The Santa Barbara Public Health Department revealed only 62 new cases of COVID-19 during Tuesday’s press conference, however, with a big caveat.
Due to a technical error with the state’s reporting system, the positive-case count reported statewide over the past 10 days was inaccurate and has been underreported, according to Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer.
Dr. Ansorg added that patient care and test results have not been affected nor delayed, however, at the local level, it has affected contact tracing efforts since not every positive case is being reported.
“This issue may impact a local public health department’s ability to receive all lab reports in order to investigate for contact tracing,” Dr. Ansorg said.
To help mitigate the issue, the state has implemented three steps:
“Number one, it deployed a strike team from the Department of Technology to assess the underlying code. Number two, it engaged the local public health officers to ensure they have necessary information. Number three, it instructed all laboratories in California to manually report all positive cases to the local public health departments,” Dr. Ansorg shared.
“The state also shared that the scale and scope of data being collected to the COVID-19 is unprecedented and that it is continually working to add capacity and capabilities to its disease surveillance and the laboratory reporting system in light of the situation.”
When asked to give an estimate of how severe the underreporting is in Santa Barbara County, Dr. Ansorg said it is probably a “significant amount.”
“When I looked at the last 10 days, I was encouraged and I mentioned that at the last press conference of seeing lower numbers and so was the governor. (This) is really discouraging now I’m really sorry to say,” Dr. Ansorg said.
Until the problem is fixed there will be a disclaimer on the county’s public health website, which reads: “The state’s electronic disease reporting system has been experiencing issues processing incoming reports. Therefore, recent data published on the SB County Public Health COVID-19 dashboards are likely to be an underestimate of true cases in the county. This disclaimer will be in place until the state reporting issue is rectified.”
Additionally, all the metrics are now frozen for the state.
“It will be very hard for the public to see this data accurately at the moment because they simply aren’t, and I apologize for that. But they are working day and night on this, I can promise you that,” Dr. Ansorg said.
He added that with the state’s metrics being frozen, the county will be relying on using paper and pencil to count cases.
“That will be more reliable and more timely than any other electronic-data finding at this time, so I’m predicting that it would be very accurate,” Dr. Ansorg said.
According to the county’s website, there are 227 active cases with 88 recovering in the hospital and 25 in the Intensive Care Unit.
The majority of the cases announced Tuesday were out of Santa Barbara, which announced 29 new cases and now has a total of 849 cases, 47 of which are active.
Santa Maria reported 13 new cases and has the most cases by any city in the county with 2,941. Of those, 97 are active while no other city has more than 50 active cases.
There were also three additional deaths reported on the website. However, Dr. Ansorg had no information to provide the public.
In other news, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department announced Monday that five additional inmates at the Main Jail had tested positive for COVID-19.
One inmate was COVID-19 positive at the time of arrest and booked into the Main Jail Sunday. The inmates’ condition was confirmed through testing prior to booking, and immediately housed in a negative-pressure room and is being monitored, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Four inmates from the jail’s general population were found to have contracted the coronavirus through contact tracing from a previous positive inmate who had since been released.
A total of 17 inmates in the affected housing area were tested July 30. One tested positive on Aug. 1 and three more tested positive Aug. 2. The remaining 13 inmates have tested negative and are being monitored, Ms. Zick said.
As of Wednesday, a total of 14 inmates housed at the Main Jail have tested positive for COVID-19.
News-Press Associate Editor Mitchell White contributed to this report