19 New COVID Cases in Santa Barbara County

Lompoc Penitentiary Outbreak Stands Out; 354 Total Cases Countywide

Public health officials, like emergency medical technician Nick Clay, are hesitant to openly criticize prison leaders despite plenty of evidence against them. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

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Cases at the Lompoc prison continue to soar, as the total number infected with COVID-19 climbed to 110 today from 99 yesterday. Among them are 80 inmates, who are confined in areas that do not allow for social distancing, said Nick Clay, a Santa Barbara County Public Health emergency medical technician who visited the federal prison on Wednesday. Thirty more are guards.

Clay was working with the Bureau of Prisons to develop a medical facility with 22 beds in the next week or two. That’s Phase I. Phase II would add beds, though Clay said it was early to estimate how many total cases the prison was likely to have. Should any prisoners be released, they would first be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Clay assured masks and gloves were in evidence when he visited, as well as cleaning supplies for inmates. Family members of the prisoners, however, have emailed news reporters with exactly the opposite information.

Across the rest of Santa Barbara County, 19 more cases were announced, for a total of 354, including 45 health-care workers and one new case at the County Jail. A breakout by race and ethnicity was still in the works, said Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso, likely to be available next week. The gender data is more clear, with 138 females and 232 males (as assigned at birth). The sex of three patients is unknown.

Total tests in the county remain at a tiny fraction of Santa Barbara’s total population. That will be bumped up five-fold by the end of April, said Do-Reynoso, though it wasn’t clear if that meant 50 per day as opposed to the previously announced 10 a day. As well, the county was trying through private partnerships and Sacramento officials to “acquire as many tests as we can possibly get,” Do-Reynoso said. Serology tests, which pick up antibodies produced against coronaviruses generally, might be available by the end of the summer, she added.

Clarification and Addition, April 18: Public Health is going through Sacramento to acquire tests, not test results. In addition, regarding protests, Supervisor Gregg Hart said the county wanted to hear all different views on relinquishing shelter in place. Mass demonstrations, however, “in the middle of a public health crisis and pandemic is extremely irresponsible behavior and should be discouraged in no uncertain terms.”

The next Board of Supervisors hearing is Tuesday, April 21, live-streamed beginning at 9 a.m. at https://www.youtube.com/user/CSBTV20. Comments can be emailed in advance to sbcob@countyofsb.org or phoned in to the county clerk at (805) 568-2240 on the morning of the hearing.

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