SANTA CRUZ — Another death was recorded on Santa Cruz County’s COVID dashboard this week. It is the 265th recorded death in the county since the pandemic began in early 2020.
The deceased was a Latina woman in her early 70s who lived in South County, according to Santa Cruz County Health Official Kelly Curlett. Curlett said the woman had been vaccinated and boosted, and while COVID-19 contributed to her death, she also suffered from other important health factors.
The death comes amid an ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases overall, both statewide and specifically within the county. Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel told the Sentinel last week that because of the county’s relatively high immunization rate — about 81% have received at least one dose — more vaccinated people will inevitably become infected with the virus than highly infectious Omicron subvariants continue to spread. Some of those people, she explained, will still experience some of the negative effects of COVID-19, but most will avoid hospitalization and death.
County data supports this. According to the dashboard, 234, or 88%, of the total deaths in the county were unvaccinated people, while 31, or 11.7%, were vaccinated. Of those who died, 215 or 81% had other serious medical conditions that contributed to their death.
The county’s ethnicity demographics show that the Latinx cohort has recorded the second-highest number of COVID-19-related deaths in the county at 90, or 33.9%. Those who identify as White/Caucasian make up the majority in this category at 152 or 57.4%.
cases and hospitalizations
On the active cases front, the dashboard shows the average number of new COVID-19 cases has increased by 60% over the past two weeks, bringing the total to 1,924 as of Thursday. According to the dashboard, the number of active cases has surpassed 1,000 for six straight weeks, and we know that given the popularity of at-home antigen testing, that number is probably underestimated.
Nearly every county across the state, including Santa Cruz, is in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 data tracker at a moderate or high COVID-19 transmission risk level.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county is also trending upwards, according to the state’s COVID-19 hospitalization data tool. There are currently 24 positive patients occupying hospital beds in the county, and that number has been rising since early May.
Still, according to health officials, there is some reason for optimism in the fight against COVID-19. Earlier this week, state health officials approved the use of COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 5 — a county population of about 13,000 who did not have that tool available at the time.
Deputy Health Department and pediatrician Cal Gordon told the Sentinel last week that the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for this age group is “the missing protection we’ve been waiting for.” He confirmed to the Sentinel on Thursday that medical providers in the county have received the vaccines for the under-five age group.
But Gordon also wrote Thursday that he doesn’t expect cases to drop anytime soon, citing the prevalence of the omicron subvariants BA4 and BA5 spreading across the state. “A number of indicators suggest that we are likely to see a surge in July,” he wrote.
Based on the numbers
Hospital stays: 24
Hospitalizations in the intensive care unit: 1
Open intensive care beds: 7
County cases per 100,000 population: 42.5