The policy applies to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital, spokeswoman Maria Zate said.
“This is a difficult decision, but it is critical that our hospitals maintain capacity for ongoing care. We appreciate the community’s efforts to maintain safe practices, and look forward to when we can again invite visitors back into the hospitals as safely as possible,” Zate said in a statement.
Previously, Cottage Health hospitals required visitors to verify vaccination or provide proof of a negative test result completed within 72 hours of the visit.
COVID-19-positive patients at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, the largest of the three, have increased in the past two weeks from eight to 23, Zate said. Only one of the 23 is in critical care, she noted.
The rest of the county’s 57 COVID-19-positive patients as of Monday were at Marian Regional Medical Center and Lompoc Valley Medical Center.
Also effective Wednesday, Marian Regional Medical Center will modify its visitation policy to allow one consistent care partner per patient, except in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, spokeswoman Sara San Juan said.
Changes to Visitation Policies at Skilled Nursing Homes
Skilled nursing facilities and residential care facilities for the elderly in California will start requiring indoor visitors to verify vaccination for all recommended doses (including boosters if eligible) and a negative test result.
Outdoor visitors still need to provide proof of a negative test, according to the California Public Health Department: either a negative antigen test (also known as rapid tests and at-home tests) within one day of visitation or a negative PCR test result within two days of visitation.
The new order goes into effect on Friday, Jan. 7.
Congregate care facilities have seen severe COVID-19 outbreaks over the past two years, and more than 170 COVID-19 deaths in Santa Barbara County as of May 2021.
The stricter visitation requirements are an effort to prevent future outbreaks, according to CDPH.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in December that only 53.5% of residents in California nursing homes with complete vaccinated had received an additional primary or booster dose.
Nationally, the rate is about 60%, according to the CDC.
The agency also tracks COVID-19-related cases and deaths at skilled nursing homes, and as of Dec. 19, reported 84 deaths in Santa Barbara County facilities.
Only one skilled nursing facility has reported a COVID-19-related death of a resident since February 2021, and that’s Buena Vista Care Center in Goleta, which most recently reported a death in October 2021.
As of Tuesday, six of the county’s 14 skilled nursing facilities reported at least one healthcare worker who is currently an active case — recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus and is still infectious —and two also reported at least one active positive case among residents (Casa Dorinda in Montecito and the Marian Regional Medical Center SNF in Santa Maria).