Saturday, October 24, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 34
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on August 26th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 26 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 26

Large North County COVID-19 outbreaks subside, but smaller ones persist

By Malea Martin

As Santa Barbara County Public Health Department continues to juggle and monitor COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the county, some of the largest congregate living outbreaks appear to be cooling off. 


VULNERABLE SETTINGS
The county continues to battle COVID-19 outbreaks in congregate living facilities, places that are particularly susceptible to quick virus spread.
FILE PHOTO

Congregate living facilities are among the most susceptible spaces to COVID-19 outbreaks due to close living quarters and sustained interaction between individuals. But depending on the type of congregate living space, the definition of “outbreak” can vary. 

“When you say ‘congregate living,’ that’s a big umbrella,” Deputy Director for Community Health Paige Batson told the Sun. “It can be skilled nursing facilities, shelters, H-2A housing.” 

At a skilled nursing facility, it just takes one positive case to be considered an outbreak, according to a May 11 outbreak definition and reporting guidance document from the California Department of Public Health that Batson shared with the Sun

At other congregate residential facilities, like homeless shelters, an outbreak is declared if there is one confirmed case, plus two or more “cases of acute illness compatible with COVID-19,” the document states. In other words, these facilities need to have one confirmed case plus individuals who are displaying certain COVID-19 symptoms. 

Other community congregate settings—such as a housing complex, a workplace, or a school—must have three or more confirmed cases (in different households if it’s a housing complex) to be considered an outbreak. 

“People think if there’s an outbreak that there’s hundreds of people—that’s not always the case,” Batson said. “You can have one case versus 50 cases and it’s still an outbreak.”

Country Oaks Care Center in Santa Maria endured one of the most deadly North County COVID-19 outbreaks at a skilled nursing facility. After 11 residents died from the virus and many more became infected, the facility was cleared of the virus in late July. Batson confirmed on Aug. 24 that the facility is still virus free. 

But other local facilities are still battling outbreaks of various proportions: Batson said there are four elderly care facilities in North County that currently have outbreaks, though she again emphasized that it only takes one positive case to constitute an outbreak at these facilities. Batson said she could not share the names of the facilities or additional information. 

“I’m not willing to share it right now because [the facilities] could be on the list one day and gone the next,” Batson explained. “According to my list from Sunday afternoon, they were still on, but they could come off today.” 

Some North County farmworkers living in H-2A housing also experienced outbreaks, the worst being among workers contracted by Alco Harvesting. Batson said that 95 total people were infected over the course of this outbreak, but now there are just four active cases. Leo Begario Chavez-Alvarado, a 51-year-old Alco worker, died on July 7 toward the beginning of the outbreak. Batson confirmed that there have been no additional deaths. 

“They went from a rather large number. They just retested and they’re very proactive with isolation and quarantine,” Batson said. “We anticipate that we’ll be able to close that out pretty soon, maybe in the next week.”

The other ongoing H-2A housing outbreak is among workers from Rancho Nuevo Harvesting. This one resulted in 32 total positive cases so far, though only eight are active now. 

“Especially for these more vulnerable groups, the sooner that Public Health gets involved, the sooner we can work with them, the better,” Batson said. “It’s been a very mutual benefit for everyone in order to quickly mitigate it and moderate it, and make sure things are going well. They’re doing really well.” 









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