Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

COVID-19, a disease that once dominated national news cycles, has now mostly faded into the background of public consciousness. However, Santa Barbara County continues to closely monitor COVID concerns.

Santa Barbara County has an average case rate of 2.8 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. These numbers are only approximate as at-home testing cannot be accounted for. The county also averaged zero deaths per week within this time frame. This data, taken within the past six months, is a stark contrast to just more than two years ago during the height of the pandemic.

These figures represent nearly an all-time low for both confirmed cases and deaths within the county.

“The current state of COVID in our community has been stable, at a moderate to low level now for several weeks. It has improved since our smaller winter surge earlier this season,” said Lynn Fitzgibbons, director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program and Infectious Diseases at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. “The great news is that we are no longer in the emergency or crisis scenario with this disease,” Fitzgibbons said. 

Comparatively, California averaged 3.3 cases per 100,000 people. This leaves an average of 1,330 new infections per day in a state of just more than 39 million people. 

These trends largely come after the extended vaccine rollout. “We know that vaccination was highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19,” said Fitzgibbons. California itself has vaccinated 72.8 percent of its population with at least one shot. Santa Barbara trails right behind with 70.1 percent of its population vaccinated against COVID. The state averages around 5,841 new vaccinations per day. However, this does not mitigate the danger COVID poses, especially to the unvaccinated, nor the possibility of future flare-ups. 

Densely populated counties like Los Angeles have also seen drastic decreases in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Although, their large populations contribute to greater numbers in all such categories. Los Angeles itself averages 323.7 new cases and 3.7 deaths over a seven-day period. Although, this only accounts for 3.2 cases per 100,000 people.

When looking back on the early days of the pandemic, Fitzgibbons points to social distancing and extensive mask use as effective measures Cottage Health and Santa Barbara County used to combat COVID. These tactics, while met with resistance, proved helpful at addressing this historic pandemic. “We are able to safely care for patients with COVID at the same time as we have resumed all of our excellent clinical services across the organization,” said Fitzgibbons in regards to current Cottage Health operations. 

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