The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 360 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the highest number of days since the pandemic began in March.
The latest report brings the county’s total number of cases to 13,557 residents who tested positive for COVID-19, while the confirmed death toll remained at 140 as of Monday, according to the Public Health Department.
The dramatic increase in new COVID-19 cases falls just over two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday, as expected by local health officials, and is directly related to gatherings of family and friends.
“Today’s positive number of cases exceeds any daily count we’ve seen to date, and underscores the predictions we’ve expected if people continue to congregate with people outside their immediate households,” Van Do-Reynoso Health Director said in a statement. “We are in a critical state of urgency and the availability of beds in the intensive care unit (ICU) is rapidly declining.”
According to the county’s COVID-19 Community Information Center, the Health Department is working as soon as possible to track down contacts in anyone who tests positive amid an alarming spike in cases.
However, resources are “greater than ever before, even with peak capacity plans,” Do-Reynoso said.
The COVID-19 Joint Information Center asks the public for help in tracing contacts.
“It is critical that the public assist,” department officials said. “If people have tested positive for the virus, they should take immediate action to stay home and isolate themselves from others, while following isolation guidelines and notifying others who have been in close contact with them.”
The number of COVID-19 ICUs and hospital admissions continues to rise steadily across the country.
75 confirmed COVID-19 patients were treated in local hospitals, an increase from 73 the day before. Of these, 21 people were in ICUs, an increase from 17 in the past 24 hours.
Of Monday’s new COVID-19 cases, Santa Maria counted 136, Santa Barbara 68, and Lompoc 35.
Goleta and Orcutt each reported 19 new cases, the Montecito-Summerland-Carpinteria area had 16, Isla Vista had 14, the North County unincorporated area had 10, and the Santa Ynez Valley had six.
Seven new COVID-19 cases were from the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex and seven were also from the unincorporated area of the Goleta Valley and Gaviota.
There were 23 cases pending geographic locations.
“We have reached the number of cases that exceed all previous records,” said Do-Reynoso. “It is imperative that every individual takes action now and stays at home.
“We are reaching a point where we can see on the horizon that our healthcare system is being overrun,” she continued. “We need to take immediate action as our decisions now see the price to be paid, and it is costing the lives and well-being of our community members.”
Santa Barbara County had more than 335 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend in two consecutive days, according to the Public Health Department.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County was announced March 15.
On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom visited a Los Angeles County hospital where Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations took place. According to the Newsom office, health workers were among the first in California to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s a day when we can claim a breath of fresh air of progress versus that stale air of normalcy,” Newsom said at a press conference outside Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles. “But nonetheless, as mentioned, we have to be sober and aware of the moment we are in, which is challenging and challenging.”
Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup Sunday completed its review of the federal process and confirmed that the vaccine is effective and safe, Newsom’s office said in a statement.
The group gave its confirmation to the governors of California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington.
Newsom also launched the new “Vaccinate All 58” campaign, which advocated a safe, fair, and equitable vaccine for all California counties.
“Vaccines will be delivered in stages throughout California by prioritizing groups based on risk and exposure level,” said the governor’s office. “The first doses will go to California’s essential health workers and those among our most vulnerable in long-term care settings.”
At the Santa Barbara County weekly press conference last week, Jan Koegler of County Public Health said the first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was expected to arrive in Santa Barbara County starting this week.
Vaccines will be administered in the county in two phases, according to California Department of Public Health priority guidelines.
Some of the first doses of COVID-19 will go to hospital personnel, staff and residents of assisted living, skilled nurses and other licensed healthcare facilities, plus emergency medical and dialysis personnel.
At Tuesday’s virtual meeting of the board of supervisors, public health officials are expected to present the status of COVID-19 cases locally, the county’s latest response to the pandemic, as well as the county’s specific guide to reopening businesses.
Residents who wish to watch the meeting live can view it on the province’s YouTube channel, online or on CSBTV channel 20. The meeting will start at 9:00 am.
In-person meetings have been closed to the public in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, but real-time public comments can be made by phone during the meeting or submitted by email before the meeting.
Last week, regulators voted unanimously to send a letter to Newsom requesting the county, plus neighboring Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, to be allowed to leave the Southern California region of the state’s stay-at-home order.
California officials several months ago asked district health leaders for input on a regional approach. Local public health officials advocated a smaller Central Coast region, but they were overruled by the state.
Santa Barbara County is grouped into the Southern California region along with San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Los Angeles, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.
The stay-at-home order went into effect last week as regional intensive care unit availability fell below 15%, leading to closures and restrictions, even though Santa Barbara County’s ICU availability is no lower than the state threshold.
The stay-at-home order remains in effect for at least three weeks.
The Southern California area’s available ICU capacity was reported at 2.7% as of Monday, while Santa Barbara County’s ICU availability was more than 38%.
The daily COVID-19 situation in Ventura County was even worse on Monday, with local public health officials reporting more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases.
At a news conference on Monday, Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County’s Public Health Officer, said 204 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 and 49 of COVID-19 patients were treated in ICUs.
This means that as of Monday, only 1.4% ICU capacity was available.
“If a hospital were a car, it would rattle now,” Levin said, adding, “There will be people who don’t have to die.”
Recently, there have been dozens of COVID-19 outbreaks in retirement and care homes, and cases were reported in more than 80 companies last week.
COVID-19 positive patients occupy more hospital beds, while the county sees an equal number of heart attacks, appendicitis and other non-pandemic medical problems.
The hospital physician, the ICU, and Ventura County Medical Center’s primary care physician, Dr. Mark Lepore, said hospitals are reaching and exceeding capacity.
What that looks like is coming to the hospital and not having a room to enter or having a staff member available to take care of people.
San Luis Obispo public health officials reported 259 new COVID-19 cases in three days, bringing the total to more than 7,710 as of Monday.
San Luis Obispo County reported 29 COVID-19 positive patients in local hospitals on Monday, including eight in ICUs.
Meanwhile, seven additional Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department employees recently tested positive for COVID-19, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s public information officer.
Zick said 57 sheriff employees tested positive, 48 of whom recovered from COVID-19 and returned to work.
The latest COVID-19 cases occurred among five deputies of custody, a sheriff’s deputy and a non-sworn staff member.
“All five deputies consistently wore PPE (personal protective equipment) while interacting with inmates,” said Zick, later adding, “The deputy consistently wore a mask while working.”
According to Zick, the non-sworn employee worked in a position where there was no contact with the public or detainees.
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