Santa Clara’s COVID-19 Situation: Week of February 8-14

A COVID-19 testing site at Stanford University, which uses the antibody method. (Source: iTechScience)

A COVID-19 testing site at Stanford University, which uses the antibody method. (Source: iTechScience)

Jason Lin

While overall daily infection rates and hospitalization have been declining, the death rate for COVID-19 in Santa Clara County remains high from the peak in the first week of January. Health experts and local officials have emboldened the current movement into a lockdown and Santa Clara’s current status in the purple tier remains unchanged. On February 12th, a brand new vaccination site was opened in Gilroy in an effort to improve vaccine access to places hardest hit by COVID-19. Vaccinations at all 6 major sites are currently restricted to those 65 and older as well as Healthcare workers under 1A. People with underlying conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, dementia, and hypertension, are still barred from vaccine access.  

Also on February 12th, a couple carrying the confirmed B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 Z (a new South African strain) touched down in Alameda County. Fortunately, the infected couple followed appropriate COVID-19 quarantine protocols, and the chain of transmission was effectively broken. However, Dr. Nicholas Moss, Health Officer for the County of Alameda, says that “The cases we share with you today are only the ones that have been confirmed through genomic sequencing. As we work quickly to learn more, our best defense right now is to stay vigilant and reduce transmission as much as possible.” COVID-19’s genetic shift rate is directly proportional to the number of people it infected with over time. To prevent this from increasing in likelihood, public health officials have been advising for double face coverings in an effort to reduce transmissions. 

Based on the census tracking data provided on February 11th, the Alum Rock, Evergreen, and Gilroy areas have been most severely hit by SARS-CoV-2 with roughly 7,000 cases per 100,000 people. In accordance with this data, large vaccination sites were set up in East San José and Gilroy, with mobile vaccination sites also coming to prominence in other regions. These onsite and mobile sites follow a first-come-first-serve basis, ensuring that people without access to effective internet are able to get vaccinated. As the race against time continues, Santa Clara plans on exploring locations for new vaccination sites, as well as partnerships with community clinics to ensure that residents can access vaccines.

As for testing, COVID-19 pop-up testing sites will be switching to testing via saliva specimen. Even as vaccination rates continue to rise, health officials still strongly advocate for the importance of testing and restricting this virus spread. The saliva test is projected to decrease logistical difficulties with a less invasive and much faster test. Appointments for testing sites are rotated weekly and pre-registration is a prerequisite for such tests in the current status quo. However, claims of testing and vaccinations are positive among Santa Clara’s health board. With significant effort from all of its inhabitants that call it home, Santa Clara may be able to pull through and get SARS-CoV-2 Z under control.