‘Assume You Are Vulnerable,’ Says Public Health Officer

Santa Barbara County Officials Urge Calm but Tell Residents to Take COVID-19 Threat Seriously

Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Henning Ansorg updates the community on the ongoing COVID-19 response on March 23, 2020. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

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The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County remains at 18, but according to County Public Health Officer Henning Ansorg at a press conference Monday evening, that figure is expected to increase steadily as test results start to return. “Assume that COVID-19 is spreading in your community, assume you are vulnerable, and act accordingly,” said Ansorg. “If we take responsibility, if we take ownership, we can do a lot to protect those most at risk. If you have minor symptoms, please stay at home and self-quarantine.” 

Ansorg was joined Monday by County Supervisor Gregg Hart, who praised the resilience and generosity exhibited by the community but stressed the importance of social distancing. “Unfortunately, a lot of people are still not taking this as seriously as they need to be,” said Supervisor Hart. “I cannot overstate the importance of social distancing. I say again: Stay at home.”

Asked about making testing widely available for the public, Ansorg stated that he did not see that occurring “in the foreseeable future.” Ansorg declined to state what percentage of COVID-19 cases had been hospitalized, citing the need to maintain privacy for patients. 

Public Health Emergency Preparedness Manager Jan Koegler thanked the community for donating important medical supplies and stated that the number of facemasks in possession is “adequate for the time being, but this remains an area of concern.” Koegler stated that health facilities are submitting contingency plans for a surge in cases that could threaten to stretch them thin. 

District Attorney Joyce Dudley laid out information about the practice of price gouging, and warned that raising prices by more than 10 percent after an emergency has been declared could result in penalties and potential legal action, unless they could prove that the price increases were demonstrably linked to increased expenses due to the virus. Dudley said that two businesses are currently being investigated for price gouging and encouraged the public to submit information to the county if they suspected that price gouging was taking place.

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