Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus
Press conference held by Public Health Department officials (Screenshot: KEYT News)
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara County officials held an impromptu press conference to declare a Local Health Emergency in response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
On Thursday evening, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department declared the emergency in response to an increased spread of COVID-19 across the country and the Governor of California’s Declared State of Emergency and mass gathering guidance.
There are currently no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County.
The Office of Emergency Management has been activated and is monitoring a phone line for the community to call in with questions at 833-688-5551.
SOCIAL DISTANCING MANDATE
An order has been issued mandating social distancing effective immediately until March 30 within Santa Barbara County. The decision was made based on the World Health Organization classifying COVID-19 as a pandemic and the recommendations from the California Department of Public Health to delay rates of transmission, illness, and death, said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, Director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD).
The social distancing mandate creates firm parameters on public gatherings resulting in the cancellation or postponement of non-essential gatherings. Social distancing refers to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully slow community transmission of the virus. National health professionals vary in how strict social distancing should be but in general, it's reducing contact with other people if you don't have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms of any kind, self-quarantine. The Atlantic tackles this topic with a variety of questions and answers from health officials.
Large gatherings of 250 people or more are to be cancelled or postponed, such as concerts, conferences, or sporting events. Smaller gatherings held in venues that do not allow social distancing of six feet per person should be postponed or canceled, including crowded auditoriums, rooms or other venues.
Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people. This includes gatherings such as those at retirement facilities, assisted living facilities, developmental homes, and support groups for people with health conditions.
While there are zero cases of confirmed COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County, 9 individuals are currently being monitored as recent travelers by the PHD. They are self-isolated in their home under PHD supervision for 14 days monitoring any symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, cough, etc. After 14 days without symptoms, the travelers will be released from self-isolation.
PHD has tested 6 individuals, 5 of those located in South County, who met certain criteria for testing. These individuals have tested negative. Altogether PHD has monitored 61 individuals for potential COVID-19 but all results have been negative.
As of Thursday morning, California has 198 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 4 deaths.
Testing has been expanded statewide with 17 active labs in Calfornia including locations in San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties. Two commercial labs, Lab Corps and Quest Diagnostics, have additionally come on board.
PHD stressed the importance that not everyone will be tested, certain criteria needs to be met for testing to be considered and it will not be offered on request. Those who pose a greater risk such as having a chronic medical condition, lung disease, heart disease, are over 60 years old, or congregate settings like skilled nursing facilties, will be prioritized.
For those who don't meet the criteria but are having symptoms, it's important to self-quarantine and contact a physician.
SCHOOLS CLOSED AS OF MONDAY, MARCH 16*
On Thursday evening, Santa Barbara County schools decided to cancel or postpone non-essential travel and events for students and staff but keep classrooms open. As of Friday afternoon, the decision was announced to close all public schools through the end of March.
Read more about the decision here.
The county is working on a guideline of procedures for local businesses and restaurants so they can continue to operate while practicing social distancing.
Additionally, officials are planning to install 12 handwashing stations in various locations throughout the county. More information is expected to be released tomorrow on these measures.
For more information visit the Public Health Department's COVID-19 Public Information Portal at https://publichealthsbc.org/
The full press conference is available below courtesy of KEYT News:
[*Editor's Note: At the time of publication, local school officials decided to keep schools open. The next day they announced local schools will be closed. Updated information is provided in the article]