By Raiza Giorgi


Santa Barbara County officials are working with the state to get a better understanding of how the framework would rolled out for the next phase after stay at home orders are lifted. 

“I was pleased to hear Gov. Newsom say several times he sees a ray of optimism,” said Gregg Hart, Santa Barbara County Supervisor. 

Hart added that because of social distancing the curve has bent and models are changing, and the next phase is being guided by science and public health, not politics or ideology. 

“I also wasn’t to say thank you to our local journalists for what they do on sharing the health of our community, in a timely and accurate manner. Their work is critical to protecting our community as they broadcast updates and raising awareness and asking important questions. It’s not always easy to answer them, but they help us look at the issues we face and help us better understand the concerns of the community,” Hart said. 

“If you value local journalism please consider subscribing or financially supporting them any ways. We all rely on them to keep informed,”. 

Next Dr. Henning Ansorg gave the update on the 29 new cases of COVID-19, with 13 of those confirmed at the federal prison in Lompoc. 

Of the 313 cases, 124 are fully recovered, leaving 189 active cases. 

Of those active cases, 133 are recovering at home; 40 are in the hospital and 15 in the ICU. 

“The number of casein the hospital and ICU remain stable and slightly decreasing, and once our current infections and hospitals numbers decline for several weeks, then will look at the six parameters for the gradual reopening of non essential businesses,” Ansorg said.

He elaborated on the outbreak at the prison saying they have intensified cooperation with the Infectious Disease Control and testing prison staff to limit further spread.  They are getting the field hospital set up as to not overwhelm the hospitals, and technical support to identify and quarantine contacts to further reduce spread. 

“The timing of reopening will follow the states guidelines and be tailored to our local needs, however we will need to monitor local disease cases closely,” Ansorg said. 

Dr. Stewart Comer said the county has done more than 3,200 tests and the testing rate is about 0.77 percent which is just under the national average of 0.87 percent of the population. The positivity rate is at 8.5 – 8.7, which is slightly up because of the outbreak at the prison. 

“We are grateful for the steady hospital rate and the testing results is vastly improved since the beginning. We were sending tests out of the state before, and now the rapid test is done and takes less than 12 hours,” Comer said. 

He added that Marian Medical and Cottage Health have the rapid rates back in less than three hours, which is effective for the Tier 1 category. 

Comer said that testing antibodies will be effective once that is made widely available. 

“Stanford is working and should have that test soon,” Comer said. 

Legal Aid was also at the press briefing Tuesday, with Executive Director Jennifer Smith giving an update they are still available for consultations and anyone that has been served with an eviction or foreclosure should contact them for legal assistance. 

The Star asked if evictions of commercial entities that were started way before the COVID-19 situation, and had no relevance to the disease, were still being enforced. Smith stated that the moratorium at the state level only specified residential evictions, and since the courts are currently closed no eviction cases are being handled.

The City of Solvang has implemented a moratorium for residential and commercial evictions, for failure to pay rents as a result of COVID-19.

Residents and businesses have until April 21 to notify landlords they intend to take advantage of the program and until May 21 to notify of May rent deferrals. As the ordinance expires, tenants would be expected to return to paying rents as well as make payments to cover deferred rents through the next six months.

When the press started questioning, Noozhawk’s Tom Bolton asked if the homeless and those recently released from prison and the jails had some place to shelter. 

Ansorg said they are working with probation officers who are getting resources available for the low-level offenders. Hart added that no one with domestic violence or violence charges are being released, and those who are being released are screened to evaluate the appropriateness of early release. 

The Star asked if the hospitals are using high Vitamin C or Zinc doses to help with those with severe cases as there have been media reports showing this might be effective in helping symptoms. Ansorg said he hasn’t seen that being implemented locally, but would look into it. 

The Star asked Comer about drawing blood now and saving for antibody testing once available, as many people have reached out to the Star saying they are highly certain they had COVID-19 in December and January, but only antibody testing will tell. 

“If people were exposed it would hold for 12 – 13 months, and testing at a later date would still be able to tell us,” Comer said.