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Santa Barbara County Public Health hosts virtual COVID-19 update before Christmas

75th COVID-19 virtual conference puts the focus on ICU capacity, vaccines, and mental health
SB County Public Health Meeting COVID-19
Tracy Lehr / Newschannel 3

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -- Santa Barbara County Public Health leaders rescheduled Friday's virtual press conference to Tuesday to make sure people get the information they need before Christmas.

Supervisor Gregg Hart served as moderator.

Panelists included Public Health Officer Henning Ansorg, M.D., and Suzanne Grimmesey from the Department of Behavioral Health.

Dr. Ansorg said vaccines offer a glimmer of hope.

Since frontline health workers and people in care facilities are being vaccinated first, others with lung conditions or a cancer history should contact their primary care physicians to ask about getting vaccinated in 2021.

Dr. Henning Ansorg said the numbers are going the wrong way.

"We now have 10-times as many currently infectious people in the county compared to early November."

He blamed mingling and mixing during Thanksgiving when people unknowingly spread the virus.

Dr. Ansorg said the Intensive Care Unit capacity is not about furniture.

"Calling an ICU bed a bed is a misnomer, it's the staffed ability to take care of an ICU person."

There have been 150 deahts. The last two Covid-related deaths did not involve underlying conditions, but he said that should not be the focus.

Dr. Ansorg said, "Many people just dismiss a death if they hear, well, that person had an underlying condition, and I think that is very unreasonable, because we just recently had the death of a 16-year-old and it's just tragic."

He said a more contagious strain of the virus has not made its way to United States yet but probably will.

Mental health is also a major concern as the new stay-at-home order enters it third week.

Now is a good time to check on friends and family on Zoom or by phone if it can't be done safely in person.

Suzanne Grimmessy said, "It's a myth that asking a person directly about self harm or suicide can create a risk. "

She said people should listen without trying to fix anything.

She suggested saying, "I'm concerned about you, I want to make sure you're doing okay." She called it a signal to the person that someone really cares.

Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart urged people to avoid gathering over the holidays.

"The state is considering lengthening the stay at home because the infection curve has not been flat, " said Hart.

The decision will be made soon.

"State health officials will make a decision on whether to lengthen the Southern Cal order this weekend or early next week."

He also said the state will not consider putting Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties into a separate region until after the stay-at-home order is no longer needed to bring the numbers down.

Supervisor Hart said this is the 75th update the county has had and in 2021 public health leaders will moderate the updates. The next scheduled update will be Tuesday Jan. 5, followed by updates every Friday unless more are needed.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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