Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart began Friday’s COVID-19 press conference with some good news for local residents.
Over the past few weeks, Santa Barbara County has seen a significant drop in new positive novel coronavirus cases, testing positivity rates, as well as local hospitalizations.
And, with the CalREDIE system having been fixed, county officials are now confident in the daily reporting numbers.
“We can finally say the declining numbers we were hoping to see are real and substantial. All the hard work we have been doing together as a community to reduce the spread of the virus is working,” Mr. Hart said.
At the July 24 press conference, Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, set an ambitious goal to cut the county’s case rate per 100,000 people by half by the end of August.
On that date the case rate was above 300. On Friday, the case positivity rate was at 138 with one week left in August.
In addition, COVID-19 cases in the city of Santa Maria over the past two weeks decreased 39%, while the city of Lompoc saw a 35% decline in cases and the city of Santa Barbara dropped 30%.
“This is a well deserved moment to acknowledge this very important achievement and also recognize that this is not the time to get complacent,” Mr. Hart said.
San Diego and Santa Cruz counties both were removed from the state’s monitoring list this past week, with Orange County hoping to do the same this upcoming week.
If the current trend continues, Santa Barbara could get off the state’s monitoring list soon as well, meaning things like K-12 schools could reopen as long as they adhere to the state’s guidelines.
On Friday, the county reported 81 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county’s total to 7,653.
The county also reported an additional three deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the county’s total to 87.
The county has now seen an increase of 60 deaths since June 22.
All three decedents resided in Santa Maria, had underlying health conditions and were between the ages of 50 and 69.
With the additional deaths, Santa Maria now has 47 total, the most of any city in the county.
Of the total cases announced Friday, 254 are considered active, with 54 people recovering in the hospital and 20 people receiving treatment in the Intensive Care Unit.
According to numbers provided by Cottage Health, the hospital is currently caring for a total of 288 patients across all campuses.
Of those, 234 are acute care patients meaning that 154 acute care beds remain available.
Santa Maria reported 25 new cases Friday and now has a total of 3,387 cases, 83 of which are active. Santa Barbara is the next closest with 33 active cases.
Santa Barbara announced 12 new cases, bringing its total to 1,015.
Goleta reported seven new cases while both Lompoc and Santa Ynez each had an increase of six cases.
Isla Vista also reported four new cases on Friday, bringing its total to 135, 10 of which are still considered active.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director, addressed the recent spike in cases in I.V.
“The county, UCSB, and the Isla Vista Community Services District are working with residents and community organizations together to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said. “Extensive social media outreach is taking place educating young people about the importance of practicing physical distancing, avoiding social gatherings and wearing face coverings while in public.
“Face coverings are being distributed at various locations in the community. Many Isla Vista businesses have expanded their seating areas into the public right away, creating space for people to practice social distancing physical distancing while out in public.”
Residents between the ages of 30 to 49 continue to make up the most positive cases in the county, with 2,959. The age bracket of 18 to 29 has the second most with 2,111.
“What I’m hearing from our local infectious disease specialists is that over 40% of all hospitalizations in the county currently have people in their 20s and 30s and 40s,” Dr. Ansorg said. “COVID is definitely no longer a disease of just old people at this crucial point in our countywide COVID response. We want to appeal particularly to our younger people, please cooperate.
“Understand that young age does not protect you from possibly experiencing a very severe case of COVID.”
Dr. Do-Reynoso added the county will enforce beach closures for Labor Day weekend, similar to those that occurred during the Fourth of July.
“We’re taking these actions really to limit crowds and gatherings and these actions will contribute to the decrease in disease transmission in our community,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
More information about the closings will be disclosed next week.
In other news Friday, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department announced that an additional civilian staff member has tested positive for coronavirus.
The staff member became symptomatic Aug. 18 and was tested that day through community testing. The staff member last worked on Aug. 17 in a position that does not have contact with inmates, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
The staff member did not return to work after becoming symptomatic and received the positive test result Thursday.
This brings the total number of Sheriff’s Office employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 to 39, with 36 having recovered and returned to work and three civilian staff recovering at home, Ms. Zick said.