The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has been notified that the positive rate of COVID-19 cases statewide and in the county has been inaccurate during the past 10 days.

The state case count is higher than what previously has been reported, including the count in Santa Barbara County, according to Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer. The underreporting of cases is because of technological issues with the electronic laboratory system, according to Ansorg.

The error affects local health departments’ ability to receive all lab reports in order to investigate cases and conduct contact tracing, Ansorg said. Patient care, test results, and hospitalization and death rates have not been affected by this issue, he noted.

While the state has taken action to fix the error, county officials say they can’t ensure that new case numbers accurately reflect the local situation.

“When I look at the last 10 days, I was encouraged to see lower numbers,” Ansorg said. “That is really discouraging now.”

The county reported three new deaths Tuesday, bringing the total to 64. All three people were older than age 70, and two had underlying health conditions. The individuals resided in the unincorporated North County area, Lompoc and Santa Maria.

There were 62 new positive cases reported Tuesday, bringing the county total to 6,526 positive cases; 6,235 individuals have recovered, leaving 227 active cases in the county.

As of Tuesday, 88 patients with COVID-19 were being treated in local hospitals, with 25 of them in intensive care units.

Of the new cases reported Tuesday, 29 were in Santa Barbara and 13 in Santa Maria. The unincorporated South County area and the unincorporated area of the Gaviota Valley both reported four new cases. Goleta had three new cases, Isla Vista had two and Orcutt reported one.

Santa Barbara County Public Health DepartmentAug. 4

Difference from previous day

Total positive cases6,526+ 62
COVID-19-related deaths 64+ 3
COVID-19 patients in county hospitals88+ 6
COVID-19 ICU patients25+ 2
Total test results80,971+ 489
Seven-day average test positivity rate 10.3%+ 0.7

The agricultural industry has not been shielded from the economic impact of the pandemic, despite it being the top contributor to the local economy, according to Cathy Fisher, Santa Barbara County agricultural commissioner.

Federal and state assistance for ranchers and farmers is now available through a variety of coronavirus food assistance programs and small-business loans, Fisher said. There are also guidance documents and resources for agricultural employers and their employees to ensure that there is a safe and clean environment for workers to stay healthy during the pandemic, she added.

County Public Health also established an isolation housing program to ensure that all members of the community can safely self-isolate when needed in order to halt transmission of the virus.

The widespread pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of children, according to Alana Walczack, chief executive officer of CALM, who reported childhood trauma occurring in greater numbers and greater severity.

As there is a growing level of isolation, depression and loneliness that stem from the uncertainties of the pandemic, Walczack urged the public to take care of themselves and watch out for their loved ones. 

“I am here to encourage the community to really think about this as a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “Actually, it may be more of an ultra-marathon that we really need to take care of ourselves in order to weather the long-term nature of this crisis.”

Gregg Hart, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, announced the completion of the Peoples’ Self-Help Housing building in Guadalupe. It’s a 38-unit supportive housing community that will house farmworkers and their families. It will provide affordable housing and “wraparound services to help these families succeed,” he said.

Residents will have access to on-site social workers and after-school programs for children, plus other amenities, Hart said. The housing unit is accepting applications from prospective tenants and hopes to move them in within the next few weeks.

 New cases reported Aug. 4Active cases by areaTotal reported cases by area
South County: Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria45152
Santa Barbara and Mission Canyon2947849
Isla Vista21055
Western Goleta Valley and Gaviota42112
Santa Ynez Valley0174
Lompoc, Vandenberg Village, Mission Hills123480
Lompoc federal correctional complex001019
Santa Maria13982,941
North County: Guadalupe, Cuyama, New Cuyama, Garey, Casmalia, Sisquoc07264
Pending location624225
Santa Barbara County total 622276526

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.