As Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties await a response from the state about creating a new region on the states’ five-region map for COVID-19 restrictions, Ventura County’s ICU capacity decreased to less than 2 percent.
The three counties sent a letter
on Dec. 7 asking the California Department of Public Health to consider the Central Coast as a separate region for the purpose of stay-at-home order decisions. The Central Coast is currently lumped in with the Southern California region, which includes counties that have historically struggled more with containing the virus.
- GRAPH BY SANTA BARBARA COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT
- COASTAL CAPACITY As of Dec. 14, the Central Coast counties combined (blue line) have about 30 percent ICU capacity left, while the entire Southern California region (red line) had just 2.7. As of Dec. 16, the region's ICU capacity had dropped to 0.5 percent.
Regions with less than 15 percent ICU capacity are under stay-at-home orders, and on Dec. 16, the Southern California region had 0.5 percent of ICU beds remaining. The three Central Coast counties combined had 30 percent capacity, Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said at a Dec. 15 Board of Supervisors meeting.
This is one reason the counties argue for a separate Central Coast region. At a Dec. 8 board meeting, county officials also pointed to the “history of collaboration and partnership between the three public health departments” as another reason to create a separate region.
“We are unique, we are common, and we have a lot of strengths in the three counties in terms of doing joint prevention and treatment efforts to reduce case rates and testing positivity,” Do-Reynoso said on Dec. 8. “We have ran our numbers, and we consistently have a higher ICU capacity jointly between the three counties.”
But Ventura County is quickly becoming an outlier. While San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties continue to show strong ICU capacity, at 47.9 and 38.4 percent respectively on Dec. 15, Ventura’s capacity is much worse.
On Dec. 10, Ventura had 11 percent capacity, according to reporting by KCLU
, and less than a week later, on Dec. 15, Do-Reynoso reported that Ventura had 1.4 percent capacity.
The three counties still maintain an average of 30 percent capacity, Do-Reynoso said. But with Ventura’s reduced ICU capacity, it’s unclear whether the state would consider a plea for a separate region. Do-Reynoso said that county officials have not yet received a response from the state.
In the meantime, county public health officials must stick to state orders. At the Board of Supervisors’ Dec. 8 meeting, Santa Barbara County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni said that “the Public Health Department itself, by statute, must follow the directions of the state public health officer.”
Other counties that have indicated they would defy state orders, “were then told what funding consequences would fall from that, whether it’s CARES Act or different state funding programs,” Ghizzoni said.
Local health orders are meant to show how the state’s orders will specifically impact the county, Ghizzoni said, but they can’t go as far as defying state orders altogether. Doing so would not only be illegal and present funding risks, but would also “cause confusion for our residents and businesses,” he said. Δ