SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - "Do not travel. Do not gather." Those are the direct words from the Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg within the last week. It comes as he sees a shocking number of COVID-19 cases in the care of medical workers.
He says even with the vaccine coming, the public needs to stay vigilant in the efforts to stop the virus spread.
"We have to stay creative," he said, with ways to interact.
Ansorg says the number of infectious cases since Christmas have doubled.
A visiting nurse from a Southern California hospital near Los Angeles, Paula Tible, was on a break in Santa Barbara and said she is seeing the impacts of the virus surge first-hand. The isolated patients, fighting for their lives, are unable to see their family members. The forecast for another surge is daunting at a time when beds, equipment and staffing are coming up short.
"My ER had a Covid unit and it is absolutely full. The ER is full half the patients I see is COVID positive," said Tible. "Stay home, I know you don't see it because you are not in the hospital but if you were in the hospital and did take the time to go to a hospital, it is as bad as people are saying it is. "
California health leaders say the spike in cases now is still linked to the Thanksgiving outbreak, where travel and gatherings increased across the region and throughout many areas of the country.
The full impacts of Christmas travel, also said to be a very busy time for those seeing family members and friends, will be felt later this month.
Health workers say it will likely be many months before the protective abilities of the vaccine will begin to have an impact on the virus.
The limited stay at home order remains in place, which means you can get out and recreate plus retail stores remain open. Restaurants have take out and delivery, but health officials say you need to stay creative with how you interact. They urge people not to have close contact with others who they have not been with in "their bubble". That would be people who are tested as COVID free, such as your close family members.
Health officials say community contact such as parties, and large group gatherings are a verified way the virus has spread.
A mother and her son out shopping locally have gone through COVID.
He had it and she kept her distance.
Lori Georgi said, her son "lives in another house down the street so I would bring some dinner so I would knock on the door, drop the dinner and run. "
For her son it was one of the worst feelings he had experienced.
" I had a lot of muscle aches and I was just fatigued overall it was definitely worse that the flu," said Michael Georgi. He and others he knows who had the virus are still uneasy. "One of my friends still doesn't have his smell or taste back and it's been months. It took mine probably like a month or so to get back and it still isn't the same ."
Watch tonight on NewsChannel 3-12, and KKFX Fox 11.
(More details, photos and video will be added here later today)