COVID-19 updates in Santa Cruz County: Infections, hospitalizations, deaths and demographic data
The What: Santa Cruz County’s COVID-19 positivity rate is increasing exponentially. The 14-day average has increased by 187% — a figure that was 12% only a week ago — according to county data, with two more deaths recorded, raising the total to 230.
The So What: Officials caution that this trend may actually be worse than reported, noting the Omicron surge regionally and nationally. They also say fewer tests are being officially reported. This is partly due to a marked increase in at-home testing.
The county reported its first cases of the variant last month. The breakdown of cases by variant is not known, as county officials have not sequenced all known positive cases.
How Santa Cruz County compares: The county is currently in the red tier, indicating a high level of infectious spread. This level is the same as all of its neighbors in Northern and Central California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state as a whole is also currently in the red tier.
As of Jan. 6, 71.33% of Santa Cruz County residents were fully vaccinated, a slight increase from the week prior. This is just a touch lower than the statewide figure of 71.5%.
Neighboring Santa Clara and San Mateo counties had a fully vaccinated rate of 82.4% and 80.5%, respectively. Marin County was at 84.3%, the highest rate in the state.
However, as Lookout reported on Dec. 10, a quirk in the state reporting figures may be artificially reducing that number, increasing it by as much as 5%. This would put the county more in line with its neighbors.
Current cases, hospitalizations and deaths: As of Thursday, Santa Cruz County has 1,957 active COVID-19 cases, an increase of more than 1,000 from the prior week. Hospitalizations, however, are trending downward, with one fewer person requiring intensive medical care than the prior week.
“We can presume that most, if not all of these cases are Omicron, since we’re not sequencing all of them,” said county spokesperson Jason Hoppin. “At this point we assume the variant is spreading quickly within Santa Cruz County. So that just brings up the core issues of getting tested, getting boosted, and wearing a mask.”
A total of 16 people are hospitalized, down one from a week ago according to County Health public information officer Corinne Hyland and state data. Two patients are in ICU. Last week, Hoppin added that the hospitals treating the patients have said that the vast majority of the patients are either unvaccinated or have not received a booster.
Two new deaths have been reported, with the count rising to 230.
COVID-19 patients are treated at either Dominican Hospital or Watsonville Community Hospital. According to Watsonville Community Hospital officials, the facility currently has five hospitalized patients. Two of which, a female aged 83 and a male aged 40, have been vaccinated. It was not specified whether or not they have received booster shots.
Dominican spokesperson Kevin Kimbrough said that 11 patients at the facility are COVID positive, regardless of whether or not that is the reason for their hospitalization. While current patients’ vaccination status was not specified, last month, of 13 patients, seven were unvaccinated, six had received the single Johnson & Johnson shot or two of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and none had received a booster shot.
Change in rate of infections: Deputy Health Officer David Ghilarducci said previously that at-home COVID-19 testing has made it difficult for officials to track results.
Earlier, Hoppin elaborated on the process.
“We use a three-week period to count the case,” he said. “So if we get a case on the dashboard, it automatically comes off after three weeks. It’s kind of arbitrary but it’s the best we can do because we can’t call all the cases every day asking if they feel better.”
Additionally, Hoppin said that the case count on the county dashboard is likely an undercount because of the increase in at home testing.
“With all the at home testing, there’s no way to report it,” he said. “If someone does not feel like they need medical care they probably won’t come in for a PCR confirmation, although we do encourage everyone to do that if they test positive with an at home test.”
Health officials track whether the case rate is increasing or decreasing by looking at a 14-day rolling average. This figure had begun increasing last week, but saw a large jump to a current rate of +187% this week.
Geographic breakdown: Overall, South County has seen a high number of cases compared to other regions. In particular, Watsonville has had 41.87% of the total number of cases despite comprising 18.3% of the overall population, going a long way toward explaining why the region has seen more than half of the county’s total cases.
When looking at the current cases, the caseload in Santa Cruz has surpassed that of Watsonville — about 39% of the total.
Officials continue to urge residents to wear masks and make COVID-19 booster vaccination appointments in anticipation of a surge of Omicron cases.
Wait times to make an appointment at local pharmacies are about two weeks out. For those willing to make the drive to San Jose, appointments are available as soon as Jan. 9 through CVS pharmacy.