Supervisor Gregg Hart | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

The third person in Santa Barbara County to die of COVID-19 passed away in hospice care today. They were in their seventies with underlying health conditions and lived in South County.

“Unfortunately I am reporting an additional death related to COVID-19 in our community today,” said county public health officer Dr. Henning Ansorg at the public health press conference Thursday. “… We share our heartfelt condolences to their family and loved ones.”

In addition to the death, Ansorg reported 20 new confirmed cases, bringing the county’s total to 354. They range in age from teens to sixties. One person lives in an unincorporated area of South County, two live in Santa Barbara, one lives in Orcutt, four live in Santa Maria, and 12 live in Lompoc. 

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department Dr. Henning Ansorg, announces a third COVID-19 death in Santa Barbara

Half of the 12 cases in Lompoc are inmates in the Lompoc Federal Prison, where inmates’ families consistently allege that the outbreak’s eruption hasn’t been taken seriously by the jail administration. The families have charged that the prison guards don’t wear masks or gloves, inmates are forced to live in cramped and close quarters so they can’t practice social distancing, and soap is scarce.

Of all 354 cases county-wide, 99 of them are staff and inmates from the prison. As of today, 159 people are recovering at home, 39 are recovering in a hospital, 14 of whom are in the intensive care unit, 137 have fully recovered, 16 are pending an update, and three have died as a direct result of the virus. 

Additionally, Gregg Hart, 2nd District County Supervisor, revealed the jarring financial situation the county is facing as it positions itself to implement Governor Newsom’s framework. He said the county has incurred approximately $7 to $10 million in costs from responding to the crisis and has lost about $30 million in revenue from local taxes and state funds. In all, he projected a total loss of about $37 to $40 million.

“To successfully implement the governor’s new framework for reopening California, local governments and health-care providers will need more financial assistance from the state and federal governments to take on the new responsibilities that will be required to make this transition work,” Hart said.

“Any loss of state revenues to our county will have far reaching effects, as many of these dollars are dedicated primarily to critical social services and frontline public safety,” he continued. “As the County of Santa Barbara falls under the 500,000 person threshold that was identified in the federal CARES Act for direct funding of COVID-19 costs, we don’t know if any new funding will be provided to address the potentially $7 to $10 million in response costs the county has already incurred.”

He said as a short-term mitigation measure, the county is using its general fund reserves. He broke down the revenue losses specifically as follows: $3.7 million from sales and transient occupancy taxes, $4.8 million from local public safety sales tax, $7.9 million from state public safety realignment funds, and $13.3 million from health and social services realignment funds.

Hart stressed that while the county is planning how to posture itself to meet Newsom’s six markers that will allow the shelter in place order to be modified and businesses and schools to open again, social distancing must continue. He went through the basics again — handwashing, staying six feet apart, wearing masks out of the house, and only leaving the house for essential reasons.

“If the negative impacts on these sensitive economic revenues persist,” Hart said, “reductions in vital human health and safety net programs and public safety services will become unavoidable.”


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