By Jondi Gumz
Santa Cruz County reports one more COVID-19 death, bringing the number of fatalities to 225, and California health officials say people with two shots aren’t protected from the new Omicron variant, so they recommend a second booster.
- On Dec. 13, with California Covid cases up 47 percent and hospitalizations up 14 percent, the state Department of Public Health ordered masks be worn indoors to prevent this new highly transmissible variant from spreading. Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel had already ordered masks to be worn indoors as of Nov. 22, including at home with guests.
- On Dec. 13, Britain reported its first death connected to Omicron.
- On Dec. 15, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported Omicron infections are likely in people who are fully vaccinated.
A U.S. study, not yet peer-reviewed, found all three U.S. Covid vaccines appear to be significantly less protective against the Omicron variant in lab testing, but a booster dose appears to restore protection.
Santa Cruz County reports 612 active cases as of Dec. 13, up from 540 two weeks ago, 21,708 cases since the pandemic began, 632 hospitalizations, and 230,200 negative test results. Statistics are updated on Mondays and Thursdays.
County hospitalizations edged down from 14 to 12, including three in intensive care.
The man who died was white, in his 60s, with underlying conditions.
The CDC tracker hasn’t updated test positivity in Santa Cruz County; it was 2.37 percent two weeks ago; the statewide rate, which was 3.4 percent, has dipped to 2.3 percent.
The Santa Cruz County Office of Education reports all positive cases of student and staff regardless of the source of transmission. See santacruzcoe.org/coviddashboards
83 Student Cases
Pajaro Valley Unified School District, which has more than 19,000 students, reports 83 student cases and seven staff cases during December.
MacQuiddy Elementary had 13 cases, Watsonville High, 9, Bradley Elementary, 6, Landmark Elementary, 6, Rolling Hills Middle School, 6, Pajaro Valley High, 5, Hall District Elementary, 3, Ohlone Elementary 3.
In Aptos, Mar Vista Elementary had 9 cases, Aptos High, 5, Aptos Junior High, 2, Valencia Elementary, 2.
Pajaro Middle School, Radcliff Elementary Mintie White Elementary, each reported two cases.
There was one student case at Freedom Elementary, Cesar Chavez Middle School, E.A. Hall Middle School, Lakeview Middle School, Pacific Coast Charter School, Starlight Elementary, Alianza Charter, and Calabasas State Preschool.
One staff case each was reported by Amesti, Freedom, H.A. Hyde, Landmark, MacQuiddy, Ohlone, and Starlight.
The CDC tracker reports test positivity in Santa Cruz County at 2.37 percent, up from 1.54 percent seven days ago; the statewide rate has risen to 3.4 percent.
With Inspire Diagnostics, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education has conducted more than 123,700 PCR surveillance tests for COVID at no charge to those tested, and reports a 14-day positivity rate of .5 percent and 77 cases active in the past two weeks.
Testing for the school community will go on a holiday schedule: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec 20-22 and Dec. 27-29, then resume the regular schedule Jan. 3.
Regular testing hours are: Cabrillo’s parking lot K, 2-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; the PVUSD District Office parking lot, open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, and the county Office of Education, 400 Encinal St., Santa Cruz.
Students and their families, and staff and their families can get tested free; fill out the registration once at http://sccoe.link/inspiresc and go to any site — no appointment is needed.
Following authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine are available at the three local clinics for 16-17 year-olds who got their second does at least six months ago.
Booster doses of all three vaccine types are available for all school staff.
Appointments are required at https://santacruzcoe.org/boosters/
Booster shots are available for school staff who got their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, or who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least 2 months ago.
For a list of COVID vaccine providers, visit www.santacruzhealth.org/coronavirusvaccine.
Deaths are still rising — 801,000 in the United States, 74,700 in California, 225 in Santa Cruz County — and part of President Biden’s strategy is to mandate vaccines or weekly tests for employers with 100 more employees (part time as well as fulltime — independent contractors are not counted). The deadline to comply is Jan. 4.
Due to legal challenges, the future of the mandate is not known.
Four judicial rulings put a hold on mandates, finding the administration’s orders mandating vaccines exceeded the power Congress had given the executive branch. The rulings:
Nov. 12: BST Holdings v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, opinion written by Kurt D. Engelhardt.
Nov. 30: Louisiana v. Becerra, Judge Terry A. Doughty stayed the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services order.
Nov. 30: Kentucky v. Biden, Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove stayed the executive order on federal contractors in three states.
Dec. 7: Georgia vs. Biden, Judge R. Stan Baker made the stay national in scope.
In Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, a Florida district court upheld the CMS mandate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed it on Dec. 6.
A CDC analysis published Nov. 18 in the American Journal of Infection Control found 30 percent of healthcare workers in more than 2,000 U.S. hospitals were unvaccinated against COVID-19 as of Sept. 15.
The Biden administration backed off on penalties this year for federal workers and military personnel not fully vaccinated (or requested a religious or medical exemption) by Nov. 22.
Enforcement will begin in 2022, when the unvaccinated may get a letter of reprimand. About 92 percent of federal employees are vaccinated.
91% One Dose
Health experts had surmised that once 70 percent of the population (or 80 percent or 85 percent) was vaccinated against COVID-19, the new coronavirus would fade away — the world could return to normal.
That hasn’t happened.
The CDC COVID Tracker says Santa Cruz County has 91.6 percent of those 12 and older with one dose and 81.6 percent of that age group fully vaccinated.
Studies show protection from Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine begins to wane after a few months, which is why booster shots are available to those 18 and older whose shots were six months ago.
Dominican Hospital’s vaccine clinic has provided COVID-19 booster shots every Thursday since they were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC.
To make an appointment, see myturn.ca.gov.
Although protection wanes, studies show the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly protective against hospitalization.
The CDC said people can “mix and match” vaccines.
The Dignity Health Medical Group-Dominican pediatric practices in Aptos and Capitola began offering the Pfizer vaccine to their patients 5 years and older after the FDA granted authorization.
Drugstores also have Pfizer vaccine for kids 5-11.
Some parents worry about myocarditis, heart inflammation, which has been reported in adolescent and young adult males. It is a rare condition and Dr. Steven Black, co-director of the Global Vaccine Data Network, a consortium researching vaccine safety, told The New York Times that physicians will know to look for it.
Some parents worried about long-term side effects do not want to vaccinate their children. In other cases, if the children have had COVID, the parents contend they have natural immunity.
Jobs Data: Dec. 17
Santa Cruz County had a healthy 105,100 jobs as of mid-October, and unemployment was 5.2%, down from 7.4% a year ago. November numbers will be posted Dec. 17.
Many businesses have “help wanted” signs.
Pandemic-induced supply chain problems have delayed the start of Aptos library construction project.
The New York Times advised people to shop earlier this year because of expected shipping delays due to supply chain problems.
To avoid that problem, shop local.
Total COVID cases: 21,124
COVID Deaths: 225
As of Dec.15
85 and older: 98 • 75-84: 49 • 65-74: 40 • 60-64: 14 • 55-59: 3 • 45-54: 9 • 35-44: 7 • 25-34: 5
Yes: 179 • No: 46
White 124 • Latinx 82 • Asian 16 • Black 1 • Amer Indian/Alaskan Native: 1
Male: 115 • Female 110
Yes: 105 • No 120