The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced that there is a third confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county. The whereabouts of the patient has yet to be revealed.
According to Wednesday’s update, 214 individuals have been tested to date, with 66 tests returning negative and another 145 awaiting results.
Across California, there are now 598 confirmed cases, with 13 deaths reported, according to the SBCPHD.
Of the 598 cases, 142 have been community acquired, while 91 are travel related and another 88 are person-to-person spread. A total of 392 of the cases are in the 18-to-64 age bracket, with 188 coming from those over 65.
Santa Barbara County isn’t the only Central Coast area dealing with growing numbers, with San Luis Obispo County putting a Shelter at Home Local Emergency Order into effect starting today at 5 p.m. and running through April 17. According to the order, the status will be reevaluated every 14 days.
In Ventura County, officials announced that there are 13 positive cases of COVID-19, with one confirmed by the CDC and 12 coming as presumptive — a label that they are jettisoning as the CDC lab will no longer be providing confirmation, with those coming only locally.
Isla Vista update
The five individuals held in quarantine in Isla Vista due to exposure to a person that tested positive for COVID-19 have tested negative for the coronavirus.
They will remain in self-quarantine in their residences until March 22, when a health officer order will be lifted, according to a news release from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.
According to the release, “people under quarantine are healthy individuals that are known to have been exposed to someone with a potential communicable disease, in this case COVID-19. People under quarantine exhibiting symptoms will be tested for COVID-19.”
City’s counters closed
The city of Santa Barbara has announced that public counters are now closed, according to a news release.
According to the release, “city department offices are staffed and ready to handle requests, review plans and applications, and process payments.”
The city indicated that many services and instructions are available online, including paying a bill, finding phone numbers for staff or submitting requests, forms, applications, questions and comments via email.
For specific questions, refer to the city’s website at santabarbaraca.gov.
Health care providers make adjustments
CenCal Health, the publicly sponsored health plan for Medi-Cal in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, announced that it would be instituting new measures in order to protect staff.
According to a news release, CenCal Health will institute social distancing by staggering work times, teleworking for most employees and closing offices to visitors.
The “employee-first” policy went into effect on Wednesday, protecting more than 250 employees in the two counties.
CenCal Health serves more than 170,000 beneficiaries on the Central Coast.
“As a local health plan with the mission to improve the health and well-being of our community, we decided to make this social-distancing move for both workplace safety and public health,” said Bob Freeman, CenCal Health CEO. “All departments are operating to serve our members and providers. Because this is an unprecedented situation, our teleworking technology may not be as responsive as business-as-usual, so in that case, we ask that callers have patience with the possibility of increased phone hold times.”
According to the release, “the health plan contributes approximately $50 million a month into the local economy, primarily through payments to healthcare providers who serve its membership.”
Meanwhile, Dignity Health Central Coast — comprised of Arroyo Grande Community Hospital (AGCH), French Hospital Medical Center (FHMC), and Marian Regional Medical Center (MRMC) — made a plea to the public to stop taking masks and sanitizers.
“Members of the public have been unnecessarily removing these items from our facilities and the items are there for the health and safety of our patients. Furthermore, these specific masks do not protect against COVID-19. Please ask (them to) refer to the local public health guidelines for the appropriate protection guidelines. Taking critical hospital supplies is stealing from the patients we are working diligently to care for,” the release said.
Governor’s executive order
Looking to protect the state’s most vulnerable, Gov. Gavin Newsom extended the eligibility period for “important safety net services.”
This will allow residents to receive health care, food assistance and in-home supportive services.
“These social safety net programs are so important for families — especially during this crisis,” said Governor Newsom. “We don’t want Californians who rely on these services to lose them.”
The order waives eligibility re-determinations for 90 days for Californians who participate in:
- Medi-Cal health coverage
- CalFresh food assistance
- Cash Assistance for Immigrants; and
- In-Home Supportive Services
According to the release, “the change will allow current recipients of these safety net programs to continue receiving them without interruption.”
In addition, California residents have received a 90-day extension to file state income taxes, with the new filing date of June 15.
SBPD makes changes
As many organizations and agencies shift toward social distancing rules, the Santa Barbara Police Department announced that it would move to a “limited in-person service model.”
According to a news release from the department, officers will continue to respond to “in-progress calls where public safety is at risk.”
Emergency calls are defined as “an emergency when there is an immediate threat to life or serious property damage, and the timely arrival of public safety assistance is of the utmost importance.”
There is a second tier of calls that are sensitive in nature that require in-person intervention, which will be determined by a Combined Communication Center Supervisor, Watch Commander or Sergeant determines that an in-person response is appropriate.
Lastly, there is “non-emergency” crime reporting, where “there is no immediate or potential threat to life or property.” These reports will be taken either over the phone or via the department’s online reporting service.
Census field operations paused
Lost in the overwhelming focus on coronavirus is that the Census officially kicked off last week.
On Wednesday, Steven Dillingham, the Census Bureau Director, announced that field operations would be paused for two weeks.
“As of (Wednesday), over 5 million have responded online to the 2020 Census. Currently, the planned completion date for data collection for the 2020 Census is July 31, 2020, however, that date can and will be adjusted if necessary as the situation evolves in order to achieve a complete and accurate count,” Mr. Dillingham said. “As we continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, we will adjust census taker and survey operations as necessary in order to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities.”
The Census can be done online (www.my2020census.gov), over the phone or by mail.
The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments will meet at 10 a.m. today to talk about Wednesday’s developments.
Could the deadline for the Census be extended? It’s complicated, according to officials.
“State and congressional leaders, along with some organizations, have begun calling for the census response period to be ‘extended’ or ‘delayed,’ due to concerns about the potential impact of the health emergency on the count. There are numerous and difficult consequences to delaying census operations, and significant implications for data quality and the accuracy of the results. Moreover, because households can self-respond until July 31, it is too soon to know whether such action is necessary,” said the co-chairs of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights’ Census Task Force.
Inching toward a huge economic stimulus package
The U.S. Senate passed a measure on Wednesday to provide free testing and expand sick leave for Americans. It was previously passed by the House and quickly signed by President Trump.
On a day when the stock market plummeted for the second time in three days, work toward a much larger stimulus package — rumored to reach more than $1 trillion — is being fast tracked in order to aid struggling industries such as airlines, as well as individual checks for most taxpayers. The amount that Americans would receive has yet to be determined.
The checks for Americans are expected to come in two batches, each about $250 billion. The goal is to make up for lost wages and provide spending money.
The Treasury also is considering $300 billion in loans for businesses with 500 or less employees. Companies would be eligible for a loan if they continued to pay employees for eight weeks.