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Coronavirus cases hold at 18 in Santa Barbara County, increase to 33 in SLO County
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Coronavirus cases hold at 18 in Santa Barbara County, increase to 33 in SLO County

From the March 23 recap: Santa Maria news you may have missed today series

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases remains at 18 in Santa Barbara County, with San Luis Obispo County confirming six new cases for a total of 33, public health officials from both counties said at press conferences on Monday. 

Although the number of confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County has not increased since Sunday, Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said the public should be aware that community transmission is still very active and encouraged them to continue staying home and practicing social distancing. 

"These cases have occurred in nearly every region in the county. Our tests have confirmed that we indeed have community spread," Ansorg said. 

As far as testing, Ansorg said there are around 500 tests requested by health care professionals being conducted at private labs such as Sonic Healthcare, but that the county is not informed of the exact number.

Ansorg declined to comment about whether any cases in Santa Barbara County had resulted in hospitalization, citing privacy issues. 

San Luis Obispo County officials said one of the 33 confirmed case in that county has resulted in hospitalization, three previously confirmed cases have recovered, and the rest are recovering at home.

Jan Koegler, Santa Barbara County disaster preparedness manager, said many county hospitals are still experiencing shortages of gowns, gloves and other supplies, and that the county is working with various agencies to gather and spread essential items evenly among county medical centers. 

"We’ve been seeing the reuse of masks and other things that we don't want when we care for patients," Koegler said. 

She added that the community, however, has been very generous in donating medical supplies to hospitals that need it, and that Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital is serving as a drop-off center for such supplies.

Koegler clarified that cloth masks are not needed at this time, and that the county supply of N95 masks is sufficient for the time being. 

In preparation for a surge in cases, hospitals are also submitting plans to the Public Health Department regarding their ability to expand their bed capacity, as well as plans to expand to additional space outside of their hospital facilities. 

The topic was also discussed by San Luis Obispo County officials, who said they are considering the option of opening remote hospital facilities in locations throughout the city, such as the Cal Poly Recreation Center. 

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley spoke at the county press conference about the consequences of price gouging by local businesses during a state of emergency.

Dudley said the raising of prices on products by more than 10%, either by businesses or suppliers, after an emergency declaration is against the law, and can be charged as a criminal or civil case depending on the severity. 

She added that there are two local businesses in the county being investigated for price gouging, with a third case potentially being opened soon.

"If you believe a business is engaging in price gouging, please contact the district attorney's office," she said.

Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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