After submitting a request to the state this week to be excluded from the designated Southern California region — where dropping ICU capacity from COVID-19 surges prompted closures of several sectors through the end of the month — Santa Barbara County is still awaiting an answer from state officials. 

The county Board of Supervisors submitted the request to the California Department of Public Health along with neighboring Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, asking for the Tri-Counties area to be designated as its own region because of its higher intensive care unit availability. Such a move could exempt the county from the regional stay-at-home order.

As of Friday, however, no response — either official or unofficial — has come from the state, according to 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart. 

"We haven't yet heard back from the Governor's Office or the California Department of Public Health. We're continuing to make the case," he said. "We're hopeful and optimistic that the governor will respond favorably to our request."

Under the regional stay-at-home order, personal care sectors have had to halt all operations, and outdoor dining has been prohibited once more. The region, which also includes the severely impacted Los Angeles County, will remain under the order until Dec. 26, at which time the state will reassess available ICU rates.

The hope is that after that date, if the region's ICU capacity continues to be lower than the threshold of 15% while the rates of the three Central Coast counties are higher, the state would permit the counties to leave the region and not remain under the order.  

While the region's ICU capacity was 6.2% as of Friday, Santa Barbara County itself maintains a much higher availability rate of 38%, according to county public health data

Twenty-three percent of the county's occupied ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, county data indicates.  

While ICU rates are not as troublesome as the rest of the region, COVID-19 hospitalization and case rates have still risen rapidly over the past two weeks, county officials noted. 

Hart highlighted gatherings from the Thanksgiving holiday as one of the main drivers of the current surge in COVID-19 cases, warning that things are likely to worsen. 

"Yesterday’s case count of 173 cases was 10 times the threshold needed to enter orange tier. Less than a month ago, we were only days away from achieving this monumental milestone of progress," Hart said, referencing Thursday's reported cases. 

Daily COVID-19 cases

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The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department confirmed an additional 59 COVID-19 cases on Friday, a daily increase substantially lower than than of the past week. 

The total number of cases in the county is now 12,866, with 643 cases still considered active and contagious. 

The number of individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County remains at 64, including 12 individuals who are in the ICU, according to county public health data

In the city of Santa Maria, 168 out of 5,005 total cases remain active. Seventy-five individuals have died.

In the community of Orcutt, 52 out of 608 total cases remain active. Eight individuals have died.

In the city of Lompoc, 105 out of 1,355 total cases were confirmed. Nine individuals have died.

In the Santa Ynez Valley, which includes the areas of Solvang, Buellton, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez and Ballard, 23 out of 289 total cases remain active. Seven individuals have died. 

In the unincorporated North County area, which includes the areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama, New Cuyama and Guadalupe, 17 out of 549 total cases remain active. Seven individuals have died. 

In neighboring San Luis Obispo County, public health officials reported another high single-day rise in COVID-19 numbers with 186 new cases and one new death as a result of the illness. 

A total of 7,452 total cases have now been confirmed, with 1,192 cases still considered active and contagious, the highest daily rate of active cases yet in the county, according to county public health data

The individual whose death was confirmed Friday was in their 90s and had underlying health conditions, according to San Luis Obispo County Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Shoresman. 

This is the 46th death reported to be connected to 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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