September 23, 2023

SANTA CRUZ — Charges of COVID-19 have been steadily rising throughout Santa Cruz County and the nation for weeks.

However as has been the case because the early days of the pandemic, the impression on aged residents is being disproportionately felt and native well being officers are involved.

Santa Cruz County Deputy Well being Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci instructed the Sentinel that 4 of the county’s seven nursing houses have been experiencing COVID outbreaks as of Tuesday, that means every had three or extra infections without delay. He added that, tentatively, 5 deaths had been reported throughout the seven services up to now two weeks, although county officers are nonetheless ready for dying certificates to return via that verify the official trigger.

“That is actually alarming to us,” stated Ghilarducci. “We predict it might get quite a bit worse.”

Lack of vaccinations

Although county officers have persistently emphasised that aged and immunocompromised people are excessive threat for opposed outcomes from a COVID an infection, Ghilarducci stated he believes a scarcity of constant vaccinations might clarify the troubling soar in circumstances and deaths at these services in latest weeks.

Based on Ghilarducci, about 75% of all nursing dwelling residents within the county are updated on their COVID-19 vaccinations, however that determine for particular person services ranges from as little as 54% to as excessive as 89%.

An excellent bigger disparity exists amongst nursing dwelling workers, the place 66% of all workers are updated with vaccinations, with a low of 14% in a single facility and a excessive of 100% in one other.

“I’m going to be urging them to replace their vaccination charges to the extent that they will,” stated Ghilarducci, who plans to fulfill with nursing dwelling managers this week, although county workers has already visited the varied services to supply help.

Ghilarducci acknowledged the state’s latest requirement that the county implement a broader definition for a COVID-related dying, however added “There’s clearly an increase in sickness from COVID on this specific setting proper now, no matter the way you outline the dying.”

Ghilarducci defined that when the COVID vaccine was launched in late 2020, there was a nationwide requirement that workers in well being services that invoice Medicare or Medi-Cal needed to be vaccinated. However that ended with the shut of the state of emergency earlier this 12 months and booster shot totals have lagged behind.

Representatives from Dominican and Watsonville hospitals together with Sutter Well being instructed the Sentinel in March that they’d be enjoyable masking and vaccination necessities when the emergency ended, although these measures have been nonetheless really useful.

“Dignity Well being Dominican Hospital is dedicated to offering protected look after sufferers and a protected work setting for clinicians and workers,” stated Dignity Well being, the proprietor of Dominican Hospital, in a press release to the Sentinel when requested in regards to the standing of their masking and vaccination coverage. “Dominican Hospital is intently monitoring the prevalence of COVID-19 locally and follows the steering of the CDC and the California Public Well being Division for all COVID-19 associated points, together with masking and vaccinations.”

Ghilarducci stated the county is at present contemplating the opportunity of implementing an order requiring employees, no matter vaccination standing, to briefly masks till the present spike in circumstances dissipates. He stated officers haven’t determined if this potential order would apply to all well being care employees or simply nursing dwelling workers within the county.

Ghilarducci declined to share the names of the nursing houses experiencing outbreaks as a result of “it’s not essentially that they’re doing something fallacious.” He stated management in a number of services have expressed frustration on the lagging vaccination numbers, however really feel powerless to do a lot about it for concern that they may drive away workers which might be already working for mediocre pay in essentially the most unaffordable rental market within the nation.

“They’re attempting to stability between how a lot to push versus retaining the place working,” stated Ghilarducci. He expects at the very least a few the services will come out of “outbreak” standing within the coming days.

Nonetheless on the market

In the meantime, native wastewater knowledge continues to maintain the door open for a late-summer surge, as traits throughout the county have continued to ascend. Native and nationwide consultants imagine the brand new subvariant EG.5 – unofficially known as “Eris” – could possibly be driving the rise, but additionally famous that the warm-weather rise is following the pattern in recent times the place spikes happen in late summer time and winter seasons.