Photo: Dai Sugano / Associated Press
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Santa Clara County reported 122 new cases Tuesday, the second-highest number recorded in a single day, and the county’s public health officer Dr. Sara Cody said she’s concerned about an overall escalation in cases in recent weeks. The county now has 3,727 cases total and 154 deaths.
“It’s worrisome to see so many cases reported to us in one day,” Cody said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. She said a “disproportionate number of new cases” were found in East San Jose and South Santa Clara County.
Cody provided an overview of the pandemic’s course over the past five months and explained that in January the goal was to detect the infection in returning travelers. Now, the county is focused on controlling the spread throughout the community through increased testing with a goal of implementing 4,000 tests a day.
Santa Clara had the most severe coronavirus outbreak in the Bay Area at the start of the pandemic. A strict shelter-in-place order issued March 16 helped “bend the curve” and “prevent many deaths” she said. Now, the county is gradually reopening.
“As we anticipated we’re seeing an increase in cases,” said Cody. “But recently we’re seeing a worrisome sign that this increase may be accelerating. This increase reflects both widespread testing … we’re finding more of the cases that do exist … but it also reflects an increase in cases because the virus continues to spread. It’s early to tell if this will translate to a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths going forward.”
Cody said the number of hospitalizations decreased dramatically from April to June, but in recent weeks they have increased slightly. “We’re monitoring that very closely,” she said. The number of patients in intensive care units has followed the same trend.
Cody believes the rise in cases is the result of three factors: More sectors of the economy reopening and people returning to work, more people going outside their homes, and an increase in testing.
The county has seen an increase in workplace and community outbreaks since mid-May when several sectors began reopening, including construction and outdoor recreation on May 4, retail for curbside pickup and manufacturing on May 22 and indoor retail and outdoor dining on June 4. Cody said a rise in outbreaks related to workplaces first surfaced on May 12, a week after reopening began.
“As activity in the community has increased with the reopening and as we’d expect we’ve seen an uptick in our case count,” she said.
Since Memorial Day, 89 work sites in the county have reported at least one COVID-19 case. More than half of all work-site outbreaks are in the construction sector, and the largest outbreaks have occurred in food processing centers. Retail accounts for only nine-percent and restaurants 11% of COVID-19 cases at work sites.
“This is a point to highlight because we do want to reopen safely and that depends very highly on careful adherence to safety protocol,” she said.
Cody ended her presentation by emphasizing the need for the community to reopen in a safe and cautious manner to prevent a surge that would force the return of more strict guidelines.
“We said before that COVID-19 is like a wildfire,” she said. “If you contain it when it’s small, you can keep it under control. But once COVID transmission begins to accelerate it’s very, very difficult to contain and slow down. I think that’s what we’re seeing in many parts of the country.”
She added: “I do recognize that in spite of this risk many people want to see us fully reopen. I also know that others fear that any reopening will put them at a greater risk. But generally I would say none of us want to be forced to return to a full shelter-in-place. So it’s critical that we have strong protocols and risk reduction strategies in place as we continue to reopen.”
The county aims to implement 4,000 tests daily, with the help of the SAP Center testing site opened Tuesday.
Amy Graff is the SFGATE news editor. Email her: email@example.com.
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