As of 2:40 p.m. Monday, 128 coronavirus tests had been performed within Santa Barbara County; 31 have come back negative, one has come back positive and there are 96 tests pending results, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso, who spoke at a press conference Monday evening.
Public Health Department officials also announced Tuesday morning that a second person within the county has been diagnosed with the virus, an individual in their 50s who had previous contact with another person who tested positive. This individual does not have underlying health conditions.
This person has no history of travel within or outside the United States, but did have contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
The five UCSB students under mandatory quarantine have all been tested for the coronavirus and results will be known as late as Wednesday, according to Paige Batson, SBC Public Health Department deputy director of community health.
During the press conference, Do-Reynoso and Batson spoke alongside 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart, Stewart W. Comer, director of SBC Public Health Microbiology Laboratory, and Henning Ansorg, SBC public health officer in the Public Health Department, to elaborate on how the county is responding to the pandemic.
“We would like to have everyone tested, but unfortunately, at the moment, we just cannot afford it. I’m looking forward to the next week or 10 days when we have a much better capability [for testing],” Ansorg said. “I urge people to understand that this is not in our hands. Nationwide, there are low shortages of important ingredients in these test kits.”
Ansorg explained that the county has created a priority tier system for those who need to be currently tested.
In Tier 1 are the “most vulnerable,” such as elderly individuals in senior residential facilities and nursing homes, as well as health care workers such as doctors and nurses, whose services are “critical.”
Tier 2 is composed of severely ill people, cases “where it would make a big difference if they are diagnosed early.” In Tier 3, the lowest category, are people who are “very mildly ill.” Those classified in Tier 3 should isolate themselves until they are fever free for three days, Ansorg said.
Panel members noted they’ve seen a number of questions from community members about how the virus is spread; Batson explained that the coronavirus is transmitted “via droplet.”
“[The coronavirus is] unlike other airborne diseases such as measles and tuberculosis that don’t weigh as much … Whenever someone coughs, the droplet can typically only go three feet,” Batson said.
“That is one of the reasons we are encouraging social distancing because if you stay away from someone who is coughing and the droplet can only go three feet, then it is unlikely you would inhale the infectious droplet.”
She added that the virus can also be transmitted by touching surfaces, which is why it is important for individuals to continually disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs.
Ansorg said that while currently the county has “more than enough” collection kits to be able to test symptomatic patients, more test kits will be available as “more labs are coming online.”
Comer clarified that between the Cottage Hospital system and private offices, there are over 1,700 coronavirus testing kits. Van Do-Reynoso said that “to the best of our knowledge, [getting tested] is very affordable because it is free. There is no cost-sharing.”
“If you feel like you’re coming down with a sore throat, nasal congestion, a cough, a fever, please consider yourself a potential case. I don’t mean this in order to make people afraid, but take this seriously,” Ansong said. “Do not go to work. Do not mingle with people. Stay isolated and take care of yourself.”
Updated [March 17, 2:56 p.m.]