Santa Barbara County health officials issued a warning to local residents on Friday, urging them not to let the upcoming Super Bowl become a “super-spreader” event.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, health officer for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, issued a notice on Thursday and said that gatherings are “the most prevalent way” people contract COVID-19 and that holidays and large events “have often proven deadly.”
“Best practices dictate that we gather only with those in our immediate household, but if you are having a small gathering, hold it outdoors and limit (it) to members from three households,” Dr. Ansorg said. “Practice physical distancing and mask wearing, and limit the time together to two hours.”
Those who elect to dine out are asked to maintain a safe distance from others and wear face coverings when not eating or drinking.
“No one wants to go back to the state’s stricter Stay at Home Order. Let’s keep moving forward so our schools can open again safely and our businesses can continue to stay open,” he said.
In terms of vaccination efforts, the county is continuing to prioritize vaccinations for healthcare workers and residents over the age of 75. It is still unclear when the county will begin vaccinating those 65 and older, as well as essential workers in education, childcare, emergency services and food, or grocery and agriculture workers.
“We are in a state of vaccine scarcity,” Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, county Public Health director, said during Friday’s press conference.
Dr. Ansorg said that about 75% of those over 75 have accepted vaccinations, as well as about half of healthcare workers. He later clarified that at some skilled-nursing facilities, only 30% of eligible staff accepted the vaccine, while at other areas, such as Cottage Health, the acceptance was as high as 80% among its workforce.
Dr. Ansorg said that as early as next week, Cottage Health will begin to monitor local samples in search of mutated strains of COVID-19.
Suzanne Grimmesey, of the county Department of Behavioral Wellness, also discussed vaccination efforts.
Ms. Grimmesey, who’s part of the county’s communication team for COVID-19, explained that the health department has ordered the maximum amount of vaccine, but is restricted on pre-ordering due to state guidance. Local pharmacies receive vaccines through the county and only get a small portion.
For those who are eligible and can’t make appointments, Ms. Grimmesey said it’s likely because there are no appointments available currently.
Those who are trying to determine when they can schedule their second vaccination are advised to allow one to two weeks to receive notice, and that some providers are not scheduling appointments sooner than one week in advance. Those who have received a vaccination through a county community site can call 211 and get assistance from the call center.
There is currently no wait list available, but those interested can sign up to receive updates at publichealthsb.org.
The county Public Health Department reported four new COVID-19 deaths Friday. Three were over the age of 70 and one was between 50 to 69 years old. Two had underlying medical conditions, and two deaths were associated with an outbreak at a congregate living facility.
According to officials, two decedents were from the city of Santa Barbara, one was from Santa Maria, and one was from the unincorporated area of the Goleta Valley and Gaviota.
The county has now reported 334 COVID-related deaths.
The health department reported an additional 136 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing its total to 29,564. Of those, 1,067 cases remain active.
The city of Santa Barbara reported 33 new cases on Friday and has now reported 5,395 total cases. Of those, 228 remain active.
The city of Lompoc reported 28 new cases on Friday and has now reported 3,097 total cases. Of those, 138 remain active.
The city of Santa Maria reported 25 new cases. The North County city has now reported 10,121 total cases, including 293 that remain active.
Other daily cases from Friday included: South County unincorporated area of Montecito, Summerland and the city of Carpinteria, nine new cases (1,165 total, 62 active); Orcutt, eight new cases (1,547 total, 48 active); unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and the city of Guadalupe, six new cases (1,129 total, 27 active); unincorporated area of the Goleta Valley and Gaviota, five new cases (1,008 total, 55 active); city of Goleta, four new cases (1,511 total, 46 active); Isla Vista, three new cases (1,027 total, 58 active); and the Santa Ynez Valley, one new case (885 total, 29 active).
No new cases were reported at the federal prison complex in Lompoc, and the geographic region of 14 cases was pending on Friday.
A total of 161 people are receiving treatment at local hospitals, including 44 in the Intensive Care Unit.
Santa Barbara County’s ICU availability was at 18.4% as of Friday.
Officials also discussed the reopening of local TK to grade six schools, which under state guidelines can’t reopen until cases are under 25 per 100,000 people. The county’s current adjusted rate is 47.2 cases per 100,000, Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
Several local districts have safety plans under review, including Lompoc Unified, Goleta Union, Vista Del Mar Union and Orcutt Union. The safety plans for Buellton Unified and Santa Barbara Unified have been approved, and the districts are eligible to reopen once the case rates allow, she said.
To reach the state’s red tier, the county’s case rate needs to decrease by an additional 80%, and its testing positivity rate needs to decrease by an additional 20%.
“Simply put, we need to have fewer than 32 cases a day to reach the red tier,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said. “Right now, we’re averaging 157 new cases per day.
“We will have a lot of work to do.”
Cottage Health issued an update on Friday, indicating that it is caring for a total of 283 patients across all campuses.
At Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, 195 are acute care patients and 29 acute care beds remain available. Of the acute care patients, 22 are on ventilators and 89 ventilators remain available.
Some 77 acute care patients are in isolation with COVID-19 symptoms, and 71 are confirmed COVID-19 positive. Nineteen patients are in critical care.
Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s adult critical care available capacity was 31.1%.
Lompoc Valley Medical Center CEO Steve Popkin also issued an update Friday and announced that the hospital has secured all the vaccine needed to administer second doses for those who have received first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“In addition, we may have a very limited supply of vaccine available for new first doses,” Mr. Popkin wrote. “If so, we will contact individuals who are already on the appointment wait list.”
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office reported Friday that an additional five staff members and nine inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of staff members who have tested positive is 111, with 101 having recovered and returned to work, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
The total number of active cases among inmates is 35.