COVID-19 Variants Increasingly Prevalent As Vaccines Become Available To All Adults

New milestones for Covid-19 deaths and vaccinations are met after a tenuous week in Santa Clara.

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Hazem Asif/Unsplash

Even as vaccination efforts ramp up, officials are warning not to ignore social distancing guidelines.

Jason Lin

Good and bad news has made headlines throughout the week succeeding spring break. As the day steadily becomes longer and warmer, more and more people feel the urge to enjoy the outdoors. However, startling news came on April 10 when Santa Clara County announced that testing for COVID-19 has dropped by nearly 34% in the past two months. 

“If we are not testing robustly in the community, it narrows our view of where the virus is circulating, and to what level it is spreading. Testing also allows us to break the chains of transmission and reduce spread, which gives the virus fewer opportunities to replicate and mutate,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Officer for the County of Santa Clara. “I know it feels like we are close to the end, with expanded vaccinations and many activities resuming, but let’s not drop the ball right before we cross the finish line. If you are at risk of exposure, either from work or other activities, get tested regularly.”

While cases have been dropping in recent times, the increased prevalence of COVID-19 variants has increased weariness in public health officials. Now many of them are encouraging further testing and vaccine rollout. 

“Thanks to an influx of 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Santa Clara County has opened up who’s eligible for those doses. And thousands are headed in,” said Emily Turner in an interview with Yahoo News

Since the authorization of vaccinations for those 16 and up, Santa Clara County officials have opened tens of thousands of additional vaccine appointments. While the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is currently on hold because of concerns with side effects, the significant increase in vaccines from the federal level has enabled the surge in appointments. 

“We’re thrilled to provide expanded access to these highly effective vaccines, especially for those most impacted by COVID-19,” said Dr. Fenstersheib. “Vaccines are the County’s number one priority and they will save lives. After many weeks of supply challenges, we will be able to offer vaccination to those at greatest risk and ensure broad coverage for our entire community.”

Currently, around 60,000 people have already been vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, or roughly 5% of total vaccinations. In light of the new concerns, the county will be following any guidelines set up by the CDC regarding the vaccines. 

Despite shortages during March, Santa Clara County has successfully fully vaccinated nearly a third of its population, with over 50% having received their first vaccine. However, another milestone was set this week: over 2,000 people have died in Santa Clara County.  

“Even in the best-case scenario, we’re looking at the order, in the next 12 weeks, of 2,000 potential deaths directly from COVID-19,” San Jose Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness told city officials at the time.

With new milestones set on all fronts this week, the battle has yet to end against COVID-19. Now that Santa Clara is firmly in the Orange tier, the prospects of normal life are increasing by the day. However, as indicated by Santa Clara health officials, a valiant effort must be made before this can be a reality.