By Raiza Giorgi
It has been 18 days since the Governor of California Gavin Newsom has issued the Stay at Home orders, asking people to only go out for essentials such as groceries, and local public health officials say they are confident this has been slowing the rate of infection.
Unfortunately a second person has succumbed to complications after contracting COVID-19, health officials said in their press briefing Monday afternoon. They said that since Saturday there have been an additional 18 cases, totaling 192. No new cases have been reported in the Santa Ynez Valley since last week, and holds at five, according to the numbers released Monday.
“We offer our condolences to this person’s family and friends,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, public health officer for Santa Barbara County.
Ansorg said 110 of the cases are recovering at home; 42 have fully recovered; 34 are in the hospital with 19 of those in the ICU and the two deaths. Five of the cases are in the Santa Ynez Valley, according to the public health website.
“Of the 192 cases, 75 of those are female and 116 male, with one unknown,” said Van Do-Reynoso, PhD. Director of Santa Barbara Public Health. “Local trends are also starting to emerge in the data and we hope to get more understanding of the many factors of spread in this viral illness,”.
Do-Reynoso said they will be sharing findings as they study the data. She added there was an outbreak at the federal prison in Lompoc with 28 testing positive.
Turnaround times for results are also coming back faster in many cases in less than a day, according to Stewart Comer M.D., Lab Director for Santa Barbara County.
“It’s encouraging news also that we are seeing a 6 – 8 percent positivity rate, which I believe is a tribute to Dr. Ansorg’s guidelines for social distancing,” Comer said.
During the question portion of the briefing when asked if there were any similarities in the the two that passed away, the only answers Ansorg could release was that they were both in their mid-60’s and both had underlying conditions.
The Star asked if health officials were certain of the ‘start date’ back in February as international media and health organizations are reporting the start date is uncertain since they are tracing it back to mid-November in China, and there were no travel restrictions then.
There are a lot of international travelers that come to the Central Coast and if they were asymptotic could COVID-19 have been here earlier than the first confirmed case, questioned Raiza Giorgi, publisher of the Star.
“There’s no way to know for sure until we started doing testing specific for the novel coronavirus. The next phase of testing heavily determines that is the serology test. The FDA has 22 approved tests with 21 detecting the molecular presence of the virus and one test for serology,” Comer said.
He added Stanford University is trying to determine performance characteristics with identify the antibody or immunoglobulin for COVID-19.
“Those tests are not strong enough yet as it still picks up the more common coronavirus, but there certainly are those discussions happening,” Comer said.
Noozhawk’s Tom Bolton asked how many are tested per day in the county, and Comer said they are doing about 80-90 tests per day. They are working with the State on how they implement large population testing, as there are a lot of people asymptomatic unaware of their spread.
“We have to answer a lot of questions first on how to get this accomplished, because if we test a patient today, who is to say they won’t get it in four days or five days from now,” Comer said.
Those how want more information on the areas where COVID-19 have been identified can visit https://publichealthsbc.org. There are also new guidelines and restrictions for restaurant/food service workers, that include they all must wear masks while working with food.