By Jondi Gumz
When health officials talk about the COVID-19 pandemic, you may not hear the words “herd immunity.”
Even though deaths have risen — 759,000 in the United States, 72,000 in California and 222 in Santa Cruz County — officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control no longer see herd immunity as a national goal.
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 idea, based on immunity to measles for children who got the disease, doesn’t seem to work with the easily spread Delta variant even as the vaccination rose to 58.5 percent fully vaccinated nationwide. California reports 73.7 percent have one dose; Santa Cruz County has 72.3 percent with one dose and 67.5 percent fully vaccinated.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Dr. Jefferson Jones of the CDC’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Task Force telling a vaccine advisory panel that achieving a threshold where the virus does not spread may not be possible.
Vaccines have been effective at preventing death, but not blocking spread, he said.
Studies show protection from Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine begins to wane after a few months, which is why booster shots are available. However, studies show both vaccines are highly protective against hospitalization.
Santa Cruz County reports 408 active cases — up from 324 two weeks ago — five hospitalizations, unchanged, none in intensive care.
One vaccine, Pfizer, was granted emergency use authorization for kids age 5-11.
The first vaccine clinic for kids 5-11 in Aptos, offered through the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, was Nov. 10 at Valencia Elementary, and 21 students were vaccinated. At Mar Vista Elementary, 25 students had vaccine appointments on Nov. 12. Each school has 32 slots available.
Appointments must be made in advance at: https://santacruzcoe.org/vaccines/pvusd
Court Blocks Mandate
On Nov. 6, a federal appellate court in Louisiana temporarily blocked a new vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more employees (part time as well as fulltime — independent contractors are not counted).
President Biden ordered the mandate requiring 100 million workers to be vaccinated or get tests weekly, giving businesses until Jan. 4 to comply.
Attorneys general from 27 states sued. One argument is the president set legislative policy, which is the job of Congress, and another is Congress did not give federal Occupational Safety and Health administrators the power to end pandemics.
One of the questions recently fielded by Pajaro Valley Superintendent Dr. Michelle Rodriguez was: Why is the vaccine mandated for students?
Gov. Newsom announced plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend in-person school once the vaccine gets full approval but Rodriguez explained that the vaccine is still not a state requirement.
“Therefore, currently PVUSD encourages but does not require neither staff nor students to be vaccinated. Once the State implements the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, PVUSD will follow the law,” she added, noting the law would have personal exemptions.
Drugstores have Pfizer vaccine for kids 5-11 but on Nov. 12, there was no availability in Aptos.
The closest locations are Walgreens in Freedom and Santa Cruz and RiteAid in Freedom, according to VaccineFinder, which is searchable at santacruzhealth.org.
Dr. Faris Sabbah, Santa Cruz County superintendent of schools, is working with all nine school districts to offer vaccine clinics for kids age 5 to 11. For details, see: https://santacruzcoe.org/vaccines
Active School Cases
Sabbah launched a website, santacruzcoe.org/coviddashboards, to report active cases and test results.
Pajaro Valley Unified School District reported nine active student cases and zero active staff cases.
Pacific Coast Charter School has two active cases. So does Watsonville High.
There is one each at Valencia Elementary, Mintie White Elementary, Radcliffe Elementary, E.A. Hall Middle School and Pajaro Valley High.
State guidelines require students and school staff working with them to be masked indoors although Santa Cruz County lifted its indoor mask mandate Sept. 29.
With Inspire Diagnostics, the County Office of Education has conducted more than 38,000 PCR surveillance tests for COVID at no charge to those tested.
Testing sites are open at 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.
Juan Straub, Inspire project manager, said 230 people got tested on Nov. 10 despite the rain.
Students and their families, and staff and their families can use this free service. Those needing a test simply fill out the registration once at sccoe.link/inspiresc and go to any site. No appointment is needed.
Locally the Delta variant claimed two more lives in Santa Cruz County – two Latino men, both with underlying conditions — bringing the number of deaths to 222.
The county reports 324 active cases, 20,517 cases since the pandemic began and 618 requiring hospitalization.
