News

County on state 'watchlist' after COVID-19 case uptick

Rising coronavirus rate is 'worrisome,' local leaders say

Nurse Prudence Frankel takes a nasal swab from Tiffanie Lai at a Santa Clara County mobile COVID-19 testing site at Rengstorff Park in Mountain View on May 27. On June 23, county leaders said the county was placed on a state "watchlist" due to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Santa Clara County had its highest number of COVID-19 cases ever recorded for a single day on Tuesday, raising concerns about the trajectory of the virus and causing the state to issue a notification that the county is on a "watchlist" because of the increase.

The county had 122 new cases recorded on Tuesday, county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody told the county Board of Supervisors on June 23. (Update: The number of new cases rose to 125 on Wednesday.)

The rise in cases is part of a trend that the Public Health Department has seen over two weeks. New hospitalizations also appear to be trending upward, Cody added.

Sixty-one people were hospitalized as of Tuesday; over the past month, that number has ranged from 38 to 75 patients, according to the county.

Cody received word during the board meeting that the county is now on the state "watchlist," dashing hope for the time being that the county can petition the state to allow additional reopening.

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"It's a worrisome sign. It reflects widespread testing but also an increase in cases because the virus continues to spread," she said.

She said health experts don't have a way to measure the percentage attributable to increased testing versus the increase in actual cases. The county has run pop-up testing clinics over the past several weeks and opened new testing facilities in the southern part of the county.

"There's generally a lag between uptick in cases and uptick in hospitalizations. The hospitalizations are the most stable trend; we're watching it very closely. If hospitalizations rise and stay consistently up, that's an indication that rise in reported cases represents rise in actual incidence, not just in (testing)," she said in an email to this news organization.

Earlier this month, the county relaxed its public health order to allow some businesses to resume, with protocols in place for social distancing and face coverings.

Nearly half of all cases are from unknown sources and are assumed to have been acquired in the community, she said.

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But some businesses and industries have accounted for the increase in cases. Since May 25, 89 worksites have reported at least one COVID-19-positive case. Of those, construction worksites have been hit the hardest, making up 38% of the businesses, with 34 cases. Food service and restaurants comprised 11% of businesses reporting at least one COVID-19 case; retail stores constituted 9% and food-processing plants 7% of the 89 worksites, according to Cody.

Food-processing facilities have the largest outbreaks in terms of the number of people affected, according to the county.

Cody said the county has a team dedicated to worksite investigations. She also praised the construction industry for being candid and diligent when reporting cases.

"The construction industry has been quite progressive" in working with the county on protocols for their worksites, Smith added.

The county has made significant strides to stop outbreaks in congregate settings such as long-term-care facilities since May, a major effort.

Some areas and demographic groups within the county continue to be the hardest hit by COVID-19. South Santa Clara County and the eastside of San Jose and Latinx residents continue to bear a disproportionate number of cases, Cody said.

The county's uptick follows similar trajectories around the region, state and nation, giving rise to concerns that while Santa Clara County hasn't seen an explosive growth in positive cases, the signs are there that things could get worse if people are not careful, Cody noted.

"We're trying to manage a local epidemic, but it's not a local epidemic," Cody said, likening the situation to carrying a bucket with many holes. Travel, a high population and other factors mean the county doesn't exist in isolation.

"Los Angeles is blowing up. California is not trending down at all," County Executive Jeff Smith said, noting Bay Area counties are "not doing so well" and are trending upward.

Statewide, deaths are estimated to triple to 15,155 compared to 5,500 today — a 275% increase — and the U.S. death rate will rise to 201,000 (compared to 119,000 now) — a 68% increase — by Oct. 1, according to projections by the University of Washington, Smith said.

Cody noted, as she has in the past, that opening further — or retreating as necessary — is contingent on slowing the virus down. The most important actions to drive the numbers down still remain physical distancing and social-norm changes, including wearing face coverings, she said.

Contact investigation and contact tracing are also key to keeping the virus under control and understanding where and how it is spreading. The health department's COVID-19 tracing team has added more than 500 contact tracers. It hopes to meet its 1,000-person goal by the end of July. It has also reached its basic goal of testing at least 4,000 people per day, with some days having hit over 5,000 tests, staff said. The county still needs to perform 15,000 tests per day, according to its own estimates.

