Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, discusses regional stay-at-home orders during an online news conference on Tuesday.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, discusses regional stay-at-home orders during an online news conference on Tuesday. (Screenshot via YouTube, California Health and Human Services Agency)

California health officials announced Tuesday that the regional stay-at-home order for Santa Barbara County and Southern California will be extended because available intensive-care unit capacity is running low throughout the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions because of the order will prohibit gatherings of any size, limit business operations, and require 100% masking and physical distancing, among other rules, according to the state’s website

A three-week stay-at-home order is triggered when a region’s ICU capacity falls to less than 15%, and the Southern California region, which includes Santa Barbara County, has had a 0% ICU availability since Dec. 17.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced a regional order earlier this month, and five regions across the state had their remaining ICU capacity reassessed by state health officials on Tuesday.

“Regions must remain under the order for at least three weeks and shall continue in that order until the ICU capacity projections are above or equal to 15%,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, said during a news conference Tuesday. “Today, the order will remain.”

Scroll down to watch the news conference via YouTube.

Four-week projections announced by Ghaly show that available ICU capacity in the Southern California region is not improving and “demand will continue to exceed capacity,” Ghaly said.

In California, Ghaly said, COVID-19 hospitalizations rose more than 36% during the past 14 days, with more than 20,300 people in the hospital with COVID-19.

(California Health and Human Services Agency graphic)

There are more than 4,300 COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations statewide, which is a 35.1% increase in the same two-week period, he said.

“This is not evenly distributed throughout the state,” Ghaly said.

Santa Barbara County’s ICU availability rate as of Tuesday was 6.6%, a slight decrease compared with 6.7% the previous day. 

As of Tuesday, slightly more than 46% of the county’s total 71 ICU beds were being occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Santa Barbara CountyDec. 8Dec. 15Dec. 22Dec. 29
New positive cases reported in previous week8931,2681,4451,541
New cases among healthcare workers in previous week53548472
Total test results reported in previous week15,49017,53218,24315,753
COVID-19-positive hospital patients5078103127
Active cases (still infectious after testing positive)7001,0591,2451,227
Cumulative COVID-19-related deaths139140150156

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department on Tuesday reported 256 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths.

Two residents who died were older than age 70, and “both had underlying medical conditions and are associated with an outbreak at a congregate living facility,” according to the Public Health Department’s COVID-19 data dashboard. 

One resided in Santa Barbara and the unincorporated area of Mission Canyon, and the other was from Santa Maria. Some geographic areas in the county are grouped together in the COVID-19 daily status report.

The third individual who died lived in Orcutt and was between ages 50 and 69. The resident “had underlying conditions,” public health said. 

The newest report brings the county’s case total to 16,732 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 and 156 fatalities.

There were 127 patients being treated in local hospitals, an increase from 121 the previous day. Of those, 33 were in intensive care units, the county’s highest single-day number to date.

Of the county’s new cases, 75 were in Santa Maria, 45 in Santa Barbara, 20 in the unincorporated areas of the Goleta Valley and Gaviota, and 19 in Lompoc. Sixteen each were from Orcutt and from the Montecito-Summerland-Carpinteria area. Goleta reported 15 new COVID-19 cases, while the unincorporated areas of the North County had 14, the Santa Ynez Valley reported nine, Isla Vista logged six, and the Lompoc federal prison complex tallied one. Twenty cases were pending geographic location.

There were 2,293 COVID-19 tests administered on Tuesday in Santa Barbara County.

The county reported 652 new COVID-19 cases in the past three days, averaging slightly more than 217 cases per day.

In the past seven days, the county had 1,541 new cases, averaging slightly more than 220 cases per day.

Last week and also on Monday, the governor warned that the stay-at-home order for the Southern California region most likely would be extended because of the strained ICU availability in the region.

The majority of California is experiencing a plateauing of new hospital admissions, Newsom said Monday at a press conference. However, he said, the Southern California area continues to experience higher COVID-19 case rates.

Click here to read stories in Noozhawk’s Coronavirus Crisis section.

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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.