By Jondi Gumz
Felton Music Hall reported an outbreak of COVID-19 after Grateful Shred of Los Angeles gave a July 18 indoor concert attended by 291 people, and postponed upcoming shows with Steely Dan and Anthony Arya.
“What started out as one person with symptoms has turned into a couple of confirmed cases,” the hall posted on Facebook. “Nearly all the band and crew have also tested positive and are at home recovering with their families…Apparently the vaccine does not prevent transmission. But fortunately it does seem to really help in reducing sickness and preventing hospitalization.”
The hall, which is owned by Thomas Cussins, reported all employees will be required to provide a negative PCR test and “when we come back, masks will be required for all staff and patrons … This Delta variant is no joke.”
Active COVID cases, which had fallen to 40 in June in Santa Cruz County, now stand at 196. Hospitalizations, which were zero, are up to five, with three people in intensive care.
On July 27, Gov. Newsom said state employees and health care workers must show proof of vaccination as of Aug. 9 or be tested weekly as the Delta variant, which spreads more easily, comprises 80% of the California’s COVID cases.
Vaccination proof is being required for students, faculty and staff at Cabrillo College and community colleges statewide, CSU Monterey Bay and all CSU campuses, and UC Santa Cruz and all UC campuses. Exemptions can be requested for medical or religious reasons.
Health officers in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Napa, and San Benito counties recommended indoor masking in public places on July 19 and urged businesses to adopt universal masking for customers indoors to better protect employees and customers.
On July 20, the California Department of Public Health promised to work with 480 community organizations to boost demand for COVID vaccinations.
“COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe, and our best tool in stopping the spread and mutation of variants,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH Director and state public health officer.
On July 27, federal health officials recommended everyone regardless of vaccination status wear masks indoors to slow the spread of Delta COVID-19 cases.
On July 28, state health officials recommended universal masking in public settings — groceries, retail stores, theaters and family entertainment centers — a huge pivot from June 15 when cases in the 18-month pandemic were at a low point.
Impact on Education
Cabrillo expects 8,000 students when fall classes begin Aug. 23. Enrollment dropped 18% during the pandemic, “tragic to watch,” Cabrillo Superintendent/President Matt Wetstein said during a July 28 Zoom webinar on education & COVID hosted by Casey Beyer of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce.
It’s a trend in community colleges nationwide, with the average decline 21 percent, he pointed out.
Yet applications to UCSC were up 11 percent, and CSU Monterey Bay projects stable enrollment, fewer freshman but more transfers.
CSU campuses had been waiting for full approval of vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration, which has granted emergency use, but after a federal judge upheld Indiana University’s vaccine mandate, the CSU chancellor on July 27 announced a vaccine mandate, citing the Delta variant.
“Receiving a COVID vaccine continues to be the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro in the announcement.
CSU Monterey Bay, which will have 50% face-to-face classes, 40% virtual and 10% hybrid, already has a vaccine registration system, President Eduardo Ochoa said.
UCSC, which expects 18,500 students including 9,300 living on campus, starts later — on Sept. 18 — and can learn from others, Chancellor Cindy Larive said.
She noted the campus policy for masking indoors and “zero person-to-person transmission on campus” with “most cases in the community.”
Sequencing to identify variants at the Colligan diagnostic lab on campus is “better than contact tracing” and “important to understanding community spread,” Larive said.
Asked about vaccination percentages, Cabrillo’s Wetstein said, “About 50%. We’re finding lots of reluctance.”
He estimated 50% of students 18 to 21 are vaccinated.
“We’re sending a message the mandate is there – it’s easy to upload (your certificate). We hope those students get the message. It is a hard lift. It has plateaued.”
Ochoa said “95% of those registered have vaccinated.”
Larive said she did not have good data.
Reason for Spread
On July 22, at a rare press conference outdoors, public and private sector health leaders in Santa Cruz County urged people to get vaccinated to avoid a hospital stay.
The reason is the Delta variant spreads more easily.
Dr. Katherine Martin, a 2016 medical school graduate with Sutter Health in Watsonville, made a plea to millennials under 30, noting this age group tends to gather in groups, which increases risk of spreading, and has the lowest vaccination rate.
“Even if you never develop symptoms from Covid-19, you can pass it to others,” she said.
A UC San Francisco study of 5,000 young adults 18 to 24, who are more likely to spread the virus, reported in July they are concerned about possible side effects.
A study out of China referenced by The New York Times found viral loads in Delta cases 1,000 times higher than the alpha or beta variants.
Tracking professional athletes has found players who test positive carry very high amounts of virus for seven to 10 days compared to two or three days of the initial virus.
The Times cited two Delta spread situations.
One was a bachelorette party where a dozen vaccinated but unmasked attendees went to downtown bars in Oklahoma City. Afterward, 17 guests at the July 10 wedding reported positive tests and mild symptoms.
The other was July 4 in Massachusetts: 256 cases — two-thirds vaccinated and 66 in other states — were tracked back to Provincetown, where a reported 60,000 unmasked people celebrated at bars and house parties.
Since June, the number of recoveries in Santa Cruz County has increased from 15,975 to 16,129 and fully vaccinated numbers from 144,000 to 155,600, with 178,600 fully vaccinated.
This means 56.8% of the population is fully vaccinated and 65% partly vaccinated. President Biden wanted 70 percent by 4th of July.
On July 22, Dr. Nanette Mickiewicz, CEO at Dignity Health Dominican Hospital, said patients can choose their vaccine, Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
“We are accommodating everyone without charge,” she said. “This is too important.”
She said the hospital has seen an uptick in COVID patients.
“They are unvaccinated,” she said.
By the time they get admitted, it’s too late to give the vaccine to impact their outcome, she explained.