Cody credited the county's stay-at-home order, which it instituted earlier than anywhere else on March 16, with preventing many deaths. The early social-distancing protocols and order did enable the county to "bend the curve" and lower the number of cases and hospitalizations. As restrictions lifted in accordance with the state's indicators for reopening, county health leaders expected they would see a rise in cases, she said.

Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, Dr. Cody erroneously stated the number of new cases was the second highest.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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County on state 'watchlist' after COVID-19 case uptick

Rising coronavirus rate is 'worrisome,' local leaders say

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 24, 2020, 8:55 am
Updated: Wed, Jun 24, 2020, 2:20 pm

Santa Clara County had its highest number of COVID-19 cases ever recorded for a single day on Tuesday, raising concerns about the trajectory of the virus and causing the state to issue a notification that the county is on a "watchlist" because of the increase.

The county had 122 new cases recorded on Tuesday, county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody told the county Board of Supervisors on June 23. (Update: The number of new cases rose to 125 on Wednesday.)

The rise in cases is part of a trend that the Public Health Department has seen over two weeks. New hospitalizations also appear to be trending upward, Cody added.

Sixty-one people were hospitalized as of Tuesday; over the past month, that number has ranged from 38 to 75 patients, according to the county.

Cody received word during the board meeting that the county is now on the state "watchlist," dashing hope for the time being that the county can petition the state to allow additional reopening.

"It's a worrisome sign. It reflects widespread testing but also an increase in cases because the virus continues to spread," she said.

She said health experts don't have a way to measure the percentage attributable to increased testing versus the increase in actual cases. The county has run pop-up testing clinics over the past several weeks and opened new testing facilities in the southern part of the county.

"There's generally a lag between uptick in cases and uptick in hospitalizations. The hospitalizations are the most stable trend; we're watching it very closely. If hospitalizations rise and stay consistently up, that's an indication that rise in reported cases represents rise in actual incidence, not just in (testing)," she said in an email to this news organization.

Earlier this month, the county relaxed its public health order to allow some businesses to resume, with protocols in place for social distancing and face coverings.

Nearly half of all cases are from unknown sources and are assumed to have been acquired in the community, she said.

But some businesses and industries have accounted for the increase in cases. Since May 25, 89 worksites have reported at least one COVID-19-positive case. Of those, construction worksites have been hit the hardest, making up 38% of the businesses, with 34 cases. Food service and restaurants comprised 11% of businesses reporting at least one COVID-19 case; retail stores constituted 9% and food-processing plants 7% of the 89 worksites, according to Cody.

Food-processing facilities have the largest outbreaks in terms of the number of people affected, according to the county.

Cody said the county has a team dedicated to worksite investigations. She also praised the construction industry for being candid and diligent when reporting cases.

"The construction industry has been quite progressive" in working with the county on protocols for their worksites, Smith added.

The county has made significant strides to stop outbreaks in congregate settings such as long-term-care facilities since May, a major effort.

Some areas and demographic groups within the county continue to be the hardest hit by COVID-19. South Santa Clara County and the eastside of San Jose and Latinx residents continue to bear a disproportionate number of cases, Cody said.

The county's uptick follows similar trajectories around the region, state and nation, giving rise to concerns that while Santa Clara County hasn't seen an explosive growth in positive cases, the signs are there that things could get worse if people are not careful, Cody noted.

"We're trying to manage a local epidemic, but it's not a local epidemic," Cody said, likening the situation to carrying a bucket with many holes. Travel, a high population and other factors mean the county doesn't exist in isolation.

"Los Angeles is blowing up. California is not trending down at all," County Executive Jeff Smith said, noting Bay Area counties are "not doing so well" and are trending upward.

Statewide, deaths are estimated to triple to 15,155 compared to 5,500 today — a 275% increase — and the U.S. death rate will rise to 201,000 (compared to 119,000 now) — a 68% increase — by Oct. 1, according to projections by the University of Washington, Smith said.

Cody noted, as she has in the past, that opening further — or retreating as necessary — is contingent on slowing the virus down. The most important actions to drive the numbers down still remain physical distancing and social-norm changes, including wearing face coverings, she said.

