SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Medical Director of Infection Prevention & Control for Cottage Health delivered an urgent message to the Santa Barbara County community ahead of Fourth of July weekend, as local coronavirus cases rise.
Dr. David Fisk, who is an infectious disease physician for Cottage Health and Sansum Clinic, says the county is seeing a "very dramatic increase" in COVID-19 circulating in the community.
“As a physician and en epidemiologist who deals with infections, transmissible, communicable disease, I’m extremely concerned,” Dr. Fisk said Thursday. “This is a time where the health of our community is at risk.
“There is much more risk of acquiring this virus, as of today, than there has been at any point since the onset of this epidemic in Santa Barbara. And we anticipate that risk to increase in the coming weeks… So we strongly encourage people to take social distancing very, very seriously at this time.”
Dr. Fisk says hospital bed capacity at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is "very good" at this time, and that the hospital is not currently seeing supply shortages as it did this spring. Dr. Fisk also says, however, that the current spike in cases and the contagious nature of the virus make it "conceivable" that local hospitals could be overrun with COVID-19 patients at some point.
Dr. Fisk says physical distancing is absolutely crucial, as is mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing. He urges the community to be "very proactive."
"The medical evidence for the effectiveness of mask-wearing and reduction of COVID transmission has increased, so now there's no question whatsoever that masks can protect people from COVID but also protect the loved ones around them and people they come in contact with," he said. "Because one of the main functions of our wearing masks is to reduce our shedding of virus and transmission of it from us to another person.
"So if we wear a mask, it protects those of us in our community who have increased health risk, weakened immune systems, but also provides us some level of protection."
Dr. Fisk says areas like beaches can promote social activity and gathering, but that the real risk this weekend is gatherings of people anywhere.
“To me, it’s not so much what’s open and what’s closed, as what actions individuals take,” Dr. Fisk said. “And the main message people need to take is: do not get together in groups. And do not get together with people who do not live in your household if you cannot stay more than six feet away from them.”
Dr. Fisk says if Fourth of July weekend leads to an increase in coronavirus cases, those numbers would begin to show up late next week and hospitalizations would increase the week after that.