#SBC reporting 22 new confirmed cases of #COVID19 today. Total confirmed case count is 1496. 963 cases are at the Federal Prison in Lompoc and 533 cases are community cases. Recovery status of those incarcerated at the Prison has been separated. More info: https://t.co/CTdANYwxDy pic.twitter.com/54bSxjOScI— SBC Public Health (@SBCPublicHealth) May 19, 2020
Local hospitals have begun using emerging antiviral medication remdesivir as a form of treatment against severe cases of COVID-19, after Santa Barbara County received 136 vials of the medication from the California Department of Public Health over the last week.
The experimental drug, developed by biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, was created as a general antiviral drug that interrupts virus duplication in the body.
While it is still undergoing review, the medication has been fast-tracked as a coronavirus treatment after being granted Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease specialist at Cottage Health, said that while there are high hopes for improvements from the treatment, it will take some time to see progress in patients.
"The challenge with remdesivir is that the improvements, if they're there, are subtle," Fitzgibbons said.
Allocation of the remdesivir among county hospitals is decided by infectious disease doctors at Lompoc Valley Medical Center, Marian Regional Medical Center and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, who discuss the need levels at each facility, county officials said.
On Friday, Lompoc Valley Medical Center and Marian Regional Medical Center were both allocated portions of an additional 10-dose shipment from the state, and larger amounts of the medication were delivered to all three hospitals on Monday evening.
Public health officials confirmed that one patient at Lompoc Valley Medical Center began receiving treatment on Friday.
"With it being a few days since the first patient started receiving his medication, I think it is far too early to tell," Fitzgibbons said of the individual's progress.
Patients being treated with remdesivir generally require six vials, or doses, of the treatment at minimum, she added.
Santa Barbara County confirmed 22 additional COVID-19 cases Monday, seven among inmates at the Federal Penitentiary in Lompoc and 15 among county residents.
Of the 15 county resident cases, one individual is in Santa Barbara, two are in Lompoc, nine are in Santa Maria, one is in Orcutt, one is in the unincorporated North County area and one location has not been determined.
The total number of cases among county residents is now 533, with 89 still active.
San Luis Obispo County confirmed three additional COVID-19 cases Monday for a total of 246, of which 39 remain active.
The total number of cases among inmates at the federal penitentiary in Lompoc is now 963, with 861 still active.
The relationship between Santa Barbara County and prison officials has been fraught over the past weeks, as prison officials have rebuffed offers from the county to assist in responding to the overwhelming outbreak at the prison.
As the county begins implementing reopening efforts, officials have expressed frustration at being limited from moving forward due to the high numbers of cases at the prison that are included in the county's profile.
However, on Monday, 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said communication between the two parties was beginning to improve.
"We have opened new lines of communication with the Bureau of Prison officials, regarding the virus outbreak at the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary. The county welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with the Bureau of Prisons to ensure agencies are working together to protect the health and safety of local residents and inmates at the prison," Hart said.
County reopening plan
On Friday, Santa Barbara County officials announced the release of the county' reopening plan called the RISE Guide, which stands for Reopening in a Safe Environment.
The guide was created from weeks of meetings guided by hundreds of stakeholders and a panel of medical professionals.
After sharing the guide on recoverysbc.org for public comment over the weekend, the county Board of Supervisors will be finalizing the draft document at their Tuesday meeting.
"This RISE Guide is an exciting change in this epidemic in our local community," said Fitzgibbons, who served on the panel for the guide.
Infographic: San Luis Obispo County Coronavirus Cases
Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.
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