With the three-week, regional stay-at-home order looming, local health officials say it’s more a matter of when not if Santa Barbara County residents will be facing another lockdown.
During Friday’s press conference, Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director, announced that the average sum of new cases has doubled over the past month.
After experiencing some 200 cases during the month of October, the case numbers have risen to nearly 400 in November. In addition, while the local testing volume has increased, so has the testing positivity rate. The positivity rate was roughly 2% in October and was 4% in November.
In the last two weeks of November, the public health department noted 12 new outbreaks in congregate settings. Seven outbreaks are attributed to businesses across multiple sectors, resulting in a total of 35 new cases, she said.
“I anticipate that we will have more difficult days ahead as we grapple with the impacts of rising cases in our community and around the state,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said. “It is inevitable in the days ahead that we will be in the regional stay-at-home order. We will then issue a local health officer order to remind everyone what is permissible and what is not allowed as soon as we receive notification from the state.”
The order is expected to take effect at 12:59 p.m. today. For the order to apply locally, the state would have to announce that the Southern California Region has fallen under 15% ICU capacity. Once that is announced, the county would have 24 hours from the time of the state’s announcement to follow the stay-at-home order, according to officials.
As of Friday, the Southern California Regional ICU capacity was at 20.6%.
Dr. Do-Reynoso encouraged local residents to continue to wear face coverings, maintain at least six feet of distancing, wash their hands and stop gathering with those who reside outside of one’s household.
“These are choices and behaviors that will keep everyone safe,” she said.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county health officer, then shared insight on the COVID-19 vaccines that are in line to receive emergency use authorization by the FDA. The Pfizer vaccine may be approved by the end of next week and Santa Barbara County may receive an initial batch of 3,900 doses by Dec. 18. A second vaccine by Moderna could be available 10 days later and could arrive by the end of December or early January. Other vaccines are undergoing clinical trials and could become available by early spring.
The county has established a distribution plan, prioritizing frontline healthcare workers, first responders and elderly residents. The general public would follow.
Dr. Ansorg also discussed the recent decision by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control regarding quarantine periods for those exposed to the coronavirus. While the “gold standard” remains 14 days of quarantine, Dr. Ansorg said it could be reduced to 10 days or even seven days depending on the circumstances.
He added that Santa Barbara County will not implement the seven-day option because the risk of contracting the virus after seven days, even with a negative test result, can be as high as 12%, according to the CDC.
“We determined that this is an unacceptably high risk,” he said.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 75 new cases on Friday, bringing the county’s total number of confirmed cases to 11,917. Of those, 11,366 have recovered, 413 remain infectious and 138 residents have died due to COVID-19.
The city of Santa Barbara announced 17 new cases on Friday, and now has 1,659 confirmed cases, 58 of which remain active. Santa Maria and Lompoc each reported 14 new cases on Friday. Santa Maria now has 4,741 confirmed cases, 105 that remain infectious. Lompoc has had 1,202 cases and 73 remain active.
Five new cases were reported in the South County unincorporated areas of Montecito, Summerland and city of Carpinteria (307 total, 23 active), five additional cases were reported in Goleta (392 total, 33 active) and five more cases were reported in the unincorporated area of the Goleta Valley and Gaviota (319 total, 24 active).
Other locations that reported additional cases include: Santa Ynez Valley, with three (255 total, 18 active); Orcutt, with three (528 total, 28 active); Isla Vista, with two (538 total, 10 active); and the areas of Sisquoz, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and the city of Guadalupe, with two (523 total, 13 active).
No new COVID-related deaths were reported on Friday.
According to the health department, 47 residents are hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 14 recovering in the ICU.
Cottage Health issued an update on Friday, announcing that it is temporarily reducing the number of elective inpatient procedures scheduled at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital due to the rise in COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations. The reduction is aimed at ensuring local hospitals remain safe as officials balance bed and staffing capacity for COVID care, as well as the ongoing needs of the community.
At Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, elective procedures requiring overnight hospitalization will continue at half the typical number. Outpatient elective procedures will continue at full schedule.
Elective procedures, both inpatient and outpatient, will continue at full schedule at Goleta Valley and Santa Ynez Valley Cottage hospitals.
“Patients should continue to seek care when they need it. Elective procedures will be prioritized for scheduling based on need. We have sufficient reserves of PPE and supplies and are prepared to continue safe care throughout this new surge in COVID cases,” read a release from Cottage Health.
In its update, Cottage Health announced that it is caring for a total of 253 patients across all campuses, including 222 who are considered acute care patients. Nine acute care patients are on ventilators, and 24 are in isolation with COVID-19 symptoms and 24 are confirmed positive. Six of those patients are in critical care.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department announced Friday that a non-sworn member of its professional staff, a custody deputy and a Sheriff’s deputy with unrelated exposures have tested positive for COVID-19.
The non-sworn employee last worked on Nov. 20 in a position that did not include contact with the public or inmates. The employee experienced COVID-related symptoms on Nov. 22 and was tested at a community testing site on Nov. 24. The positive test results were returned on Nov. 25 and the employee has not returned to work.
The custody deputy last worked on Nov. 25 and became symptomatic during regular days off. The custody deputy does have contact with inmates during normal duties, however the exposure does not appear to be work related, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
The custody deputy was tested at a community testing site on Nov. 30 and was found to be COVID-19 positive that same day.
The Sheriff’s deputy last worked on Nov. 25 and developed COVID-related symptoms while on days off. The deputy was tested at a community testing site on Dec. 1 and was found to be COVID-19 positive on Dec. 2. The deputy was assigned to an administrative position and does not have contact with the public nor inmates.
As of Friday, a total of 48 Sheriff’s Office employees have tested positive for COVID-19, with 43 having recovered, Ms. Zick said.
The Santa Barbara County Probation Department announced Friday that a juvenile institutions officer assigned to Santa Maria Juvenile Hall tested positive for COVID-19. The staff had family members that tested positive and one additional probation staffer was exposed and is pending testing. No youth or other staff had contact with the individual who tested positive.