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Santa Barbara County health officials look to keep up social distancing until November

Posted at 10:29 AM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 13:52:23-04

In a Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, health officials pointed to the importance of keeping up social distancing throughout the summer and into the fall to flatten the curve in updated models.

Currently Santa Barbara County has 97 ventilators, with an additional 100 requested. Hospitals are also purchasing a number of ventilators as well.

"We believe we will be ready and prepared," Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said, SBC
Public Health Department director. "Social distancing is the key driver in keeping the levels where they are at. We have a phased approach to address any of these scenarios."

The county is prepping alternative care sites as well. Its immediate priority is 20 hotel rooms for COVID-19 discharged patients that meet certain criteria. By the mid-April, 80 additional hotel rooms and build capacity for an additional 400 beds.

If 50 percent surge capacity is reached, the alternative care sites will be activated.

California is expected to hit its peak by April 26 with an estimated more than 12,400 hospitalized. Santa Barbara County expects 140 of those to be within the county with 21 in ICU and 17 on ventilation.

The projection shows the state could see more than 5,000 deaths by Aug. 4 with 57 deaths in Santa Barbara County.

Do-Reynoso said practicing social distancing guidelines at a 40 to 50 percent level could flatten the curve to a minimal by November.

"The next 8 to 10 days will tell us what we need to do differently," she said.

Peter Adam, 4th District and Vice Chair, questioned the idea of keeping up social distancing until then.

"Economic impacts of this are getting overwhelmed by the physical, health impacts. If we go on until November, there are people who are going to be injured who don't get sick. I don't think we're balancing the needs of the people who are trying to make a living out there very well. It seems we're overfocused, maybe rightly so, I don't want to act like I have any answers because I don't. I just know there is a tremendous amount of pain being loaded into the system at this time and it is largely undetectable because everyone is sequestered into their own homes."

Adam says he believes as time goes on, more people will demand social distancing guidelines be lifted, but focus on the most at-risk and protect them.

"I think the damage is going to be really deep if we try and go until November," he said.

Gregg Hart, 2nd District and Chair, pointed to the importance of the social distancing right now, but agreed it is premature to consider beyond September at this time.

Das Williams of the 1st District said the social distancing proves the difference it can make, but on the question of policy, he agreed with Adam. "Destroying an economy kills people too. It does. At some level you have to work out as a policy matter where to balance this and it is not just a realm for public health. It is a realm for people the voters elect."

Williams said he would like to see public health advise employers how to properly equip employees to go back to work "while maintaining a certain amount of social distancing."

Public health did not provide updated numbers at the SBC Board of Supervisors meeting. The state remains under a shelter at home order from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

"I think it is important to recognize that we are in the middle of a health crisis and the direction and advice of the medical professionals remains the same to social distance, stay at home," Hart said. "If you must go out, limit your trips out. If you go out, use a mask to protect others. You may be asymptommatic but have the virus and be spreading it. Don't touch your face if you possibly can. Wash your hands regularly, disinfect surfaces. And if you are feeling sick, isolate yourself at home. And contact your medical professional and seek additional advice if your symptoms worsen."

"They are simple steps. They are important steps. They are working to stop this virus."

You can watch the meeting in its entirety below.