Increasing pandemic safety messaging toward twentysomethings was just one of several recommendations that came out of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s breakdown of COVID-19 cases by demographics on Tuesday.
The conclusions affirmed what most had already expected: Latinos are disproportionately affected by the virus, farmworkers specifically contract the virus at higher rates than those of other occupations — though general frontline workers also represent a large chunk of the cases — and people older than 70 die of the virus at much higher rates. These conclusions were just a small part of the larger quarterly report.
Some of the statistics were more startling. Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso broke down the age of COVID-19-positive individuals by decade and revealed that those aged 20-29 have contracted the virus at higher rates than any other 10-year age group in the county.
“These younger adults make up a large proportion of workers in frontline occupations in highly exposed industries,” Do-Reynoso said. “It is important to note that although the 70-and-up demographic has the lowest COVID-19 cases, this group also makes up a very small portion of the population.”
The breakdown showed that those in their twenties make up 2,183 of the county’s 8,199 total cases. The next highest age group after that are those in their thirties, who make up 1,581 of the cases, and then those in their forties, who make up 1,280 of the cases. The large spike in younger cases, which could expand to more children as schools continue to reopen in person, has prompted public health to focus more on the younger age group.
But just because the younger group is contracting the virus at higher rates does not mean they are dying at the same rates. Sixty-six percent of all COVID-19 related deaths in the area are those over the age of 70, while just one percent of the deaths are 19-29 year olds.
The data gets more interesting when it’s sliced up by race. While the county is 43 percent white and 48 percent Hispanic overall, the infection rates and death rates do not align with the general demographic. In fact, 65 percent of all the county’s cases so far are Hispanic individuals, but only 9 percent of the cases are white individuals.
This changes entirely when it comes to death, though. Fifty-six percent of COVID-19 deaths are Hispanic individuals, and 38 percent of deaths are white individuals.
“Many of these [white] deaths occurred in skilled nursing homes and other congregate care settings that have been highly impacted during this pandemic,” Do-Reynoso explained. “The disparate impact of the virus in communities of color is rooted in the historic and ongoing social and economic inequalities.”
County Pandemic Status
By the state’s metric system standards, Santa Barbara is doing all right. The county officially made it two weeks in the red tier and can officially reopen schools in person, so long as the school district decides itself on its own reopening plan.
Metrics are still hovering on the brink of the orange tier and are continuing to trend in the right direction. The county’s adjusted case rate of new cases per day is currently at 4.2 per 100,000, which is within the red zone that calls for a rate between 4.0 and 7.0. The county also has a testing positivity rate of 2.4 (in the orange tier) and a health equity metric of 5.0.
“We are really happy that the case rate has gone down from the previous week of 5.8,” Do-Reynoso said.
“It’s very encouraging to see these going down,” 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said. “So we have the lowest we’ve had for the positivity rate and the case threshold since the governor’s new color-coded system. We are right on the edge of the orange tier.”
Images Courtesy of Santa Barbara Public Health
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