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November 29, 2022

‘Surging’ virus cases concern Santa Clara County health officials

Cool weather, holidays could cause further uptick, county warns

A sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases over the past week, coupled with the rise of hospitalizations and the upcoming holiday season, have health officials concerned that the county could be headed backward in its fight against the virus.

At a press conference on Nov. 9, Public Health Officer Sara Cody presented what she referred to as “sobering news,” and urged residents to remain vigilant.

“Our case counts in Santa Clara County are starting to surge,” she said, noting that the cases began drifting up in October. “It’s no longer a drift. Our cases are surging up, and that’s a cause for concern. It’s beginning to take off.

“The sharp uptick in cases is a very worrisome sign as far as what it may mean for our hospitals.”

There were 358 new Covid-19 cases reported on Nov. 8, which is second only to the record 385 new cases reported on July 15, according to health officials. Nearly all these cases are from test samples collected in the past week, with about half in the past three days. 

The seven-day average of new cases last week was between 131 and 139, accelerating after a slow climb that started in mid-October. In addition, the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations on Nov. 8 went up by nearly 10 percent, with 102 people currently hospitalized.

Similar to previous upticks in cases, Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting areas such as Gilroy and East San Jose, according to Cody.

According to county health data, Gilroy reported 88 new cases between Nov. 1-8. By comparison, between Oct. 5-12 and Oct. 13-19, the city had 32 and 38 new cases, respectively.

Morgan Hill reported 54 new cases between Nov. 1-8, while San Martin, which reported no new cases from Oct. 28 to Nov. 3, had four in the past week.

Cooler temperatures and inclement weather that come with fall and winter mean people will be inclined to engage in more indoor activities, especially with Thanksgiving and other holidays in the near future, Cody said, urging residents not to travel this season. 

Cody expressed concern that the county, which moved into the Orange Tier of the state’s reopening framework on Oct. 14, could soon fall back into the Red or Purple tiers if case rates continue to rise, leading to business closures and other restrictions.

“What each of us do every day really matters, and an increase in cases is both a risk to the health of our community and the health of our economy,” she said.

The county’s Business and Compliance Enforcement Team has been responding to complaints of non-compliance for the past two months, cracking down on businesses that willfully ignore educational outreach and continue to flout Covid-19 prevention mandates, County Counsel James Williams said. 

The enforcement—which can include fines and orders to cease operations—typically only comes after educational efforts fail to yield results. Out of 1,658 business violation complaints received from Aug. 30 to Oct. 26, 1,088 were resolved through county contact and advice on how the business can better operate within the realm of rules that keep staff and customers safe from Covid-19, according to Williams.

“Most businesses we contact are very interested in doing their part to keep themselves and the community healthy,” he said. “They readily accept their responsibility and operate accordingly. However, we cannot ignore those that operate in an unsafe manner. These are not optional guidelines; they are mandatory measures to protect our entire community.”

Residents are encouraged to report entities that are not following safety protocols at sccCOVIDconcerns.org.

Free Covid-19 testing continues throughout the county, including at the South County Annex, 9300 Wren Ave. in Gilroy, Nov. 10-13 from 11am to 5:30pm. For information, visit sccfreetest.org.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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