While California recently announced that people 65 years old and over are eligible to receive COVID-19, it will take time for vaccine supplies and resources to accommodate all those in this age group.
With the surging hospitalizations and spread of COVID in the community, Cottage Health is providing ongoing patient care while at the same time working quickly along with other providers to expand COVID vaccination access for our community. These combined efforts are vital in getting us to the other side of this pandemic. Your partnership will be essential – in continuing COVID safety precautions to stop the spread of virus, and in getting vaccinated to help protect yourself when you are eligible.
We are getting closer each day, but we are not done. We must keep going to protect each other, our patients and our community. Here are updates on efforts currently underway:
Even as vaccine efforts begin, community transmission of COVID is widespread, at 15 percent for the seven-day testing positivity rate. Our most urgent priority is to have staff, equipment and supplies available to keep pace with the increased number of hospitalized patients.
For the first time, last week, COVID hospitalizations surged over 100 at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. This week, more than 200 patients with COVID are hospitalized throughout Santa Barbara County, with more than 2,500 active infections now reported in our community.
Approximately 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with COVID will need to be admitted to the hospital for care. Hospital stays for COVID are longer than average stays, and this is putting a strain on hospital staff and capacity.
Careful surge planning has worked to maintain bed capacity at Cottage so far, but the numbers are deeply concerning. COVID safety precautions have never been more important. Gatherings are spreading the virus widely in our community. Please remain diligent in making safe choices.
For now, safety precautions are needed even for those who have been recently vaccinated. There are better days ahead, but it may take months to build immunity in our community.
In the past few weeks, the CH Staff Vaccine Clinic has vaccinated over 70 percent of patient-facing staff and administered more than 5,800 total doses of vaccine. This will be a critical tool in protecting staff, helping our staff stay healthy and able to serve on the frontlines of patient care.
Cottage Health will continue working alongside partners in the community in the effort to vaccinate more than 400,000 people throughout the County. It will take many working together to achieve the immunity level needed to end this pandemic.
To begin, Cottage Health opened a Drive-Up COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic on the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital campus, now serving health-care workers and beginning to vaccinate individuals age 75 and over. With over 30,000 individuals 75 and over in Santa Barbara County, we were only able to scratch the surface with our first limited stock of 1,000 doses, all of which were administered in the initial two-day clinic. Other community partners are reporting the same. There is high demand but very little vaccine at this time. It will take some time for the supply chain and resources to catch up.
Along with our community partners, we will continue to offer clinics and share updates as more vaccine and information becomes available. If you are age 75 or over, please sign up at cottagehealth.org/covid19 to receive a future appointment opportunity.
The vaccine allocations are very difficult to predict, and information changes rapidly. Thank you for your understanding as we work through this quickly evolving effort.
I know much has been asked of the community over the past year. Please stay diligent. Stay with the precautions as we work to achieve community immunity and stop this virus that is straining hospital capacity throughout the State.
Ron Werft is president and CEO of Cottage Health.