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With COVID-19 variants on the rise, Santa Clara County faces race to vaccinate

Health leaders stress protective measures before deadlier form of coronavirus takes hold

Santa Clara County health leaders provide an update on the number of COVID-19 variant cases in the county at a press conference on April 1, 2021.

Santa Clara County has seen a rise in residents infected with COVID-19 variants, a sign that efforts to curb the pandemic remain precarious, county public health leaders said during a Thursday press conference.

The county has cases of variants first identified in Brazil, Japan, South Africa, the United Kingdom and other parts of California, which county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody called "variants of concern."

As of last week, every variant identified so far by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been detected in the county. All have either shown to be or are presumed to be circulating in the community, she said.

As of March 27, the county has recorded the following number of variant cases:

• Ninety-two confirmed cases of B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

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• Three confirmed cases of B.1.351, first detected in South Africa

• One case of P.1 first detected in Japan and Brazil.

• More than 1,000 confirmed cases of California variants B.1.427 and B.1.429.

In addition, the first two cases of variants detected in New York — one each of B.1.525 and B.1.526 — are confirmed in the county.

Only a small percentage of COVID-19-positive specimens undergo genomic sequencing, which looks for mutations. Still, the proportion of cases linked to more transmissible variants is climbing and signals a worrying trend, Cody said.

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"This is important to know. Right now we're in a race between the variant and the vaccine," she said, noting the county and state have a shortage of doses to immunize the public against the deadly disease.

"Genomic sequencing is allowing us to confirm what we already presumed based on national trends, which is the presence and unfortunate increase of variants in our community. We're already seeing surges in other parts of the country, likely driven by variants. Combined with the data we are seeing locally, these are important warning signs that we must continue to minimize the spread. We can still stop a surge from happening here if we hold onto our tried and true prevention measures for a little longer while we increase our vaccination rates," she said in a statement.

The encouraging decline in the number of positive COVID-19 cases has leveled off to October 2020 levels, causing concern that the county, state and other parts of the U.S. are headed toward another surge, she said during Thursday's press conference. The increase in variants is particularly concerning as health officials struggle to get a limited allocation of doses into the arms of the public as quickly as possible.

The number of allocated doses from the state has remained flat over the past several weeks. This week’s allotment allowed for roughly 35,000 first-dose appointments. Next week, the county will receive 71,900 doses, 49,000 of which are designated as first doses. The number is small considering the county's 1.9 million inhabitants, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing and vaccination officer. (The total allocation does not include doses for Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation, which receive their supply directly from the state, he added.)

So far, 34% of county residents ages 16 and older have received one dose of vaccine and 20%, or 1 in 5 residents, are fully vaccinated. Vaccines from manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna require a two-shot regimen; the newer Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single shot, Fenstersheib said.

The state expects to receive an estimated 4 million doses per week by mid-May and allocations are also expected to pick up in mid-April, he said. Fenstersheib expects the county will reach its goal of having 80% of residents vaccinated by August, the level at which is thought to achieve so-called "herd immunity."

In the meantime, health officials worry the shortage of vaccine doses and the public's sometimes lax approach to protective measures, such as social distancing, mask wearing and limited travel, will allow the virus to continue to mutate into more deadly or more transmissible forms. The current manufacturing issues discovered with some of the Johnson & Johnson doses presents an unknown variable. Although the state has received more than 500,000 doses of the J&J vaccine, it's unknown if the production-line issues will affect future dose allocations, Fenstersheib said.

Cody urged the public to continue wearing a mask in the event that those who have been immunized become asymptomatic carriers of the disease or also become infected with a stronger variant. Although the current vaccines are thought to be a safeguard against the current strains, the vaccines are not completely protective. There is always the threat of a variant against which the vaccine would be far less effective, she said.

County leaders urge anyone who travels to quarantine upon their return. They also recommend community members to keep activities outdoors instead of indoors and get vaccinated when they become eligible. Although most activities are now allowed, many are high-risk and are not recommended, county officials said.

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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With COVID-19 variants on the rise, Santa Clara County faces race to vaccinate

Health leaders stress protective measures before deadlier form of coronavirus takes hold

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 1, 2021, 2:45 pm

Santa Clara County has seen a rise in residents infected with COVID-19 variants, a sign that efforts to curb the pandemic remain precarious, county public health leaders said during a Thursday press conference.

The county has cases of variants first identified in Brazil, Japan, South Africa, the United Kingdom and other parts of California, which county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody called "variants of concern."

As of last week, every variant identified so far by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been detected in the county. All have either shown to be or are presumed to be circulating in the community, she said.

