Santa Barbara County sees sharp increase in cases, hospitalizations

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According to a June 19 update from Lompoc Valley Medical Center (LVMC) CEO Steve Popkin, the county witnessed a significant spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from June 13 to 18.

“During this week, there were five new positive cases from the Lompoc Valley; 43 cases from Santa Barbara; and 183 cases from Santa Maria,” Popkin wrote of the six-day period.

EW OUTBREAKS During a week of spiked COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations throughout Santa Barbara County, Country Oaks Care Center in Santa Maria experienced a 35-person outbreak with eight related deaths so far. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF COUNTRY OAKS CARE CENTER
  • FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF COUNTRY OAKS CARE CENTER
  • EW OUTBREAKS During a week of spiked COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations throughout Santa Barbara County, Country Oaks Care Center in Santa Maria experienced a 35-person outbreak with eight related deaths so far.
Popkin wrote that the disparity between regions remains roughly the same even when adjusting for population size in the different areas. Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said that this disparity is likely due to a variety of factors.



Since Santa Maria’s cases were highest to begin with, “it sort of spreads in concentric circles,” Ansorg said. “It’s because most people probably catch it either at work or at home.”

He also attributed the numbers to high density living situations in Santa Maria.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise, Popkin said.

“COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized in the county increased from 51 to 61. … The number of hospitalized patients in ICU increased from 12 to 17,” Popkin wrote on June 19, noting that currently none of those hospitalized are at LVMC.

As of June 21, 63 COVID patients were hospitalized and the number in the ICU remained the same.

A June 19 statement from Cottage Hospital explained the significance of the increased hospitalizations.

“When we look at the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 illness, we’re seeing a steeper rise now compared to the March and April numbers at Cottage,” it states. “The number of people who require hospital care is an important indicator of community spread because it is not impacted by increased testing capacity.”

Cottage’s Director of Quality and Research, Medical Education, Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons said the numbers should get everyone’s attention.

“The epidemic locally is not over. Every case we see here impacts our community as a whole,” she said in Cottage’s statement.



According to Popkin’s update, “The age distribution of COVID-19 cases within Santa Barbara County skews younger than most areas.” Nine percent of cases are individuals 17 years old and under, 26 percent are aged 18 to 29, 36 percent are aged 30 to 49, about 21 percent are aged 50 to 69, and eight percent are 70 and above.

“People who are in their 80s or 90s don’t go out so much,” Ansorg explained of the age gap. “Because people catch it a lot at work, it’s [highest among] the population who work.”

Popkin said the ages of hospitalized cases aren't reported, “but from informal information sources, it appears that the age distribution for hospitalized patients in the county is similarly skewing much younger than most areas.”

Over the past week, the county has reported nine additional COVID-19 related deaths. Eight of those deaths are in connection with an outbreak at the Country Oaks Care Center. Ansorg said that of the 41 residents living at the facility at the start of the outbreak, only six tested negative.

“The licensing authorities from the state have sent teams of nurses there to train the remaining staff,” Ansorg said of the facility. “The state really pitched in: They sent teams to help out, take on shifts, and re-educate their staff.

As of June 21, there were 2,421 total confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County: 989 at the federal prison in Lompoc and 1,432 community cases. Nearly 2,000 individuals have fully recovered. ∆

—Malea Martin

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