COVID-19 updates in Santa Cruz County: Infections, hospitalizations, deaths and demographic data
The What: While Santa Cruz County’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise, the rate has somewhat slowed. As of Thursday, the 14-day average was 113%, below last week’s figure of 295%. Though significantly lower, that number prior to the Omicron surge was often in the single digits.
According to county data, there were a total of 6,677 active COVID-19 cases, up nearly 500 from last week. Part of the reason for the jump could be increased testing by school districts following the end of the winter break.
The So What: Local health leaders have cautioned that even amid skyrocketing positives, official numbers might be underestimating how steep the upward trend is because the results of many in-home tests never get reported.
The highly infectious Omicron variant is thought to be dominant in the ongoing surge; however, because county officials have not sequenced all known positive cases, a breakdown of cases by variant was unavailable.
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How Santa Cruz County compares: The county is currently in the red tier, indicating the highest level of infectious spread. This level is the same as our neighbors in Northern and Central California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, the state as a whole is also currently in the red tier.
As of Thursday, 72.7% of Santa Cruz County residents were fully vaccinated, a minimal increase from the week prior and slightly lower than the statewide figure of 69%. 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.
Neighboring Santa Clara and San Mateo counties had a fully vaccinated rate of 83.5% and 81.9%, respectively; Monterey and San Benito counties stood at 66.2% and 61.9%, respectively. Marin County was at 85.5%, the highest rate in the state.
Current cases, hospitalizations and deaths: As of Thursday, Santa Cruz County had more than 400 active cases than it did a week ago. Hospitalizations, which health officials have said typically lag behind case rates by about two weeks, have begun to trend up, with 44 county residents reported hospitalized — up from 39 last week.
Local COVID-19 patients are treated at either Dominican Hospital or Watsonville Community Hospital. Dominican spokesperson Kevin Kimbrough said Thursday there are 27 COVID-positive patients, down three from the week prior. Of those, he said three were fully vaccinated and boosted, 13 received the initial vaccination series but had not received a booster and 11 are unvaccinated.
According to a hospital representative, Watsonville Community Hospital had 15 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday, of whom six were not vaccinated. Eight were female and seven were male, and they ranged in age from 23 to 95, with eight of the patients 60 or older.
Geographic breakdown: The city of Santa Cruz had more than 36% of the county’s overall cases as of Thursday — 2,438 — with Watsonville (2,011), Aptos (522) and Scotts Valley (385) all eclipsing 300 cases.
Since the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago, South County has seen the highest number of cases among local regions. In particular, Watsonville has had 38.3% of the total number of cases despite comprising 18.3% of the overall population.
Given current overwhelming demand for COVID testing, a testing site run by Inspire Diagnostics has opened at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds and is available to the entire community. Inspire has been partnering with the County Office of Education to test county educators and students and their family members at several other sites across the county. Registration is required.
The fairgrounds testing site, at 2601 E. Lake Ave. in Watsonville, is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Inspire fairgrounds site is in addition to the three run by the company in partnership with the COE — at Cabrillo College, the offices of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District and at the COE offices in Santa Cruz — that are open only to county educators, students and their families.
The city of Santa Cruz has also expanded its testing capacity, and recently closed a temporary encampment at Depot Park to make room for the testing site there.
Also changing amid the Omicron surge is official guidance on masking. County officials recently urged residents to ditch cloth masks upgrade to N95, KN95 or KF94 face masks — and continued to stress that residents should get vaccinated or boosters shots as soon as eligible.
As of Wednesday, appointments were available as soon that day at local pharmacies, where previously availability had been about two weeks out.