Santa Cruz County Public Health Department Press Conference August 12
By Chris Finnie
In an August 12th press conference on the county’s increase in COVID cases, Health Officer, Dr. Gail Newel gave attendees what she described as take-home messages:
- The Delta variant is here.
- It’s time to be vaccinated.
- Layer protection.
- Wear your mask indoors and in crowded outdoor settings, even if you’re vaccinated.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
Also, according to Newel, this variant presents differently. You may experience sniffles, sneezing, irritated eyes, or a sore throat. The recommendation is to stay home until you’re not sick and get tested if you have any symptoms or if you’ve been exposed to anybody positive.
Newel explained that the surge we are currently experiencing could last two months. Daily case rates have doubled, but this time around the county is experiencing some differences. More new cases are in North County than in the South and the largest number of cases are in the 25 to 50-year-old demographic. Newel believes that these folks are not as likely to be vaccinated, wear masks, or socially distance.
Of concern is that state modeling predicts a sharp increase in cases going forward. Of significant concern is that the healthcare system in the county is near capacity already. Locally, staffing is the biggest issue. But hospitals are also dealing with patients who put off care. Most covid cases are in unvaccinated people and most people hospitalized are unvaccinated. Two more people have died since May. Both were unvaccinated.
Vaccines are free and widely available to anybody over 12—regardless of immigration status. The county has not mandated masks yet but may consider that if numbers continue to rise. L.A. County, which was the first in the state to mandate masks, reports that their hospital admissions have stabilized.
California has issued new orders: State employees and educational workers must be vaccinated or be tested weekly. Local schools have implemented protocols to protect staff and students.
Dr. David Ghilarducci, EMS Medical Director, confirms that about 64% of the total county population is fully vaccinated (that includes people who aren’t yet eligible). Another 10% have had at least one shot. The least-vaccinated part of the population is 25 to 34, with just over 50% in this group. They’ve seen a slight increase over the last week. The good news is that there is no scarcity of vaccine supply. In addition to local pop-up clinics announced on the San Lorenzo Valley Post website and Facebook page, you can find a calendar of walk-in clinics at santacruzhealth.org/coronavirusvaccine.
If you’re wondering why you should get vaccinated if you can get sick anyway, county health officials confirm that:
- Vaccination helps prevent spread to others.
- You are 6x less likely to get infected.
- You are 10x less likely to be hospitalized.
- You are 16x less likely to die.
During the Q&A session, county health officials stated that there are currently few limits on outdoor activities. Keep your mask with you in case you need to go indoors or to crowded space.
The testing site at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium will remain open through the Fall.