Santa Clara County has experienced a sharp decrease in the number of known Covid-19 cases since January that have led to loosening restrictions. But those numbers have flatlined in recent weeks, and with new variants circulating in the county, cases could be on the rise again soon, County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said April 1.
Every “variant of concern,” as described by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been detected in Santa Clara County, Cody said. As of March 27, there are 92 confirmed cases of B.1.1.7 (first detected in the United Kingdom), three confirmed cases of B.1.351 (first detected in South Africa), one case of P.1 (first detected in Japan/Brazil) and more than 1,000 confirmed cases of B.1.427 and B.1.429 (first detected in California). In addition, the county has also had one each of two variants first detected in New York, B.1.525 and B.1.526.
The county is averaging roughly 100 incidents daily of known Covid-19 cases, according to data, far below the nearly 2,000 cases averaged daily at the end of 2020.
Cody said the numbers are back to October levels, before the Thanksgiving traveling season caused cases to drastically increase. But numbers have been holding steady in recent weeks, she said.
“We may have gotten as low as we are going to go,” Cody said. “Cases have flattened, but there are signs that they are starting to tick up.”
County Testing and Vaccine Officer Marty Fenstersheib said that while variants are more transmissible, studies have shown the currently available vaccines are effective against them.
“This is what viruses do, they naturally mutate,” he said. “They are trying to survive.”
Fenstersheib added that the county has the capacity to vaccinate about 200,000 people a week, but is only working at a third of that due to consistently low supply. As of March 31, nearly 36 percent of eligible residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 21 percent are fully vaccinated.
The number of allocated doses has remained flat over the past several weeks, with this week’s allocation allowing for roughly 35,000 first dose appointments. Eligibility expanded April 1 to those age 50 and over, and on April 15 those age 16 and over will be included.
Fenstersheib said it is unclear how supply will be affected in Santa Clara County following an error at a Baltimore manufacturing facility that contaminated 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Cody said all travel is strongly discouraged, and residents should continue to wear a mask, maintain physical distance, keep activities outdoors instead of indoors, and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.
“We do anticipate we’ll have another surge,” she said. “I would hope it will be a swell, not a surge. We need people to just hold on for a little bit longer.”