Santa Barbara County reported its third COVID-19 death on Thursday, a South Coast man in his late 70s.

The patient had pre-existing health conditions and already was under hospice care when he contracted COVID-19, according to Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s medical officer.

The latest death comes as the county Public Health Department reported 20 new cases — bringing the total to 354 — while noting that hospitalization from the coronavirus has plateaued and is “approaching a downward trend,” according to Ansorg.

There were 39 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Thursday, with 14 in intensive care units.

Those numbers have remained stable or declined slightly in recent days, as the county has not seen a surge in cases that has burdened other areas.

There were 159 people recovering at home and 137 who have fully recovered.

New cases are reported daily in the Lompoc federal prison complex, which is battling an outbreak that has affected dozens of inmates and staff members. Eight new cases were reported Thursday, for a total of 74 inmates testing positive for the novel coronavirus.  

In sobering news at the outset of the briefing, Gregg Hart, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said county government is looking at a huge financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, estimated at between $37 million and $40 million.

Direct costs to date have totaled $7 million to $10 million, he said, much of that coming from overtime for the various county departments.

Also included in that tally are the costs for establishing temporary shelters and other accommodations; procuring needed medical and personal protection equipment (PPEs); and preparing alternative care sites and medical beds should a surge in patients occur.

In the longer term, the county expects to loss some $30 million in various revenues, including sales taxes, hotel bed taxes, fuel taxes, unsecured property taxes and interest income.

County officials are hoping for some relief from those losses from the state and federal governments, Hart said, but to date nothing has been ensured.

Also speaking at Thursday’s briefing was Luz Reyes-Martin, who serves on the Goleta Union School District board of trustees.

She noted that the district, which serves about 3,500 students at nine campuses, has distributed 2,000 Chromebook computers to students to use for distance learning while the schools are shut down.

The district also has helped about 100 families get Internet service, she said, and a bilingual help line has been established.

A large number of students normally get meals — breakfast and lunch — at school, and the district has provided 14,000 meals through “grab and go” sites at various campuses, she said.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.