COVID Dashboard: Future exposure at younger ages could lead to weakened virus

A health care worker prepares a girl to get a shot in her upper arm
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
An graphic image for the Lookout COVID Dashboard

News of the week

Monday’s update of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency’s COVID case count showed 328 active cases. That’s 65 fewer than last Monday. No new deaths were reported locally, keeping the county’s pandemic death toll at 276.

Hospitalizations are down across the country according to the Centers for Disease Control. Local transmission, though, hasn’t changed. Santa Cruz and all of its neighboring counties of Santa Clara, San Benito, San Mateo and Monterey are all in the “substantial” tier of community transmission, which means that they are all recording more than 50 cases per 100,000 people. Currently, Santa Cruz County is seeing 72 cases per 100,000 people — up 11 from last week.

Meanwhile, wastewater data for the county shows a bit of an uptick in the disease’s prevalence. That could mean that there are more cases than shown in the dashboard’s case count due to at-home testing, or a lack of testing altogether.

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

What we’re reading

Though California’s emergency declarations have ended, ushering in a sort of symbolic end to the pandemic’s acute phase, a new article from The Atlantic argues that today’s toddlers and infants will define that next stage of COVID. They are the first humans on the planet to, one day, live in a world in which everyone has some degree of immunity to the still-novel virus.

Even with widespread vaccinations and the emergence of Omicron and its offshoots turning an already very contagious virus into one of the most contagious viruses ever, our situation is just beginning to stabilize. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have become more seasonal, and severe disease is less common. Yet the illness still proves to be volatile in spurts.

However, as we welcome new life into the current pandemic world, exposure will occur at younger ages, with the hope that it will continue pushing COVID to become a milder disease. One day, it could be another common cold. That could take some time, though.

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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, 2022, masks are optional though highly recommended.

As of April 10, 2022, 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, 2022, 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 328 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.

No new deaths were reported, leaving the Santa Cruz County pandemic death toll at 276.

Wastewater COVID tracking data as of Feb. 28.
(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, 2022, 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

Citing declining cases, health officials have closed a number of testing facilities around Santa Cruz County. The table below lists testing resources around the county; almost all require appointments.


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