As COVID-19 Numbers Continue to Rise, Officials Remain Focused on Education

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gregg Hart during Friday’s press conference

By edhat staff

The number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Santa Barbara County as officials remain focused on education as a method of enforcement.

During a press conference on Friday afternoon, local officials admit it’s been a difficult week as an increase in cases has put a strain on hospital resources.

COVID-19 cases have risen 18% since the last press conference on July 2, active cases have decreased by 4%, COVID-19 positive patients admitted to local hospitals increased by 25% and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions increased by 15%. 

The total bed occupancy of all five hospitals in the county, including ICU beds and non-COVID patients, is now 56% full. 

“This is very concerning because hospitalized COVID patients often quickly require more intensive treatment with very little advanced warning,” said Supervisor Gregg Hart.

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso confirmed the contact tracing reports that close gatherings appear to be the biggest issue for the spread of the virus. Father’s day events, funerals, church services, family gatherings, bars, and July 4th activities were commonly cited during investigations.

The county has been on the state’s monitoring list for 26 consecutive days

When the topic shifted to the enforcement of the Governor and Public Health Officer’s orders, such as mandatory face coverings, officials touted education as the best solution opposed to citations.

Hart stated there was initially some confusion about wearing face coverings outdoors but local agencies and governments have been working together to educate people and businesses. The county will not enforce its way out of this problem but will encourage people to do the right thing, he said. 

However, Hart did confirm a new strategy of issuing cease and desist letters to businesses who are deemed repeat offenders will be deployed soon. The majority of these problematic businesses are restaurants who have continued to operate indoors, he said.

Two Additional Deaths and 75 New Cases

The Public Health Department reported two additional deaths and 75 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. This brings the total case count to 3,931 with 31 total deaths. 

The two deaths were both over 70 years of age and resided in the City of Santa Maria and are related to an outbreak at a skilled nursing facility.

Of the total cases, 345, or approximately 10%, are active in the community with 75 current hospitalizations including 23 in the ICU.

Are Hospitals Stable Right Now?

Dr. Do-Reynoso confirmed local hospitals and PHD are better equipped to handle a possible surge than four months ago. Currently, 75% of the county’s ventilators are free and hospitals have more personal protective equipment (PPE).

There are a total of 720 hospital beds across the county’s five hospitals and at 56% total capacity, hospitals may begin to reduce their number of elective surgeries to free up bed space, said Dr. Do-Reynoso.

On Friday evening, Cottage Health released a statement that their facilities will revert to visitor restrictions as the number of positive COVID-19 tests and the number of patients being hospitalized continue to rise.

“In early June, 1% of the COVID-19 tests performed by Cottage’s Pacific Diagnostic Laboratories tested positive. This week, 6% tested positive. Patients requiring hospitalization for COVID-19 have increased from four a month ago to 31 today, all cared for in isolation units separate from other patients,” according to the statement.

Additionally, starting Monday, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital will reduce its number of scheduled elective procedures by half.

“This will assure that we can provide life-saving care for the predicted surge of COVID-positive cases while still safely caring for patients who require emergency and essential care for non-COVID conditions. We are prepared to meet these needs and it is important that you continue to seek medical care when needed,” the statement read.

Testing Site Status

PHD is now asking that only people who have COVID-19 symptoms, had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 positive patient, is an essential worker, or lives/works in a congregate setting to schedule a COVID-19 test.

As the supply chain becomes strained, appointments become booked, and people don’t show up for their appointments without notice, it prevents people who really need to get tested from getting the care they need, said Nick Clay, Director of Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

PHD issued a press release earlier this week explaining the shift in messaging from encouraging everyone to get a test to this new restriction.

While testing results can be delayed, the state is working to solve this problem, said Clay.

What Can We Do Now?

Officials stressed the importance of washing your hands, not touching your face, wearing a face mask, and physically distancing from other people. 

Supervisor Hart encouraged personal responsibility to protect yourself and neighbors while reasserting that “COVID-19 is not the seasonal flu, you don’t want to get it just to get it over with.”

