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Santa Barbara County Hospitals Prepare for ‘Crisis Care’ as COVID-19 Admissions Skyrocket – Noozhawk

Santa Barbara County hospitals are preparing to implement “crisis care” as COVID-19 hospitalizations smash records on a daily basis.

Crisis care means that people with urgent health care needs outside of COVID-19 may not receive the appropriate care that they could normally expect, according to county Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.

“As an example, if someone suffers a brain bleed and could be saved by an expert performing a procedure, this may no longer be possible or available just because the hospitals are overbooked with COVID patients,” Ansorg said at Tuesday’s COVID-19 press briefing.

With a record 172 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Tuesday, 75% of hospital beds throughout the county were in use.


Of the COVID-19 hospitalized patients, 55 require intensive care, and 66.3% of the county’s staffed ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The county Public Health Department reported 0% “adjusted” ICU availability for the first time on Tuesday, a level the Southern California region has maintained for nearly three weeks. The actual ICU availability in the county is 8.4%.

County hospitals are running out of staffed ICU beds and had to start using surge beds a few days ago, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said. There were 12 surge beds in use as of Tuesday, according to the county’s Community Data Dashboard.

“In light of our current situation, I am at a loss. I honestly don’t know what to say anymore,” said Ansorg, clearly exasperated that many people are not following public health orders to avoid gatherings and travel to reduce the spread of the highly contagious disease.

Do-Reynoso also gave an update on the county’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, reporting that 54% of the 16,775 vaccines allocated to the county have already been administered to people eligible for the first phase.  

Additionally, Santa Barbara County Public Health received approval from the California Department of Public Health to proceed with vaccinating all three tiers in Phase 1A concurrently, speeding up the process. That includes most healthcare workers, staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities, emergency medical services personnel and dialysis center staff. 

Public Health has approved 42 providers to distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses, and the providers are ramping up and working through logistics, Do-Reynoso said.

The county expects to triple the number of providers distributing the vaccine within the next few weeks, and overall be vaccinating about 1,000 people per day by early February. 

The vaccine is likely to become available to the general public by late March or April, according to Do-Reynoso.

Public Health officials on Tuesday also reported 341 new COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths. All of those who died were older than age 70, and four fatalities were associated with outbreaks at congregate living facilities, according to Public Health.

Two individuals resided in Santa Barbara, two lived in Santa Maria, one was from Goleta, one lived in the unincorporated area of Goleta and one was from the Santa Ynez Valley. 

The county’s cumulative COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began is 173.

The number of cases considered still infectious throughout the county has surpassed 2,000, and was at 2,105 as of Tuesday. There have been 19,019 confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County since the pandemic began.

Testing positivity rates and daily case rates also reached record highs. The county is showing a 17.3% seven-day positivity rate.

Santa Barbara County Dec. 15 Dec. 22 Dec. 29 Jan. 5
New positive cases reported in previous week 1,268 1,445 1,541 2,320
New cases among healthcare workers in previous week 54 84 72 50
Total test results reported in previous week 17,532 18,243 15,753 12,681
COVID-19-positive hospital patients 78 103 127 172
Active cases (still infectious after testing positive) 1,059 1,245 1,227 2,105
Cumulative COVID-19-related deaths 140 150 156 173

“All these metrics are at the highest level they have ever been since this started last March,” Do-Reynoso said.

The county is only now starting to see the full effects of COVID-19 transmission over the Thanksgiving holiday, Ansorg said, and the impacts of Christmas traveling and gathering will become obvious in the coming weeks.

Additionally, there were 28 business outbreaks and 48 congregate-care setting outbreaks reported across the county in the month of December, Do-Reynoso said.

The business outbreaks occurred across several industries, including agriculture, administration, retail, manufacturing, medical health care, cleaning services, skilled labor, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, hotels and construction.

“I can’t stress enough that this is really a call-to-action to every member in our community,” Do-Reynoso said. “Together we can improve, and we need to.”

The county briefings are now conducted virtually, with public health and county officials appearing via video conference. 

The Tuesday briefing is available to watch on the Santa Barbara County Youtube page here, with versions in English and in Spanish. 

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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