Santa Barbara County reported 50 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the largest one-day jump of confirmed infections since the start of our regional coronavirus outbreak in March. The vast majority of these new cases ― 45 ― are in the City of Santa Maria, which has become a hot spot of transmission. While the city accounts for 24 percent of the county’s population, it is now home to more than 50 percent of all county COVID-19 cases (excluding the outbreak at the Lompoc prison complex).
Health officials also reported another death on Friday, bringing Santa Barbara County’s total to 16. The latest casualty was a resident of Lompoc in their sixties with underlying health conditions.
During a press conference Thursday, Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg addressed Santa Maria’s disproportionately high number of cases. “At the moment, we are seeing an increase in cases in that area,” he said. “We are actively working with individual communities in and around the city of Santa Maria to identify sources of infection and spread of the virus.” Ansorg suggested the jump could be explained by recent increases in testing in that area.
Next week will reveal if the Memorial Day opening of many Santa Barbara businesses is leading to a new spike in cases, Ansorg went on, noting the approximately 14-day incubation period of the virus. He said recent protests and rallies over the death of George Floyd could cause additional spread, but he was quick to note that “most protesters are behaving very responsibly with wearing masks and keeping at least some distance between each other.”
Ansorg said public health officials are keeping a close watch on testing and hospitalization rates and that he’s “eagerly awaiting” next week’s results. “Once we are assured that we are not experiencing an exponential growth in total cases or severe cases needing hospitalization,” he said, “we will determine which additional sectors can safely open their doors with modifications.”
While hospitalizations had stayed below 30 for several weeks, the last few days have already shown an uptick, according to Public Health Department data released Friday. There are currently 39 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, with 10 in the ICU.
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