The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced 137 new cases of COVID-19 during Friday’s press conference, bringing the county’s total case count to 7,274.
The data still does not include the backlog of cases that are still being sifted through after the state’s reporting system, CalREDIE, had a technical error resulting in a severe underreporting of positive cases for many counties.
“Without accurate information from the state testing labs on the number of new COVID-19 cases identified daily, we are flying blind about the current level of community transmission,” 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said.
“It’s very important that the state resolves the gap as soon as possible.”
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public director, added, “Our local epidemiology team is hard at work to reconcile the backlog of cases… We hope to have the data reconciled in the very near future.”
Additionally, Dr. Do-Reynoso announced two additional deaths in the county on Friday, bringing the county’s total to 77. The health department has announced 50 deaths since June 22, when it announced its own data error with the COVID-19 death toll.
Both decedents were above the age of 70.
One resided in the Santa Barbara area and had underlying health conditions, while the other resided in Orcutt and had no underlying health conditions.
Both deaths are related to congregate living facilities, according to Dr. Do-Reynoso.
While the total cases in Santa Barbara County are not accurate as of yet, Mr. Hart highlighted the local hospitalization and Intensive Care Unit numbers.
“The reported local hospitalization and ICU bed counts have been fairly steady for the past month,” Mr. Hart said.
Over the past 30 days, hospitalizations in the county have ranged between a low of 74 and a high of 88. Similarly, the number of COVID-19 patients occupying ICU beds in local hospitals has fluctuated from a low of 24 to a high of 31 just this past week.
“This local hospitalization data clearly indicates we continue to have a problem with community transmission of COVID-19 throughout Santa Barbara County. Hospitalization and intensive care patient counts are lagging indicators of the presence of disease, because it takes time for the course of the virus to progress to the point where patients require hospitalization,” Mr. Hart said.
While they are lagging indicators, many health experts have said that hospitalization data is one of the more accurate ways to track community transmission.
Currently, there have been no issues with hospitalization or ICU counts.
Of the total cases, 290 are still considered active, or still infectious, with 73 recovering in the hospital and 26 in the ICU.
According to numbers released Friday, Cottage Health is caring for a total of 294 patients across all campuses.
Of those, 234 are acute care patients which means 154 acute care beds remain available.
The majority of the cases announced Friday were out of Santa Maria, which announced 60 new cases. The city now has 3,252 total cases, the most in the county, including 121 that are active.
The city of Santa Barbara reported 13 new cases Friday, bringing its total to 956. A total of 43 cases are active.
Both Isla Vista and Lompoc recorded 12 new cases.
For I.V., the popular college town next to UCSB, cases are continuing to spike. Over the last two weeks, the town has seen 71 new cases and its total is now 116, with 24 considered active.
Six cases came from the unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and city of Guadalupe, while Goleta saw four new cases. Orcutt reported three new cases and Santa Ynez and the communities of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria each had one new case.
Broken down by age range, the bracket with the most cases came from residents between 30 and 49 with 51 new cases, bringing the total to 2,835, the most in the county.
There were also 49 new cases in the 30 to 49 age range, bringing the total to 1,993.
The 0-17 age range saw seven new cases, 50-69 saw 25 and those in the 70-plus group saw five new cases.
Another thing Mr. Hart touched on in Friday’s meeting is the importance of people obtaining an annual flu shot this year.
“Last year, we were fortunate the flu season was relatively mild and had largely diminished before the serious onset of the coronavirus pandemic. We may not be as fortunate this year,” Mr. Hart said.
With the novel coronavirus likely to stick around through the winter, which is when flu season hits, Mr. Hart said it is important to get a shot and help lower the chance of people being hospitalized by the flu which could overwhelm the healthcare system.
“The good news is influenza has a vaccine and a treatment that can keep it under control. The problem is less than half the country, only 47% got a flu shot last year,” Mr. Hart said.
He added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention normally recommends that at least 60 to 70% of the country obtain the shot.
“This year it’s more important than ever to push for much higher compliance,” Mr. Hart said.
“Every additional person who gets vaccinated for the flu may prevent the need for a future hospital visit if complications emerge, and avoided hospital visit keeps the hospital bed available for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients that require hospital care.
“Do your part and get vaccinated soon.”
The flu shot will be available free of charge beginning in September.