Santa Barbara County made a breakthrough of sorts on Friday: only one new confirmed case of COVID-19 outside of prison walls.

Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg reported just one new confirmed case of the virus, a person age 18 to 29 from Santa Maria.

The low number of cases came on the same day, however, when Ansorg also announced two new deaths. One person was in their 60s with underlying health conditions and lived in Lompoc. The other was in their 70s with underlying health conditions and was a prison inmate at the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary.

“Fortunately, our hospitalization rate and intensive care unit admissions are remaining stable and the hospitals are operating below their capacity, even after the introduction of elective surgeries and procedures,” Ansorg said. “This is very reassuring. Our physical distancing is obviously working.”

Despite the single new case, all eyes are on the prison, where an additional 310 confirmed cases were announced Friday. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has been reticent to reveal much information about the situation and quality of care within the correctional facility, but officials have said they are testing all of the inmates, which is why the number of confirmed cases has exploded in recent days.

The number of new cases at the prison is particularly relevant because Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that he won’t allow cities to reopen until 14 days pass without a COVID-19 death. Santa Barbara County is looking to convince the state to separate the death count at the prison from the county’s official tally so that it won’t delay the reopening date.

The slowdown of confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County is sure to fuel desires to reopen and relax the standards for businesses. Santa Barbara City Councilman Michael Jordan said he wants to consider a “measured” reopening sooner than the county is ready because of the slowdown in confirmed cases in the south part of the county.

Friday also brought good news for some retail businesses, such as bookstores and toy stores, florists, music stores and other nonessential retail outlets, to allow customers to order online or over the phone and pick up at curbside. 

Meanwhile, the governor issued an executive order Friday to send a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter in California for the Nov. 3 election. 

About 75 percent of state voters received a vote-by-mail ballot for the March election, and in Santa Barbara County, 77 percent of voters already vote by mail. 

“While expanding vote-by-mail is critical, we remain committed to providing as many in-person voting opportunities, on and before Election Day, in a manner that is safe for both voters and election workers,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement.

Counting the prison cases, 1,032 people in the county have tested positive for the virus. There have been 11 deaths.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at