Health Officials Urge Caution Amid Alarming New Surge in Coronavirus Infections

With a surge in coronavirus cases approaching Silicon Valley’s peak numbers from July, local health officials today urged the public to step up prevention efforts by wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and staying home as much as possible.

Santa Clara County on Sunday reported 358 new Covid-19 diagnoses—a single-day case count second only to the record 385 tallied on July 15. Nearly all the new cases stemmed from test samples collected this past week, which coincided with what health officials called an alarming uptick in Covid-19 hospitalizations.

Calling the surge “a very worrisome sign,” especially heading into the holidays and flu season, county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said it may require officials to impose greater restrictions—unless the trend reverses.

“It is not completely clear exactly what is driving the sharp surge that we’re seeing everywhere,” Cody told reporters, saying it might owe to heightened contact during Halloween or complacency from “pandemic fatigue.”

“But the key take-home message that I really want to get across is that what each of us do every day really matters,” Cody said. “And an increase in cases is both a risk for the health of our community as well as for the health of our economy.”

Cold Case

With colder weather pushing people inside where they’re at greater risk of spreading the virus, Cody said it’s urgent that people redouble efforts to slow the spread.

Though the county moved to a less-restrictive Orange Tier under the state’s reopening guidelines, that doesn’t mean people should let their guard down, Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez added.

“Everyone appreciates the additional options that come from being in a less-restrictive tier,” she said. “But we all need to be mindful that being in that tier doesn’t mean some activities do not come with certain risk, and that risk is greatly magnified if businesses and customers do not follow the rules in place to help keep them safe.”

Every business in the county must file a social distancing protocol, which the county makes available online for the public to view.

Of 1,658 complaints about public health violators fielded between the end of August and Oct. 26, the county’s pandemic enforcement team resolved 1,088 by bringing the subjects into compliance. About 80 businesses, however, have resisted outreach efforts, prompting the county to impose a combined $700,000 in penalties.

The highest-profile public health violator, netting more than $350,000 in fines, is the San Jose Calvary Chapel, which is battling the county in court. But officials say most of the complaints, by far, have involved the food-service industry because of the fact that patrons must remove their masks to eat.

To date, the county’s Business Engagement Team led by Environmental Health Director Michael Balliet, has made 10,000 educational visits, with a particular focus on parts of the South Bay hardest-hit by Covid—that is, Gilroy and San Jose’s East Side.

“Most businesses we contact are very interested in doing their part to keep themselves and the community healthy,” County Counsel James Williams said. “They readily accept their responsibility and operate accordingly. However, we cannot ignore those that operate in an unsafe manner. These are not optional guidelines; they are mandatory measures to protect our entire community.”

Source: Santa Clara County Public Health Department

Grim Outlook

The steep upswing in Covid-19 infections plaguing Santa Clara County and the rest of the region comes as the nation surpasses the 10 million-case mark, sliding into what may become the worst chapter of the pandemic.

For the first time since Covid pushed the world into varying stages of lockdown, the U.S. is averaging upward of 10,000 cases a day. One in 441 Americans have tested positive for the virus in just the past week, with 29 states recording weekly case records.

Hospitalizations nationwide have doubled since mid-September, while deaths have resumed their upward trajectory.

The grim outlook prompted Bay Area health officials to issue recommendations for how to safely celebrate the upcoming holiday season. A joint advisory from Dr. Cody and her counterparts throughout the region directs the public to keep gatherings small, short and outdoors and to avoid all non-essential travel.

“When people who live in different houses or apartments are together at the same time in the same space, risk of Covid-19 spreading goes up, even when the people are relatives or friends,” Cody warned. “Please celebrate safely this year and protect yourself and your family by including masks, keeping a distance, and staying outdoors.”

Superspreaders

The regional advisory coincides with a new study which showed how most Covid-19 infections stemmed from “superspreader” sites, such as full-service restaurants, gyms and cafes where people stayed in close quarters for long stretches of time.

Published today in the journal Nature, the research led by Stanford University computer scientist Jure Leskovec examined demographics, epidemiological estimates and anonymous cellphone data from 98 million people in 10 major metro area to calculate infection risks based on occupancy limitations.

“Based on all of this,” he explained in an interview with Stanford News Service, “we could predict the likelihood of new infections occurring at any given place or time.”

David Grusky, a Stanford sociology professor who co-authored the study, said the modeling offers new insights into the disproportionate spread of Covid-19 among certain groups. “Because the places that employ minority and low-income people are often smaller and more crowded, occupancy caps on reopened stores can lower the risks they face,” he told Stanford News. “We have a responsibility to build reopening plans that eliminate—or at least reduce—the disparities that current practices are creating.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

10 Comments

  1. > “Because the places that employ minority and low-income people are often smaller and more crowded, occupancy caps on reopened stores can lower the risks they face,” he told Stanford News. “We have a responsibility to build reopening plans that eliminate—or at least reduce—the disparities that current practices are creating.”

    This is NOT science.

    This is postmodernism.

    Learn the difference.

  2. People Die.

    Get over it.

    i am getting on with living a normal life as best I can and if you don’t like it then that is YOUR problem.

  3. “the U.S. is averaging upward of 10,000 cases a day. One in 441 Americans have tested positive for the virus in just the past week…”
    Nonsense. One in 441 Americans equals 750,000 people which, if true would make the daily average 107,000 a day. The most alarming news about COVID is how often journalists misreport it.
    As for the “alarming new surge,” there hasn’t been any appreciable surge in this county: we’ve been steady at around 1.8% test positives, 3.5% of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients, and the death toll has remained negligible.

  4. I look forward to antimask and Covid conspiracy theorists getting Covid and dying. I truly don’t care. You offer nothing to society and the karmic repercussions of your getting Covid would turn me into a believer in a higher power. Your rhetoric has the potential to kill people and you simply don’t care. As such, I don’t care about you. Please get sick and leave this world.

  5. Marty, believe! This is God’s power. Protect your life and the lives of others. Wear a mask. God is reordering the world, and he is not done! Fear the lord. He is merciful, but he is terrible too! No one can match him. He is the only…The creator of all.

  6. To Phu Tan Elli, it’s not nonsense, there has been an average of over a hundred thousand cases a day over the last week. Not sure why they said upwards of 10,000. That was probably a typo. 93642, 92599, 121504, 132797, 126156, and 103657 are the seven most recent reported daily case counts.

  7. @ Steve
    The reason I included the quote (at which my “nonsense” accusation was aimed) was to make the point that the media has consistently misreported COVID data. The incongruity between the two statistics cited in the quote was both obvious and business as usual in today’s media. That same incongruity can be found in a comparison of the headline and the county’s own COVID statistics.

  8. Marty,

    I have a modest proposal for you. How about we let all these rich white supremist deniers get the Rona, die off and feed their carcasses to the poor? Then let the homeless move into their vacated homes? Efficient, no?

    Of course, renters are victims so regardless of their level of obedience or mental surrender, we let the families bury them?

    Let me sweeten the deal, how about we let you pick the people you don’t like to the list of carcasses to be feed to the poor? Humm I knew youd like that…

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