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Supervisors get answers to COVID-19 deaths, tests

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Board of Supervisors meeting of December 8, 2020. You can watch previous Board of Supervisors meetings on the county's YouTube page.

Hospital statistics on COVID-19 patients and answers to some questions about causes of death and testing numbers were delivered Dec. 8 in a report to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

One of the questions posed at a previous board meeting was how many death certificates list only COVID-19 as the cause compared to death certificates with comorbidities also listed along with the virus.

As of Dec. 8, the county had 138 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Of those, 24 death certificates, or 17%, listed the virus as the only cause of death, while 114, or 83%, also listed comorbidities, said Van Do-Reynoso, director of the County Public Health Department.

Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and/or obesity were listed as comorbidities on 53 death certificates, and 61 had a variety of other causes listed along with COVID-19, she said.

By Dec. 9, the death toll had risen to 139, with the latest death an individual over age 70 from Orcutt who had no comorbidities.

The report on hospital data showed that from March through October, a total of 9,079 COVID-19 cases were reported and 922 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at Lompoc Valley Medical Center, Marian Regional Medical Center and Cottage Health hospitals.

Ethnic impacts of COVID-19

Disparities in the COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among various ethnicities in Santa Barbara County, as shown in charts two, three and four, respectively, are evident when compared to the percentage of those ethnicities in the county's total population, as shown in chart one at left.

“Note there are individuals with more than one hospital stay,” Do-Reynoso told supervisors.

Half of all those hospitalized were more than 50 years old, and people over age 70 accounted for 64% of deaths.

“The older age groups are more likely to have chronic conditions,” Do-Reynoso added.

More than half of those hospitalized had at least one comorbidity, and 11.7% had three or more.

The two most common comorbidities were Type 2 diabetes at 30.8% and obesity at 17.8%, followed by serious heart disease at 14.4% and chronic kidney disease at 11.3%.

COVID-19 hospital comorbidities

The percentages of people hospitalized in Santa Barbara County for COVID-19 with no comorbidities, or underlying health conditions, and those with one, two or three comorbidities are shown in the top chart, while the prevalence of which comorbidities they have are shown in the bottom chart, both supplied by the County Public Health Department.

Board Chairman and 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart interpreted the comorbidity data in a different way.

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“The other way to state that half have more than one comorbidity is that [almost] half have no comorbidity,” Hart said.

More than 58% of patients were hospitalized for five days or less, but 17.4% were in the hospital for six to 10 days and 12% were hospitalized for 21 days or more.

“The data continue to show the most cases are among working age of adults,” Do-Reynoso said, with the 30-to-49 age group accounting for 34% of the cases.

But the data also continued to show a disparity based on ethnicity.

“COVID has disproportionately affected people of color,” she said.

While Hispanics and Latinos make up 48% of the county’s population, they accounted for 61% of the COVID-19 cases, 71% of those hospitalized and 56% of the deaths.

Another question posed by the board was how many COVID-19 tests are conducted per day, and Do-Reynoso directed supervisors to the Public Health Department’s coronavirus information website at

The daily number of tests can be found in a bar graph by clicking on the “Community Data Dashboard,” then the “Status” tab, then the “Daily Testing” tab on the “Community Test Positivity Rate” graph at lower right.

Sliding the cursor over the bars will bring up the date and the number of negative tests in the yellow portion of the bars and the date and number of positive tests in the red portion.

“If you add those up, you’ll have the number of tests per day,” Do-Reynoso said.

The graph Wednesday showed the daily number of test so far peaked at 3,407 on Dec. 1.

Series: Recent coverage of Santa Barbara County supervisors

Read this collection of stories on Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors from the past year. Read all of our coverage of county government online.

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