County Supervisor Gregg Hart said large groups were seen during the weekend: Shelter in place “does matter,” he said. “Every single indirect contact can spread the virus.” | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Santa Barbara County Officials are imploring residents to continue to stay home and follow the shelter-in-place order, citing New York as an example of what the county and state could become if residents did not continue to abide by the order.

“California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that California is in a completely different place than the state of New York,” said 2nd District County Supervisor Gregg Hart at the Friday press conference. “Governor Gavin Newsom also said Wednesday, ‘I hope we continue to be, but we won’t unless people continue to practice physical distancing and do their part, and we continue to meet this moment.’”

Hart explained that residents may be feeling restless from being cooped up for weeks, or may be tempted to have extended family get-togethers. But continuing to follow the order is crucial, because keeping the amount of cases down now is the only way to “buy enough time” to prepare hospitals for the expected surge of patients the county expects to see around May.

“While compliance locally is very good during the week, we’ve seen an uptick in concentrations of people and gatherings in parks and neighborhoods the past two weekends,” Hart said. “COVID-19 will spread among people who are related or strangers. The only people who should be together outdoors are people who are currently living in the same household.”

Van Do-Reynoso, director of County Public Health, reported that an additional Santa Barbara County resident tested positive for COVID-19, for a total of 152 county-wide. The patients range in age from their twenties to their seventies. Three of them live in unincorporated parts of South County, two of them live in Santa Barbara, one is in Santa Ynez, three are in Lompoc, and four are in Santa Maria. 

Of the 152 cases, 86 are recovering at home; 26 are in the hospital, 17 of which are in the intensive care unit; one person has died, and 35 have fully recovered. Do-Reynoso said that in the coming week, her department will also be releasing the number of health-care workers who have tested positive for the virus.

Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg also gave an update on masks at the conference, emphasizing that they are not a requirement nor a substitute for social distancing. “Face coverings are an additional precautionary measure, and by no means should they replace our keeping physical distance and frequent hand-washing routine,” Ansorg said. 

He went on to say that the coverings are particularly recommended for going to a grocery store or a pharmacy, or situations when one has to wait in line and keeping six feet of distance isn’t easy. Medical masks are still in short supply and the public should avoid purchasing them.

“Don’t think [ignoring the shelter-in-place order] won’t matter because others are doing it,” Hart said. “It does matter. Every single indirect contact can spread the virus.”

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