On Monday, April 6, Santa Barbara County reported 192 confirmed COVID-19 cases. In that total there are two large and very different groups: front-line health workers and federal middle-security prisoners.
Regional officials announced this afternoon that 37 health workers had tested positive for the virus since crossing the Santa Barbara border three weeks ago. Many have recovered, and some are still recovering, they said. Citing privacy laws, they do not offer further details.
At the US Penitentiary, Lompoc, better known as USP Lompoc, 23 inmates and five staff members are now tested positive for COVID-19. That is an increase from 14 inmates and two staff members reported on Friday. This cluster is the only outbreak of the Santa Barbara County in a community facility, said Director of Public Health Dr. Van Do-Reynoso.
The Prison Bureau operates 22 correctional facilities throughout the United States. Only one – FCI Butner Medium I in North Carolina – reported more cases of COVID-19 than Lompoc. District health officials say they are working with federal agents on isolation and care protocols. Sources familiar with the situation said that staff had just received basic protective equipment.
Do-Reynoso admitted very high number about cases in northern Santa Barbara County, including 53 in the City of Santa Maria; 37 in Lompoc City and in the Mission Hills and Vandenberg Villages; and 22 in the Orcutt community. (A combination of 28 inmates and prison guards cases are folded into Lompoc figures.) Do-Reynoso said his department is stepping up efforts to reach bilingual outreach in these areas, especially as the weekend holidays draw nearer.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, district public health officer, said among 192 infected people (116 men, 75 women, and one unknown), 34 received treatment at the hospital, with 19 in the intensive care unit. Two people have died of the virus. Both are in their 60s and have underlying medical conditions, Ansorg said.
Ansorg also stressed that the number of confirmed cases, although increasing, still did not reflect the true spread of the virus to the whole community. Consider it everywhere, he said, and act accordingly. Stay home and only carry out errands if absolutely necessary. If you have to go out, plan ahead, minimize your trip, and wear a face mask. And if you need fresh air, get it in your own environment.
But Ansorg also has some optimistic comments. “We are now on Day 18 of the governor’s all-state residence orders, and I am encouraged to see the first indication that there is a slight slowdown in anticipated new infections,” he said. “This is still very early in our efforts to maintain physical distance, but this initial indicator really gives me hope that we will be able to achieve our goal of slowing the progression of this infection.”
Stewart Comer says Santa Barbara continues to expand its testing capabilities, and can now carry out up to 80-90 COVID-19 tests per day. “Positive rates” hovered around 6-8 percent, which was in line with expectations, he said.
Superintendent Gregg Hart acknowledged the upcoming religious holidays Easter, Easter and Ramadan later this month. It is very important that residents resist the urge to gather with friends and relatives, he said, and instead do what they can to observe each other over the telephone or via video chat. Hart also urged continuous persistence with physical distance. This can be a challenge in the aisles of grocery stores, “but slow down, and do the best you can,” he said.
“The coming weeks will be very difficult because we all experience collective sadness and anxiety about the impact of COVID-19 on our neighbors and the place we call home,” Hart said. “Although it will not be easy, we must remain strong and support each other during this emergency.”
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