The number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths in Santa Barbara County continues to rise, with the 23rd fatality of a local resident reported Tuesday. 

In its daily update, the county Public Health Department said the latest death was a Santa Maria resident in their 60s, and also reported 46 new cases, including 33 in Santa Maria. 

North County areas have seen the majority of local COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which was discussed at the county Board of Supervisors hearing Tuesday. 

Five residents in a Santa Maria skilled nursing facility have died in a COVID-19 outbreak, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso told the supervisors, and dozens of additional cases have been reported among residents and staff members at the Country Oaks Care Center.

Staffing levels at the facility were so critically low that multiple state and county healthcare worker teams have been assigned to the facility, she added. 

The county reported three deaths on Tuesday, including the Santa Maria resident, and it is likely the other two are related to the skilled nursing facility outbreak.

Public Health reports 22 total deaths, not 23, saying the reportedly COVID-19-related death of a 37-year-old Lompoc federal correctional complex inmate is pending an autopsy. 

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations are stable, and the percentage of positive test results has been decreasing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

However, Santa Barbara County’s hospitalizations and test positivity rate have been increasing for the past two weeks, which show an increase in community transmission of the novel coronavirus.

County chart showing COVID-19 hospitalizations over time through June 16

Santa Barbara County reported 61 COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday, including 14 intensive care unit hospitalizations. Fifty-six patients are community members, and five are inmates of the Lompoc federal correctional complex.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The county is not meeting several state reopening metrics, and officials are working with the California Department of Public Health to address that, Do-Reynoso said. 

“Per CDPH, the increased rate of hospitalization in Santa Barbara County is related to cases in the North County region that are attributed to community transmission due to gatherings, workplace transmission, followed by household transmission, skilled nursing facility outbreaks, and an increase in community testing,” she said.

While the average three-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations should not exceed 10 percent, according to the state metric, the county reported a 31.5-percent increase as of Tuesday morning, Do-Reynoso said.

“We will be monitored (by the state) until we get a green checkmark,” she told the Board of Supervisors. 

Santa Barbara County also needs to report an average of 675 COVID-19 test results per day, but is only reporting 99.2 tests per day.

“If we don’t meet that then we are in the danger zone,” she said, attributing part of the deficiency to a lag in reporting between labs and the state CalREDIE platform.

Even though Do-Reynoso said the county “got the green checkmark for elevated disease transmission,” Santa Barbara County appears to have three times as many new cases in a 14-day period than the state recommends for reopening. 

California set the standard at 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in a 14-day period, which would be 112 new cases for Santa Barbara County. The county has reported 385 new community cases in the past two weeks.

Newsom and other state officials have not mentioned rolling back openings for counties that fail to meet these metrics, but they are doing “targeted engagement” with those regions, and providing additional resources, according to Monday’s press conference.

State and local officials continue to emphasize the fact that there is plenty of healthcare system capacity available for COVID-19 patients, although there is no standard treatment or cure for the disease.

 Average tests per day, seven-day averageCase rate over 14-day periodTesting positivity rate, seven-day averagePercent change in hospitalizations, three-day averagePercent of ICU hospital beds availablePercent of ventilators available
State’s thresholdMore than 150 per 100,000 residentsLess than 25 per 100,000 residentsLess than 8%Less than 10%More than 20%More than 20%
Santa Barbara County thresholdMore than 675112Less than 8%Less than 10%More than 20%More than 20%
Santa Barbara County status as of Tuesday99.23858%31.5%90.8% available81.5% available

Click here for Santa Barbara County Public Health Department data on state reopening metrics.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.