The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 133 new cases of COVID-19 Friday.
This marks the third consecutive day that the county has reported more than 100 new cases.
Earlier this week, California passed New York as the state with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in the nation.
“California led the nation with this early response to the rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases around the state, working together, we successfully flattened the infection curve… Unfortunately the virus was not sufficiently contained by these forceful initial efforts, and as businesses have reopened in California, the virus reignited and is now threatening the progress that we’ve initially made together,” 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said.
“Fortunately, Santa Barbara County has weathered the pandemic better than other large urban areas.”
During his opening statement Friday, Mr. Hart highlighted important numbers across the county. He said that as of Friday, the county has averaged 121 cases over the past week. In order to be removed from the state’s watch list, the county is required to average eight new cases per day.
Since Memorial Day the cases have also risen exponentially.
“The week leading up to Memorial Day, Santa Barbara County averaged 13 new COVID cases per day. That number increased to 25 new cases two weeks later. The number again increased to 60 a month later, then increased to 96 six weeks later. Now, two months after Memorial Day, the average daily case count for the past week is 121,” Mr. Hart said.
Mr. Hart added that while hospital capacity has remained mostly stable even as cases continue to rise across the county, there still needs to be more of an effort to curb the current spike.
“We can’t go on indefinitely like this without students in school and businesses unable to stay open without restrictions. We know enough about COVID-19 now to know what to do. Masks are the safe choice and an easy choice. We must reduce our case count in order to get students back to school, all of us back to work and return to living normal lives,” Mr. Hart said.
Of the new cases, the majority again came from Santa Maria, who saw an increase of 77 cases. Santa Maria has the most cases and deaths in the county with 2,496 and 18, respectively, and is the only city in the county to have more than 100 active cases.
Dr. Jethro Trees Ritter, an infectious disease subspecialist at Marian Regional Medical Center, provided insight into the “disproportionate” impact of the novel coronavirus in Santa Maria.
He said that over the past month, the hospital has had an average of 40-50 in-patients for COVID-19 complications, an average of 20-22 individuals in the ICU and 16 or 17 patients on ventilators at a given time.
Both Lompoc and Santa Barbara reported 12 new cases, while the unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and the city of Guadalupe announced seven new cases.
The federal prison complex in Lompoc announced one new case and, according to the county’s website, has seven active cases of its total 1,011 positive cases.
There are now 369 active cases in the county with 85 recovering in the hospital and 26 recovering in the intensive care unit.
According to the county, 93% of all cases in the county have recovered.
Dr. Paige Batson, the county’s deputy director of community health, also gave an update to the contact tracing efforts in the county.
“Public Health currently has between 70 to 85 contact tracers, and we reach an average of 250 cases and contact calls daily. The average time it takes from the receipt of a positive test result to contacting a positive case, it takes us approximately 2.1 days. All positive cases are called by contact tracers, as well as those identified as having had close contact with that person and 94% of those who test positive are contacted by contact tracers,” Dr. Batson said.
She also added some context to how the county dictates what is considered an active case or a recovered case.
“Active cases are defined as being less than 10 days from symptom onset or by lab collection date for those individuals that may not have symptoms. These are identified cases that are still considered to be infectious,” Dr. Batson said.
“Recovered cases are those that are past their infectious period. This means 10 days have passed since symptom onset or lab collection date and the individual has also not had a fever for 24 hours, and overall symptoms have resolved.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its criteria from requiring people to be fever free for 72 hours to 24.
Currently, Mr. Hart is also standing strong on not using the threats of fines or similar actions to those not wearing masks.
In other news, the city of Carpinteria announced Thursday that it is suspending its Junior Lifeguard program after an instructor was exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
The instructor did not have any COVID-related symptoms as of Thursday and was quarantined at home. The city was arranging for the employee to be tested, officials said.
“To prepare for the possibility of exposure to COVID-19, this summer’s Junior Lifeguard Program was designed with several precautions in place, including smaller groups, two-week sessions, and social distancing requirements,” city officials wrote on Facebook. “The current session will be closed through its end date, July 31. In addition to informing the community, the City is communicating directly with families in the program to keep them up to date on new information.”
News-Press Associate Editor Mitchell White contributed to this report.