Santa Barbara County Public Health officials announced the COVID-19-related death of a Lompoc resident on Tuesday, saying only that the person was in their 70s.
They also reported 28 new cases of COVID-19, including eight at the Lompoc federal correctional complex, 16 in Santa Maria, two in the unincorporated North County and two in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara County’s hospitalization numbers are stable, but cases are disproportionately increasing in Santa Maria, and health officials say they don’t know why.
The Public Health Department developed a more detailed dashboard with local COVID-19 case information on its website, including hospitalization trends, testing, and geographical breakdowns of new cases.
Local COVID-19 testing has a 3-percent positive rate right now, which is considered a good sign, but the county needs to increase the number of tests being administered, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said Tuesday.
She updated the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on how well the region is meeting state reopening criteria, and noted that the testing capacity and number of new reported cases don’t hit the mark.
Do-Reynoso said she believes some commercial labs are under reporting total test results, and the county may be meeting the standard of 675 tests per day.
There will be more outreach to labs and healthcare providers to make sure negative test results are reported as well as positive ones, she said.
The county also exceeds the state standard for the number of new cases reported in a two-week period, with 180 reported over the past two weeks, not counting inmate cases at the Lompoc federal correctional complex.
However, the California Department of Public Health said Santa Barbara County will not be placed on the monitored list – which could affect reopening – unless the test positivity rate rises above 8 percent, in combination with excess new cases, Do-Reynoso said.
As of Tuesday, there have been 15 COVID-19 deaths in Santa Barbara County, including three Lompoc residents; three Santa Maria residents; two Goleta residents, one Santa Barbara resident; one Goleta Valley resident; one unincorporated North County resident; and four men who were inmates at the Lompoc federal correctional complex, where a novel coronavirus outbreak has infected hundreds of people.
Public Health officials have been separating so-called community cases from prison-related cases in its case reports, including hospitalizations.
It still has to report totals to the state, which discloses how many inmates have been patients in local hospitals.
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people of color, including locally.
While the Public Health Department has not released demographic information since April, at the time, Hispanic residents were overrepresented in confirmed COVID-19 cases, relative to the county population.
Rev. Dr. David Moore, Jr., lead pastor of New Covenant Worship Center in Santa Barbara, addressed this disparity in remarks at a press briefing on Friday.
“The everydayness of the African American struggle around the country and here in Santa Barbara as well is commonly overlooked,” he said.
“African American national religious leaders are urging caution, because we are more susceptible to the novel coronavirus due to the preexisting conditions of forced impoverishment related to redlining, hiring and firing practices, high-density housing and lack of healthcare access, which all lead to higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity. These factors have caused us to die from the pandemic more than most.”
Because of that, he said, he and others may be slow to open up places of worship, for the safety of their congregations.
In the meantime, they livestream services and meet via video chat.
“We recognize together that our church has never closed, only our building has closed,” Moore said.
“We have watched armed crowds crowd government centers in some places, and we are appalled and have to ask, do they know or do they care what is happening to their African Americana neighbors disproportionately represented as essential workers?”