Public Health Concerned by Spike in COVID-19 Cases
Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) officials are concerned by the increased number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the last week.
The county has averaged 50 new cases each day over the course of seven days, officials said during a press conference.
Supervisor Gregg Hart called the increase "significant and sobering" while Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg stated today's numbers are "very concerning."
PHD reported 67 new cases today bringing the county's grand total to 2,319. While there are currently only 306 active cases, the numbers that catch health officials' attention are the increases in hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Right now there are 65 people hospitalized with COVID-19, and 17 of them are in the ICU.
Just last week Dr. Ansorg stated he was confident to reopen more business sectors as ICU cases were decreasing and staying around 10 or 11 cases. Today he said he does not feel comfortable providing the same reassurance as last week.
"In COVID times, one week is an eternity," Dr. Ansorg said.
He went on to state that the first three to five days of contracting COVID-19 are critical to determining if the patient will be really ill or move towards recovery. Once a patient starts getting worse, it's a very rapid decline and the 67 hospitalizations are like "ticking time bombs" as they could potentially turn into ICU cases, said Dr. Ansorg.
Officials stated there is no exact way to pinpoint the cause of the recent spike but as mobility increased and businesses reopened, it was expected and many communities throughout the nation are experiencing similar results. Dr. Ansorg stated that most infections appear to occur at work and at home due to longer exposure times compared to visiting a restaurant or marching in a rally.
He went on to state that many more people are letting their guard down and being lax with social distancing, handwashing, and wearing face coverings.
"Reducing mobility of people is the best way to slow the spread of the virus," said Dr. Ansorg.
Due to the increase of hospitalizations, Santa Barbara County has been added to the state's monitoring list that prevents any further reopening of business sectors until the numbers decrease.
Santa Maria continues to harbor the bulk of positive cases within the county with 44 of today's 67 cases located within the city limits. PHD Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso confirmed her department is continuing their public outreach with prevention messaging and engagement with community partners to educate residents and employers.
Additionally, she reported the outbreak at Country Oaks skilled nursing facility in Santa Maria has continued to grow with 28 residents and 26 staff members testing positive. Five other skilled nursing facilities were reported to have COVID-19 outbreaks, but the data and facility names were not available at the time of the press conference.
Sheriff Bill Brown provided an update on the current COVID-19 outbreak at the county's main jail. Yesterday it was reported that 9 custody staff had tested positive and today an additional 4 staff members and 2 inmates had tested positive making a total of 15 positive cases.
Brown confirmed all staff members and inmates are being tested with 114 staff members tested today, the results are pending. All 574 inmates will also be quarantined for 14 days when entering the jail and will undergo temperature checks.
Supervisor Hart reminded residents the virus is highly contagious and easily spread. Due to the increase in cases this week, PHD paused reopening extended personal services businesses.
"The path forward won't necessarily be straight," said Hart.