SAN JOSE, CA – AUGUST 18: Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody looks at a new COVID-19 test site during a press conference at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in San Jose, Calif. Santa Clara County opened a large-scale coronavirus testing site Tuesday where officials hope to test thousands of residents daily and ultimately offer flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Santa Clara County on Friday recorded its highest daily case total since the start of the pandemic. And if the county’s explosive rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations continues on its current trajectory, Santa Clara County will exceed its hospital capacity in just three weeks, health officer Dr. Sara Cody said Friday.
The county’s latest figures, announced just a day after the state introduced a new overnight stay-at-home order, provide a sobering reminder that the fatal virus is spreading faster than ever just days before a big holiday weekend.
“We are indeed at a critical juncture in this pandemic and the choices that each of us makes may mean the difference between having enough hospital capacity to care for all of us and our family and friends and not enough,” Cody said during a news briefing Friday.
The county recorded 407 new cases on Friday, the highest number seen in a single day since March, according to Cody. Meanwhile, the number of patients hospitalized in Santa Clara County rose from 110 to 166 — or more than 50% — in the past week alone, according to county data.
The county’s trends mirror those being reported across the state, as California on Thursday recorded near-records for both new COVID-19 cases and deaths. And with the Thanksgiving holiday less than a week away, public health experts and local officials are bracing for a troubling picture if residents ignore public health guidance and gather with people outside of their immediate households.
“The actions that we’re urging everyone to take is, number one — cancel your holiday plans, don’t travel, celebrate the holidays at home with the loved ones from your household,” Cody said. “… Time matters and we all need to act now to bend the curve once again to get us through this.”
Cody’s remarks came during a press briefing held by mayors and leaders from across the county to urge residents to wear masks at all times, stay home for the upcoming holidays and get flu shots. Santa Clara County is providing free, no-appointment flu shots to residents at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays until Dec. 12.
“What we don’t want to have is people in the hospital with COVID-19 and additional people in with the flu — and worse than that we don’t want anyone to get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time,” said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez.
Due to the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, county health officials are once again changing their philosophy related to who should get tested. The demand for testing is at an all-time high and officials are no longer advising that anyone who wants a test, should get one.
Cody on Friday urged residents who merely want a test — perhaps so that they feel they can travel or attend a small Thanksgiving celebration — to refrain from getting one in order to leave testing capacity for those who really need it, such as essential workers and those who may have been exposed to the virus.
“Postpone travel and gatherings until we’re out of this critical phase and ensure those who really need testing have that capacity,” Cody said.
Cases and hospitalizations have spiked so quickly in Santa Clara County over the past three weeks that officials said they were caught off-guard earlier this week when the county was sent back two rungs on the state’s reopening blueprint to the most-restrictive purple tier.
As the second-wave hits the region, the virus continues to disproportionately affect communities of color. As of Friday, Latinos in Santa Clara County account for nearly 60% cases but just 25% of the population. Gilroy and East San Jose are seeing sharper increases than elsewhere in the county.