A triage tent for likely coronavirus patients has been set up outside the emergency department at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.
A triage tent for likely coronavirus patients has been set up outside the emergency department at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced Thursday afternoon that nine patients in the county have been confirmed to have COVID-19. (Diego Topete / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have risen to nine, with six in the North County and three on the South Coast, the county Public Health Department announced Thursday afternoon.

The new cases include:

» Case #3 — in their 60s, resides in North County, and is a family member of case #1. 
» Case #4 — in their 20s and resides on the South Coast. 
» Case #5 — in their 50s and resides on the South Coast.
» Case #6 — in their 30s and resides in North County. 
» Case #7 — in their 30s and resides in North County. 
» Case #8 — in their 50s and resides on the South Coast. 

A ninth case, also in the North County, was reported late Thursday afternoon during a teleconference town hall involving local health officials along with state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, Assemblymember Monique Limon and Congressman Salud Carbajal. 

Approximately an hour after Santa Barbara County health officials announced plans to implement an order with new restrictions, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a mandatory shelter-at-home order for residents across the state, saying grocery stores, banks, pharmacies and other businesses considered essential would remain open. 

“This a dynamic situation,” Newsom said, adding that the order aims to stop the spread of the virus, and does not have an end date. 

He said people could still go about the essential patterns of life, but should use common sense and practice social distancing.

Other essential services remaining open include gas stations, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants and laundromats, according to Newsom’s order which is available by clicking here.

“I can assure you home isolation is not my preferred choice. I know it’s not yours, but it’s a necessary one,” Newsom said.

“This is not a permanent state. This is a moment in time and we will meet this moment together,” he added. “We will look back at these kinds of decisions as pivotal decisions. If we’re to be criticized at this moment, let us be criticized for taking this moment seriously. Let us be criticized for going full force and meeting this virus head on.”

The first two Santa Barbara County cases of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, were announced earlier this week, in the North County.
“The Public Health Department is taking steps to identify persons who may have had close contact with these people, including friends, family members, or healthcare professionals,” the department said in a press release. “PHD is conducting a thorough investigation to determine how the latest five cases contracted COVID-19.”

“We are urging our community to stay home when they are sick and practice consistent social distancing practices,” shared Van Do-Reynoso, Public Health Director for Santa Barbara County. “It is critical that we all take the necessary steps to slow the spread of this illness in our community.”

One of the new local cases announced Thursday is a Santa Barbara City College student.

SBCC President Utpal K. Goswami sent an email Thursday afternoon to the campus community saying that “a currently enrolled credit student is positive for COVID-19.”

The student is in isolation at home, Goswami said, and is enrolled in a single class this semester.

All in-person, on-campus operations are suspended at SBCC until at least March 29.

“The number of cases in Santa Barbara County is a moving target. It is a vastly changing,” Do-Reynoso said.

“Because of that, we realize that we as a community need social distancing, need social isolation, because they are useful tools to control the spread of COVID-19, and we all as a community share the responsibilities to protect and guard our neighbors,” she said. 

Before the governor’s announcement, county health officials revealed plans to implement a new health order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, protect the most vulnerable people and avoid overwhelming the health care system.

“This is our best chance and we should take advantage of it,” Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said, calling upon people to follow social distancing measures to slow the spread of the otherwise quickly-spreading virus. 

One person who submitted a question of lawmakers for the town hall asked why Santa Barbara County had not implemented further measures.

“We understand this is a significant impact on someone’s personal liberty and we do understand that public health does have priority over those liberties,” Ansorg said. “However, we don’t want to impose unnecessary measures and we believe that for right now to keep the most vulnerable the safest is the best way to go with the least unnecessary restrictions for the rest of the population.”

The county’s plans were superseded by the governor’s order, which went into effect immediately Thursday night. 

Community members are reminded by the Public Health Department to take measures to prevent the spread of respiratory illness: 

» Wash your hands with soap and water. 

» Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. 

» Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 

» Stay away from people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough. 

» Keep surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant. 

More information about COVID-19 and PHD’s response is available at www.publichealthsbc.org or by calling the COVID-19 Call Center at 833.688.5551 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Noozhawk North County Editor Janene Scully contributed to this report.

Click here for Noozhawk’s complete coronavirus coverage.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.