Dr. Do-Reynoso urged everyone to not get complacent stating, “you must assume everyone you come in contact with is infectious.”

When it comes to the City of Santa Maria, who holds over 40% of the county’s total case count and 50% of the active case count, officials stated they are continuing with outreach and prevention strategies and have suggested monitoring and enforcement against businesses who are not complying with the rules.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit or call the County Call Center at (833) 688 – 5551.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. We need to demand enforcement. Our elected officials and the public health officers are failing us. Re-opening happened too fast. Enforcement isn’t happening. Months after we’ve known masks prevent transmission and that they can crush the curve we are still begging people to wear masks. Many business owners are complying with the orders, but the ones who don’t are contributing to the spread and are ruining it for everyone else just like those who are not wearing masks in public. If you are mad about they way our elected officials and public health officers are handling mask wearing or enforcement email the people below and tell them to mandate tickets, increase enforcement, and close businesses down if they are not complying: ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  2. Enforcement is the only way. Just as you enforce the law on people who are too stupid to care for their own kids while they are taking drugs – you should enforce the law on the terrorists in the community who refuse to wear masks and send their kids to Covid parties. Yes, Covid parties are being planned in town by red-leaning parents for their kids who don’t have a choice.

  3. FYI, the current mortality in SBC is 0.9%. Calculated as (deaths)/(deaths + recovered)*100. Seasonal flu is around 0.1%. Sure, it’s not SARS/MERS from the past, or Ebola and related hemorrhagic fevers, but I’m not going out just yet.

  4. I think our public officials are good people who are trying to do the right thing with the messaging about COVID, but there have been some major F-ups. Yesterday, it was reported, “An adjustment was made to remove 22 previous cases due to duplication, negative results and/or the case was found to be out of the jurisdiction.” This kind of misreporting/bungling of data is inexcusable, and it plays right into the hands of conspiracy theorists who deny science. Why did this happen? I would like to hear some contrition from those responsible, and an honest explanation of what went wrong. The messaging has been contradictory since day one. For the first two months, at least, of this COVID crisis, the public were told not to wear masks. And then there was a 180 degree reversal. This didn’t inspire much confidence in our public health authorities, to put it mildly. The directives and orders from above are often condescending in the extreme. Something needs to be done to change the tone, to be empathetic, especially, to lower-income people who may be essential workers, living in cramped housing, often with multiple roommates. Ordering low-income to shelter-in-place, when they are living in poor housing conditions, and closing parks and beaches, is insensitive and seems to contradict other advice from public health professionals that it is best to be outdoors where contagion is minimized. So thanks for your educational efforts, folks. If I had to give you a grade so far, it would be a C. And that would be generous.

  5. @07:39 PM I am all for complying with the CDC and local public health guidelines but have to wonder where you heard about these “covid parties”? The various new reports last month turned out to be completely unconfirmed and akin to the “some people say” style of news gathering. Do you have any verification of such a party?

  6. Enforce already! It’s past time to do something Public Health, Supervisors and City Council Members. These people know what they need to do (wear masks, follow opening rules and socially distance). The are endangering everyone and you need to make them comply. Ticket already!

  7. SBUSD should follow the lead shown by Orange County Classical Academy (OCCA), charter school -it is happening, school choice is happening:
    ………”the way OCCA intends to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic is based on expert medical advice and is unaffected by the opportunistic demands of the teachers unions. OCCA intends to open with no requirement for face coverings for either students or teachers, although all will be free to wear them if they wish. They will be having normal classroom instruction without social distancing or distance learning. This policy is based on virtually all medical data so far indicating that COVID-19 is not dangerous to children, and is almost never spread by asymptomatic children, combined with the fact that wearing face masks and enforcing social distancing is harmful to the the psyche and the social and intellectual development of children.
    None of these revolutionary intentions of OCCA would be within weeks of realization were it not for a long, bitter fight the organizers had to wage with the teachers union and the politicians they control. Charter schools, along with home schooling, religious schools, and private schools, all constitute a mortal threat to the teachers union monopoly. The impact of the teachers union is felt throughout public K-12 education, but especially in low income communities…..”

