COVID Dashboard: New variants, particularly BA.5, pushing a surge; but cases seem to be less serious

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

News of the week

Remember those variants we talked about last week? Well, it looks like they’ll deprive us from our hopeful COVID respite, at least for a little bit.

Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are the main causes of cases in the greater Bay Area and across the county right now, and seem to be causing yet another surge.

The variants, particularly BA.5, appear to be the most transmissible version of COVID thus far.

Local case counts are largely similar, though, with the county recording 2,040 active cases today compared to 2,022 last Wednesday.

Despite the fact that many who have avoided COVID are catching the virus for the first time, the majority of cases are less serious, and more hospital patients are testing positive coincidentally upon admission than ever before.

Currently, mask mandates are unlikely to return.

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Independent scientists and physicians told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that an updated vaccine should be rolled out this fall to specifically target Omicron, its subvariants, and the original strain. A vaccine formula for the fall needs to be chosen soon, so the FDA is expected to make a final decision.

Santa Cruz County’s three test-to-treat locations are still up and running. Click here to find the closest location. Currently, Paxlovid is the available medication, showing a 89% reduction in hospitalization and death, and it must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms to be effective.

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 2,040 active cases logged by Santa Cruz County’s Health Services Agency. This does not include unreported rapid tests taken at home, so this number is not exact.

One new death was reported in the past week, raising the pandemic total at 267.

Case Forecast as of July 11
(Via California Department of Public Health)

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
Sutter/Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Dignity Health
Emeline Health Center

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.

Horsnyder Pharmacy & Medical Supply
Westside Pharmacy

Getting tested

The sites below offer free PCR tests via 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.


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