Total Cases Up, Hospitalizations Down in Santa Barbara County Santa Barbara County Health Department Director Van Do-Reynoso, Ph.D. For those who measure despair by numbers, this past week’s harvest of metrics has been a bounty of mixed messages. The total number of COVID-19 cases jumped to 284 on Monday, up from 152 the last day of March. As disturbing as that increase seems, the number of patients actually hospitalized has flattened out and actually dropped a little in the past week, as have the number of patients consigned to intensive care units (ICUs). At the start of last week, those numbers hovered consistently at 37 and 17, respectively. Then they peaked at 40 and 18 late in the week. They now sit at 40 and 15. These numbers — of hospitalizations and ICU patients — fall comfortably within the carrying capacity of the county’s five hospitals, which combined offer about 600 rooms and around 90 ICUs. Any comfort to be had, however, needs to be taken with more than a few cautionary grains of salt because of the large number of cases stemming from the Lompoc federal penitentiary. The Lompoc prison now accounts for 63 cases, with more likely on the way. Penal facilities rank with cruise ships as fecund breeding grounds for the new virus, and some county emergency planners have described the federal prison as a potential “black swan” event. If so, it remains to be seen what burden those infected inmates and guards will place on the county’s health-care institutions. But if Lompoc’s lock-up were removed from the equation, then the county’s numbers appear relatively rosy with only two deaths as yet attributed to the virus. All this good news has generated a burst of bristling impatience from some in the business community who are ready to proclaim victory in the war against COVID-19. They insist that the peak is already behind us and that the proverbial curve has been flattened not just in Santa Barbara but statewide. The time to begin returning to normal, they say, is now. Leading this charge are not just Joe Armendariz and Andy Caldwell — longtime conservative activists who’ve trumpeted pro-business agendas — but Noozhawk publisher Bill MacFadyen and columnist Brian Goebel, whose writing on the subject has blown up the online news site’s social media. Making the case against any change of action in front of the county supervisors this Monday was Van Do-Reynoso, head of the county’s Public Health Department, who predicted the number of new cases would “drastically increase if we let go of social distancing.” Do-Reynoso told the supervisors that new epidemiological models indicate a 96 percent infection rate from COVID-19 if the state retreats from social distancing. By contrast, she stated, if the current practices remain in place, the infection rate would hover at 30 percent. If even tougher restrictions are adopted, she said, it would drop to 5.5 percent. Any relaxation of social-distancing mandates, she argued, would lead to an increase in cases and […]

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