The state doesn’t currently plan to remove Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties from the Southern California Region for COVID-19’s ICU numbers.
That’s the word from California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly.
“At the moment, we don’t have an intention to make a change to the regions,” Dr. Ghaly said in a news conference Tuesday.
The secretary said that the current makeup of California regions is meant to ensure “a thoughtful collection” of medical resources in a network that would allow areas with overwhelmed ICUs to move patients to less overwhelmed areas in its region.
Boards of supervisors from Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties have sent letters to Gov. Gavin Newsom and asked for the counties to be removed from the Southern California Region.
But the state has no plans on changing its five regions, Dr. Ghaly said.
He added that even if the state divided the Southern California Region into smaller regions, many areas would still be under stay-at-home orders.
“Even if we delineated different boundaries for the regions in Southern California, I believe that we would still see a significant part of the existing region under the regional stay-at-home order that we have outlined with the existing five regions,” he said.
Southern California consists of 11 counties: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.
The current stay-at-home order is for regions where total ICU capacity falls to under 15%. According to the state’s website on COVID-19 restrictions, Southern California’s ICU capacity was at 9% as of Wednesday afternoon.
Discounting any of the other counties in the region, Santa Barbara County’s ICU capacity was 52% as of Wednesday afternoon.
State Sen. Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara, told the News-Press that she supports the idea of the two counties she represents, Santa Barbara and Ventura County, leaving Southern California for a Central Coast Region, and is currently advocating for it to happen.
However, she stressed that even if a Central Coast Region were to materialize, the desired result of getting out of the stay-at-home order is entirely dependent on the tri-county’s ICU capacity remaining high.
“The outcome of this request really will be determined by the COVID cases and our ICU availability in the county, which can change,” she said.
Former state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson said she understands the frustration Central Coast residents feel about being lumped in with Southern California, and that it “reflects a frustration that we have in the Central Coast.” That frustration she said is “being essentially ignored in so many ways throughout the state.”
“We are frequently the afterthought,” she stated.
Nonetheless, the senator believes the county should remain under a stay-at-home order.
Should the tri-counties be removed from the Southern California Region and its stay-at-home order, she believes the area will experience an influx of out-of-towners from harder hit counties like Los Angeles County, as it did over the summer. This would thereby bring higher levels of COVID-19 to the Central Coast at a time when cases are already rising and a vaccine is not yet available.
“Anything we can do to reduce the spread of this deadly virus is important for us to do,” she said.