Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, briefs superivsors Monday on limited reopening plans.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, briefs superivsors Monday on limited reopening plans. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

After a lobbying effort by Santa Barbara County Public Health officials and lawmakers, the state has agreed to not count the COVID-19 cases at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex when considering the county’s numbers for moving to the next stage of reopening under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan.

“The California Department of Public Health recognizes the unique circumstances posed by the Lompoc federal prison in our jurisdiction,” said Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, at a press conference Monday. “The virus outbreak within the prison will not be counted against our county attestation criteria.”

The county Public Health Department reported that federal prison inmates accounted for 963 out of 1,496 total COVID-19 cases countywide; 861 of the prison cases were stlll active as of Monday.

Last week, the county leaders asked the state to reconsider the standards and exclude Lompoc prison complex cases when evaluating the area’s readiness for reopening.

New lines of communication are opening between the federal Bureau of Prisons and the county regarding the virus outbreak at the prison complex, Hart said.

“The county welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with the Bureau of Prisons to ensure both agencies are working together to protect the public health and safety of local residents and inmates at the prison,” Hart said. 

Newsom on Monday announced a new framework for reopening some businesses. Newsom outlined updated modifications with a protection plan in place.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday morning and consider an agenda item “that could allow the county to submit documentation to the state to begin the accelerated business reopening process,” Hart said. 

County Supervisor Gregg Hart said Monday the state has agreed not to count Lompoc prison complex COVID-19 cases when considering the county’s reopening plans.

County Supervisor Gregg Hart said Monday the state has agreed not to count Lompoc prison complex COVID-19 cases when considering the county’s reopening plans. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

“It is not clear at this time when final authorization by the state will be completed,” he continued. “Not all businesses will be able to open. Only the businesses the governor has indicated in Phase 2 of his four-phased reopening process.”

The RISE (Reopen in Safe Environment) Guide, a playbook for safely reopening Santa Barbara County, will go before the county Board of Supervisors at their meeting Tuesday. It’s a local supplemental guide to the state’s “resilience roadmap,” a four-stage plan that details the gradual reopening of California.

The state is dictating which industries fall under each of these stages, said Nancy Anderson, assistant county executive officer.

“We are all eagerly awaiting the new phase in our reopening plan,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer. “Once this has been approved by the state, we will have retail shops and restaurants open, providing they can conform with modifications that will inhibit spreading of the virus.” 

“The timing and movement through these phases will be determined by our infection and hospitalization rates,” he continued. “If those go up, we will have to become more restrictive. If these remain stable, we will be able to allow for more businesses to open.”

In addition, the county is communicating with the region’s schools and organizations to plan for child care and “some activities that can open safely with appropriate modifications in place,” Ansorg said. 

For more details on the state reopening, visit the state’s COVID-19 website at https://covid19.ca.gov.

Significant expansion of COVID-19 testing is critically important to the county Public Health Department’s ability to manage the virus, Hart said.

“You no longer need to be experiencing symptoms or meet any of the original screening criteria to get tested now,” Hart said.

He strongly encouraged “anyone who would like to be tested for COVID-19 to please set up an appointment right away,” and “there are many testing slots available at each of the three locations in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Barbara.”

The COVID-19 testing clinics are open at the Santa Maria Fairpark, 937 Thornburg St., as well as the Anderson Recreation Center in Lompoc, 125 W. Walnut Ave., and at Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara.

The state-operated COVID-19 testing sites opened earlier in May.

Hart described the testing as “fast and easy,” and the locations are “convenient and accessible.” 

The turnaround times for test results “has improved, and we are hopeful this progress will continue and results will be available quickly,” Hart said. 

Santa Barbara County community members can request an appointment online by clicking here or by calling 1.888.634.1123.

New cases of COVID-19

Ansorg reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total to 1,496 confirmed cases.

Seven of the cases were from the Lompoc Federal Prison Complex and 15 were community COVID-19 cases, Ansorg said.

Of the community cases, 27 are being treated in local hospitals, including 11 in intensive care, and 426 have fully recovered.

“Our hospitalization and ICU (intensive care unit) levels remain stable across the county,” Ansorg said. 

Last week, the county received “the first allotment” of the new drug remdesivir, an antiviral medication, from the state public health department that “went directly” to Lompoc Valley and Marian Regional medical centers for treatment, Ansorg said.

“I’m proud to say our hospitals are taking part in new experimental treatment options for severe COVID-19 cases,” Ansorg said.

To date, county public health officials received an additional 126 remdesivir vials “for use in our hospitals,” Ansorg added.

He continued: “All of our hospitals continue to operate below the capacity and have the ability to respond to a surge in cases if needed.”

The senior living facilities in the county “have been spared of large outbreaks,” Ansorg said, adding, “We are working closely with these institutions to prevent this from happening in the first place.”

Ansorg urged the public to not travel for leisure.

As of Monday, hotels across Santa Barbara county may open for “essential business” only and not open for leisure trips. 

Ansorg said, “it’s safest to avoid leisure travel at this time,” and “now is not the time for visitors.”

He emphasized that “our current stability is a direct result of our community’s ability to keep the infections at a low-level through physical distancing, wearing face coverings in stores or indoors, avoiding gatherings with people that live outside our homes, and excellent general hygiene measures.”

Click here to read the county Public Health Department’s information on novel coronavirus and COVID-19

Click here to go to Noozhawk’s Coronavirus Crisis section.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.