Wednesday, October 21, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 29th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 22

Overall COVID-19 rate keeps county on watchlist though positivity rate, hospitalization trends improve

By Malea Martin

Santa Barbara County saw an improvement in a couple of the metrics that have kept it on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list. However, the county still falls short in getting down its overall case rate.

To get off the state’s watchlist, a county has to meet a number of public health requirements. First, it needs to administer more than 150 tests per 100,000 residents, per day, over a seven day average. At an average of 258 tests as of July 23, the county had no problem meeting that threshold.

But other metrics aren’t so easy for the county to meet and maintain. To stay off the watchlist, counties also need to have a positivity rate of less than 8 percent, calculated over a seven day average. According to the state watchlist’s data, as of July 23, Santa Barbara County’s rate was more than 10 percent. 

It should be noted, however, that this particular data point from the California Department of Public Health includes a seven day lag “in order to account for delays in reporting.” 

This means that the July 23 positivity rate reported on the state’s watchlist actually represented average numbers for the seven day period ending July 16. More localized data sources, like hospitals, already have data for the seven day period ending July 23, and the numbers appear to be heading in the right direction.

Lompoc Valley Medical Center CEO Steve Popkin wrote in his weekly letter to the community that, as of July 23, the county’s positivity rate had decreased significantly to 8.6 percent. That means the county is only about a half percent away from meeting the watchlist threshold. 

“Although it remains to be seen whether this represents a trend, it is definitely a very good sign,” Popkin wrote. 

A third data point that the state considers in its monitoring list is a county’s COVID-19 hospitalization rates over a three day average. As of July 28, this metric is missing from the state’s data reporting altogether, as is hospital capacity. The county data table states, “Due to new federal reporting requirements from hospitals, data will be updated once the transition is complete.”

Local data sources have continued to gauge where the county’s at, especially since the new federal reporting requirements are affecting how quickly the state’s data table is updated. Popkin’s letter suggests that Santa Barbara County is improving in its hospitalization rates, though he did not provide specific numbers. 

“Santa Barbara County is now in the green for the metric, ‘percent change in COVID positive hospitalized patients,’” Popkin wrote.

But the area where the county is struggling to improve, Popkin continued, is “number of COVID positive cases per 100,000 population.”

This last data point is taken over a 14-day period, and, unlike other metrics, is not lagged on the state’s county data table. As of July 23, Santa Barbara County had a rate of 264.5 per 100,000. To get off the watchlist, counties must get that number below 100. 

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