Contact investigation and contact tracing are also key to keeping the virus under control and understanding where and how it is spreading. The health department's COVID-19 tracing team has added more than 500 contact tracers. It hopes to meet its 1,000-person goal by the end of July. It has also reached its basic goal of testing at least 4,000 people per day, with some days having hit over 5,000 tests, staff said. The county still needs to perform 15,000 tests per day, according to its own estimates.

Cody credited the county's stay-at-home order, which it instituted earlier than anywhere else on March 16, with preventing many deaths. The early social-distancing protocols and order did enable the county to "bend the curve" and lower the number of cases and hospitalizations. As restrictions lifted in accordance with the state's indicators for reopening, county health leaders expected they would see a rise in cases, she said.

Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, Dr. Cody erroneously stated the number of new cases was the second highest.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

resident
Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2020 at 9:03 am
resident, Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2020 at 9:03 am
49 people like this

If residents would take the shelter-in-place and social distancing and mask wearing more seriously, the county could let more businesses reopen. The problem is scoflow residents, not the county health department.


Schools
Palo Verde
on Jun 24, 2020 at 9:09 am
Schools, Palo Verde
on Jun 24, 2020 at 9:09 am
8 people like this

I worry about the impact of this on our schools. To the extent we want any flexibility, the covid problems in south county are going to limit our options.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 9:34 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 9:34 am
23 people like this

These numbers are really a disservice to giving us a picture of what is happening. There are still so many unanswered questions.

Are these people who are sick and have gone for a test, or are they asymptomatic? Are these people who are working or are just going out for dinner or shopping? Are these people being told to isolate at home or needing hospitalization? Are these people who have been out at protests? Are these people who have been breaking shelter in place and mixing with friends/family for socialization?

Unless we know better how these community spreading numbers are caused there is little we can learn from them. It is no good saying let's close back up because of the numbers, instead we should be asking what are the things we should not be doing as opposed to what are the things that appear safe to do? If people are getting sick because of work, then how can their work places be made more safe e.g. retail or restaurant workers. If people are getting sick because they have been socializing without wearing masks or social distancing, then we should be told that is the major reason. Lastly if it is due to people who feel healthy just turning up for a test at a testing site because they work in retail, or restaurants, or other essential jobs, or healthcare but not medical staff, then that tells us other things.

In other words, let's breakdown the figures more. Let's know what is really going on. We don't want this to be ammunition to just close up shop again. We want to be able to learn how to make life go on more safely and what it is that is causing the outbreaks.


Barron Parker Too
Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:47 am
Barron Parker Too, Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:47 am
15 people like this

The number of cases throughout California (and Texas, Florida, Arizona) are seen to have been increasing exponentially for the past week or so. Back in March, the doubling time was 3 or 4 days before lockdown. We're seeing that now as well. With new cases quadrupling each week, Santa Clara could go from 122 yesterday to 500 each day in a week. LA could go from 2500 yesterday to 10000 each day next week. Such exponential growth will quickly overwhelm our hospitals.

This is almost certainly due to the protests, in which people, many without masks, thoughtlessly spent a lot of time in dense groups, and shouting. (Shouting is a very efficient way to eject virus from your respiratory system, for your neighbor to inhale.)

In Santa Clara county, nearly 2 million people cooperated for 3 months to end the wave. We were down to 15 or 20 new cases each day, and Santa Clara county was one of the best examples in the country for how to stop the infection from spreading. It's really sad to see how this has been so quickly destroyed by selfish carelessness. Many thousands of Californians will die as a result.


chris
University South
on Jun 24, 2020 at 12:01 pm
chris, University South
on Jun 24, 2020 at 12:01 pm
18 people like this

Because the protests and the opening up happened at about the same time, it confounds teasing out the reasons. Last week, SCC reported many new cases among construction workers.

The fact that so many people are disregarding masking and social distancing is very disappointing.


Messifan
Ventura
on Jun 24, 2020 at 12:37 pm
Messifan, Ventura
on Jun 24, 2020 at 12:37 pm
16 people like this

Meanwhile Palo Alto is at 86 positive cases according to the SCC dashboard. This number is trending upward at like 1 or 2 cases a week. There is basically no community spread in Palo Alto and there has not been since early May according to the dashboard. I wish this publication would let people know so they would calm down, at least about the local situation. I realize the situations is worse in some parts of the county, much worse in Los Angeles, and worse than that in Arizona. But I don't come here to read about there.

