By Raiza Giorgi
The number of COVID-19 cases slightly increased to 373 as of Friday evening, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health officials.
“Blood donations have dwindled locally and nationally. The need is constant as just one donation can save up to three lives,” said Supervisor Gregg Hart.
He added that the Red Cross has safe systems in place and those interested should contact www.RedCross.org or call 805-687-1331 to make an appointment for blood draw.
“I also want to highlight the incredible work of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network as wildlife hasn’t gotten the memo of the new protocols. This is the start of baby season, where volunteers work around the close for ensuring nutrition and round-the-clock care,” Hart said.
People who want to donate or volunteer for things that can be done at home should call 805-681-1080 or visit www.sbwcn.org.
Of the new cases, six are related to the outbreak at the federal prison in Lompoc, said Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s public health director.
There are 157 people recovering at home; 43 in the hospital with 14 of those in the ICU and 152 have fully recovered at home. The age range of the new cases is from younger than 17 to older than 70 years old, officials reported.
On the county’s COVID-19 page they list the areas where new cases are reported with a majority of the cases from the North County. Eight cases are in Lompoc; four in Santa Maria; three in Orcutt; one in Sisquoc/Casmalia/Cuyama; and one in south county in unincorporated area of Goleta. There still remains only five confirmed cases in Santa Ynez Valley.
Do-Reynoso said public health is finalizing data findings from the current confirmed cases and will be making a report to the Board of Supervisor’s at the next meeting on Tuesday, April 21.
“I want to thank all the community members that are remembering to grab a face covering and being mindful of social distancing,” she said.
Nick Clay who is the EMT-P Director SBC EMS Agency, and coordinating with the Bureau of Prisons on the outbreak gave an update of their approach to limit the spread.
They are monitoring staff who are symptomatic; doing disease management and modeling which is helping track the outbreak and hoping to flatten the curve; as well as working with prison management to get the onsite facility set up to reduce movement of inmates and burden on the hospitals.
“The hope is the Bureau of Prisons should have it set up in the immediate future,” Clay said.
When questioned by local media on the timing of the onsite facility, he wasn’t sure how soon. Media also questioned why the outbreak is still rising, and he responded because the prison doesn’t have adequate social distancing capabilities as much of the prison is unable to separate inmates effectively.
Noozhawk’s Tom Bolton asked if staff were following appropriate precautions of masks and gloves, and cleaning supplied were not adequate, as they have heard those comments from inmates families reaching out to them.
“During our meetings we are all wearing masks and PPE and masks are being handed to inmates and staff from what we ascertained,” Clay said.
Bolton asked on the third death reported Thursday, April 16, if the hospice patient passed away was classified as dying from being hastened by COVID-19 or just tested positive.
“He tested positive,” Do-Reynoso said. She elaborated she wasn’t able to give any other information on the patient.
“It’s important to know this though,” Bolton said.
The county announced Friday evening that a 40-year-old jail inmate tested positive for the virus and has been incarcerated since April 1. After confirming he had a fever, the inmate was put in a negative pressure room and placed in quarantine. His results came back Thursday as positive for COVID-19.
In addition, since Gov. Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020, the inmate population in the Jail has been reduced from 906 to 582. The Sheriff’s Office, State Courts, Probation Department, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, and Behavioral Wellness Department have collaborated on identifying and releasing a number of low-risk inmates accused of lower-level crimes. The Sheriff’s Office has also released other inmates per the Judicial Council of California’s emergency order that reduced bail on many felony and most misdemeanor offenses to $0 during and for 90 days following the ending of the emergency order.
As guidelines have bene released by the federal and state level for opening the country back up; media asked what level would testing be sufficient to open the county.
“By the end of April in several weeks we expect five full testing capabilities in the county which I am excited about and a great start to getting towards opening, but even then public health are still pursuing other opportunities with private/public partnerships to increase testing,” Do-Reynoso said.
With testing also comes the ability to do contact tracing and isolating new cases immediately, she added.