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Santa Cruz County health officials gave an update on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination efforts in Santa Cruz County on Thursday.

Here are some highlights, including plans to lift some mask requirements outdoors, and plans to stimulate dwindling demand for vaccines.

Vaccine supply exceeds demand

Jen Herrera, the county’s chief of public health, said the county is “starting to see less demand at the existing vaccination sites, however, we see that we still have some ways to go in terms of our vaccine rates of those eligible in the community.”

So far, 88% of all residents over the age of 65 have been vaccinated, and 62% of all residents 16 and older have received at least one dose. Of the youngest age group, those 16-24, only 29% have received a first dose.


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Deputy health officer Dr. David Ghilarducci attributed this partly to the fact that this group hasn’t been eligible for very long, but also acknowledged that people in this age group may feel they have a reduced risk for catching COVID and therefore are not in a rush to get a vaccine.

But he cautioned that “as you get younger the chances of getting severely ill do go down, but they are not zero — and there are many tragic examples of young people that have could have otherwise been protected who became infected and had some serious consequences.”

Ghilarducci stressed that vaccination of young people is especially important as schools open and youth sports resume, which is resulting in more mixing of what is — so far — a mostly unvaccinated population.

Outdoor mask mandates will be tweaked soon

On the heels of the CDC announcing new, more relaxed mask requirements for vaccinated people, mostly related to outdoor activities, county health officer Dr. Gail Newel said that local regulations would align with the CDC rules soon.

California health officials have said that they plan to change California’s rules to match the CDC’s, but they haven’t yet. As soon as those changes are made in Sacramento, Newel said she will rescind her local orders to align with the California and CDC guidelines.

However, Newel pointed out that even under the CDC’s new orders, everyone, vaccinated or not, is recommended to wear a mask outdoors in crowded situations which would include places like the Boardwalk.

Here’s the video of Thursday’s full briefing:

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...