    CDC includes confirmed & “probable “ deaths in Covid death count. Probable means if you had two of the Covid factors and died, It’s a Covid death. If you tested positive for Covid and you die is a car crash, it’s Covid death. Read the article, watch the Director of Illinois tell you herself on tv April 20th.
    April 14 NYC ads over 3,700 deaths to Covid counts as “probable” Covid deaths.
    The science around viruses & this one in particular are full of “probables”.
    What do we know or think we know?
    SB County has 445,000 residents.
    Per SBPHD 3,931 positive tests
    31 deaths
    31/3,931= 0.0078. Or 0.78% of those with Covid died. Less than 1% of those that tested positive.

  9. Viral posts wrongly suggest that the COVID-19 death toll is exaggerated because “the state” has instructed that “anyone who didnt die by a gun shot wound or car accident” be listed as a coronavirus victim. Experts say there is no such default classification — and that the U.S. death count is probably underestimated.

  10. I believe that people who disregard the fact that their refusal to adhere to the simple requests to wear masks in public and maintain social distance are inherently selfish. In all aspects of their lives. Some just lack the ability to see or care for anyone beyond themselves. And some have the belief that they won’t get the virus. So they play the odds, gamble with their future, our fate. The people who are displaying that behavior in public, are telling a lot about themselves, their character. I get that people need to work, get on with life. I want that too.

  11. From my experience walking dogs in parks, neighborhoods, beaches and other areas in our city, 95% of people are NOT wearing masks in these locations. There is a HUGE increase in off-leash dogs everywhere, and you are Satan if you politely request that they leash their dog. Most people I see are social distancing from people outdoors who are not with them, but are doing NO social distancing or wearing masks within their own “friend groups.” Examples: 8 women sitting at one picnic table yesterday at Stow Grove Park, eating, singing and very loudly laughing and talking together. Neighbors getting together outdoors in front or back yards for parties of various kinds; NO social distancing between people from different households, no masks worn.
    Most people I see are staying about 1-2’ away from their friends while outdoors, regardless of activity.
    This isn’t going to stop the spread, folks.

  12. Sandy, with all due respect, I think the rules have been spelled out quite clearly for the great outdoors. If you are unable to maintain physical distance (6 feet), you’re supposed to wear a mask. If you’re walking around outdoors, more than 6 feet away from others, it’s completely acceptable not to wear a mask. Why are people having such difficulty comprehending this very simple rule?

  13. Sorry GENERALTREE, I don’t want the Santa Barbara police turned into the Gestapo, enforcing poorly-understood mask rules. I see mostly compliance while I have been in town. Mask-wearing in stores is at 100% compliance. For the most part, people are being very careful outdoors, wearing masks when they can’t maintain physical distance of 6 feet and are interacting closely with other people. There is no general mandate that people should wear masks outdoors, if they can maintain that distance. You want cops to start bickering with people over whether they’re 6 feet away from others or not? What if they’re family members? roommates? Be careful making assumptions about peoples’ relationships to each other, based on your stupid assumptions. Regarding COVID “parties,” when I was a young sprog, growing up in England, I was deliberately exposed to chicken pox and mumps during playdates with infected neighbours, diseases which can be quite serious if you’re older. There is a venerable and quite rational tradition for this kind of deliberate exposure, although I am NOT endorsing it in the case of COVID-19.

  14. It’s a new disease. That means officials, along with everyone else, were learning about it as time went on. Top leadership should have complied with masking as did other world leaders and not put out messages based on ignorance, but across the country, others did the best they could with limited information.

  15. Luvaduck- We’ve been shopping for elderly neighbors. When there is something on their list that is ambiguous (although we try to go through the list beforehand), or if something is not available, we call them. I try to stand far away from anyone, as being inside a grocery store (not the best cell service and music or ads over the loud speaker) and wearing a mask while talking on the cell phone does not make for the best communication, and then the mask goes back up. I promise that I have not licked or coughed on anything. I can’t say what your experience was, but know it’s not all malicious defiance.

