Having previously examined the downward bend in California’s statewide hospital admissions curve, I decided to perform a similar analysis for my community – Santa Barbara County. The County recorded its first hospital admission much later in the pandemic than many other parts of the State. As a result, the data cover the period of March 25th to the present.
The COVID-19 numbers in Santa Barbara are very small when compared to the State data. In particular, Santa Barbara has only 2 COVID-19 fatalities, which means that this data cannot be used to assess the trajectory of the virus, except to note that that there certainly has not been a surge or spike in fatalities since the pandemic arrived in our County.
We now have more than two weeks of hospitalization data for the County. This is the best available data for assessing the trajectory of the virus in Santa Barbara, and it is the most relevant for policy makers given that the stated rationale for the extraordinary stay at home order was to ensure COVID-19 hospital admissions would not exceed our healthcare capacity. Here is the Santa Barbara County Curve:
Three very important notes regarding the interpretation of this chart:
First, I based the uncontrolled spread curve on the trajectory of COVID-19 in Italy (as I have done in all my prior analyses).
Second, the County reports net hospitalizations at the end of each day (i.e., the number of people currently in the hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19 symptoms). We know this because the number moves up and down during the reporting period. To the County’s credit, reporting daily net hospitalizations is the most accurate way to report such data because: (1) if the curve is flat, it means that daily admissions equal daily discharges; and (2) if the curve is bent downwards, it means that daily admissions are less than daily discharges.
Third, roughly 25% of the County’s current hospitalizations are the result of infections originating in the Lompoc Federal Prison. Although these cases are impacting County healthcare resources, they should not be treated as evidence of spread in our larger community in my view. Instead, this is an isolated outbreak that can be stemmed through comprehensive quarantining strategies.
What can we learn from the County hospitalization data?
First, Santa Barbara County has not experienced an uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.
Second, Santa Barbara County’s hospitalization curve has been flat during the entire pandemic (even when including Lompoc prisoner admissions). It’s ICU bed use has been flat as well – mirroring the .4 ICU bed to 1 hospital bed ratio for confirmed cases statewide. As a result, we currently have substantial unused healthcare capacity.
Third, Santa Barbara County has not experienced any “surge” or “spike” in hospitalizations, and for reasons I have explained previously, I do not foresee one while the stay at home order remains in place.
Like California as a whole, I believe the numbers demonstrate that Santa Barbara is on track to begin slowly and sensibly transitioning to a new normal by May 1st. I hope we are empowered to do so.
Be safe. Be well.