News

COVID levels in Palo Alto sewershed reach pandemic high

Records show concentration of virus surpasses last winter's omicron variant surge

Wastewater samples in Santa Clara County show a higher concentration of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, recently at the Palo Alto sewershed compared to other sections of the county. Courtesy Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

While transmission of respiratory syncytial virus has begun to plateau in Santa Clara County, the county's top health official said Tuesday that COVID-19 and flu transmission continue to rise.

A worker examines a bucket of sludge at the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant. The sludge is being tested to determine the amount of genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 virus, which indicates the spread of COVID-19 in communities served by the plant. Courtesy Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control.

COVID-19 virus concentration in each of the county's sewersheds in San Jose, Palo Alto, Gilroy and Sunnyvale is at its highest level in months, according to county Health Officer and Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody.

Those concentration rates are roughly on par with previous surges for now, but the COVID-19 levels in the Palo Alto sewershed — which includes the cities of Los Altos, Palo Alto and Mountain View — are higher than at any point in the pandemic, including the record highs during last winter's omicron variant surge.

COVID-19 levels in the San Jose sewershed, which captures water from roughly 75% of the county, are currently at roughly 84% of the county's omicron peak, but continue to increase rapidly.

Cody also noted that the current number of people with influenza-like illness is "unprecedented" for early December, and RSV, which causes infections in the respiratory tract, continues to affect a significant number of children across the county, even as transmission of the virus slows slightly.

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"We not only have COVID, as we've had the last two winters, but we have flu and RSV and other viruses circulating as well," Cody said during a news briefing Tuesday morning. "So it's like a winter of viral soup."

Among county residents with the flu or other flu-like respiratory viruses, between 7% and 10% of children are currently being admitted to emergency rooms with flu symptoms, compared to less than 2% for adults.

Cody acknowledged a certain amount of fatigue toward COVID-19 and said she doesn't anticipate reinstating a countywide mask mandate or other public health measures, but did urge residents to take precautions during the holidays, particularly when indoors.

"Indoors is not really a safe place anymore, especially if it's crowded and there's a lot of people without masks," she said. "That's a really good time to choose to wear a mask."

Residents who have yet to get a flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine with an additional booster dose should also do so as soon as they can, Cody said.

To date, roughly 25% of eligible county residents have gotten the updated booster vaccine, which targets both the original COVID-19 strain and two subvariants of the omicron variant.

That vaccination rate increases among older age groups, according to Cody, but remains under 50% even among people ages 65 and up, who are most likely to become seriously ill or hospitalized with COVID-19.

She noted that while the vaccine does not completely eliminate a person's capacity to contract the virus, it does highly reduce a person's chance of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 or dying because of it.

"That's just not going to get us where we need to be," Cody said of the relatively low uptake for the omicron booster. "That's not going to protect us, that's not going to protect our families and that's not going to protect our health care system."

County residents can contact their primary health care provider, retail pharmacies or visit the county's website at publichealth.sccgov.org/health-information/immunizations for information about getting a flu or COVID-19 vaccine.

Watch Tuesday's full news briefing:

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COVID levels in Palo Alto sewershed reach pandemic high

Records show concentration of virus surpasses last winter's omicron variant surge

by Eli Walsh / Bay City News Foundation /

Uploaded: Wed, Dec 7, 2022, 8:54 am

While transmission of respiratory syncytial virus has begun to plateau in Santa Clara County, the county's top health official said Tuesday that COVID-19 and flu transmission continue to rise.

COVID-19 virus concentration in each of the county's sewersheds in San Jose, Palo Alto, Gilroy and Sunnyvale is at its highest level in months, according to county Health Officer and Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody.

Those concentration rates are roughly on par with previous surges for now, but the COVID-19 levels in the Palo Alto sewershed — which includes the cities of Los Altos, Palo Alto and Mountain View — are higher than at any point in the pandemic, including the record highs during last winter's omicron variant surge.

COVID-19 levels in the San Jose sewershed, which captures water from roughly 75% of the county, are currently at roughly 84% of the county's omicron peak, but continue to increase rapidly.

Cody also noted that the current number of people with influenza-like illness is "unprecedented" for early December, and RSV, which causes infections in the respiratory tract, continues to affect a significant number of children across the county, even as transmission of the virus slows slightly.

"We not only have COVID, as we've had the last two winters, but we have flu and RSV and other viruses circulating as well," Cody said during a news briefing Tuesday morning. "So it's like a winter of viral soup."

Among county residents with the flu or other flu-like respiratory viruses, between 7% and 10% of children are currently being admitted to emergency rooms with flu symptoms, compared to less than 2% for adults.

Cody acknowledged a certain amount of fatigue toward COVID-19 and said she doesn't anticipate reinstating a countywide mask mandate or other public health measures, but did urge residents to take precautions during the holidays, particularly when indoors.

"Indoors is not really a safe place anymore, especially if it's crowded and there's a lot of people without masks," she said. "That's a really good time to choose to wear a mask."

Residents who have yet to get a flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine with an additional booster dose should also do so as soon as they can, Cody said.

To date, roughly 25% of eligible county residents have gotten the updated booster vaccine, which targets both the original COVID-19 strain and two subvariants of the omicron variant.

That vaccination rate increases among older age groups, according to Cody, but remains under 50% even among people ages 65 and up, who are most likely to become seriously ill or hospitalized with COVID-19.

She noted that while the vaccine does not completely eliminate a person's capacity to contract the virus, it does highly reduce a person's chance of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 or dying because of it.