As of March 27, the county has recorded the following number of variant cases:

• Ninety-two confirmed cases of B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

• Three confirmed cases of B.1.351, first detected in South Africa

• One case of P.1 first detected in Japan and Brazil.

• More than 1,000 confirmed cases of California variants B.1.427 and B.1.429.

In addition, the first two cases of variants detected in New York — one each of B.1.525 and B.1.526 — are confirmed in the county.

Only a small percentage of COVID-19-positive specimens undergo genomic sequencing, which looks for mutations. Still, the proportion of cases linked to more transmissible variants is climbing and signals a worrying trend, Cody said.

"This is important to know. Right now we're in a race between the variant and the vaccine," she said, noting the county and state have a shortage of doses to immunize the public against the deadly disease.

"Genomic sequencing is allowing us to confirm what we already presumed based on national trends, which is the presence and unfortunate increase of variants in our community. We're already seeing surges in other parts of the country, likely driven by variants. Combined with the data we are seeing locally, these are important warning signs that we must continue to minimize the spread. We can still stop a surge from happening here if we hold onto our tried and true prevention measures for a little longer while we increase our vaccination rates," she said in a statement.

The encouraging decline in the number of positive COVID-19 cases has leveled off to October 2020 levels, causing concern that the county, state and other parts of the U.S. are headed toward another surge, she said during Thursday's press conference. The increase in variants is particularly concerning as health officials struggle to get a limited allocation of doses into the arms of the public as quickly as possible.

The number of allocated doses from the state has remained flat over the past several weeks. This week’s allotment allowed for roughly 35,000 first-dose appointments. Next week, the county will receive 71,900 doses, 49,000 of which are designated as first doses. The number is small considering the county's 1.9 million inhabitants, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing and vaccination officer. (The total allocation does not include doses for Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation, which receive their supply directly from the state, he added.)

So far, 34% of county residents ages 16 and older have received one dose of vaccine and 20%, or 1 in 5 residents, are fully vaccinated. Vaccines from manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna require a two-shot regimen; the newer Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single shot, Fenstersheib said.

The state expects to receive an estimated 4 million doses per week by mid-May and allocations are also expected to pick up in mid-April, he said. Fenstersheib expects the county will reach its goal of having 80% of residents vaccinated by August, the level at which is thought to achieve so-called "herd immunity."

In the meantime, health officials worry the shortage of vaccine doses and the public's sometimes lax approach to protective measures, such as social distancing, mask wearing and limited travel, will allow the virus to continue to mutate into more deadly or more transmissible forms. The current manufacturing issues discovered with some of the Johnson & Johnson doses presents an unknown variable. Although the state has received more than 500,000 doses of the J&J vaccine, it's unknown if the production-line issues will affect future dose allocations, Fenstersheib said.

Cody urged the public to continue wearing a mask in the event that those who have been immunized become asymptomatic carriers of the disease or also become infected with a stronger variant. Although the current vaccines are thought to be a safeguard against the current strains, the vaccines are not completely protective. There is always the threat of a variant against which the vaccine would be far less effective, she said.

County leaders urge anyone who travels to quarantine upon their return. They also recommend community members to keep activities outdoors instead of indoors and get vaccinated when they become eligible. Although most activities are now allowed, many are high-risk and are not recommended, county officials said.

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

The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Apr 1, 2021 at 5:52 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Apr 1, 2021 at 5:52 pm

These dangerous variants are one of the main reasons I have been concerned about unvaccinated parents sending their children back to school to end this school year. The CDC promotes schools as a bastion of safety even changing their distancing guidance to 3 feet for children while in school. Yet earlier this week the CDC director said the following while holding back tears: “Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen. I’m going to pause here. I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”

Web Link

In my opinion, Walensky’s language is remarkable. She said she was going to “lose the script”—in other words, throw out the talking points drawn up by the Biden administration who have been stating that the United States is nearing completion of the fight against coronavirus, and that by July 4, things will be “back to normal.”

What is so terrible in the facts and figures being collected by the CDC that it would bring the cdc director to tears at a public press briefing at the White House? What does she know that the Biden administration is not telling the American people? Is it a proliferation of the UK variant across the United States and is what is happening in Michigan currently a signal of what is to come for all of the U.S.?

