SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The number of people contracting Covid-19 in Santa Cruz County is starting to slow, but the recently renewed mandate to wear masks indoors in public spaces is not going away anytime soon.
Santa Cruz County health officials at a Thursday press conference told reporters that current data shows the most recent surge of Covid-19 infections fueled by the delta variant of the virus is starting to wane—both locally and at the state level. At its peak, the county was seeing about 60 daily cases. Now, County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said, the average for new daily cases sits somewhere in the mid-30s.
“This is good news,” she said.
There has been, however, an increase in the number of young people between the ages of 5-17 that have contracted the virus, Newel said. That is largely because of the start of the school year, although Newel explained that many of those cases have been attributed to after-school activities, such as youth sports, and that transmission has not been as prevalent during in-person classes. In addition, Newel said more cases are being identified in young people because they are now being tested with more regularity—a result of the Covid-19 protocols implemented across county school districts.
It is still unknown when the Covid-19 vaccines will be approved for use in people 12 years and younger.
Although the vast majority of older adults in Santa Cruz County have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and many people 39 and older have also received their shots, the county’s vaccination rate has remained flat since late May. The incentives dangled in front of young adults have not been as effective as planned in persuading them to get the inoculation—both locally and nationally—and Deputy County Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said he expects more employers will soon follow in the County’s footsteps and mandate vaccination, or a weekly Covid-19 test, for their employees.
“Vaccination is our only path out of this pandemic,” he said.
He later added: “The answer is sitting right in front of us … We have the means and the ways to be done with this.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Santa Cruz County is part of 93% of the United States in which community transmission is deemed “high.” Newel said her mask mandate will remain in place until the county moves down two tiers to “moderate,” which requires a county’s seven-day average to be less than 100.
Although Newel said the county was making progress toward that number, she also said to not get “too excited” about a move any time soon. The county, according to CDC data available Thursday, was averaging 275 cases over seven days.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” she said.