Santa Barbara County Public Health official calls July 4 COVID precautions successful

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After a July 2 decision to close all Santa Barbara County beaches over the holiday weekend, county Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg called the efforts a success.

“On all three days here, I did survey the beaches myself, and I think overall it was successful,” Ansorg said. “People were very cooperative in avoiding crowds, wearing masks. I’m very grateful that people took our message seriously.”

Ansorg is hopeful that the precautions will allow the county to avoid another surge in cases and hospitalizations, such as what occurred after Memorial Day weekend.



“Hospitalization has only gone up since Memorial Day. The last week in May we had an average of 28 in hospital. Then two weeks after opening, it jumped to 45. Three weeks after opening, it jumped to 56. The following week, 61,” Ansorg said. “It definitely doubled, and intensive care also doubled. There’s a very clear connection to be seen.”

But even amid the tightening of restrictions during the most recent holiday weekend, one sector that still remains largely open for business are the local hotels. Ansorg acknowledged that there is some dissonance between the large surge in local cases, and the lack of tourism restrictions.

“We’re on the state’s monitoring list—because we have such an increase in new COVID diagnoses—and at the same time we allow a lot of tourism to happen,” Ansorg said.

A discussion around whether hotels should be allowed to remain open for leisure travel, he continued, would be on the table “if the case count continues to climb and if we were to see dwindling hospital capacity and more requirement for intensive care.”

As of right now, though, Ansorg is hopeful that the local hospitals will continue to have sufficient capacity, despite more limited capacity at Marian Regional Medical Center.

“Marian is more strained with regard to admissions for hospitalizations due to COVID than Cottage Hospital,” Ansorg said. “They really have less than 40 percent of capacity remaining in case there is a surge, whereas the three Cottage hospitals have that capacity still, which is really reassuring.”

Marian’s Dr. Scott Robertson said via email that Marian is doing what it can to prepare for potential surges.

“We remain prepared and ready to care for our community with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators,” he wrote. “In March, Marian Regional Medical Center initiated modifications to create surge areas where higher volumes of patients could be seen, increasing the inpatient capacity by 48 beds. … These revisions were implemented in anticipation of possible surges, and we continue to be equipped to care for an influx of COVID-19 patients.”

With solid capacity remaining between all the hospitals in the region, Ansorg said he is confident that alternate care facilities will not need to be utilized, despite the recent upticks in cases. ∆



—Malea Martin

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