Another 67 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday in Santa Barbara County, which also has its highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic broke out in March, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health officials.
During the past seven days, the county has averaged 50 new cases per day, and the numbers are “very concerning,” Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said.
“Our hospitals are reaching their capacity for taking care of COVID patients, and we are still battling a severe outbreak at a nursing home,” Ansorg said.
He attributed the increase in cases — and related hospitalizations — to people becoming more mobile after the reopenings that occurred over Memorial Day weekend and the following week.
“We did expect that our numbers would likely increase a bit; however, I did not imagine it would happen to such a degree,” Ansorg said. “I have noticed that many more people are truly letting their guard down, being lax about social distancing or wearing a mask.
“I do acknowledge that opening up hotels, movie theaters as well as bars and restaurants does send a message as if COVID was over and everything can go back to normal as before. Unfortunately, that is not the case.”
Of the 67 new positive cases reported Friday, 44 were from Santa Maria, 11 were from Santa Barbara, six were from the unincorporated North County, two were from the Santa Ynez Valley, one was from Goleta, one was from Lompoc and two had the location pending, according to Public Health.
There is an ongoing outbreak at the Country Oaks Care Center skilled nursing home in Santa Maria, where five residents have died of COVID-19, Do-Reynoso said. As of Friday, 28 patients and 26 staff members had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, she said.
Outbreak at the Main Jail
The Sheriff’s Department reported Thursday that nine Main Jail employees and one inmate recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and Sheriff Bill Brown said Friday that additional people have tested positive.
The Main Jail staff who have tested positive this week include five civilian staff members who work in the records department, eight custody sworn staff including Chief Custody Deputy Vincent Wasilewski, three lieutenants, one sergeant and three deputies.
Of the two inmates who recently tested positive, one has been in isolation since being extradited to Santa Barbara and booked, but the other inmate was in a group housing unit and told jail medical staff last week that he didn’t feel well, Brown said.
That man was tested and isolated, and after he tested positive, all of the other inmates in his housing unit were being tested, Brown said.
He said all of the sheriff’s staff at the Main Jail, including the contracted medical staff, are being tested for COVID-19, and 114 people had been tested as of Friday.
“We have plans in place to manage this outbreak and address numbers that may increase,” Brown said.
Jail staff have had a policy of isolating and quarantining all incoming inmates to the jail for 14 days, even after court appearances, and stopped on June 2. With the outbreak, they are restarting the policy, Brown said.
Brown said he had been tested for COVID-19 previously, but he’ll likely get tested again in light of the recent increase in jail cases.