COVID Dashboard: Pandemic caused biggest decline in birth rates in 50 years

A woman in a mask gets a shot in her upper arm
(Irfan Khan / Los Angles 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 271 active cases. That’s 36 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 and Prevention. Santa Cruz has joined its neighboring counties of San Benito, Santa Clara and San Mateo in the “moderate” tier of community transmission, which means that they are recording between 10 and 50 cases per 100,000 people. Currently, Santa Cruz County is recording 38 cases per 100,000 people, down from 61 the week prior.

Meanwhile, wastewater data for the county shows virus levels mostly plateauing — an expected trend as the weather warms up and cold, flu and COVID season winds down.

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

What we’re reading

Although U.S. birth rates had been dropping for more than a decade dating back before the pandemic began, the emergence of COVID accelerated that trend. From 2019 to 2020, births dropped 4% across the country, per the CDC, which was the largest annual drop in births in 50 years — but not all regions followed that trend.

An article from USA Today notes that fertility rates were affected much more in states that were hit hard early in the pandemic. New York, for example, saw monthly births drop by 76 per 100,000 women when compared to pre-pandemic rates. Meanwhile, states like Idaho, Montana and Utah saw monthly birth rates jump as high as 56 additional births per 100,000 women. Researchers added that states with stronger social distancing responses tended to experience more dramatic declines in fertility rates. What’s more, the study found that states hardest hit by unemployment saw bigger declines in birth rates, as did states that started out with more severe income inequality.

Since the pandemic, births have begun to increase again but have yet to return to pre-pandemic rates. Given that the trend dates back further than the pandemic, it’s worth keeping an eye on whether births ever return to pre-2020 rates.

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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 271 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 April 4.
(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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