"That's just not going to get us where we need to be," Cody said of the relatively low uptake for the omicron booster. "That's not going to protect us, that's not going to protect our families and that's not going to protect our health care system."

County residents can contact their primary health care provider, retail pharmacies or visit the county's website at publichealth.sccgov.org/health-information/immunizations for information about getting a flu or COVID-19 vaccine.

Watch Tuesday's full news briefing:

Comments

ReallyLiveHere
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Dec 7, 2022 at 2:16 pm
ReallyLiveHere, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2022 at 2:16 pm

I know multiple people who are home sick from work with COVID-19 right now.

It's an embarrassment that more of us aren't wearing masks to limit the spread


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Dec 7, 2022 at 4:11 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2022 at 4:11 pm

This doesn't surprise me. I feel like it's only a matter of time before it gets me, and everybody keeps saying as long as we're vaccinated we're good. Well, vaccination only keeps the hospitals from being overloaded. It won't keep people from getting a deadly virus. My Uncle is 90 and can't drive anymore but still wants to go to church. His son takes him. I went virtually to the church for one service. Everyone took communion from one cup. I can't even watch anymore. It must be like watching a snuff movie. At 90, a person is at high risk. But he feels safe, because somebody else drove him there. It's absolutely confounding. People with life-threatening health conditions are at the highest risk. And nobody who is on the lower tiers of risks, gives a crap. Especially Stanford's City called Palo Alto, full of well-to-do people, who have access to Concierge Medicine. I mask everywhere outside of home. And family and friends are imposing impossible burdens on me and other high risk individuals. After some people got vaxxed others who are morally opposed (a.k.a. "STUPID") opted out and here we see the results. The proof is in the poop. Just keep on waving your Bill Of Rights at a deadly virus. It's laughing at you.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2022 at 5:24 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2022 at 5:24 pm

So much can be said about this. We have Covid in the general population, it isn't going anywhere. We have flu and RSV too. We all have to take our health seriously, but we also have to live our lives. Suicide, loneliness, isolation, overdoses both deliberate and accidental, are all affected by what has been called the worldwide pandemic. Children with speech problems, social issues, bad behavior particularly in classrooms.

The long term repercussions of what people have been put through in the past couple of years are only just beginning to surface. More will be inevitable.


TimR
Registered user
Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2022 at 8:56 am
TimR, Downtown North
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2022 at 8:56 am

China employed the strictest, most draconian measures imaginable to prevent the spread of COVID, and it didn't work. The virus still found a way to spread. So while Zero-COVID was a humanitarian tragedy in addition to a failure, at least we can all learn from it, and realize that there is no way to contain the spread. It's here to stay as part of our lives.


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Dec 8, 2022 at 10:10 am
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2022 at 10:10 am

No kidding. It's here to stay just like a whole lot of other infectious illnesses. Covid just had a better marketing department.

Wear a mask and stay out of crowds if you're afraid. The more businesses and high-density housing we pack into Palo Alto the more these things are going to spread.


John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2022 at 10:44 am
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2022 at 10:44 am

Beyond the obvious negative repercussions of our poorly thought out lockdowns, I’ll be especially curious to see the clinical data once we know what happens to people with 4-5 shots from various pharmas, mixed and matched, over a 20 month period.


toransu
Registered user
Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2022 at 8:58 pm
toransu, Barron Park
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2022 at 8:58 pm

As usual, the "I don't want to wear a mask, just stay home if you don't feel safe" crowd willfully ignores their responsibility towards people who are disabled and/or immunocompromised, who don't always have the luxury to shut themselves away from the world. Absolutely selfish and childlike.


Mary
Registered user
Mountain View
on Jan 1, 2023 at 2:03 pm
Mary , Mountain View
Registered user
on Jan 1, 2023 at 2:03 pm

Thank you, Dr. Cody. Pls do more & bring back masks esp for the 2 wks after Winter Break. I agree w/ you re: when in a crowd, that is is prudent to mask.
I work at PAUSD. Teachers & staff are reluctant/scared to speak up.
Many students, teachers & staff are getting Covid, reinfected & disabled fr Long Covid. Kids infect families. Formerly healthy ppl are now immuno-compromised (even when original Covid symptoms may not have been severe). Teachers' union (PAEA) & staff union (CSEA) feel vulnerable/unprotected because PAUSD follows what Santa Clara Co dictates. If SCC requires a mask, then PAUSD will implement it. Kids are packed in classrooms, (many covid +) and are coughing like crazy, & usu unmasked. Lunch is often inside w/ no distancing. Windows closed (due to the cold). Ventilation is often poor. Some teachers don't use the portable filters. We are "sitting ducks" re: Covid, RSV, flu. Some easily workable suggestions include:
1). Pls bring back the mask mandates for schools - even short-term would help.
2). PAUSD - Pls bring back PAUSD's COVID dashboard. (For 2+ yrs, it showed Covid #s wk by wk by school). Ignorance is not bliss. It may help people to understand/stay healthier/be more considerate when they can see the current covid#s). For eg, there was a very high spike of #s after the Gunn HS prom (in the 100s), but it was kept hush hush.
3). There is free Covid-19 testing 4 PAUSD students/families, teachers, staff (RAT and PCR tests) at Cubberly Comm Ctr & PAUSD District Ofc. [email protected] /tel 855-286-2577
4). Covid-19 will surge after Winter Break. Here is what happened last Jan. Web Link
5). Talk to/test your students/children. In 12/2022, many classes had 30-40%+ absent. 6). Get current re vaccinations -(5th bivalent booster).
7). PAUSD Super/School Brd - help! 7). PA Online -pls write an article re: the Covid+ epidemic in PAUSD. HNY.


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