On Nov. 3, with winter on the horizon, Santa Cruz County Public health officials encouraged everyone eligible to get a booster shot because of the waning protection.
Boosters are recommended for: Anyone 18 and older who got their Johnson & Johnson shot 2 or more months ago, most people who received their Pfizer or Moderna shot 6 or more months ago, people 65+ or 18 and older living in a long-term care facility, and people 50+ with an underlying condition.
The CDC definition of an underlying medical condition is very broad, and a significant portion of the population qualifies for a booster, according to health officials, adding that people are free to “mix and match” vaccines to get protection.
Rally For Choice
While some parents are eager to have their younger children vaccinated in hopes of returning to normality, others contend vaccines should be a choice, not a mandate.
On Nov. 3, hundreds of parents rallied in Santa Cruz to register their dismay with Gov. Newsom’s plan to mandate vaccines for children attending school in person.
The rally, sponsored locally by GuardiansofYouth.com, was part of the worldwide walkout initiated by attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He’s the founder of Children’s Health Defense, which opposes mandatory vaccination of children at K-12 schools and school staff, college students and staff, and employees and calls for freedom of choice.
Dr. Jefferson Jones of the CDC shared these statistics with the vaccine advisory committee.
In 17 months from Jan. 1, 2020, to Oct. 16, 2021, COVID-19 claimed the lives of 94 children age 5-11.
For comparison, he showed causes of death for kids 5-11 in 2019, the year before the pandemic.
The most fatalities, 949, were due to accidents, followed by 525 due to cancer tumors, 274 due to abnormalities at birth, 207 homicides and 115 to heart disease.
Some parents are worried 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.
Enrollments in California’s K-12 public schools — and in Pajaro Valley — dropped from pre-pandemic levels, and homeschooling in California has tripled in two years, with some reports that parents are moving to Idaho and Utah because of SB 277, the 2015 law banning all but medical exemptions for vaccines.
As of Nov. 11, there were 19,887 recovered in Santa Cruz County ; statistics are updated on Mondays and Thursdays.
The CDC tracker reports 80 percent of those eligible in Santa Cruz County are fully vaccinated, and a test positivity rate of .1.37 percent, lower than the statewide rate of 2.3 percent. The state rate has been declining.
For local vaccine information, see www.santacruzhealth.org
Signs of business confidence: The Aptos Chamber of Commerce plans its first in person breakfast meeting on Nov, 18 with Sheriff Jim Hart.
Local business owners are gearing up for Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27, in hopes people will opt out of chain-store shopping on Black Friday, Nov. 26, and shop local.
Jeff Hickey, co-owner of Soul Salad in Aptos, switched his schedule to Tuesday through Saturday.
Soulmate, a new clothing and footwear store, opened in Aptos.
Aptos St. Barbeque is smoking non-GMO free-range turkeys for Thanksgiving; quantities are limited, so order in advance.
Tabitha Stroup, proprietor of Friend in Cheeses Jam Co. and Terroir in a Jar, was dealing with a “very severe” glass shortage with no 8 oz. jars to be had. Now she’s leased the former Miramar restaurant space at 532 Main St, Watsonville, and her sister Jennifer Santillana, opened SHEF, which sells vintage cookware and houseware.
Many businesses have “help wanted” signs. Mr. Z’s Crepes in Aptos asked customers to be patient because of short staffing.
Numbers posted Oct. 19 show a healthy 105,100 jobs in Santa Cruz County in September, and unemployment down to 5.4%. Indeed.com plans a virtual job fair for veterans on Nov. 19.
The New York Times advised people to shop earlier this year because of expected shipping delays due to pandemic-induced supply chain problems.
Shopping local is a way to avoid that problem.
Total cases: 20,517
COVID Deaths: 222
As of Nov. 11
85 and older: 98 • 75-84: 48 • 65-74: 40 • 60-64: 13 • 55-59: 3 • 45-54: 8 • 35-44: 7 • 25-34: 5
Yes:176 • No: 46
White 122 • Latinx 82 • Asian 15 • Black 1 • Amer Indian/Alaskan native 1
Male: 113 • Female 109
Yes: 105 • No 117