July 15, 2024
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Central Coast Health Watch: Ventura County masks up; Cottage honored; CenCal pays for senior meals


Ventura County’s public health officer, Dr. Robert Levin, issued an order requiring masks indoors in most public settings starting Aug. 23, joining a mask mandate already in effect in Santa Barbara County.

San Luis Obispo County is not requiring masks, though it has the region’s highest rate of new COVID-19 cases and lowest vaccination rate. Instead, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein “strongly recommends” that businesses require masks indoors.

“As of today, we reached a rate of 28 cases per 100,000, a 40% increase,” Levin said of Ventura County in an Aug. 20 news release. “I hope that this order will increase mask usage in Ventura County. I expect that this will have a beneficial effect on the increase in COVID-19 infections we are seeing.”

Santa Barbara County instituted its new mask order on Aug. 6. The Santa Barbara County and Ventura County mask orders cover most indoor public spaces and most people 2 years old or older, regardless of vaccination status. Businesses must require customers and employees to wear masks except in certain situations, such as when eating or drinking, when working alone in a closed office or room, while receiving a medical or cosmetic service involving the face, or while performing in a live event such as a play, concert or professional sport.

The new orders require masks but do not impose any requirements for distancing, indoor capacity or closures of restaurants or other businesses, as was common earlier in the pandemic.

“Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so that we can stop the trends and level of transmission we are currently seeing,” Levin said. “We continue to urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their family and friends. Becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19 remains the best protective action that people can take. It significantly reduces the risk of infection and, for the small number of people that get infected, it reduces the risk of hospitalization and death once you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”


Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara recently won an award from the American Hospital Association for its cleaning and environmental services. (courtesy photo)

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital has won the Environmental Services Department of the Year Award for 2021 in the 500 beds and up category from the Association for the Health Care Environment of the American Hospital Association.

The award recognizes the hospital for its cleaning, disinfecting, infection prevention, environmental sustainability and stewardship, technology use, patient satisfaction, education and training — aspects of the hospital that have become even more crucial during the pandemic.

In addition to the AHE award, the EVS staff at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital will be featured as the cover story in the September issue of Health Facilities Management magazine.

“Our team of 151 professionals in the EVS department at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is committed to the highest standards for protecting the environment and health of all patients, staff and visitors,” said Nick Henderson, vice president of support services at Cottage Health. “Despite all the challenges from COVID-19, our EVS team has consistently set the bar higher to create new ways to enhance its performance for the benefit of our community.”


Meals That Connect, a San Luis Obispo nonprofit that provides meals to seniors, got a $100,000 donation in August from CenCal Health. The gift brings CenCal’s total donations to Meals That Connect to $1.1 million over the last six years and $2.2 million total to senior nutrition programs in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

CenCal is a publicly sponsored health plan that provides coverage for low-income Medi-Cal recipients in Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County. Its August donation to Meals That Connect was the second $100,000 check the health plan has given to the senior food program this year.

During the pandemic, demand for food delivered to seniors skyrocketed, and Meals That Connect upped its service from 3,000 meals per day to 5,000 meals per day, according to a CenCal news release.

The largest senior nutrition program in Santa Barbara County also got more than $1 million in CenCal funding between 2016 and 2021. But in July, CommUnify, the nonprofit that ran the program, shut it down. After years of rising costs and declining government funding, the program’s deficit had grown too big for it to continue.