Even in Santa Clara County, hospitalizations remain within a low range, there are almost no deaths, and the increases in cases is mostly due to more testing, which is up like 50% in the last two weeks. (Reporting cases without numbers of tests is plain bad reporting.) The test positivity now is around 2%. It used to be like 1.5%. The sky is not falling.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 12:51 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 12:51 pm
6 people like this

Posted by Barron Parker Too, a resident of Barron Park

>> This is almost certainly due to the protests, in which people, many without masks,

Posted by chris, a resident of University South

>> Last week, SCC reported many new cases among construction workers.

It is almost certainly due to the protests. Or, construction workers. Or, other services opening up. Or, something else. Almost certainly.

Well, -certainly-, we should be doing careful contact tracing to untangle this. Now.


TimR
Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:27 pm
TimR, Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:27 pm
6 people like this

It's because of all the protesting. Given all we know about transmission, how could it not be? As for saying it's restaurant workers, construction workers, etc. Well, they go to protests too, not just work and home. And as for home, they could very well live with someone who went to a protest or two or three. I believe in following the data, but that only works if leaders are honest about the data coming in. Even the Weekly mentioned that many in the pop-up at City Hall were there to get tested because they took part in protests. Blaming it on restaurants opening if that's not the actual cause isn't helping anyone.


Dilettante
Greenmeadow
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:32 pm
Dilettante, Greenmeadow
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:32 pm
13 people like this

No surprise, as presently shoppers are strolling around Stanford Shopping Center (observed not 100% mask compliance), diners are eating outdoors and in open-air portions of restaurants, and summer camps are running. Drive by Cubberly fields and you will see huge numbers of kids running around with no masks, exercising (playing soccer or other sports), and not maintaining 6' separation (counselors have masks, but not all of the counselors actually keep their mask on). As Covid-19 seems to be increasing the rate of infection/death in younger age groups, this is alarming.


Resident
Mayfield
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:35 pm
Resident, Mayfield
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:35 pm
19 people like this

We have had a VERY aggressive testing push. Of *course* we are going to see a sharp increase in "cases."

We can't all sit at home and wait for the virus to just go away. It's not going to just go away. You may wish everyone in the whole world would sit at home and stop living until the virus is all gone, but the Earth is not going to become flat no matter how much you wish it were so.

We need to figure out how to live and manage with this virus along with all of other life's risks. It's time to stop destroying childrens' socialization and education along with people's livelihoods and mental health.


Messifan
Ventura
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:41 pm
Messifan, Ventura
on Jun 24, 2020 at 1:41 pm
8 people like this

@Dilettante
But new cases are NOT in Palo Alto. And neither are there increases in young people deaths still 0 under 18 in California (Web Link) and no one under 30 in Santa Clara County (Web Link). Good grief.


fred
University South
on Jun 24, 2020 at 2:27 pm
fred, University South
on Jun 24, 2020 at 2:27 pm
21 people like this

Resident,

Most other developed countries have succeeded in controlling COVID. So far, the US has failed. I think you understand why.


Marianne Mueller
Professorville
on Jun 24, 2020 at 2:36 pm
Marianne Mueller, Professorville
on Jun 24, 2020 at 2:36 pm
Like this comment

I am curious about the contact tracing is that being effective in finding cases? That would validate its effectiveness and help mitigate any calls for the surveillance apps. maybe somebody can compile these good questions and post them to the county website as a suggestion for how they could query the newly diagnosed people, since I doubt the county department witteads this forum


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 4:04 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 4:04 pm
6 people like this

We were doing very well with our numbers until 2 weeks after all the protest marches started.

Nothing to do with reopening, just large gatherings of no masks and no social distancing while shouting, chanting, etc. If not the marchers themselves then those who they went home to.

This is the consequence of those marches, plain and simple.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 4:35 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 4:35 pm
8 people like this

Posted by TimR, a resident of Downtown North

>> It's because of all the protesting. Given all we know about transmission, how could it not be?

Posted by Dilettante, a resident of Greenmeadow

No surprise, as presently shoppers are strolling around Stanford Shopping Center (observed not 100% mask compliance), diners are eating outdoors and in open-air portions of restaurants, and summer camps are running.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> We were doing very well with our numbers until 2 weeks after all the protest marches started. [...] This is the consequence of those marches, plain and simple.

