Fewer than 1 percent of the 1,768 people tested for the COVID-19 virus during the past two weeks at Santa Barbara County’s three testing sites tested positive, according to Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, public health director.
“This indeed is good news,” Do-Reynoso said at a Friday news conference.
Do-Reynoso also said that 14 of the 15 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday came from North Santa Barbara County.
Five of the new cases were from the Lompoc federal prison, five from Santa Maria, three from the city of Lompoc and one from the unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe. The 15th case was in Santa Barbara.
So far in Santa Barbara County, 1,402 people have contracted the COVID-19 virus; 898 of those were prison inmates. About 81 percent of COVID-19 patients outside of the prison have recovered.
The condition of the Lompoc prison continues to frazzle county officials and place tension on Santa Barbara’s hopes of allowing a reopening of business anytime soon. The county Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom recently asking him to consider the county’s relative low COVID-19 numbers separate from the prison’s when determining whether to allow the county to enter the next stage.
Do-Reynoso noted on Friday that there were “only 504 from the community.” Of those 504 people, 27 are hospitalized and 11 are in the ICU. Of the 504 people, 407 have fully recovered. Do-Reynoso said that of the prison’s 898 cases, 797 cases are considered active, with 99 cases fully recovered.
“Since the beginning of this outbreak, one of the biggest challenging areas has been the federal prison in Lompoc,” county Assistant CEO Barney Melekian said.
Melekian on Friday also said that a person who served his time and was released from the prison was serving a 14-day quarantine in Lompoc when he left. On the 13th day of his isolation, the man went to Los Angeles County. Melekian said he was asymptomatic.
Since the person was no longer an inmate, he was “free to go.” Melekian said it would have been illegal and inappropriate to try to detain the person.
“Since that time, we have worked diligently with the prison officials on an ongoing basis to develop a protocol for responding more quickly to inviduals who may be released from the facility while still testing positive,” Melekian said.
Also on Friday, the county released its RISE (Re-Opening in a Safe Environment), which the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on next Tuesday.
The 80-page document offers a framework for how to safely reopen the economy and the community.
“The RISE Guide serves as an important supplement to the state plan — unique route along the roadmap — with specifics on managing the virus and reopening society, here in Santa Barbara County,” five medical officials wrote in the document. “In some cases, we offer an alternative perspective, or what many in the medical profession refer to as a ‘second opinion’ on elements of state criteria that necessitate further consideration.”
“We think this document will be valuable,” said Gregg Hart, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “We intend to adapt it as circumstances change.”