COVID Dashboard: Recorded cases continue to drop, but county positivity rate matches state’s

A man receives a COVID booster shot at a drive through clinic
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
An graphic image for the Lookout COVID Dashboard

News of the week

The case count on Santa Cruz County’s dashboard has continued to decrease, going from 1,715 last Monday to 1,492 this Monday.

Even so, it’s probably not time to let your guard down just yet.

The California Department of Public Health’s data shows that Santa Cruz County’s positivity rate now matches that of the state at 7%.

Deputy Health Officer Cal Gordon says the relatively high positivity rate despite fewer recorded cases is a testament to the shift toward at-home testing.

“It could be both because there is less PCR testing availability and because of convenience,” he said. “It’s a bigger barrier for people to drive to make a testing appointment, and even though testing is available, I think antigen testing is going to be the future since you can test whenever you need to.”

Along with higher positivity rates, antiviral medications like Paxlovid are beginning to see higher rates of request and usage from COVID-positive patients. However, there is currently no explicit data to illustrate how many have used or requested the drugs recently.

“We would all like to have that data, and even at the state level, they have yet to develop a comprehensive way of sharing it,” said Gordon, adding that people can obtain the drug through a prescription from a primary caregiver or health care provider. “Anecdotally, though, I have checked with various groups offering this option and the demand is increasing, but not robust.”

With Paxlovid showing approximately 89% protection against hospitalization and death regardless of vaccination status, Gordon is sure that this type of damage control is going to be the main focus as time goes on.

“Our whole goal with these is not necessarily to keep people from getting infected, but to keep them from requiring hospital care and dying,” he said. “That’s where we’re focused from here on out, I think.”

The relatively new “test to treat” program allows for people to test, and if positive, receive a prescription for the antiviral and have it filled all at one location.

At this time, Paxlovid is available only via prescription through your doctor or professionals at various health clinics, and the medication is available for pickup at local pharmacies. Find the nearest test-to-treat location here.

Vaccinations and precautions are still strongly recommended.

The easiest way to schedule an appointment for second boosters is at local pharmacies including Rite-Aid, CVS and Walgreens.

Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health are still administering second boosters to eligible recipients.

Check our links below for quick access to the relevant websites.

Masking rules

Neither the state of California nor Santa Cruz County currently requires indoor masking. For county public schools, as of March 11, masks are optional though highly recommended.

As of April 10, masks are not required for most indoor settings at UC Santa Cruz facilities, though highly recommended. Masks will still be required for on-campus public transportation, in the Early Education Services centers, and in clinical settings.

On April 19, Santa Cruz Metro lifted its mask mandate for vaccinated passengers, following a federal judge’s ruling that mask mandates are not required on public transportation.

The latest numbers

How does Santa Cruz compare to California and the U.S. in vaccinations? Where are the most current COVID cases in the county, and how does that compare to population? Here is the most recent data.

As of Monday, there were 1,492 active cases logged by the county. This does not include unreported rapid tests taken at home, so this number is not exact.

No new deaths were reported in the past week, keeping the pandemic total at 262.

14-day average; data as of May 17.
(Via Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency)

Where can I find a vaccine?

At this point, vaccines are widely available across the county. They are free for everyone, whether insured or not.

As of March 31, second booster shots are available to people aged 50 and older as well as people 12 and older who are immunocompromised or who have received Johnson & Johnson as their primary series and booster doses.

Rite-Aid, CVS, Horsnyder Pharmacy, Westside Pharmacy and Walgreens are currently offering second boosters.

Those wanting to get the shot through their primary care provider should check the company’s website, as availability may vary.

Health care providers

You can schedule appointments for initial doses and booster shots. Below are the local health care providers that offer the vaccine.

Kaiser Permanente
866-454-8855
Sutter/Palo Alto Medical Foundation
844-987-6115
Dignity Health
831-288-6526
CruzMedMo
831-241-7501
Emeline Health Center
831-454-4100

Drugstores and supermarkets

Most pharmacies in the county have COVID-19 vaccines appointments available well into the future. Click the pharmacy of your choice to schedule an appointment.

Safeway
Rite-Aid
CVS
Walgreens
Costco
Horsnyder Pharmacy & Medical Supply
Westside Pharmacy

Getting tested

The sites below offer free PCR tests via LHI.care. Turnaround is typically three to five days.

Mountain Community Resources
6134 Hwy. 9, Felton
Depot Freight Building
119 Center St., Santa Cruz
Watsonville Testing Site
500 Westridge Dr., Watsonville

The table below lists additional testing resources in Santa Cruz County. However, almost all require appointments.