Doctor suspects coronavirus could already be in Santa Barbara County

Posted at 7:31 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 22:36:06-04

While there have been no confirmed positive cases of coronavirus in Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo Counties, one Santa Barbara doctor suspects COVID-19 could already be on the Central Coast.
"My personal opinion is that it is in Santa Barbara County, but we just haven't had someone sick enough with it to be tested and diagnosed," said Dr. David Frisk, director of infection controls and prevention for Cottage Hospital.

Dr. Fisk speculates the coronavirus has been in Santa Barbara for at least a month.

While no one has tested positive for coronavirus, health officials believe it is only a matter of time.

"We anticipate to have cases in Santa Barbara County in the near future... honestly, because it is just all over California. The case load goes up everyday," said Dr. Henning Ansorg, Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer.

With the closest confirmed case in Ventura County, health officials say there is currently a low risk of contraction, but that could change.

Dr. Fisk does not have evidence to support his theory of the virus being in the county, but says he is reassured health professionals have not seen a huge surge of people with critical respiratory disease.

"It was a little bit of speculation as to how science is thinking about this right now. I don't think he (Dr. Fisk) intended to alarm the public with that," Dr. Ansorg said.

County health officials and Cottage Hospital say they are preparing if and when the coronavirus makes its official presence in Santa Barbara County.

"I feel that Cottage is ready to manage patients on the in-patient side with COVID-19," Dr. Fisk said.

"We do take it seriously because a minority of people who come down with this disease... really get severe disease," Dr. Ansorg said.

KSBY did reach out to Dr. Fisk and Cottage Hospital for comment Wednesday, but both were unavailable.

Health professionals are encouraging the public to call ahead of time before visiting your local hospital or doctor if you think you may have the Coronavirus.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has launched a website that is solely dedicated to informing the public about COVID-19. Click here.

The site will be updated daily by the public health department and includes recommendations on how to minimize the chance of catching the virus.