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Santa Maria hospital sees drop in COVID-19 positivity rate, but doctors warn prevalence of virus is high in the community

Marian Regional Medical Center
Posted at 11:56 AM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 23:20:40-05

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is reporting a 13% decrease in ICU hospitalizations from Jan. 7-21.

Still, the county reports that 84% of its staffed ICU beds remain in use as of Monday, Jan. 26.

Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria says it has seen a slight increase in ICU availability by about five beds in the past week.

Hospital officials attribute that to a decrease in the number of positive COVID-19 tests in the community combined with the number of people recovering and also dying from the virus.

"The great news is that over the last two weeks, we have seen significant declines in the positivity rates but the prevalence levels are still very high," says Dr. Scott Robertson, Division Chief Medical Officer for Dignity Health. "It's important for the general community to understand that even though the broad stay-at-home order has been lifted and even though we're seeing some decreased hospitalizations, there's still a high prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and we need to keep doing what we've been doing in order to limit the spread of the disease."

ICU bed availability is analyzed by local health officials every day. It is determined by the amount of staff and resources the hospital has available.

Nurses at the hospital are currently working extra shifts, which the hospital says is intended to continue for the next two weeks in order to relieve other nurses who have been working extended hours.

Marian Regional Medical Center does not share its COVID-19 hospitalization and ICU numbers with the public but reports those statistics directly to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. The county's overall hospitalization and ICU rates can be viewed on the county's Community Data Dashboard.

Marian Regional Medical Center is also a COVID-19 vaccine administration site. So far, the hospital has vaccinated health care workers and recently held a vaccination clinic where thousands of local seniors received the vaccine.

However, health officials encourage the community to continue using preventative measures to steer clear of the virus.

"If we don't do what we need to do in terms of continuing to wear a mask, socially distance from folks that are outside of our homes and keeping our hands clean, we can certainly get back to square one," Dr. Robertson says.

This story has been updated with additional information about ICU rates in Santa Barbara County and the approximate number of increased beds available at Marian Regional Medical Center.