  16. It only takes a few mortalities, mine and my family, to make the incidence of it in the general public irrelevant to me. I’m going nowhere soon and it’s depressing not to see my family and friends but I’d rather have all of us alive our next visit whenever that turns out to be.

  17. I’ve got direct news from a home-schooling friend in Idaho whose group went to the next country (due to their own county restrictions) to hold a previously planned large event. She did not let her teen-agers go with tears all around. There was also a party up the block from me and around the corner that had 20 or so young people, a guitar player and drum set for entertainment about 2 weeks ago. I saw that on my evening walk, turned and went the other way. I doubt they were billed as “Covid parties” but parties they were. No idea political affiliation. Also no doubt they were dangerous.

  18. Supermarkets and pharmacies, both necessities, need surveillance monitors on each aisle. Screens monitored, a connection to a “bouncer” and people who drop their masks once inside, evicted. While shopping for groceries at the supermarket near Marketplace, out of eveyone there, one middle-aged woman was sauntering through the aisles, going between people who distancing with her mask down talking on her cell phone. I took it upon myself to remind her–probably lucky not to get spit on–and she went on her way potentially infecting everyone in the store with her micro-particles for hours after. Whether don’t know, don’t care, don’t believe or think it’s a political issue, this is a pandemic and compliance has to be enforced until we get a better handle on it.

  19. SBcarnut I am asthmatic-have a heart problem and am 82 years old. I wear a mask. My coughing is sometimes uncontrollable so I wear the mask to protect those who may be near. I have not had a problem with wearing a mask–except one busybody who yelled N95’s are for health workers. I care about myself and others
    I am an 82 year old asthmatic with a heart condition. I live alone so trips to get food (as seldom as practical) are necessary. I wear a mask to protect both others and myself. I have had no problems breathing with them but the asthma does make coughing an uncontrollable fact at times. That is reason enough to wear a mask. My only problem has been a woman who yelled at me for wearing an N95 mask. This is recommended to me because of my extreme risk. Wear a mask—-no excuses!!!!

  20. I understand the fear of school starting from all sides, I just wonder why teachers might get special treatment and not go back to work because they’re scared, meanwhile ppl want the grocery stores open and other people have to go back to work. Y’all are special right?

  21. In Los Angeles there is a factory where 300 employees caught the virus and 4 of them died. You can’t go back to work if you are dead. Summer is believed to be a slow time for Covid. Can you believe that? If this is slow then the fall and winter months will be deadly and abysmal.

  22. As to the Covid-19 virus:
    Government continues to fail us when we need it most! Talk is cheap!
    We are in a systemic breakdown in every level of our government from the president on down to the smallest township.

  23. Now non-mask wearers are terrorists , I have asthma and can’t wear one. Does that make me a terrorist as well? I have a brother in So. Calif that is disabled, somehow he got a UTI that apparently lead to sepsis a full blow body infection. He was lucky that his caregiver found him and called an ambulance, the hospital has tagged him COVID-19 . I wish the alarmists would wake up. This is happening all over our country, the hospitals get paid more if it’s COVID! Wake Up

  24. Grocery stores are private businesses. They are required to work for a profit. Teachers are funded by the taxpayers, and can burn through cash with few consequences. Different rules and different demands apply to each operating setting. Giving money to businesses is voluntary. Giving money to the government is mandatory.

  25. Okay, so what is the (official) recommendation for wearing a mask outdoors? Last I read that dog walking, not being around people, it’s okay to not wear a mask. But Hart says, “Hart stated there was initially some confusion about wearing face coverings outdoors but local agencies and governments have been working together to educate people and businesses. ” — But he doesn’t say what IS the recommendation. (Even at TJ’s/Milpas where there are a lot of signs about wearing a mask while in line, there are people in line without a mask.)

