The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department on Friday reported its first pediatric COVID-related death, a child between the ages of 12 and 17 from the Santa Maria area.
The child had underlying health conditions and was one of two deaths announced on Friday. The other was a Lompoc resident over 70 with underlying medical conditions. Neither death was associated with a congregate facility outbreak, officials said.
During Friday’s press conference, county Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said the “devastating news” of the child’s death serves as a reminder of the severity of the pandemic.
The health department reported an additional 186 COVID-19 cases on Friday to bring the county’s total to 14,376, with 1,098 that remain infectious.
Santa Maria reported 50 cases on Friday and now has a total of 5,499, including 325 active cases. Santa Barbara reported 49 new cases, bringing its total to 2,151 with 254 still infectious. The city of Lompoc reported an additional 25 new cases and now has 1,541 total cases and 140 active.
Other case numbers include: city of Goleta, 20 new cases (548 total, 84 active); Goleta Valley and Gaviota, eight new cases (402 total, 39 active); Santa Ynez Valley, seven new cases (326 total, 31 active); Orcutt, five new cases (680 total, 52 active); South County unincorporated area, which includes Montecito, Summerland and the city of Carpinteria, three new cases (398 total, 36 active); Isla Vista, two new cases (605 total, 26 active); and the unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama, and city of Guadalupe, two new cases (606 total, 37 active).
The geographic region of 15 cases was pending on Friday.
A total of 90 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 24 people in the Intensive Care Unit. The county’s ICU capacity was 29.9% on Friday, with the Southern California Region’s capacity at 0%.
Santa Barbara County is experiencing its second wave of COVID-19, which started in early November and is expected to be larger than the first wave from over the summer, Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
“With the holiday season quickly approaching, we are concerned that cases from family and friends gathering will continue. We know that Thanksgiving gatherings contributed to high rates of transmission,” she said. “In the weeks following Thanksgiving, our COVID case rate, number of newly reported cases, number of active cases and hospitalizations have spiked to unprecedented levels.”
Since Thanksgiving, the county’s unadjusted case rate has increased by 67%, to 30.96 per 100,000. Testing positivity rate has doubled and is now at 8%, and active cases have increased “nearly three fold,” she said.
The county Public Health Department is investigating 17 outbreaks at congregate settings and six in business settings.
“All this data indicates that COVID activity is at the highest level it has ever been in our county,” she said.
The county did receive good news in the form of the Pfizer vaccine, which arrived at local hospitals on Thursday. A second COVID-19 vaccine by Moderna received FDA authorization on Friday and could arrive by next week, said Dr. Henning Ansorg, health officer for the county Public Health Department.
Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease specialist with Cottage Health, was among those who received the vaccine on Thursday. Speaking during Friday’s press conference, Dr. Fitzgibbons quoted Cottage Hospital CEO and President Ron Werft, who said the hospital’s vaccine center “rivaled Disneyland as perhaps the happiest place on earth.”
By the end of the day Friday, 250 frontline workers will have received the vaccination at Cottage Health, she said, adding that it could be several weeks or a few months before a substantial portion of the community receives the vaccine.
With the COVID-19 surge expected to grow in the coming weeks, health officials continue to urge residents not to gather for the holidays and to continue following health protocols to combat the spread.
Earlier this week, Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom in support of the request by health officials in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties to be designated as a separate Central Coast region.
If the local counties were designated as a separate region, they would be enabled to exit the Southern California regional stay-at-home order after three weeks, if their collective Intensive Care Unit capacity is greater than 15%.
“In your December 3 announcement of the regional stay at home order, you emphasized the need to flatten the curve once again, in order to protect the most vulnerable in our communities and preserve health care resources,” the letter read. “From the outset of the pandemic, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties have worked collaboratively to model effective containment strategies.”
Rep. Carbajal wrote that the Tri-Counties have “demonstrated their ability to mitigate outbreaks effectively,” and said the regional stay-at-home order “puts unnecessary strain on businesses, which have already struggled to overcome varying degrees of shutdown this year.”
The congressman explained that the local counties are “smaller, and less densely populated,” than other neighboring counties. Earlier this week, the proposed Central Coast region’s ICU capacity was greater than 20%, compared to just 2.7% for the Southern California region.
“Our state is in the midst of a massive coronavirus outbreak,” Rep. Carbajal posted in a tweet. “While our community is in better shape than neighboring regions, we must continue to heed precautions, wear a mask, and stay home.
“If we can all do that, we can emerge in a less restrictive tier.”
Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart said he hosted a Zoom call Friday with local elected officials and California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly to make a case for the Central Coast region.
Mr. Hart said Dr. Ghaly’s response was “very encouraging” and that dialogue would continue.
“We will continue to press our case through every means available and I remain hopeful that we will find a path to success,” said Mr. Hart.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced Friday that an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Lompoc who previously tested positive for COVID-19 has died.
The inmate, 72-year-old Christopher Carey, tested positive for COVID-19 on May 4 and was placed in medical isolation at the FCI complex. He was considered recovered on May 20 after completing isolation and presenting no symptoms, officials said.
On Aug. 20, Mr. Carey was transported from the FCI complex to a local hospital due to “progressive paralysis requiring bedside care,” FBP officials said in a news release.
Mr. Carey was pronounced dead by hospital medical staff on Tuesday.
He was sentenced in the District of Nevada to a 135-month sentence for possession of child pornography. He had been in custody at the Federal Correctional Complex since Feb. 10, 2016.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday that a deputy and custody deputy tested positive for COVID, and two COVID-19 positive inmates were booked into custody. The total number of Sheriff’s Office employees who have tested positive for the virus is now 61, with 50 having recovered and returned to work, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
A total of 89 inmates have tested positive at the Main Jail. Four cases remain active, with 68 having recovered and one inmate has died due to COVID-19, Ms. Zick said.