Santa Cruz County health officials panel
Santa Cruz County health officials (bottom left, clockwise) David Ghilarducci, Mimi Hall and Jen Herrera answer media questions via moderator Jason Hoppin about COVID-19 and vaccination on Thursday, Feb. 11.
(Screengrab)
COVID 2021

COVID PM: Possible ‘March surge,’ Sutter/PAMF opens vaccines to 65-plus

Hello, Santa Cruz people: I’m not sure where this week went, but here we are, almost back to another Friday.

Today was nowhere as newsy as yesterday on the COVID front, but there were still some significant tidbits gleaned from Santa Cruz County health officials, who held their weekly press roundtable.

Tidbit of Interest No. 1: While numbers continue to look great, a “March surge” is likely based on modeling that considers both concerns of virus variants and slow vaccine distribution. More on the likelihood of that below.

Tidbit of Interest No. 2: The county does not appear ready to stand in the way of any public elementary schools wanting to reopen their doors. Unlike our neighbors to the northeast and far north, there are no apparent vocal fans or takers here yet.

Tidbit of Interest No. 3: The county and state’s interpretation of whether the federally-run Oakland vaccination site will be open to those from “the 831" differs. More on that below in today’s Q&A.

The other best tidbit Thursday came outside the county’s briefing, and was more than a tidbit — at least for Sutter Health/PAMF patients in the 65-plus range hoping to be vaccinated. More on that below.

Be sure to tell those who should be in the know to sign up for this newsletter and my text alerts here. They can also just text “Covid” to (831) 508-7524.

To the headlines we go...

Looking good ... except for that ‘March surge’

Big drop the past two weeks

COVID TODAY: Dr. David Ghilarducci, the county’s director of emergency services, summed it up neatly: “If mask use was pretty universal, we won’t see a spike. It’s really that simple.” The models that predict a March surge in positivity in Santa Cruz County are predicated on a lack of available vaccine and the potential for “new, more transmissible” variants to have emerged into the equation.

That isn’t keeping both county health officer Gail Newel and Ghilarducci from giving the green light to a return to in-person learning for kindergarten through sixth grade. For those and all the other developments from today’s meeting, check out Mallory Pickett’s report here. And also look at the drop-off in positivity rate over the past two weeks below.

Sutter/PAMF opens to 65+, Aegis vaccine news

A resident at Aegis in Aptos celebrates after being vaccinated against COVID-19.
(Aegis Living)

VACCINE WATCH: Residents at assisted living facility Aegis Living Aptos (including a proud vaccine poster child above) finally received vaccine through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership after months of anticipation. More than 60 residents and 55 staff were vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Sutter Health/PAMF announced it was going ahead with vaccination plans for those 65 and older.

Sutter’s Operations Executive Stephen Gray told our Mallory Pickett that the multi-county entity had vaccinated approximately 11,000 in Santa Cruz County via its drive-thru clinic at the old drive-in theater site the past three weeks and that signups for the 65-plus tier have already been overwhelming at sutterhealth.org. “If there are no appointments available for the Santa Cruz site, it’s because we’ve filled the number of doses, the number of appointment slots for which we have doses at this point,” Gray said. “When we get more, we’ll open up more slots.”

According to the state’s vaccine dashboard, 32,080 vaccines had been administered in Santa Cruz County by major health systems, county officials, independent health providers and the federal pharmacy partnership (which is inoculating people in nursing-home and assisted-living facilities) as of Thursday. That’s a 4.5% increase over the 30,670 doses administered as of the day before.

More from here & elsewhere

Jockeying over who gets COVID vaccine next: Teachers? Workers? The disabled? The sick? (LA Times)
Dr. Fauci on vaccinations and Biden’s ‘refreshing’ approach to COVID-19 (NPR)
Johnson & Johnson requests FDA authorization for its one-dose COVID-19 vaccine (USA Today)
U.S. pharmacies could administer up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine a month. Here’s how (CNN)
Biden health team hatches new vaccine strategy as variant threat builds (Politico)
A recipe for trouble? Reversal of California outdoor dining ban has heads spinning (Kaiser Health News)
Coronavirus confusion: What’s the difference between a variant and a strain? (LA Times)

ASK LOOKOUT: We answer your questions . . .

The California Department of Public Health indicated to Lookout on Wednesday that people from Santa Cruz County would be able to sign up for the federal vaccination clinic in Oakland. County health officer Gail Newel said Thursday she was told differently.

Q: I’m just curious to know if you heard something different from CDPH so that we can make sure to clarify that for our readers.

A: Great if our residents can swing that and get their way into it, but we heard [otherwise] at the end of the day yesterday from the deputy director of CDPH. I hope she’s wrong. It would be nice if it were open to all-comers.

Stay tuned for more clarity on that one. Have a question for us to try and get answered? Submit it here or just reply to this email.

See you tomorrow, everyone!

Mark Conley
Deputy Managing Editor