  26. 8:02am – 1. People need to eat, that’s why grocery stores are open. 2. TIME indoors and being together closely are two big factors. At a grocery store, the customers (while numerous), aren’t there for very long AND they certainly aren’t within 6′ of the workers for >30 minutes. 3. Schools end up grouping people from 20+ different households into one INDOOR location, without 6′ distancing, for 6 hours a day. See #1 and #2 – time (>30 minutes), indoors,

  27. Could the US have 25% of the recorded World Cases because the US records all potential Covid cases and any death where a person has Covid is attributed towards Covid.
    For example in SB a member of a sports team tested positive r for Covid, so SBPHD rcitddd the entire team as positive Active until the team took Covid tests and they all came back negative. Ask the SBPHD yourself, this just occurred.
    Per the Director of Illinois Pub Heakth if a person. Dies in a car crash who has tested positive for Covid, it’s a Covid death. Watch her testimony in the it’s release regarding the death of a teenager.
    I’m not suing we shouldn’t be careful and we should try to limit the spread.
    I’m saying stop politicizing the # of Covid positives and deaths. Each death is a tragedy,; cancer, suicide, influenza, Covid.
    No other country makes so many assumptions regarding the number of Covid people.
    Reality is that if the rest of world used the US reporting practices their numbers would all be a lot higher.

  28. MP, they are self-funded with dues, exactly how would you take their money away? I guess you could pay them less, so all those teachers living in Montecito would have to stop paying their dues or move to Hope Ranch?

  29. People who claim they have to pull their face covering down to talk on the phone are ridiculous. Maybe there’s no malicious intent but it is a willful act contradicting exactly why the face covering is being worn. So, getting the right cereal is more important then possibly spreading a deadly virus? Maybe not deadly to you cause you don’t even know you’re positive, but deadly to someone else. Please, don’t make an exception for yourself. How comfortable would you feel if everyone in the store while you were inside did as you do? I wear a mask 8 hours a day at work and talk on the phone and no one on the other end has ever said anything about not being able to understand what I’m saying. They probably have no idea I’m even wearing a mask. At most you may need to be mindful to enunciate. Keep the face covering on while you’re on the phone, or just choose the dang cereal.

  30. LA teachers unions just shut down LA schools indefinitely – presenting list of mainly unrelated extortion demands, before they will go back to work. What powers will Governor Newsom exercise; what school funding streams will be disrupted by this unilateral move, what role will the NLRB play mediating this teacher union-management impasse, what position does the State Superintendent of Schools take; is this a strike, a walk out or an act of defiance? Will the 50% of general tax revenue Prop 98 fund mandated to go to schools now be escrowed, or given back to the taxpayers? How many other school districts will conduct sympathy strikes in support of the LA teachers union? Is any of this actually “covid related” or merely an election year generated crisis they cannot pass up. What position will SBUSD take.

  31. If you couldn’t tell Byzan is a big supporter of Teacher’s Unions. As if any of those teachers are in age groups or have medical problems if the schools reopened and they were exposed to the virus. Oh, wait, a teacher was co-teaching online classes in a classroom with 2 other teachers and contracted it and died. Well, that was probably just a one time event.

  32. For Tuesday, the Santa Barbara County reported 295 “active COVID-19 cases”; of those, Santa Barbara had 19. (Most were in Santa Maria and in the north county, generally.) . Santa Barbara is truly two differing counties, tied together. Is the SB Unified School District that serves only Santa Barbara City petitioning Governor Newsom to take this into consideration and to allow at least the lower levels of schools, TK to 5, for instance, to have in-person classes, since younger students, below age 10, are less affected? If it is not, why not?

  33. Case rate for south coast only (Goleta through Carpinteria) as of yesterday was 147, which is still higher than the state requirement to open schools (must be below 100 for 14 straight days AND have a positive test results of

  34. Amazing to me how there is so much equivocating about the seriousness of COVID 19. People going to excruciating lengths to discount any tiny, irrelevant minutia of evidence that it should not be a big deal. And if you “CAN’T WEAR A MASK” for physical or emotional reasons and you continue to shop without one, you ARE a terrorist. You terrorize people who just want to follow simple rules for the benefit of themselves and others. So , put on your big boy/big girl pants stay home and get someone else who is physically/emotionally healthy to shop for you.

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