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 this week, the 14-day average was minus-8%, the first time cases have trended down since the beginning of the Omicron wave.
According to county data, there were a total of 9,261 active COVID-19 cases, a considerable jump from earlier in the month. However, this is due to a large number of backlogged test results from earlier in the year. Many, if not all of these delayed cases have likely resolved at this point.
The So What: Local health leaders have cautioned that 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.
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, 73.5% of Santa Cruz County residents were fully vaccinated, a minimal increase from the week prior and slightly lower than the statewide figure of 69.9%. However, as Lookout reported on Dec. 10, a quirk in the state reporting figures could 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 fully vaccinated rates of 84.3% and 82.9%, respectively; Monterey County stood at 70.2%, and San Benito County was 73.7% fully vaccinated. Marin County was at 85.6%, the second-highest in the state to Imperial County’s 86.8%. The statewide average is 69.9%.
Current cases, hospitalizations and deaths: As of Thursday, Santa Cruz County had nearly 1,000 fewer cases than it did a week ago. Hospitalizations, which health officials have said typically lag behind case rates by about two weeks, are also a bit lower, with 31 county residents reported hospitalized — down from 44 last week.
Geographic breakdown: The city of Santa Cruz had more than 26% of the county’s overall cases as of Thursday — 2,489 — with Watsonville (4,107), Aptos (617), Freedom (472), and Scotts Valley (350) 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 39.1% 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 last month closed a temporary encampment at Depot Park to make room for the testing site there.
Also changing is official guidance on masking. Aligning with many of its Bay Area neighbors and general state guidance, Santa Cruz County will relax its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals next week. However, health officials still urge wearing masks in crowded spaces, and to ditch cloth masks and 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 Thursday, appointments were available as soon that day at local pharmacies, where availability had been about two weeks out during the peak of the Omicron surge.