I guess since you folks already know the answer, there is no reason to do the science. But, funny thing, people "know" that different things are a problem. That is why I'm hoping SCC Public Health is going to disentangle this and let us know what their analysis shows.


William Hitchens PhD
Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:00 pm
William Hitchens PhD, Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:00 pm
15 people like this

I've been tracking and charting Covid-19 confirmed daily new cases of Covid-19 released by the "Covid-19 Data Dashboard" of the Public Health Department of Santa Clara County since March. See below for a link to this website. Following the "shelter at home" County order of about March 17, cases rapidly declined until about May 10 (Mothers' Day). On that horrible day, MV Cuesta Park, was jammed on Mom's Day with [portion removed] families not wearing masks not observing proper social distancing regulations --- and even hugging and kissing people from far away. [Portion removed.]

There was a brief blip after Mom's Day (Memorial Day was a non-issue), and cases slowly rose until about June 5, when SCC VERY stupidly announced its limited Stage 2 "reopening" far too soon. Since the horribly ill-advised "reopening" on 6-5, cases have been exploding exponentially and running out of control and today they reached peak levels before the shutdown.

TIME TO LOCK DOWN AGAIN IMMEDIATELY. For those of us who want to survive, we can't trust most people around us to act with a modicum of common sense. The real lesson from this is that most people are fools who can't be trusted to "play the long game" during plague because they are far too ignorant and narcissistic and seek desperately seek instant gratification. Living and surviving is a long game, and a year out of your life is far better than being a lifelong invalid --- or dead.


William Hitchens PhD
Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:06 pm
William Hitchens PhD, Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2020 at 6:06 pm
3 people like this

Forgot the link. For those of you who can properly understand and analyze SCC Covid data, check out:

Web Link

Note that SCC also is not showing 7 day moving averages. They show the real trend, and the real trend is out of control. Time to put health above politics. Shut down until there are at least 2 proven oral vaccines and 2 proven oral antivirals.


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:23 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:23 pm
Like this comment

Where do the construction workers live? Are their cases being counted as Santa Clara County cases even though the live in Tracy and commute over here to work on residential, commercial, or public works construction?
I think northern Santa Clara County is acting with common sense (from the limited things I’ve observed, admittedly) - for those who must or choose to go out, taking the correct actions and precautions will be very much appreciated.


May
Midtown
on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:00 pm
May, Midtown
on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:00 pm
6 people like this

It's astounding seeing some of the ignorance in these comments.

Yes, the protests may be accelerating the virus' spread due to close proximity, but to blame the rise in cases solely on these marches is quite incorrect. Many of the protesters are wearing masks out of concern for others' wellbeing unlike those who go shopping, dining, etc. outside with no facial protection or social distancing practices.

Shame on all of you who decide to stay silent when those you know go outside to socialize but speak up in favor of staying home only to demonize the protesters. You don't sound nearly as intelligent as you think. Though I fully back staying home unless absolutely necessary, blocking protests is going to offer far less help than enforcing mask and distancing rules more strictly.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:18 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2020 at 11:18 pm
4 people like this

Posted by May, a resident of Midtown

>> Yes, the protests may be accelerating the virus' spread due to close proximity,

They may be, although, so far, it looks like protests where people wore masks didn't spread the virus. Although masks aren't perfect, wearing masks and staying outdoors appears, statistically, to be quite effective. And, that is what was happening at many protests.

"And despite drawing massive crowds, anti-police protests in Washington state weren't among those clusters.

"We did have a rally in Bellingham, which is our county seat, and there was also a protest, and we have not been able to connect a single case to that rally or to the protest, and what we're finding is in large part that's due to the use of masks," [...] "Almost everyone at the rally was wearing a mask, and it's really a testament to how effective masks are in preventing the spread of this disease."

Web Link

> but to blame the rise in cases solely on these marches is quite incorrect. Many of the protesters are wearing masks out of concern for others' wellbeing

The above article goes on to state that *parties* (with people not sticking to their masks), on the other hand, have led to big spikes:

"For the clusters that have popped up, [...] using contact tracing to learn more about how they're contributing to the spread of the virus. For instance, it found that 14 cases were associated with a party of 100 to 150 people in early June. Subsequently, 15 more cases were associated with the original 14.

"So that one event spread to 29 people and 31 related employers," [...] "Our challenge is to continue to trace as it moves through families, as it moves through workplaces and as it moves through social events as well."


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