Santa Barbara Co. sees highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate since start of pandemic

Posted at 5:04 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 20:31:24-04

Sixty-seven new COVID-19 cases were reported in Santa Barbara County Friday, a number health officials call concerning.

There are now at least 2,319 confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County. Nearly 1,000 of those are linked to an outbreak at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex. Outbreaks have also been reported at multiple skilled nursing facilities in the county and the Santa Barbara County Jail.

As of Friday afternoon, 65 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county with 17 of them “fighting for their lives in the ICU,” according to doctor Henning Ansorg.

He says it’s the highest hospitalization rate since the pandemic began.

“Our hospitals are reaching their capacities in taking care of COVID patients and we are still battling a severe outbreak in nursing homes,” Ansorg said.

Over the last week, Ansorg says there have been an average of 50 new cases reported in the county each day, with most infections occurring at home and work.

He says with the start of phased re-openings, county officials expected numbers to increase but “I did not imagine it would happen to such a degree,” Ansorg said, adding that he attributes the increase to “effects of behavior about three weeks ago.”

“Many more people are truly letting their guard down, being lax about social distancing or wearing a mask," Ansorg said. “Reducing mobility of people is the best way to slow the spread of the virus.”

Friday afternoon, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said an additional four staff members and two inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total at the jail to 15.

One hundred and 14 staff members had been tested as of noon Friday and more will be tested in the coming days, Brown said, adding that he was tested for the virus about 10 days ago and while he doesn't believe he has had any direct contact with those who recently tested positive, he will likely be tested again soon.

There are now more than 50 positive cases at Country Oaks Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in Santa Maria, with 28 positive cases among residents and another 26 among staff, according to health officials.

Lompoc Valley Medical Center CEO Steve Popkin says 127 healthcare workers in the county have also tested positive for COVID-19.

There are less than 20 active cases at the Lompoc prison complex, according to the Bureau of Federal Prisons website.

Because of a recent increase in hospitalizations along with ongoing increases in positive coronavirus cases, county officials have decided to pause further reopening of the economy.

Health officials call the disease pattern in the county "unstable."