The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted at its Tuesday meeting to send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom requesting Santa Barbara County be removed from the Southern California Region and be considered part of a Central Coast Region.
This region would also include San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties, both of which have sent the same request to the governor.
If the letter is accepted by the governor, Santa Barbara County would no longer be under stay-at-home orders once the current three-week order has passed, so long as the county, San Luis Obispo County, and Ventura County’s collective ICU capacity come out to less than 15% and are projected to stay under that percentage for four weeks.
While 51% of Santa Barbara County’s staffed ICU beds are available, as part of the Southern California Region it falls under stay-at-home orders due to hard-hit counties like Los Angeles County bringing the region’s total ICU capacity down to 10.9%.
The Southern California Region consists of 11 counties: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.
According to Santa Barbara County Public Health Department director Dr. Von Do-Reynoso, when Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties are excluded from Southern California and their ICUs aggregated, they come out far better than Southern California.
“We have run our numbers and we consistently have higher ICU capacity jointly between the three counties,” she said.
There was visible frustration among some of the supervisors regarding the county’s placement in Southern California and the stay-at-home orders. 4th District Supervisor and Vice Chair Peter Adam was especially vocal and said the county should “refuse to comply with these mandates.”
“I think under the circumstances, where our death statistics are really no different than the flu, it has become patently unreasonable to support and enforce those unreasonable, draconian lockdown measures. At some point somebody has to say enough is enough, and it should be us now,” he said.
He added that not only should Santa Barbara County not be included in the Southern California Region, but that it shouldn’t be included in any region at all.
“We shouldn’t be lumped in with any other county. We have a region, it’s called a county,” he said.
5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino was supportive of the letter but suggested changing it so Santa Barbara County becomes part of the Central Coast Region without having to wait out the three-week stay-at-home order.
“Our letter should be expressing to the governor that we do not belong in the Southern California region,” he said.
3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann remarked that considering Santa Barbara County’s population has shown “compliance and support” for Public Health orders, its inclusion in the Southern California Region and getting placed under a stay-at-home order is like “being punished for having behaved well.”
During the meeting’s COVID-19 update, Dr. Do-Reynoso shed some light on Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 hospitalization data.
There are currently 54 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county, of which 15 are in the ICU.
Over half, 53%, of COVID-19 hospitalizations have been 50 years old or older, and most COVID-19 deaths, 64%, have been adults 70 or older. While 53% of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have been female and 47% have been male, most COVID-19 deaths, 57%, have been male.
Hispanic and Latino individuals have been disproportionately hospitalized due to COVID-19 and disproportionately died from it. According to Public Health figures, they are 48% of the county’s population but make up 71% of the county’s hospitalizations and 56% of its deaths.
Most of the county’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, 58.3%, have had short stays of between zero and five days. 15.8% of hospitalizations have been greater than 16 days.
Over half of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county had at least one comorbidity, diabetes the most common and obesity the second most common.
Most COVID-19 deaths in Santa Barbara County, 114, involve both COVID-19 and comorbidities, whereas only 24 list just COVID-19 as a cause of death.
In other business, the board approved the adoption of its 2021 legislative platform, amendments to the land use development codes of the County and Montecito regarding telecommunications facilities, and budget development policies for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. It also received an update on the 3CE Community Choice Energy program and the annual TRUTH Act report regarding United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s access to individuals.