January was Santa Barbara County's deadliest month yet in the pandemic, with 131 individuals dying from COVID-19 in the first 31 days of the year, making up 45% of all coronavirus-related deaths since April 2020.

Public Health officials have described the rise in deaths, a growth of 81% over one month, as the final, horrible stage of the COVID-19 holiday surge, with the spike of deaths trailing weeks behind the initial surge in cases. 

Throughout California, this trend has caused deaths to remain high even after case and hospitalization rates have begun to slowly drop. 

In Santa Barbara County, the greatest loss has been among those in the 70-and-older age group, with several deaths also reported among those between the ages of 50 and 69, according to county public health data

The month with the next-highest number of COVID-19 deaths was August, when 33 deaths were confirmed toward the end of a smaller COVID-19 surge. 

While there is no way of knowing exactly when the surge in deaths will end, county officials have estimated that the high case rates, hospitalizations and deaths will be present in the county through at least February. 

Recently, the majority of individuals killed by COVID-19 have ended up dying in intensive care units, county Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said. 

Daily COVID-19 cases

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 424 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths from the illness over the Jan. 30 to 31 weekend, followed by 265 cases and seven deaths on Monday. 

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county now total 28,830, with 1,288 cases still active and contagious, according to county data. 

Of the 424 weekend cases, 192 were reported on Saturday, followed by 232 on Sunday, according to county data.

The nine deaths reported over the last three days include eight individuals over the age of 70 and one between the ages of 30 and 49, according to county data. One died in association with a COVID-19 outbreak at a congregate living facility. 

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Two were residents from Santa Maria, three from Santa Barbara, one from Orcutt, one from Goleta, one from the area of Goleta Valley and Gaviota, and one from the South County area of Summerland, Carpinteria and Montecito.

As of Monday, 298 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed in the county. 

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county have continued to steadily drop, with 170 individuals now hospitalized, including 47 in the intensive care unit, according to county data. 

In Santa Maria, 340 out of 9,895 total cases remain active and 122 individuals have died.

In Orcutt, 54 out of 1,516 total cases remain active. Nineteen individuals have died.

In Lompoc, 135 out of 2,984 total cases remain active. Twenty-five individuals have died.

In the Santa Ynez Valley area of Solvang, Buellton, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez and Ballard, 35 out of 833 total cases remain active and 14 individuals have died.

In the North County area of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe, 42 out of 1,111 total cases remain active and sixteen individuals have died. 

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department reported 229 new COVID-19 cases over the Jan. 30 to 31 weekend, followed by 53 additional cases and nine deaths on Monday. 

The county's total number of confirmed cases is now 17,887, with 1,236 cases still active and contagious, according to county public health data

The nine additional deaths were all of residents between the ages of 60 and 100, according to county public health spokeswoman Michelle Shoresman. Confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the county now total 177. 

Coronavirus: Impact, response to COVID-19 on the Central Coast

We are working hard to get answers about the impact and reaction to the coronavirus in Santa Barbara County, this is a collection of those stories.


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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