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Santa Barbara County officials anticipate more COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths ahead

Santa Barbara County officials anticipate more COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths ahead

Santa Barbara County public health officials are bracing for increased hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 over the coming weeks, as the county experiences a second surge in cases right before the holidays.

"Santa Barbara County is clearly entering the next chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, Cottage Health infectious disease specialist. "We know it will likely be weeks before we feel that in the hospitals and in our death rates."

As in most parts of the state, things have changed rapidly for the county over the last seven days. The county suddenly was moved back into the most-restrictive purple tier on Monday after an increase in case rates, with a limited stay-at-home order taking effect Saturday. 

As of Monday, the county's case rate was 7.1 per 100,000 people, just over the red tier threshold of 7. In the days since, the rate has increased to 9.7, county Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said. 

A noticeable increase in cases has come out of North County areas, including Santa Maria and Lompoc, particularly in connection with 20 cases that were confirmed among local high schoolers as a result of Halloween gatherings, Do-Reynoso said. 

"We are seeing North County and Lompoc spiking up in hot spots. We’re seeing this could be the effects of the parties that occurred over Halloween, and then the family members that unknowingly passed it on to their co-workers," Do-Reynoso said. 

Amid already-rising cases, officials urged residents not to gather or travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, warning of the potential for massive spread of the virus by Christmas. 

Residents are urged to refrain from travel and to celebrate the holiday only with members of their household. A statewide order takes effect Saturday that prohibits gatherings between members of different households from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Those who do travel are required to quarantine for two weeks upon return to Santa Barbara County under a state travel advisory

"Thanksgiving will literally dictate what December will look like," Fitzgibbons said. 

Do-Reynoso reminded the public that the risk associated with gatherings is not limited to large parties; a group of five friends going out to lunch or small group of friends hanging out at someone's house also can spell trouble, she said. 

Daily COVID-19 cases 

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department confirmed an additional 74 COVID-19 cases on Friday. 

A total of 10,839 cases now has been confirmed in the county, with 313 cases still considered active and contagious, according to county public health data

New cases were confirmed throughout the county Friday, however, the majority of new cases came from Santa Maria, Santa Barbara and Lompoc. 

COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased slightly since Thursday, with 20 individuals currently hospitalized, including three in the ICU, according to county data.

In the city of Santa Maria, 83 out of 4,397 total cases remain active. Seventy-two individuals have died.

In the community of Orcutt, 21 out of 453 total cases remain active. Six individuals have died.

In the city of Lompoc, 35 out of 1,042 total cases remain active. Eight individuals have died.

In the Santa Ynez Valley, which includes the areas of Solvang, Buellton, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez and Ballard, 17 out of 212 total cases remain active. Seven individuals have died.

In the unincorporated North County area, which includes Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe, 10 out of 494 total cases remain active. Seven individuals have died. 

In neighboring San Luis Obispo County, which also was moved back into the purple tier on Monday, public health officials confirmed an additional 121 COVID-19 cases on Friday.

The total number of cases in the county is now 5,607, with 738 cases still considered active and contagious, according to county public health data

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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