COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County continue to surge, setting record highs in recent weeks.
During Friday’s press conference, Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso shared that the 1,983 active cases as of Friday was nearing the most ever in the county. The 178 residents in local hospitals, including 59 in the Intensive Care Unit, are the highest totals to date.
“When we look at COVID data by day, what we see is off the chart increases,” she said. “And when I say off the charts, I literally mean off the charts. This week, our numbers increased by so much that we had to adjust the axes and the scales of the charts and maps.”
From Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, the weekly case count increased roughly 53%, she added.
Active cases by week increased 19% compared to the week prior, and testing positivity soared to 17% — meaning one in every 16 test results were positive.
During that time period, the county identified outbreaks at six businesses, two in administration, one in skilled labor, one at a grocery store and one in retail. In addition, outbreaks were identified in eight congregate settings, Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
Dr. Daniel Shepherd, medical director of Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services, provided details on the scarce resource allocation teams that have been established at local hospitals. The team works to help the hospital clinical staff to determine how to distribute resources.
For example, Dr. Shepherd said if two patients are in need of a ventilator and only one is available, the team would evaluate the case and allocate the ventilator based on the probability of survival and ethical principles — not age, race, gender or other issues. The team works independently from the hospitals to focus on providing the necessary care in the best manner possible.
“We hope to have enough ventilators, but if there’s only one, we have a plan that is ethical and evidence-based,” he said.
Ron Werft, president and CEO of Cottage Health, also gave an overview of numbers at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, comparing the numbers from Thanksgiving to those recorded this week.
Over Thanksgiving, Santa Barbara Cottage was caring for nine COVID patients in a single unit. That number was at 90 as of this week, including 23 in the ICU.
The testing positivity rate during Thanksgiving was roughly 4.8% and was at 17.5% this week.
The hospital has now established five COVID isolation units after formerly having just one.
With the rising demands, Mr. Werft said that critical care staffing could be an issue moving forward. He also mentioned that very few patients have been accepted via transfer requests, with transfers granted only in life-threatening scenarios.
One day after reporting the highest single-day case total (512 cases) since numbers began being published, the health department did not provide a daily update on Friday, citing delays in the CalREDIE Reporting System.
Starting Monday, a mobile COVID-19 testing unit will be available to support the expansion of testing throughout the county.
The mobile testing unit will be located at CenCal Health, 4050 Calle Real, from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday for at least two weeks for all community members. The unit will then move to a new location which will be announced at a future data.
“Testing is such an important part of fighting COVID, that we’re more than happy to work with the Public Health Department to provide the needed space and support,” Bob Freeman, CEO of CenCal Health, said in a statement.
Added Dr. Do-Reynoso, “I’m grateful that we have an incredible partner like CenCal, who quickly responded to our need for space to host the mobile testing unit. Because of CenCal’s support, we are able expand testing in our community during this very difficult surge in COVID transmission that we now find ourselves in as a community.”
In addition to the new mobile testing site, expanded testing is also available in Santa Maria and Isla Vista.
Testing is available at the Santa Maria Health Care Center, 215 Centerpointe Parkway, from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. Online appointment registration opens the day before each testing date and closes at 5 p.m. or when all slots are full, whichever comes first. Visit www.publichealthsbc.org/testing to register for an appointment. Walk-ins are not allowed.
Testing is also available at the Isla Vista Theater, 960 Embarcadero del Norte, from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays. Only walk-ins are accepted and no appointments are needed.
The mobile sites are able to conduct up to 500 appointments per day, Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
To request an appointment, visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting.