COVID Dashboard: CDC data shows high community transmission in SC County, but mask mandate unlikely

People walking in downtown Santa Cruz
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
An graphic image for the Lookout COVID Dashboard

News of the week

Locally, COVID cases jumped substantially over the past week. The county recorded 1,114 active cases as of Monday’s update from the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency. That’s 272 more than last Monday, a 32% weekly increase in cases. One new death was reported locally, raising the county’s pandemic death toll to 276.

The winter COVID surge continues to grip the Bay Area. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Santa Cruz County and nearly all of its neighboring counties — San Benito, Santa Clara and San Mateo — are in the “high” tier of community transmission as of Monday. Monterey is the only exception, but even it finds itself in the “substantial” tier. “High” transmission is 100 or more cases per 100,000 people; “substantial” transmission is 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 people.

Though the “high” tier triggers the CDC recommendation to wear a high-quality mask or respirator, local guidelines are unlikely to change.

Deputy Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said mask mandates are unlikely to return to Santa Cruz County, but that local public health officials will begin recommending people wear masks in public places.

“I don’t think you’re going to see [mask mandates] from the governmental level,” he said. “You may see individual institutions do it, but it’s going to be unlikely in places like restaurants and gyms.”

That is likely not a bad thing, Ghilarducci added.

“I think that’s OK, to be honest. It’s part of this transition that we’re going through,” he said. “We’re at the point now where people have to make their own decision about themselves.”

The updated, Omicron-targeting booster shot is now widely available at local drugstores and health care providers.

Walgreens is booked out about one week in advance at the Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz locations, but has openings at its Freedom location as soon as Tuesday. Safeway and CVS county locations now have immediate availability for people ages five and older who have received a primary series.

* * *

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 1,114 known 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 deaths was reported, bringing the Santa Cruz County pandemic death toll at 276.

Wastewater COVID tracking data as of Dec. 6.
(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 24 to 48 hours. Each location also has rapid COVID/flu tests and the COVID antiviral, Paxlovid.

County building/Santa Cruz Superior Court
701 Ocean St., Santa Cruz
Watsonville Veterans Building
1301 Main St., Watsonville
Felton Library
6121 Gushee St., Felton

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


Be the first to know all the big, breaking news in Santa Cruz. Sign up to get Lookout alerts sent straight to your phone here or below.