Public Health Officials Warn Santa Barbara County: Social Distance Throughout Holidays

On Brink of a New Surge in Cases, County Tells Residents to Continue Protocols

County Supervisor Gregg Hart | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Sticking to proper pandemic protocol has become increasingly crucial as Santa Barbara County heads into the holiday season, when the temptation to gather with loved ones is strong and the added risk of the flu threatens hospital capacities.

“If anyone listening is confused and believes that visiting our friends and relatives during the holidays is an irreplaceable expression of our love for them, it’s important to recognize that gatherings can also inadvertently, unknowingly spread the virus to someone you love,” 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said at a press conference Friday.

Hart made it clear that the county is “on the edge of a new surge of cases over the fall and winter” and that although the increased testing is a factor in the increase in cases, the increasing death count is a stark indication that the virus is still on the rise. 

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He referenced recent examples in the county to urge listeners to not partake in gatherings, to wear a mask when outside of the house, and to wash their hands frequently. In Orcutt, he said, high schoolers chose not to heed warnings and as a result contracted the virus. This was a contrast to Isla Vista, the college community which is normally known for its large Halloween parties. This year, Isla Vista stayed home and did not transmit new cases.

“Unfortunately, some high school students in Orcutt did not make the same responsible choices [as Isla Vista],” Hart said. “A Halloween party in Orcutt attended by a large number of students without masks has resulted in COVID-19 cases among students at the party and led to the closure of St. Joseph’s High School along with Righetti High School sports practices.”

Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, executive director of Public Health, said that it’s the county’s adjusted case rate that is preventing it from moving into the less-restrictive orange tier. 

“It is our case rate that is holding us back,” Do-Reynoso said. “In order for us to move into the orange tier, we will need to decrease our adjusted case rate to no more than 17 cases per day for our county population. It is within our direct control as a community to move into the orange tier.

“We are almost there. If we can only work to continue to practice vigilance in adhering to the safety guidelines and decrease our overall case rates.”

She emphasized that getting a flu shot would help preserve necessary medical supplies and hospital capacity and encouraged all residents to get their shots as soon as possible. She said there will be several flu shot locations in North County where residents can get their shots done free of charge and  without any identification. The locations will be posted on public health’s website here.

Santa Barbara County has 10,128 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date. There were 39 new cases reported Friday and 136 cases still currently active. There are 12 people recovering from the virus in a hospital, two of whom are in an intensive care unit, and 131 people have died from the virus.

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