On a day when he had to reveal the most single-day positive COVID-19 tests, Dr. Henning Ansorg was outspoken in how Santa Barbara County can overcome what he called “doubling.”
Amid 20 new cases — driving the overall total to 88 countywide — the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s health officer was pointed in what he is seeing.
“I couldn’t help, on Sunday, when I was driving through my neighborhood, there were several large gatherings in private houses, likely extended family get-togethers or parties, as well as occasional dining at some locations which clearly in stark disregard of the state’s stay-at-home order,” Dr. Ansorg said. “If you are meeting up with local family members or friends, either at someone’s home or restaurant, I urge you to discontinue these behaviors. They are not safe at this time and can lead to the unintentional spread of illness.”
Dr. Ansorg also warned local restaurants that they needed to take further action to make sure they aren’t encouraging social activity.
“If you are a food vendor or restaurant manager, please do not encourage gatherings while your patrons are waiting for takeout food,” Dr. Ansorg said. “And please do not provide seating to invite this kind of behavior. All people, regardless of why they are outside, should maintain the 6 feet distance between themselves and others.”
With the county now facing 88 cases, Dr. Ansorg indicated that 14 are now hospitalized, with 10 in the intensive care unit — falling in line with the doubling of statewide hospitalizations over the past two days.
The mathematics of trying to predict what’s next seemingly caused Dr. Ansorg to drop his guard, revealing that even he is overwhelmed by what might be next for the county.
“It looks pretty scary if you really do the math,” Dr. Ansorg said. “Every hour, you look at the Johns Hopkins (Coronavirus Resource Center) website, and, every hour, it jumps up. It’s just horrific. So, yes, the mathematics of this virus is vicious. So the only thing that we have is social distancing, I don’t know how often I have to say it. it’s really the truth.
“It’s really scary. The mathematics look scary. And I don’t want to scare anybody, but I want everybody to take responsibility for themselves and for the community — and stay home.”
Emergency room doctors at Cottage Hospital seemingly agreed with Dr. Ansorg on Monday, distributing a note to the community (it can be read in full on page A3).
There both Dr. Nels Gerhardt, M.D. and Dr. Brett Wilson, M.D. relayed a sobering message: the virus is spreading daily, and that there aren’t enough tests for everyone.
“For the sake of our community, we implore each of you to do your part to heed the warmings of our public health physicians. Stay home, wash your hands often, sanitize the surfaces you touch, and practice social distancing. It is up to each and every one of us to do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19. If you are young, healthy and fearless, don’t do it for you, do it for your mother or father or grandparent. They are the ones who will suffer and potentially die as the virus spreads,” the note read.
“If you are experiencing symptoms, assume that you have COVID-19. Isolate at home, rest, hydrate, and, if necessary, contact your physician by phone or use a virtual health app. If you have trouble breathing, chest pain, weakness or have significant co-existing medical conditions, come to the Emergency Room. If you are well and fearful that you may have been exposed — stay home and quarantine yourself. You aren’t going to be tested. There aren’t enough supplies to test everyone.”
For those that have been tested, the 20 new cases revealed Monday came from an assortment of areas, with nine in Santa Maria, six in unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe, three three in the Lompoc area (Mission Hills/Vandenberg Village), one in Orcutt and one in Santa Barbara. The age range went from those in their 20s up to those more than 70.
Dr. Ansorg said that he and fellow medical professionals are trying to model what to expect in the coming weeks, although there isn’t enough data to properly share that information. The only certainty that he could speak to? Social distancing.
“The only definitive factor which makes a substantial difference between the best and worst case scenarios is how much community members stayed physically isolated from each other,” Dr. Ansorg said. “Continuing with our current efforts of social distancing will make all the difference. It will mean that our healthcare system will be able to meet the high demands we are expecting. Our hospitals and our clinics will be able to take care of the sick.”
Two additional Sheriff’s deputies test positive
A day after announcing that two of its deputies had tested positive for coronavirus, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office indicated that two additional deputies have suffered the same fate.
