Santa Barbara County health officials reported COVID-19 cases increased by 67 on July 9, down significantly from the 121 new cases reported the day before. According to public health statisticians, the number of active cases has dipped from 444 yesterday to 359 today. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the number of people hospitalized because of COVID jumped from 72 yesterday to 80 today. Although a typical hospital stay for COVID can range from one to 47 days, the average for Anglos is 10 days, and for Latinos it’s 11. Of the 80 hospitalized COVID patients, 23 have been placed in intensive care units, an increase of two from the day before.
While COVID case numbers fluctuate from day to day — sometimes quite dramatically — the overall trend is ominous enough to have persuaded Cottage Hospital to announce it was tapping the brakes for elective surgeries. Cottage is still providing some elective procedures, but not as many. (For more, see “S.B. COVID Hospitalizations Reach All-Time High” by Tyler Hayden.)
This Wednesday, Ventura County public health officials declared their emergency rooms and intensive care units had reached saturation and were at capacity. Los Angeles County is in the throes of a dramatic surge of its own. And the numbers for Santa Maria — marked by more intense poverty, cramped living quarters, language differences, and cultural chasms — are driving the load for Santa Barbara County. Based on early statistics released in May, COVID’s impacts are felt disproportionately by the county’s Latino population, who report infection rates and hospitalization rates significantly higher than their representation in the population as a whole. County administrators have secured 15 hotel rooms to help provide “non-congregate” space for people who are infected to self quarantine. Of those, 12 are currently occupied. (Some of those spaces could be occupied by homeless individuals as well.)
While COVID may be the county’s overwhelming health crisis right now, other diseases continue taking their toll and hospital beds are needed for them. Right now, about 55 percent of the county’s intensive care units are occupied, not all with COVID patients. About 60 percent of the county’s hospital beds are likewise spoken for.
COVID infections have demonstrated an ability to accelerate from bad to worse in very short order. That being said, Santa Barbara County’s hospital capacity falls well within the state’s required cushion. Where Santa Barbara has failed to meet those state guidelines, however, is for the number of new cases per 100,000 over a 14-day period. The state allows no more than an average of 100 per 100,000. Santa Barbara County is booking along at the rate of 274 new cases. That metric has kept Santa Barbara within the crosshairs of state public health officials.