Following the state’s lead, Santa Barbara County public health officials
have spent about the last two weeks combing through local confirmed COVID-19 cases to compile demographic data on the people infected. Officials will release this information during the next Board of Supervisors meeting.
County Public Health Department Director Van Do-Reynoso announced this effort during the county’s daily press conference on April 9.
MORE DATA Santa Barbara County public health officials plan to release information on the race and ethnicity of the county’s COVID-19 cases during the Board of Supervisors meeting on April 21.
“The state has started reporting the race and ethnicity of COVID-19 cases and deaths,” Do-Reynoso said. “We have begun a deep dive looking into similar data for our local cases.”
As of April 18, the state had compiled race and ethnicity data for 67 percent of its confirmed COVID-19 cases and 90 percent of its cases that resulted in deaths. Most of the case numbers are in line with state population figures, with the exception of black Californians who have died at a higher rate. About 6 percent of the state’s population is black, but so far 12 percent of statewide deaths were of black residents.
During the county’s daily press conference on April 20, county Health Officer Henning Ansorg said about 60 percent of the local cases involve latino residents, which is a disproportionately higher amount than population figures. According to U.S. Census data, about 46 percent of the county’s residents are latino.
Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart said the county will release a full report on the demographic data during the Board of Supervisors meeting on April 21.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino was one of the first county officials calling for this data. His district includes the city of Santa Maria, which is where 101 of the county’s 416 confirmed COVID-19 cases are located as of April 20. Santa Maria has more than twice as many confirmed cases as Santa Barbara, even though it only has about 15,000 more residents.
Lavagnino said he believes part of Santa Maria’s higher proportion of cases can be attributed to the type of jobs North County residents work. These are primarily jobs that are deemed essential and people can’t do from home.
“You drive around Santa Barbara and it looks like a ghost town, but people are still driving around Santa Maria,” Lavagnino said. “We’re heavy on ag and construction, and other jobs you have to show up for.”
Additionally, the city is more densely populated than other cities in the county, with larger families sharing living spaces, he said.
He said he expects the county’s demographic report to reflect trends that have begun to appear nationwide of this virus causing a higher number of deaths among people of color.
“This virus is highlighting the disparity in access to health care in this country,” Lavagnino said. “You might have an area with more white people with access to health care that might not be hit as hard as Santa Maria with a hispanic community and pre-existing conditions.”
The Board of Supervisors meeting where the full demographic report will be discussed starts at 9 a.m. on April 21. Residents can tune in to watch the meeting on the county’s YouTube page
or on its website