SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- 1,253 new COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday in Santa Barbara County. That easily set a county single-day record. However, higher daily cases are expected.
Cottage Health's infectious disease specialist, Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, said “Our case counts are likely hundreds per day higher than we’re actually seeing in the case counts.”
This week Santa Barbara County has the highest 7-day average at 760 new cases per day and the highest test positivity rate of more than 21%.
“COVID-19 is causing more disease more quickly in our community right now than it ever has before," said Dr. Fitzgibbons. "And the trajectory is just a remarkable fast acceleration in case counts.”
Early indications show Santa Barbara County is following South Africa's trajectory with the Omicron variant.
If that holds, Dr. Fitzgibbons is preparing for another three weeks of similar to higher case counts.
“We hit what might feel like and looks like a bit of plateau," said Dr. Fitzgibbons. "But that, unfortunately, may be related to testing capacity challenges. I’m hopeful that’s not the case. But I do think that we should anticipate on going very very very high case rates for the near future.”
And it's putting a strain on essential workers.
“The staffing shortage, the impact that COVID has across the community is certainly felt here in the hospital amongst our workforce,” said Dr. Fitzgibbons.
So far hospitalizations are staying relatively low compared to this time last year. At Cottage 37 people are hospitalized with COVID, with three in the intensive care unit. But that could change.
“I think there is some reason for optimism," said Dr. Fitzgibbons. "Omicron itself may be less likely to cause severe disease and critical illness. But what worries me is even a very very small fraction of a suddenly huge number could be a very big number.”
Dr. Fitzgibbons encourages those who feel sick to stay home and isolate themselves for 10 days. And use an antigen at-home test kit to get a negative test before rejoining the community.