Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

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Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus
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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.

COVID-19 TESTING

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.

LOCAL BUSINESSES

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]

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letmego Mar 13, 2020 10:02 AM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

I'm not sure they will keep schools open until it's too late. Because there are no positive tests, it makes sense (to me anyway), to keep schools open until then. If we shut them down now (no school next week, spring break the week after), and SB has cases that start to explode in 2-3 weeks, then you need to keep the school shut down for a few more weeks, total of 5-8 weeks. My personal prediction is that they will extend spring break for south coast schools by an extra week or two.

Local321 Mar 13, 2020 06:29 AM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

I realize there are no perfect answers here, but one downside of closing schools—particularly elementary schools, which typically don’t have the online option that higher education campuses do—is that parents, in many cases, won’t be able to afford or find enough childcare, thus offloading some of the task to grandparents, who are much more vulnerable to the virus than kids are.

And with schools being closed, many kids will still get together. They just will. So, if they are going to be together anyway, and they generally aren’t as susceptible to coronavirus, why not leave the schools open so parents can actually work (from home, if possible), thus avoiding the spread to grandparents? Apparently, Britain isn’t closing schools, citing this as one of the reasons.

SBCountyLocal Mar 12, 2020 10:40 PM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

China had fever clinics. Before entering buildings or using mass transportation people's temperature were taken. If you had a temperature you were taken to a fever clinic. You're tested for the flu. You have CT scans and a Coronavirus testing if necessary. It took approximately 4 hours. If you tested positive you were placed in a gymnasium or other location with other people who it tested positive and then monitored by doctors and nurses. You didn't go back and infect your family. They found that 70-80% of infections were due to living situations. We cannot self isolate unless we live alone. What are the plans for Santa Barbara? You have to understand that in many areas of town we have multiple people living in one bedroom. It's unimaginable to believe that we are going to be able to have quarantines for entire families. People will infect the people they live with. We need a better plan. If we don't have one the economy will crater as will our health system. We need leadership and a sound plan that removes the threat of community spread and takes care of our residents.

Marathoner Mar 12, 2020 10:25 PM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

Coronavirus is in SB County, probably, in the opinion of the expert, in response to Supervisor Hartmann. The article is correct that there are no confirmed cases in the county, but I did not find the line that reported that expert opinion. It is there on the video at the county website but I don't have time to do the research to find the exact time, at the moment anyhow. But it is worth watching the whole thing - at least twice. Good fairly comprehensive report overall this is not intended as a criticism just an additional fact for the record. Otherwise false optimism gets a boost.

Sal51puedes Mar 13, 2020 10:43 AM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

I would like to sincerely apologize for my overgeneralized ad hominem attack against SB's image and also for cyberphobically posting my reactionary mean spiritedness twice. Really sorry to non-constructively add to the online vitriol. Will the jury please strike that from your minds. Just feeling overwhelmed &, under informed and since I'm getting my facts from Johns Hopkins rather than Rush/Fox/Prez I'm actually really worried.

Sal51puedes Mar 13, 2020 08:57 AM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

Over a quarter million people in Great Briton have signed a petition to close schools there, there is (anecdotal) talk among local students of a walk out on Monday. A while back there was an idea to mark a line through SB showing where the ocean will be if global temperatures continue to rise, this idea was shot down as being alarmist and would contradict the image of SB being a place where rich folks with too much plastic surgery can safely congregate sipping wine with a cliff side ocean view. Raising alarms - bad for our PR, yet sometimes needed.

EastBeach Mar 12, 2020 11:03 PM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

While I appreciate the sentiment, it's interesting to note that in the Lake Washington School District in beleaguered King County (Seattle), a petition to close the schools was started by *students*. It was the idea of an eighth grader who didn't want to spread the COVID-19 to his family. The district decided not to close their schools. I'm not necessarily saying that was a wrong or right decision. But some of these kids know what's at stake (see WaPo link in earlier post).

Marathoner Mar 12, 2020 10:40 PM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

No disrespect, but keeping life as normal as possible would entail teaching that "this is an especially tough time for everybody" and "things are not always like this". And anything done for the purpose of preserving normalcy must be subordinate to preventing suffering from horrible diseases. For instance, "normal" visits to grandmother, or "normal" wiping snot from one's nose things like that will be definitel not in the normal mode. But of course this is what you mean by as normal "as possible". Just, people will not agree on where to draw the line. Nobody wants to put someone else's grandad at risk just so their kids have a nice normal time. I hope.

a-1584072490 Mar 12, 2020 09:08 PM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

I hope schools will remain open. Keep the kids in their small classroom settings as much as possible. Don't have assemblies, all school recess, etc. I think this could be a controlled environment and will keep the kids safer than closing and sending them into households that might not abide by the recommendations.

Marathoner Mar 12, 2020 10:32 PM
Santa Barbara County Declares Local Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus

Interesting. Risk assessments are given in strata with increased risk at 60-70, more at 70-80, etcetera. Kids do carry and spread quite a bit of germs, afaik more so than older people. So that poses a heightened risk of teachers becoming infected. Whether or not kids have a greater level of viral infectivity overall than older people is a very interesting question. In other words, is the general characteristic that kids tend to carry and spread quite a few bugs going to also manifest with respect to the COVID19 virus? Will teachers, who are not likely to be masked up in N95 - unlike health care workers - become a conspicuous vector? A bitter pill but the reality on the ground will be what it is regardless of the upvote/downvote popularity contest. #morethanmerelyinconvenientruth

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