Public Health Looks at Bigger Picture in Rising COVID-19 Cases
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gregg Hart during Friday's press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic
By edhat staff
During a press conference on Friday, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) officials stated some percentages of COVID-19 cases are decreasing and hospitals are equipped to handle a potential increase of patients.
Supervisor Gregg Hart confirmed the increase of COVID-19 positive cases this week was expected due to reopening more business sectors that create more human interactions.
"This is not good news, but frankly it's not unexpected," said Hart while confirming the simple answer is to wear a face mask.
Hart explained that while the numbers are increasing, the percentages are decreasing when looking at the whole picture. Last Friday there were 315 active COVID-19 cases within the county, today there are 297, an approximate 6% decrease. Overall the rate of hospitalizations have decreased in the past week, even though the past two days increased, but the trend has continued to flatten for the week, said Hart.
Approximately 85% of available ICU beds in the county are available and the county has a strong reserve that can absorb an unexpected increase, he said.
"The trend with increasing positive test results is concerning to us, but it needs to be looked at in the context of our previous and current testing strategy," said Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.
"With the understanding there are asymptomatic carriers of the virus who will show up as positive test results, we are certainly picking up some additional cases due to more testing activities. When comparing the increase in new positive COVID results to the increase in hospitalizations of COVID-19, it is obvious that the relative increase in hospitalizations is in fact slightly lower than May percentage-wise. This fact tells me two things. Number one, the virus is definitely more widespread but only a small fraction of these cases will need hospital-level care. Number two, the percentage of COVID positive people who do require hospitalization has remained stable over the past two weeks and has actually gone down from May," said Dr. Ansorg.
He continued by stating the data from contact tracers show the majority of those who test positive were infected by someone they know. Even if people were meticulous with handwashing, social distancing, and wearing a face mask, some instances appeared to occur when people were in close contact with one another without protection. A few examples were a company's break room, carpooling with co-workers, or at a family gathering.
Hart also clarified the reason why the county decided to continue reopening previously closed expanded personal services today. The data generated from specific circumstances shows a small incremental contribution these services have on future COVID-19 cases and is not a serious threat to public health, he said.
With some local restaurants closing down due to a customer or employee testing positive for COVID-19, Dr. Ansorg stated this is most likely a decision from the business and not public health as he is unaware of a local restaurant being asked to close for a positive case. "COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person, not so much from a facility to a person," said Dr. Ansorg.
Additionally, Hart stated some businesses had described difficult interactions with customers who refuse to wear their face mask as ordered by the Governor. He warned that failure to comply with education will lead to reinforcement and those subjects could face consequences. He also encouraged members of the public to report instances of businesses or employees failing to follow the guidelines by calling 833-688-5551.
PHD reported 81 new cases on Friday bringing the grand total to 2,712.
Of the total, 993 cases belonging to the outbreak in the Federal Prison in Lompoc and 1,179 are within the community. Overall, 2,106 total individuals fully recovered and 28 have died.
Of the active 297 cases, 7 are located within the Lompoc prison and 54 are recovering in the hospital with 20 in the intensive care unit.
Outbreak in Santa Barbara County Jail
Three inmates at the Main Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Two of the inmates were housed in the Jail’s general population and 1 of the inmates had been extradited from Arizona and was being held in quarantine. These inmates do not require hospitalization and are being medically isolated in negative air pressure cells. All other inmates housed in their immediate vicinity have been tested and came back as negative for COVID-19.
Nine additional Custody Staff members have been found to be COVID-19 positive. Following the 9 staff COVID-19 cases we reported last week, sweeping testing of all staff assigned to the Main Jail and all inmates has been underway. As of noon today, 322 employees and 155 inmates have been tested. The total number of COVID-19 positive Custody Staff is currently 18, and consists of 8 civilian staff and 10 custody deputies including the Chief Custody Deputy.
None of the civilian staff had contact with inmates. Six of the custody deputies work in administrative roles and do not have routine contact with inmates. The remaining 4 custody deputies did have contact with the inmate population, although none had contact with inmates when they were symptomatic.
The Sheriff's Office previously indicated that there were 2 deputies assigned to the Santa Barbara Superior Courthouse who were awaiting test results following a possible exposure from a COVID-19 positive court employee. Their tests have returned negative for COVID-19.