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California shows signs of turning the corner on Omicron: Santa Barbara reports decline in cases, but SLO County still surging

A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Radoslav Zilinsky
Getty Images
A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Several counties throughout California, like Los Angeles, are reporting they have likely passed the peak of the Omicron wave.

While Santa Barbara County Public health is reporting the same progress, SLO County Public Health officials say the virus is still surging throughout the area.

Public Health Director Dr. Penny Borenstein said at a Board Of Supervisors meeting this week that the county is seeing more cases per day and per week than they’ve seen at any other point in the pandemic.

“So, if anyone thinks that we are not in the middle of a pandemic with these kinds of numbers, it is really remarkable what we are seeing," Borenstein said.

Borenstein said the Omicron surge has forced hispitals to postpone some surgeries.

“These are things like heart surgery, bypass surgeries, cancer care," Borenstein said. "All manner of surgeries are being postponed at this time at all of our hospitals because of the demand on our system.”

Santa Barbara County is reporting better progress, with Public Health Director Dr. Henning Ansorg hopeful the latest surge is losing strength, with cases starting to decline.

“We may have passed the peak locally for the Omicron surge," Ansorg said. "And we are just hoping that it is going down very rapidly.”

Ansorg said he’s cautiously optimistic, and highlighted that COVID-19 oral antivirals are arriving to local hospitals. The pills are intended for patients who are not yet hospitalized but are at risk of being admitted or of dying.

Ansorg said the pills could be a pandemic game changer, but he says unfortunately, those pills are in limited supply for now.

“We are really hoping that a company is going to produce this medication on a large scale,” Ansorg said.

Ansorg discussed the possibility of COVID-19 being downgraded to “endemic” in the near future. But he stopped short of saying when that could happen, and that it will largely depend if another highly-transmissible variant will emerge.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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