COVID-19 case surges and limited hospital staffing in Santa Barbara County have led to a dramatic decrease in overall ICU capacity, with adult capacity now at its lowest rate since the beginning of the pandemic. 

According to county health care data, intensive care unit capacity for adults has dropped to its lowest rate yet at 6.7% of total beds available, well below the "danger" threshold of 15% capacity. 

While the drop is partially the result of increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past month, a recent drop in the overall number of staffed beds in the county also has severely decreased capacity, public health officials said. 

According to county public health spokeswoman Jackie Ruiz, reevaluation of ICU beds by Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara determined that only 45 of the hospital's 65 registered ICU beds are actually staffed and prepared to receive patients.

"This change reflects what Cottage is able to realistically staff at this time," Ruiz said Sunday. 

With this revised data from Cottage — one of Santa Barbara County's three main hospitals receiving COVID-19 patients — the number of overall staffed ICU beds in the county has decreased by 28% since mid-December from 91 to 71. 

Between Dec. 23 and 24 alone, staffed adult ICU capacity dropped from 34.7% to 12.3%, according to county data. 

As of Monday, 121 individuals are hospitalized for COVID-19, including 29 individuals in the ICU. 

Daily COVID-19 data

Daily COVID-19 cases reported in Santa Barbara County over the past four days indicate a continuing surge in the community.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reported 275 new cases on Christmas Day, followed by 153 cases on Saturday, 182 cases on Sunday and 214 cases on Monday. 

As of Monday, 1,104 cases are active in the county, out of 16,476 total cases confirmed thus far. 

Two additional deaths from COVID-19 also were confirmed on Saturday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the county to 153. 

The two individuals were both over the age of 70 and had underlying medical conditions, according to county public health data. One resided in the city of Lompoc and another resided in the city of Santa Barbara.

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One of the two also died in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak at a congregate living facility, a category which can include skilled nursing facilities, senior residential facilities, homeless shelters, jails and H-2A housing facilities. 

At skilled nursing facilities specifically, several COVID-19 outbreaks have popped up in recent weeks, with 13 out of the 14 registered facilities in the county currently reporting active cases among residents, staff or both, according to county health care data

The most widespread outbreaks have been reported at Santa Barbara's Buena Vista Care Center, where 21 staff and 15 residents are currently infected, and Villa Maria Post Acute in Santa Maria, with 22 residents and up to 11 staff infected. 

Current outbreaks resulting in resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at Alto Lucero Transitional Care in Santa Barbara, Lompoc Comprehensive Care Center and Mission Terrace Santa Barbara. 

In the city of Santa Maria, 366 out of 6,199 total cases remain active. Seventy-nine individuals have died.

In the community of Orcutt, 70 out of 822 total cases remain active. Eight individuals have died.

In the city of Lompoc, 85 out of 1,735 total cases remain active. Twelve individuals have died.

In the Santa Ynez Valley, which includes the areas of Solvang, Buellton, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez and Ballard, 44 out of 404 total cases remain active. Eight individuals have died.

In the unincorporated North County area, which includes Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe, 21 out of 664 total cases remain active. Eight individuals have died.

In neighboring San Luis Obispo County, 58 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed between Friday and Monday, along with three deaths as a result of the virus. 

There are now 2,075 active cases in the county, out of 9,539 total cases confirmed thus far, according to county public health data

The individuals whose deaths were confirmed on Monday were all over the age of 70 and had underlying health conditions, according to San Luis Obispo County Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Shoresman. 

A total of 70 individuals have died from COVID-19 in San Luis Obispo County. 

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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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