“The doctors are tired, the nurses are tired,” said Steven Salyer, CEO at Watsonville Community Hospital, noting hospital workers have left their profession because of the pandemic, straining the system. “We need the support of the community to help our frontline workers.”
Dr. Cristina Gamboa, an obstetrician at Salud Para La Gente in Watsonville, encouraged family members of a pregnant woman get vaccinated to protect her.
About half the county’s COVID cases have been in Watsonville.
Here are the percentages of fully vaccinated people by ZIP code:
- Aptos: 74%
- Ben Lomond: 63%
- Boulder Creek: 65%
- Capitola: 90%
- Davenport: 76%
- Freedom: 66%
- Felton: 84%
- Santa Cruz (95062): 76%
- Scotts Valley: 79%
- Soquel: 79%
- Watsonville: 77%
A vaccination gap exists locally, with a smaller percentage of people in their 20s and 30s getting the vaccine compared to those 40 and older.
Health officials have coined the term “vaccine hesitancy” to describe people choosing not to get the vaccine.
Some are concerned about long-term side effects, and since the vaccines were created and tested in a year, those results are not available yet. Some may have jobs that do not allow time off, or they may be mothers at home caring for young children.
Parts of Aptos and Watsonville have no Internet, so signing up for a shot online is impossible — something county health officials are addressing with pop-up clinics where no appointment is needed.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an increased number of deaths reported after a COVID-19 vaccination. Between Dec. 14, 2020, through July 19, 2021, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) received 6,207 reports of death among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC’s website says, “Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.”
This is because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which granted emergency use of the COVID vaccines, requires healthcare providers to report any death after a COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause.
A review of clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines, according to the CDC.
Fortunately the number of fatalities in Santa Cruz County, 207, has not budged, since June.
- Aug. 7 and Aug. 21: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Liberty Bank in Boulder Creek. Pfizer second doses and Johnson & Johnson, with a gift card reward promised.
- Aug. 7: El Pajaro Community Devclopment Corp. in Watsonville, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pfizer second dose and Johnson & Johnson.
- Aug. 11: Watsonville YMCA, 5:30 p.m. Pfizer second dose and Johnson & Johnson.
- Aug. 13: Museum of Art & History, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz, noon to 4 p.m. Pfizer second dose and Johnson & Johnson.
- Aug. 21: Barrios Unidos, 1817 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, Pfizer first dose and Johnson & Johnson, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On June 15, the state reopened for business after crimping life for more than a year to knock out the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected 3,822,551 and taken 63,800 lives statewide.
There is no approved vaccine for younger children 12 and under yet, but there is little evidence of spread by young school-age children.
Call 2-1-1 to find a vaccination site or see santacruzhealth.org
For COVID data, see: covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.
With the June 15 reopening, the tourism and ag economy in Santa Cruz County rebounded, adding 2,200 jobs in ag, and 600 in food service and hotels between mid-May and mid-June, boosting the total jobs in the county to 105,400.
Still, 9,200 people are jobless.
June unemployment was 6.9% down from 12.2% a year ago.
Indeed.com, the job site, reports 130 jobs available in Aptos, including Persephone restaurant.
Cabrillo, where the governing board voted in May to reinstate football, posted a full-time job for athletics/kinesiology instructor-head football coach, starting pay of $57,000.
For jobs paying $35 an hour in Aptos, try California Farm Link, Seascape Beach Resort, and Trident Society.
Indeed.com reports Scotts Valley has 80 jobs paying $35 an hour, including Steeped Coffee, Warmboard (formerly in Aptos), UC Santa Cruz, and the city of Scotts Valley, oiffering $6,987 monthly for an entry-level a police officer.
In Santa Cruz, McDonald’s on Ocean St. is offering $15 an hour; Continental Inn is hiring for all positions and offering a $250 bonus.
Deaths from COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County have leveled off at 207, with 50 percent of deaths at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, a percentage that was higher early in the pandemic.
Locally, 79 percent of those who died were age 70 or older and 78 percent had other health conditions. n
County COVID Deaths: 207
As of July 28
90 and up: 56 • 80 to 89: 63 • 70 to 79: 44 • 60 to 69: 27 • 50 to 59: 5 • 40 to 49: 7 • 30 to 39: 5
White: 115 • Latinx: 75 • Asian: 15 • Black: 1 • Amer. Indian/Alaskan Native: 1
Yes: 161 • No: 46
Male: 103 • Female: 104
Skilled Nursing/Residential Care
Santa Cruz Post Acute: 20 • Watsonville Post Acute: 18 • Pacific Coast Manor: 14 • Hearts & Hands Post Acute: 8 • Sunshine Villa: 7 • Aegis: 4 • Maple House 1: 4 • Valley Convalescent: 4 • Watsonville Nursing Center: 4 • Montecito Manor: 3 • De Un Amor: 2 • Dominican Oaks: 2 • Driftwood: 2 • Hanover House: 2 • Maple House II: 2 • Rachelle’s Home 1: 2 • La Posada: 1 • Paradise Villa: 1 • Rachelle’s Home II: 1 • Valley Haven: 1 • Westwind: 1
Not at a facility: 104
COVID Cases by Town
Aptos: 851 • Ben Lomond: 128 • Boulder Creek: 162 • Capitola: 476 • Felton: 165 • Freedom: 1,007 • Santa Cruz: 4,126 • Scotts Valley: 467 • Soquel: 372 • Watsonville: 8,217
Unincorporated: 273 • Under investigation: 288
Source: Santa Cruz County Public Health
Editor’s Note: Would you like to share your family’s COVID-19 story? Email Jondi Gumz at [email protected] or call 831-688-7549 x17.