Effects of COVID-19 on Santa Barbara

Lawrence Eady, Staff Writer

The first COVID-19-related death in Santa Barbara County has been confirmed. Officials have not released a great deal of information about the patient, but this event may serve as an awakening to many residents in the county who might have felt distant from the virus, which has now hit home.

According to Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s public health officer, the patient was in his 60s and had underlying health problems when he was admitted to Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria. He had been on a ventilator in the intensive care unit when he died. As of Saturday, a total of 1,358 tests have been administered throughout the county to test for COVID-19, with 168 confirmed positive. Of these positive tests: 101 people are recovering at home, 38 have fully recovered and 26 are recovering in a hospital — 17 of whom are in an intensive care unit, two are pending an update on their status, and one individual has died. From March 29 to April 4, 100 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in the county, with an average of 17 new cases confirmed each day.

In the case of a nationwide pandemic, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, divides time into six intervals in order to describe the pandemic’s progression, which it calls the Pandemic Interval Framework. The interval that the nation is in right now is the “acceleration” phase of a pandemic. While the name does give a rather straightforward definition, the CDC’s official wording describes the phase we are in as: “the upward epidemiological curve as the new virus infects susceptible people.”

In the acceleration phase, it is standard practice for the CDC to encourage the nation to limit social activity through the closure of non-essential community gatherings and facilities, which is the world many of us have been living in for the past couple of weeks. Santa Barbara officials have taken heed of the CDC’s warnings as well as those of the county’s Public Health Department, or PHD.

Many public areas in Santa Barbara have already been shut down, including playground and sport courts such as for tennis and volleyball. As of April 3, the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department added picnic areas to the list, and have enforced a new policy restricting group activities taking place in any city park, even amongst people who already live together. All this has been done to slow the spread that has been exponentially increasing in our city.

Slightly more close to home, Westmont has worked alongside Public Health standards to decrease the risk of infecting students who have been approved to remain in Westmont housing, both on- and off-campus. Over the last couple of weeks, some students living in Ocean View apartments were forced into isolated quarantine after exposure to a student who was thought to have contracted the virus. The student has since been confirmed to have not had COVID-19, but due to Westmont’s quick action, the spread would have been minimized even if they had.

For those that remain in Westmont housing, SBPHD has released information on their website regarding all things surrounding the virus. Of the vital material listed, the Public Health Department encourages anyone experiencing a fever of 100.4 or greater, a new cough, or shortness and/or pain in breath, to contact their health provider to see if they are eligible to take a test. For those that have not experienced any of these symptoms, the PHD explained that they are not eligible for testing and should avoid going to any health facility to inquire about testing. 

At this point in time, while testing is limited, it must be used sparingly for those that are thought to need it. According to the Director of Public Health Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the county’s COVID-19 peak is projected to range from April 26 to July 28.