custody deputies, one custody sergeant, three custody lieutenants, and Vince Wasilewski, the chief deputy sheriff in custody operations, Sheriff Brown said.
“As a proactive measure, all of the sheriff’s staff who are assigned the main jail – all custody sworn staff, all civilian staff and all our contract healthcare workers – are being tested for COVID-19,” he said, adding that as of Friday a total of 114 staff members had been tested.
“We continue to screen and keep all new inmates separate from our general population for 14 days to ensure that we’re not putting anyone into the population with an active case of COVID-19,” he said. “As a result of this outbreak that we are experiencing and now managing, we will be resuming 14-day quarantine measures for all inmates who enter the jail, and that includes inmates who will be returning from any court appearances that are required of them. But we are working with the courts to limit that as much as possible in the future.”
Inmates are being provided with two free 15-minute phone calls, postage paid postcards and there has been an increase in the distribution of electronic educational tablets, he said.
The current jail population remains at 574, which is substantially lower than normal levels. Everyone who enters the jail is screened and only essential staff is being allowed in the jail, the sheriff said.
An update to the case numbers is expected Monday.