SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said he heard from the state's Public Health Department about looming regional lockdowns one day before Gov. Gavin Newsom announced them publicly last Thursday.
Hours after the public learned of the impending order, we spoke to Dr. Ansorg. He acknowledged that the shutdown of gatherings, travel and several business sectors will be difficult, but that the order is also critical for people to follow in order to slow the rampant spread of the virus.
“It’s a drastic measure, but I think the nature of this is if you wait too long, it’s useless,” he said last Thursday. “That’s the thing. So you have to do it a little bit sooner rather than too late.”
Santa Barbara County is grouped with the rest of Southern California despite better COVID case rates than other included counties, but Ansorg calls the regional approach "reasonable," citing "mobility" between those counties and shared hospital resources.
Recently, Santa Barbara County took in two intensive care unit patients from Imperial County, where space is limited.
Ansorg says Public Health's projections show that without a lockdown, Santa Barbara County would fall below 15 percent ICU capacity on its own in the coming weeks, which would meet the lockdown criteria now imposed by the state.
As of Monday, Santa Barbara County has 54 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals, more than five times as many as it did one month ago.
Ansorg hopes the new shutdown can reduce COVID case rates by 30 percent, and that ICU capacity could improve enough to lift the order after only three weeks.
“I think it is actually possible,” he said. “It depends a lot on how seriously people take this… The more people adhere to it, the faster we will get there. And three weeks can make a heck of a difference.”
The upcoming holidays will be a challenge, Ansorg says. He encourages people not to travel or gather, even outdoors.
“No weekend trips up and down the coast,” he said. “And no mixing and mingling. No backyard parties and things like that. That is when you really have an effect on the virus transmission.”