The one year mark of COVID-19's arrival in Santa Barbara County is fast approaching, with the county’s first recorded case on March 15, 2020.
“We have seen peaks and valleys, with two significant surge periods,” Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said at the March 9 Board of Supervisors meeting.
SCREENSHOT FROM MARCH 9 SANTA BARBARA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MEETING
ONE YEAR MARK “Given that it’s been a year since we’ve had … our first case, I thought for this presentation, I would show you the whole pandemic and the cases throughout the last 12 months,” Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said during Santa Barbara County's March 9 Board of Supervisors meeting.
The first surge occurred in May 2020, and the second, much larger surge spanned from December 2020 to early this year.
“The peak occurred on Jan. 13, with 3,256 [active] cases,” Do-Reynoso said. “Currently we are on a downward trend at 272 active cases.”
Over the last two weeks, active cases in the community decreased by about 40 percent, hospitalizations by 38 percent, and ICU rates by 12 percent, she added. While death rates have increased by 7 percent, Do-Reynoso said this does not indicate worsening COVID-19 spread in the community.
“Death often occurs roughly two to eight weeks after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, so that’s why we’re seeing an upward trend,” she said.
Since April 4, 2020, when the county’s first COVID-19 death was reported, Santa Barbara County has lost 424 community members to COVID-19. As of March 9, more than 32,000 residents had tested positive for the virus throughout the course of the pandemic.
Santa Maria and Santa Barbara continue to have the most cases in the county, Do-Reynoso said. She also said the county’s cases have racial and ethnic disparities.
“Hispanic and Latinos have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County,” she said. “While Hispanic and Latinos make up 48 percent of the county population, this group makes up 73 percent of the cases for which ethnicity and race information is available.”
As the state continues its vaccine rollout, changes to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy
reopening system are forthcoming, and will likely accelerate Santa Barbara County’s move into the red tier.
The state recently established a vaccine equity group with about 400 zip codes in California that make up the lowest quartile of the Healthy Place Index, a tool the state is using to identify inequities. In an effort to vaccinate more people in those zip codes hit hardest by the pandemic, vaccine allotments to these areas are increasing, with the current goal to administer 2 million doses to the quartile, according to a state fact sheet
. As of March 9, Do-Reynoso said about 1.9 million doses had been administered in the vaccine equity quartile.
Once the state hits the 2 million mark, red tier metric requirements will change. Instead of a county needing between four and seven cases per 100,000 population to be in the red tier, it will need between four and 10. With Santa Barbara County’s adjusted case rate currently at 9.7, the county would qualify for the red tier as soon as the Blueprint changes.
“Given the volume of vaccines that is occuring statewide, it is conceivable that by Friday or early next week, we would be moved into the [red],” Do-Reynoso said. “So the bottom line is that this really allows Santa Barbara County to move into the red tier much quicker.”
Santa Barbara County’s weekly vaccine allotments are also improving with the addition of the newly approved, single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“This week, we did receive an increase of 39 percent in our allocation,” Do-Reynoso said. “Last week, we received 9,080 vaccines, and this past week we received 12,580 first doses, and that includes the new vaccine, Johnson & Johnson.”
Do-Reynoso ended her presentation by urging community members to get tested for the virus, even if they are not displaying symptoms.
“It remains critical that testing continues as a safety practice along with face covering and physical distancing,” Do-Reynoso said. “It is also critical to reopening our community, reopening our schools, reopening our local businesses, allowing even more sports to begin again, and to allow indoor dining, movies—a return to more normalcy.” Δ