85% of last month’s county’s COVID-19 hospitalizations occurred among people who didn’t get the shots
Nearly 85% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County last month were unvaccinated, according to data presented by the Public Health Department during the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
According to the data, 112 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 across the county in August.
Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital recorded 54 COVID-19 patients, Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria reported 39 COVID-19 patients and Lompoc Valley Medical Center reported 19 COVID-19 patients. Of these patients, 95 were unvaccinated, 10 were fully vaccinated, and eight were of unknown vaccination status.
“What this tells us is the vaccines are effective in keeping people out of the hospital (and) preventing illness leading to hospitalization,” Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director, told Supervisors on Tuesday.
The data presented Tuesday also revealed a breakdown of the hospitalizations by age group, showing that the highest number of hospitalizations occurred within the 50-64 age range. According to the data, 31 of those hospitalized were between the ages of 50-64, 24 were in the 30-49 range, 22 were over the age of 76, 15 were between 19-24 years, 14 were between 65-74 years and five were among those ages 18 and under. One patient was missing age data.
The median age of hospitalized patients overall last month was 54 years of age. Among unvaccinated patients, the median age was 52.5, and among the vaccinated, the median age was 80, Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
In addition to this hospitalization data, Dr. Do-Reynoso provided an update on the latest case rates and community spread in the county. According to the latest metrics, the county’s current case rate is 17.1 per 100,000, which is a 25% decrease from two weeks ago.
Dr. Do-Reynoso said the decreasing case rate makes her “cautiously optimistic” that the downward trend will continue, but she stressed the importance of increasing the vaccination rate across the county to lower the case rates.
According to the latest vaccination data, 66.7% of the county’s eligible 12-and-older population is fully vaccinated, and about 75% of that same population has received at least one dose.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Dr. Do-Reynoso presented a graphic that revealed a correlation between high vaccination rates and low case rates. At this point, Santa Barbara sits right in the middle of the graphic, with about 56% of the entire population fully vaccinated. Dr. Do-Reynoso said she is hopeful that as the county increases its vaccine uptake, cases will continue to decrease.
To achieve a higher vaccination rate, Dr. Do-Reynoso said the health department is focusing vaccine outreach in the county’s zip codes with the lowest vaccination coverage. According to data presented Tuesday, these areas include Casmalia/Antonio (93429) with a 34% vaccination rate, Capitan (93117) with a 56.9% vaccination rate, New Cuyama (93254) with a 57.5% vaccination rate and Santa Maria, Orcutt and Betteravia (93455) with a 57.8% vaccination rate.
Dr. Do-Reynoso reported Tuesday that Guadalupe (zip code 93434) reported the highest vaccine increase last week, with an increase of 1.2% among the partially vaccinated and a 1.6% increase among the fully vaccinated. A portion of Santa Maria (zip code 93458) also saw increases last week, with a change of 1.1% among the partially vaccinated and a change of 1.4% among the fully vaccinated.
“We are celebrating increases in these particular ZIP codes because (we) are seeing that our efforts are netting traction,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the public health director told supervisors that the Public Health Department is tracking 57 active COVID-19 outbreaks, 25 of which are occurring in schools, 21 in congregate living facilities and 11 in businesses. The presentation did not provide any additional information about these outbreaks.
In addition to the update from Public Health, Dr. Stewart Comer, the Public Health laboratory director, also provided supervisors with an overview of the effectiveness of PCR tests in detecting COVID-19.
Dr. Comer told the supervisors that his lab has processed more than 200,000 PCR tests, and of those, only 0.03% came back indeterminate. He added that the false positive rate for SARS-CoV-2 is lower than any prior upper respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-1, MERS, H1N1, Dengue, Ebola and Zika.
“PCR technology is not perfect, but it is absolutely the commercial gold standard that’s available, and it is the most commonly utilized testing model for all upper respiratory viruses including the original SARS-CoV-1, Ebola, etc.,” Dr. Comer said Tuesday. “In addition, the indeterminant rate as it applies to Santa Barbara County is exceedingly low — it is not high in terms of PCR. So I think that is extremely important to recognize.”
Following the presentation, Dr. Do-Reynoso also addressed use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 in response to a public commenter asserting that it could be used as an effective treatment.
Though the drug is traditionally used as a dewormer for horses, interest in using Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 has risen in recent weeks even though the treatment has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“The FDA has come out strongly recommending that humans don’t use Ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment,” Dr. Do-Reynoso said.
The board is expected to hear another COVID-19 update from the Public Health Department during their meeting next Tuesday.