On a day that saw the state record 13 additional deaths and nearly 400 new cases of COVID-19, Santa Barbara County announced that there were six new cases within county lines — four in the South County and two in the North County.
Of the 24 overall cases, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department officials confirmed that all but one have been under care at home, with the other currently hospitalized. Four have completely recovered.
PHD officials confirmed that the ages ranged from 22 to 59 over the six newest cases, with there now being four cases of those in their 20s in South County.
As other counties continued to provide transparency as to where the cases have occurred — including Ventura County, which lists them out by city — the county indicated that it was working toward providing that information moving forward.
“Today, we have updated information for you regarding our current cases along with the health status,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, the PHD’s health officer. “We are working closely with our epidemiology team to ensure we can provide the most accurate and detailed information possible. We will have more information to share about cases and the regions where they are occurring in the coming days.”
According to Lompoc Valley Medical Center CEO Stephen Popkin, “there are no confirmed cases as of COVID-19 at LVMC, or in Lompoc, as of Tuesday morning (at 11 a.m.).”
It was unclear if either of the two new cases in North County were in Lompoc as of press time Tuesday night.
Of the 493 tests in Santa Barbara County, 239 are awaiting test results, six fewer than Monday.
According to the PHD’s Paige Batson, disease containment efforts have moved “toward mitigation.”
“What this means is that we will prioritize and focus our investigation efforts on confirmed individuals who have had exposures in congregate settings such as healthcare facilities, correctional facilities, shelters, skilled nursing facilities and so forth,” Ms. Batson said.
Across California, there are now 2,610 positive cases (4.6% of all U.S. cases), with 55 deaths (7.8% of U.S. deaths). The United States now has 53,740 positive cases, which is 12.8% of the worldwide cases. The U.S. now ranks third in overall cases, behind China and Italy.
“We do anticipate seeing a significant rise in cases for days and weeks to come, but do not let this rise dissuade you from practicing social distancing,” Dr. Ansorg said. “Our actions today dictate how slowly or how quickly this virus will travel in our community.”
Sheriff Brown speaks out
For the first time since the PHD started hosting daily press conferences, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown was on the panel, focused on what the Sheriff’s Office can and will do to help enforce mandatory stay-at-home orders, as well as keeping the county’s jail free of COVID-19.
While approaching county residents that are potentially breaking orders, Mr. Brown noted that deputies are approaching people in an empathetic and educational manner, not actively looking to make arrests that would only add to the population at the county jail.
Having said that, Sheriff Brown was direct in that the empathy will only go so far.
“We understand that these are trying times and we have great concern and great empathy for the many people who are experiencing frustration, financial loss, heightened anxiety and fear during these uncertain troubling times,” Sheriff Brown said. “Make no mistake, however, in understanding that we will be steadfast and diligent in seeking out and bringing to justice criminal offenders who attempt to take advantage of this situation.”
Sheriff Brown offered some encouraging data that indicates that the stay-at-home order is having an impact on the criminal system, indicating that law enforcement calls decreased by 28% list past weekend, receiving 277 calls versus 382 they saw just one month ago on a similar weekend.
Emergency medical services calls are down by 10%, while jail bookings have decreased by 67%.
On an average weekend, the county jail sees about 130 arrests. This past weekend, only 42 were booked into jail. Sheriff Brown did indicate that there was an “uptick” of domestic disturbances, attributing that to people being home and around each other more often.
Sheriff Brown also spoke to releasing inmates early in an attempt to help with social distancing within the jail.
The number of inmates in the jail as of Tuesday was 766.
“That’s the lowest number that it has been in the 13 and a half years that I have been sheriff in Santa Barbara County,” Sheriff Brown said. “I’m very pleased with the results that we’re seeing as a result of our law enforcement personnel being encouraged to seek alternatives to arrest and are our criminal justice system members working together to see if we can move some people out of the jail that don’t need to be there.”
According to Raquel Zick, the Sheriff’s public information officer, there have been 30 convicts that have been released since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak.
“They were low level, non-violent, convicts. They were credited with 30 days, rather than 21 days which was the number we were using going into this. In other words, many, if not all, were basically released a week early,” Ms. Zick said.
Within the jail, only employees are allowed, with visitor access prohibited until further notice.
Sheriff Brown also said that at the entry point of the jail, all staffers, vendors and attorneys will be forced to have their temperatures checked — and if it is above 100.4 degrees, they’ll be denied access.
“We will work together with those who we protect and serve to achieve the very best possible outcomes, and we will succeed in defeating this fire,” Sheriff Brown said.
SBPD swearing in goes to YouTube
The Santa Barbara Police Department will swear in seven new officers live on their YouTube channel at 1 p.m. today, with Chief Lori Luhnow overseeing the event.
The ceremony is closed to the public due to social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, with the SBPD encouraging those interested to log on to the department’s YouTube page shortly before 1 p.m.
Help for the elderly
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it had received $250 million on grants from the Administration for Community Living in order to help provide meals for older adults.
California will receive a grant for $25,086,381.
According to a news release, “the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020, provided the additional funding for the nutrition services programs authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965.”
The programs provide more than 2.4 million meals to older adults each year, both through home delivery and at community centers.
Older adults that are in need of assistance can contact the Eldercare Locator by calling 1-800-677-1116 or visiting eldercare.acl.gov.
Movement on the stimulus package
A day after partisan politics caused tempers to flare on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Tuesday brought about far more level headedness and the likelihood of a far-reaching economic stimulus package finally seeing the light of day.
The $2 trillion package didn’t reach a vote on Tuesday night, but was busily being fine-tuned by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“I know you’ve heard this before, but everyone’s trying to close this out today. … We are going back and forth on text,” Mr. Mnuchin said.
The package would reportedly include $1,200 checks sent to most American adults, with an additional $500 being sent for each child.
In addition, it would create a $500 billion lending program for cities, states and companies to access, while also setting aside $367 billion for small businesses struggling to pay employees.
The package would also move $150 billion into U.S. hospitals, with medical experts across the country concerned that the surge in COVID-19 cases will overrun most hospitals.
With the agreement seemingly less than a day away from being voted upon, the stock market surged to its best day since 1933, surging by more than 2,100 points.
“Today, the Senate can get back on track. Today, we can make all of the Washington drama fade away,” Mr. McConnell said. “If we act today, what Americans will remember, and what history will record, is that the Senate did the right thing.”
President Trump was direct about what he was looking to see, posting on Twitter:
“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today. The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy. Our workers will be hurt!”