Board of Supervisors to request state to separate SB County from Southern California Region
Santa Barbara County is working to get the state to separate this area from Los Angeles County, where COVID-19 cases have surged.
Today the county Board of Supervisors will discuss drafting a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom to amend the regional stay-at-home order to separate Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties from the Southern California Region. The county Public Health Department plans to make the same request.
If granted, the requests would create a new Central Coast Region.
The Southern California Region includes Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, Mono, Inyo, and Imperial counties.
As part of Southern California, Santa Barbara County has entered a three-week stay-at-home order that the state requires of California regions where ICU’s available capacity reaches below 15%. According to Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s available ICU capacity as of Sunday was 38%.
However, the region’s ICU capacity is brought down by larger and more populous counties such as Los Angeles County, which has experienced a massive surge in COVID-19 cases. According to a news release from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the Southern California Region’s ICU capacity was 10.3% as of Sunday.
Gregg Hart, the 2nd District supervisor and Board of Supervisors chair in Santa Barbara County, said he and his colleagues are “frustrated and disappointed” that Santa Barbara County is again under a stay-at-home order. But he is hopeful that Gov. Newsom will accept and implement the request in the board’s letter.
“We’re hoping the governor will be looking for creative ways to make his approach more effective,” Mr. Hart told the News-Press.
Should the state go forward with separating Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo and the newly formed Central Coast Region’s available ICU capacity remain at 15% or above once the three weeks have passed, those counties will no longer be under a stay-at-home order.
Mr. Hart explained that following the three-week stay-at-home order, the state will use a region’s hospital data to make a four-week projection on its expected COVID conditions. The state’s report card will determine whether the stay-at-home order gets lifted.
Jackie Ruiz, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department public information officer, said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the public health director, and Dr. Ansorg will send a letter of their own to the state with the same request as the Board of Supervisors’.
Dr. Ansorg told the News-Press that although Santa Barbara County on its own isn’t at the 15% ICU capacity threshold, the availability of ICU beds in the county is on a downward trajectory.
“We’re seeing a very, very concerning trend that we would follow the rest of the state in just the next couple weeks,” he said.
The health officer said an increase in hospitalizations is “coming down the pike” in an actually quite predictable quantity. According to Dr. Ansorg, if 100 COVID-19 tests are conducted in Santa Barbara County, about 10% of those people will require hospitalization.
Of that 10%, between 20 and 25% will end up in the ICU, he said.
Dr. Ansorg added that even if ICU beds remain available, the amount of available staffing to care for COVID-19 patients and individuals with other serious illnesses is the greater issue.
“It’s a scarce commodity at this point because everyone is competing to hire people because there’s a shortage of these specialists everywhere in the whole country,” Dr. Ansorg said.
The stay-at-home order “should really make a dent into our cases,” the health officer said, and is the best way to keep the virus from spreading until a vaccine is available. “It’s a crude method. But it’s the only one that works unless you have medicine for a virus.”