According to a news release, a Custody Deputy is recovering at home after receiving positive results on Sunday. This deputy was assigned to the main jail and last worked on March 26. A member of the deputy’s family tested positive on March 27.
In addition, a Sheriff’s Deputy who last worked on March 18 has also tested positive for COVID-19. The deputy started feeling ill on March 19 and had not returned to work since. The deputy received the test results on Monday.
“After consulting with the Public Health Department, no additional staff nor any inmates have been isolated as a result of these new cases,” the release said.
When asked about civilian exposure to the deputies, the Sheriff’s Office referred questions to the PHD, who provided this statement:
“Our Disease Containment team evaluates the infectious period for confirmed cases and takes a thorough history of where a person was during this period. They are disease detectives and work to determine who may be at high risk for the illness based on the length of time they were exposed to the confirmed. Not everyone that the confirmed cases encounters will have a high risk for actually contracting the illness.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Board of Prisons’ website listed three inmates and one Federal Correctional Institution employee in Lompoc as having tested positive for coronavirus.
Deltopia still in the plans?
While rumors swirled online that the weekend-long party known as Deltopia was finding underground support from students, nothing concrete seemed to be taking form, at least according to Spencer Brandt of the Isla Vista Community Services District.
Deltopia itself had already been pushed to 2021 due to issues prior to the coronavirus outbreak, but alternative events had been scheduled in its place.
Mr. Brandt told the News-Press that those sanctioned events had been canceled.
Via e-mail, Mr. Brandt said the IVCSD had canceled the “Isla Vista Festival,” while UCSB had canceled an alternative event called “The Warm Up” concert.
“We now have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Isla Vista. Any party would inevitably spread the virus,” Mr. Brandt said. “I believe students and residents will stay home, but I have urged law enforcement to shut down large parties that do take place.”
When asked about the potential, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors chair Gregg Hart was pointed in his response.
“Simple answer, that’s completely inappropriate and we do not want that to happen.”
A warning about domestic violence at home
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley returned to the daily county press conference to address a growing area of concern — domestic violence at home.
Ms. Dudley referred to them as “in-home crimes,” explaining that this could be domestic violence, spousal rape, child abuse, elder abuse and animal abuse.
She addressed why she believed there is a growing risk for these crimes.
“It’s because people are under tremendous amounts of stress. They’re in their homes. They have alcohol and drugs within arm’s reach and they’re frustrated and anxious and they don’t know when the end is going to be,” Ms. Dudley said. “They don’t have the end in sight. When they’re going to go back to work, when their children are going to be able to go back to school. And all of that tension and all that frustration can lead to violence.”
While she admitted that it might be tough for some to call 9-1-1 in these situations, she encouraged those who are in harm’s way to find the courage to do so.
“Why do I emphasize how important it is that you call 911? Because those caring people in Santa Barbara County can’t see into your home. They can’t see, the teachers, the clergy, your friends, your neighbors, your family,” Ms. Dudley said. “Only you know what’s going on in your home and making that call is so important. And if you’re a perpetrator of one of those kinds of abuse, you need to leave your home. You need to go someplace where you and your family and friends can be safe.”
COVID-19, by the numbers
Here is a look at the worldwide numbers, as of press time:
- For the state of California, there are now 7,413 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 146 deaths.
- Santa Barbara County is now 15th in the state with 88 cases, leapfrogging San Luis Obispo County, which has 77 cases. Both counties still have zero deaths.
- Los Angeles County continues to lead the state with 2,505 cases and 44 deaths. Seven of the top 15 counties afflicted by coronavirus are in Southern California, including three of the top five.
- Worldwide, there are now 785,979 cases, with the U.S. leading the way at 164,539. Italy broke six figures on Monday, now at 101,739 cases.
- There are now 37,810 deaths worldwide, including 2,978 deaths in the U.S., which sits only behind Italy, Spain, China and France.