Santa Clara County’s top health official warned on Tuesday that COVID case counts and hospitalizations are on the upswing and urged everyone to consider wearing masks in high-risk settings, keep a stockpile of tests and exercise caution when socializing indoors.
“The pandemic is still here,” said Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “It is time to break out your mask and break out your tests and just be a bit more cautious than you were a month ago.”
Santa Clara County is currently experiencing a weekly average of 552 cases — just slightly higher than the number of cases during the peak of the Delta wave that hit in summer 2021. The cases are being driven by two cousins of the BA.1 omicron strain that caused a major surge during winter, which are currently dominating across the rest of the country.
Cody’s announcement did not include any public health mandates — and she did not offer any benchmarks as to when and if the county would impose any. But Cody did leave open the door for some tightening of rules.
“I would say that at this point in the pandemic, no one wants to issue restrictions,” she said. “At the same time, we also know that we have to think about the whole community and particularly people who are more vulnerable and need restrictions to protect them. What I want to happen is for everyone to just understand where we are. And to understand that they are at risk because we’ve got a lot of viruses circulating now. And it’s on its way up.”
The county is also hovering between 80 to 100 people currently hospitalized with COVID — an increase from mid-to-late April when there were between 65 and 75 people hospitalized. Cody said Tuesday that she expects these numbers to increase. Deaths from COVID in the county are on a downward trend, however, that metric tends to rise after cases peak.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Cody also encouraged unvaccinated people to get a shot and urged those who are eligible for their second booster shot to get one, which includes older and immunocompromised individuals. The health officer noted that there hasn’t been a ton of demand for the second booster. Within the county, 29 percent of those 65 and up have received a second booster, while just 15 percent of those between 50 to 64 have received one.
Other counties in the Bay Area on Tuesday were also keeping an eye on the steady rise in COVID cases.
At the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said that his department has no plans for upcoming public health mandates. However, if hospitalizations keep rising and widespread “long” COVID symptoms reappear, Moss said a mask mandate would likely come back.
San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin and San Francisco counties have no current plans for a mask requirement, according to their health departments.
In response to the increased case counts, San Jose has chosen to reinstate a mask mandate for its employees through May 20, “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a city spokesperson. BART is also requiring masks for passengers through mid-July.
Local outbreaks are also starting to crop up in the region. Last week, at least 60 Los Gatos High School students tested positive for COVID over a 14-day period. Days before, the San Francisco Giants announced it would be limiting access to its clubhouse after several players tested positive for the virus.