SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The next week or two will be critical in determining the Thanksgiving holiday's effect on Santa Barbara County's COVID-19 spread.
Nick Clay, Santa Barbara County Public Health's Emergency Medical Services Agency Director, says that the county's three state-run testing sites have been busy in the days following Thanksgiving, but more availability has opened up for later this week.
Clay says by late this week or this weekend, it should become clearer if post-holiday testing does indeed slow down, or if it accelerates as it did during the month of November.
Public Health experts expect an increase in positive tests over the next two weeks as a result of Thanksgiving gatherings, and an increase in hospitalizations two weeks afterward.
That timeline would make Christmas another very risk time to gather in-person with loved ones, as was Public Health's message before Thanksgiving weekend.
“I don’t see us changing that guidance,” Clay said on Wednesday. “In fact, I see that guidance probably getting a little more loud, and a little more vocal and a little more explicit in terms of ‘How do we celebrate differently?’ If there is a Thanksgiving surge—time will tell—maybe we can use that information to help folks really see the reality of that behavior: that gathering, even in small doses, with folks outside your immediate household, has an impact, it has an effect.”
Sansum Clinic Medical Director Dr. Majorie Newman shared testing data with NewsChannel 3, showing the last three weeks of November were the clinic's busiest testing weeks since the pandemic began.
Positivity rates during that time ranged from 3.39% to 6.27%, the highest rates since early September.