Now today we are receiving another warning of a surge by our local health leader Dr. Cody. I know school is important for children, but to any unvaccinated parents out there, please consider holding out until the Fall if you can. If what is happening in Michigan is a glimpse of our Covid future, they have had many outbreaks in their schools. It sounds like all gloom and doom, but I am concerned about these warnings. I’m worried about everyone’s health and safety. Hopefully, the pace of vaccinations will also keep increasing.


chini
Registered user
Midtown
on Apr 1, 2021 at 7:08 pm
chini, Midtown
Registered user
on Apr 1, 2021 at 7:08 pm

>> the state has received more than 500,000 doses of the J&J vaccine
Do we have statistics on the 500,000 doses of J&J: Are they sitting in storage? Have they been administered? Since Gov Newsom got a J&J shot is there a way to know where they remaining 499,999 doses are and how I can get one?


Leland J.
Registered user
Professorville
on Apr 1, 2021 at 7:29 pm
Leland J. , Professorville
Registered user
on Apr 1, 2021 at 7:29 pm

Walensky was moved to tears for one reason: it made for good political theater and virtue signaling.

Covid is here. It’s a fact of life, a risk to be managed like anything else. Between vaccines and treatments, we will be fine.

Politicians like Walensky and Cody would be well served to spend less time building followers on Twitter and more time doing operational work of managing the crisis without hyperbole.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 1, 2021 at 7:50 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 1, 2021 at 7:50 pm

According to the SJ Mercury News, Santa Clara and Solano counties have the lowest rates of vaccinations in the state with Marin and Napa the highest. East Palo being the lowest in the area at only 25%. Carmel and Healdsburg are warning of $100 fines for going about unmasked.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Apr 1, 2021 at 11:18 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Apr 1, 2021 at 11:18 pm

@Leland You write "Between vaccines and treatments, we will be fine". I'm not aware of effective treatments that will e.g. reduce ICU bed use by 50 or 75%. What did you have in mind?
On the vaccine side, the greater the number of infected people out there, the greater the chance of more dangerous variants appearing. Once a variant's spike protein is different enough from the vaccine, we've got to make a new vaccine and likely re-vaccinate everyone. It then becomes a game of whack-a-mole, with a race between distributing a new vaccine and spread of a new variants. Reducing spread by simple measures such as mask wearing (especially indoors!) will help the vaccine side win the race. It's obvious many of us are cutting back on mask wearing already, with sad consequences for us all.


jr1
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Apr 2, 2021 at 10:50 am
jr1, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2021 at 10:50 am

The County Health Director (Dr. Cody) during the last year has gone a little overboard with her changes while not providing any backup for her opinions and rulings. If she is going to issue more directives, she needs to start providing all the backup for everyone to examine. She seems to be responsive to politicians lacks any responsiveness to us. She is supposed to be responsive to the community. She seems to feel, she doesn't need to answer any questions from the community.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2021 at 3:38 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2021 at 3:38 pm

For those of you who can think for yourselves I would suggest taking a look at the link below, which has been fact checked.

Web Link?


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Apr 2, 2021 at 5:55 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2021 at 5:55 pm

@ WWTDN There is no "analysis" at your linked site, just MSNBC videos. What is your point?


TimR
Registered user
Downtown North
on Apr 2, 2021 at 6:26 pm
TimR, Downtown North
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2021 at 6:26 pm

You can't really blame Dr. Cody for being the way she is. She has no business telling citizens what to do in the first place, as that's the job of elected officials (with advice from her). But our esteemed County Supervisors turned out to be a little cowardly, and foisted Dr. Cody into the public eye to do the "dirty" work. No politician wants to lose votes over things like travel restrictions, destroying businesses, etc, so they put Cody out there, since she's not elected. It's shameful behavior, but that's SCC politics I guess.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2021 at 6:40 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2021 at 6:40 pm

Santa Clara County has been slow to vaccinate, shown favoritism to select groups, ethic groups and also shorted northern Santa Clara County, ALSO disrupting Kaiser and then thrown 60-64 year olds under the bus. That’s a SERIOUS health risk for us.
Disgusted with their Ageist policies, which do not follow the Science and do endanger greater group 50+.
So what that they just “opened” vax to 50+, it’s late, it’s a brief period and an insane situation to try to book appointments.
Poorly done here and they don’t care.
If you’re focused on the “underserved,” then why could cities like rich Danville, Blackhawk over in Contra Costa County get lavished with vaccines - while Palo Alto and environs people scolded to “wait” -
Stanford Healthcare and PAMF were shorted doses repeatedly,
as if we are evil by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors!?
Cc County vaccinated by AGE, ahead of SC County. THAT’S following the Science. I know they blathered about federal vaccines, well, why didn’t OUR elected representatives deign to advocate for northern Santa Clara County!? They clearly did NOT.
All our peers/friends/family in other states and several countries 50+ have been vaccinated already!
Our fed and state politicians lift huge tax $$$ from hardworking Silicon Valley, yet mismanage vaccinating us and are endangering some of us. This, while they happily “open the state” to vaccinated persons.
We 50-64 must remain very careful for more months (since we are lagged behind months with respect to completing vax process) -
all as others go about, travel, dine out securely, see doctors, friends, attend the Giants, party, potentially endangering us should they affect us. AND feel fairly secure.
At least care about the safety of the 50-64 cohort as you go about. Some of us will be competing w Stanford students for vax very shortly, how unfair.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2021 at 6:46 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2021 at 6:46 pm

@ Mondoman ... the link works when I click on it.

