COVID Dashboard: COVID numbers continue to improve nationwide; Biden says pandemic is over

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

News of the week

COVID trends remain good as summer fades and leaves begin to change color.

More than 50% of U.S. counties are officially in the “low” COVID-19 community level, and more than 35% are in the “medium” level. It is worth noting, however, that about 82% of U.S. counties remain in the “high” community transmission, even if new cases per 100,000 residents are declining.

This persistent positive news, in part, led President Joe Biden to utter the words everyone has been waiting to hear: The pandemic is over.

He acknowledged that COVID is still a problem, as nearly 400 Americans are dying each day from the disease and related complications. Still, hospitalizations have dropped, updated boosters are out, and federal, state, and local agencies continue to gradually ease restrictions. Normalcy has returned, at least, as much as it can.

Locally, cases continue to drop. The county recorded 605 active cases as of Monday’s update from the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, 173 fewer than last Monday. No new deaths have been reported locally, with the county’s pandemic total remaining at 273.

The updated, Omicron-targeting booster shot is now increasingly available locally at drugstores and health care providers, though with varying wait times.

Walgreens was booked out two weeks in advance at the Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz locations, but has openings at its Freedom location as soon as this Wednesday. Safeway’s county locations have limited availability for the rest of September, but have more openings starting in October. CVS county locations have plenty of slots open, so long as you schedule a week or two in advance.

Kaiser Permanente will provide the updated boosters in all of its markets by Tuesday at the latest, and Sutter Health will begin scheduling appointments once it receives its supply, which it expects soon.

* * *

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 an 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 605 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.

The pandemic death toll remained at 273.

Wastewater COVID tracking data as of Sept. 13.
(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
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.