Leaders Push Against Enforcement as COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara County officials continue to reject stricter enforcement of mask-wearing and distancing as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
During a press conference on Friday afternoon when asked if the county would implement enforcement of people not following the COVID-19 guidelines in terms of mask-wearing and physical distancing, Supervisor Gregg Hart stated the enforcement of individual people presents many challenges including the potential for confrontations that would be difficult to manage.
He said the community is better off focusing on education and imploring people to think about the consequences of their actions rather than a punitive approach. When discussing counties who have imposed greater enforcement, Hart stated it has not truly changed behavior and many of those jurisdictions have not issued many citations.
City governments, however, are able to enforce stricter guidelines that go beyond the Governor's orders. The City of Santa Barbara will discuss possible enforcement and stricter guidelines this coming Tuesday.
The Virus is Reignited
It has been 128 days since Governor Newsom issued the stay-at-home order with 90% of California's population being on the state's monitoring list due to an increase of COVID-19 cases.
"We are at a crossroads with the COVID pandemic," said Hart. He expressed how the county successfully flattened the infection curve and avoided overloading hospitals but the virus was not contained and it has reignited, threatening the progress that was initially made.
While the local hospital capacity is "prudently managed," the new cases continue to increase and the trend is not good, he said.
As of Friday, the county has averaged 121 new cases each day over the past week. The state requires an average of 8 new cases per day to be lifted from the state's monitoring list. Since Memorial Day there has been a steady increase from 13 cases per day to 25 per day two weeks later. One month later the number rose to 60, and six weeks after Memorial Day it grew to 96 cases per day until today, two months after Memorial Day, we are at 121 cases per day.
Hart stated we cannot go indefinitely like this and we know what to do, emphasizing that masks are the safe and easy choice to reduce the case count so we can return to living our normal lives.
Santa Barbara County Public Health Deputy Director Paige Batson reported 133 new cases bringing the grand total to 5,576
Of the total, 369 of the cases are active, meaning they are still considered to be infectious. There are currently 85 hospitalizations including 26 people in the intensive care unit (ICU).
The Public Health Department has between 70 and 85 contact tracers who average 250 calls on cases per day. The average wait time from a positive result of being contacted by a tracer is 2.1 days. All positive cases are contacted by a tracer, as well as anyone who had close contact with the positive case. Approximately 94% of those who tested positive are able to investigated, while 6% are unable to be reached.
From the cases investigated so far, 29% spread the virus from person to person, 18% is spread in the Lompoc prison, 21% traveled outside the county, and 18% is community-acquired. The most common form of person to person spread is during family or group gatherings.
Batson stated there is a general sense of hesitancy from those who are being interviewed when asked specific questions about restricted behavior such as attending parties or gatherings. However, she said the contact tracers are skilled interviewers and feel most people are forthcoming.
Hospital Specific Numbers
Dr. J. Trees Ritter, Chief Medical Officer and Infectious Disease Specialist at Marian Medical Hospital, stated they have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to the high number of cases in the Santa Maria area.
In the past 30 days, the hospital has averaged 20 to 22 COVID-19 patients in the ICU, typically people with respiratory issues. The have had up to 16 or 17 ventilators being used at any given time, he said.
On Friday Cottage Health reported caring for a total of 270 patients across all their facilities. Of those, 213 are acute care patients including 16 patients who are on ventilators, 29 are confirmed COVID-19 positive in isolation, and 8 patients in critical care.
More information can be found at https://publichealthsbc.org/status-reports/