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Santa Barbara Co. hospitals running out of ICU beds, health officials warn situation could get worse

Posted at 10:40 PM, Jan 05, 2021

Hospitals in Santa Barbara County are "filling up" with COVID-19 patients and county health officials say if the situation gets worse, they may start turning people away.

The fight against an invisible enemy is pushing Santa Barbara County healthcare workers to their breaking points.

"In light of our current situation, I am at a loss. I don't know what to say anymore," Dr. Henning Ansorg, Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County, said.

Tuesday's press conference paints a grim picture for the county, as cases of COVID-19 reach new heights.

"Santa Barbara County testing positivity and case rate are now at record highs. Our testing positivity is now at 16 percent, double the threshold for widespread transmission," Dr. Van Do-Reynso, Director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said.

ICU capacity has now dropped below one percent in Santa Barbara County, a statistic that has rippling effects.

Health officials say routine surgeries and procedures have been canceled and if the numbers continue to climb, ambulances could be diverted elsewhere.

"We are working closely with the ambulances to see which kind of patients really need to be transported to the emergency room, which patients can be redirected to an urgent care and which can be discharged from the hospital so the hospitals can get some relief from getting overfilled," Dr. Ansorg said.

There is some hope in sight: county health leaders say 54% of the vaccines allocated to the county have been dispensed, with even more doses expected to be administered by next week.

"We anticipate by next week, we will ramp up our own pod capacity to be able to offer 350 to 500 vaccines daily, culminating in about 1000 doses per day by early February. We are working fast and furious to make sure our community can get the vaccine," Dr. Do-Reynoso said.

Public health officials are hopeful there will be availability for the general public to receive the vaccine by March.

In the meantime, they are asking the public to do their part in stopping the spread of the disease by wearing a mask, social distancing, and only leaving the house for essential needs.