Web Link


Leland J.
Registered user
Professorville
on Apr 2, 2021 at 7:12 pm
Leland J. , Professorville
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Responding to a few posters:

The FDA has moved very slowly on treatments. Monoclonal antibodies work. There is strong anecdotal evidence that Ivermectin also reduces severity of the illness significantly. Plus of course the vaccines reduce severity and hospitalizations tremendously. This is already showing; death and hospital rates are falling even as cases increase. That's the point of vaccines!

The point of my post was clear: our politicians and public health officials have had months, over a year actually, to plan mass testing, tracing, and inoculations. But we're falling short in many ways, and continue to do so. If these folks spent as much time working on sourcing vaccines, and pulling together the resources to actually administer them, instead of doing overwrought press conferences straight out of bad Hollywood movies, we would be in a much better place.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 2, 2021 at 7:21 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2021 at 7:21 pm

"Stanford Healthcare and PAMF were shorted doses repeatedly, as if we are evil by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors!?"

The fault there lies in the lack of coordination between county and State and their very belated recognition that with 40%+ of Californians getting their health care from big STATE-wide providers like Sutter, Kaiser and Stanford outside the counties' jurisdiction, 40% of us were falling through the cracks!

@Anonymous, otherwise you're right. It's been a pathetic long-running comedy of errors -- Stanford blaming its "algorithms" for ignoring patient-facing workers, the County relying on the office of County Supe Joe Simitian do tell them their systems have been down for days, it taking MyTurn a month to made out codes, zop code discrimination ...


AnonymousPerson
Registered user
another community
on Apr 4, 2021 at 11:11 am
AnonymousPerson, another community
Registered user
on Apr 4, 2021 at 11:11 am

This is all so confusing.

The guidance from Santa Clara County is that you don't even have to wear a mask when you are outside anymore (as long as you are "6 feet apart", which really means nothing). Many restrictions have been lifted. Most people I know are now socializing with others and living their lives again and are completely unaware of any of these concerns that Sarah Cody has. They literally point to the guidelines that say that gatherings are allowed, masks are not required, etc.

So all of these things that Sarah Cody said in this press conference are not being broadcast out to the larger community. Perhaps SCC should not have lifted the mask requirements so quickly given that the majority of people are still unvaccinated.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Greene Middle School
on Apr 6, 2021 at 8:21 pm
John B. Sails, Greene Middle School
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 8:21 pm

Yesterday, through Kaiser, I booked my first Phiser dose at Sacramento Expo Center today. Yes, 290 miles round-trip if you drive around all the tolls, but worth it! the whole process over there, took almost no wait at all. drive in, get the shot, walk back to car, and drive out. maybe 15 min. No regrets, I'd do it again. I'll prove it in 3 weeks, and 290 more miles. Stupid Santa Clara County...


Leland J.
Registered user
Professorville
on Apr 6, 2021 at 9:25 pm
Leland J. , Professorville
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 9:25 pm

Everyone is getting vaccines... in other counties and “red” parts of the state where they actually have their acts together. Santa Clara doing the least with the most. Pathetic.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Greene Middle School
on Apr 7, 2021 at 5:57 am
John B. Sails, Greene Middle School
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2021 at 5:57 am

Indeed, and I can't figure out why. Can't be population alone. I know people in LA County and Cleveland OH, younger than me, who already got the vaccine. It also can't be the blue state thing--Sacramento is the capital city, and they are vaccinating people under 60 with 1 day appointments! Can't be lack of wealth to cover govt. expenses, who has more property taxes than us? Is it just politically correct to make excuses for the ineptness of Santa Clara County? You know, our ineptness is fully sustainable and locally sourced, something like that?


John B. Sails
Registered user
Greene Middle School
on Apr 7, 2021 at 10:12 am
John B. Sails, Greene Middle School
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2021 at 10:12 am

Does the headline writer know the meaning of the word 'race'?


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