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Santa Clara County Moves To Less Restrictive ‘Orange’ Tier

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA — Santa Clara County advanced to a less-restrictive tier of the state’s coronavirus pandemic reopening system Tuesday, enabling both counties to expand the maximum capacity of activities like indoor dining and open bars outside.

Santa Clara was among two Bay Area counties to receive state approval to lift some restrictions Tuesday. Alameda is the other.

The two counties moved from Tier 2, the red tier, to Tier 3, the orange tier, by reducing their rate of new cases per 100,000 residents per day below four.

They join San Francisco as the only Bay Area counties in Tier 3.

Santa Clara and Alameda counties also had to reduce their respective test positivity rates under 5 percent and their health equity score, which the state introduced last week, under 5.2 percent.

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody encouraged residents to continue the efforts they’ve taken in recent weeks to reduce the virus’ local spread.

“We ask that everyone continue their efforts to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in our county,” Cody said.

“Everyone must take responsibility for preventing spread so that we don’t move back to more restrictive tiers under the State’s structure.”

Santa Clara County had been in Tier 2 since Sept. 8, allowing the county to resume indoor operations at businesses like gyms, shopping malls, museums, restaurants, zoos and aquariums at limited capacities.

Alameda County had been in the red tier since Sept. 22 and had to wait a minimum of three weeks to move into a less restrictive tier, regardless of whether it met the thresholds for the orange tier for two consecutive weeks before then.

“We’ve chosen an approach that we describe as slow and stringent,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary.

“We wait for the data to come in, we try to understand how changes in the levels of mixing that’s allowable in communities actually translates into transmission before we do more,” Ghaly said.

In many cases, both counties will be able to expand the maximum capacity of indoor businesses from 25 percent to 50 percent or 200 people, whichever is fewer.

Gyms, fitness centers and hotels will also be allowed to reopen indoor pools, while gyms themselves can increase their capacity from 10 percent to 25 percent of their maximum occupancy.

Moving into the orange tier also allows multiple sectors like offices, cardrooms, bowling alleys, climbing walls and gyms, wineries and bars, breweries and distilleries at which food is not served to resume operating inside with caps on capacity.

Alameda County Interim Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss echoed Cody’s warning that local progress in fighting the coronavirus can be easily undone.

“Especially with flu season coming, if we see spikes in COVID-19 cases and a rise in hospitalizations, we will take action to limit the spread and protect public health including resuming restrictions if needed,” Moss said in a statement.

Santa Clara and Alameda counties will now need to remain in the orange

Dozens infected, nine dead in COVID-19 outbreak at a Santa Cruz County nursing home

Coronavirus has infected dozens of residents, with nine dead, at a nursing home in Watsonville, Calif., in Santa Cruz County.
Coronavirus has infected dozens of residents, with nine dead, at a nursing home in Watsonville, Calif., in Santa Cruz County.

A skilled nursing home in Santa Cruz County is suffering a severe outbreak of COVID-19, with 61 people having tested positive and nine dead, a county health spokeswoman said Thursday.

Of the 61 infected at the Watsonville Post-Acute Center, nine were staff. All those who died were residents and ranged in age from their early 70s to 90s, said Corinne Hyland, a public information officer for the county Department of Public Health. The facility is licensed for 95 beds.

Hyland said the facility had been following state guidelines for employee testing, which exposed the outbreak. The center reported the outbreak to the county on Sept. 17 after a resident tested positive. An outbreak at a nursing home is defined as an infection in one resident. Visitors have been barred during the pandemic, she said.

“It spread pretty quickly,” Hyland said. “Unfortunately, this is a very vulnerable population.”

Dr. David Ghilarducci, deputy health officer for Santa Cruz County, said the county’s public health staff was working closely with the facility to control the outbreak.

Santa Cruz County health officials have been visiting the facility daily to review protocols on isolation, quarantine, testing and screening, and to respond to requests for more resources.

Officials from the California Department of Public Health have made multiple visits to the facility to assess the situation and make recommendations, and the California National Guard also is providing help, the county said.

Because many nursing home employees work in more than one facility, the county immediately alerted other homes of the outbreak, Hyland said. She added that the county was tracing the contacts of the infected.

“This is really a large outbreak,” Hyland said. “We haven’t seen this sort of thing in our county until now.”

The Watsonville center’s website has reported previous infections in the past but in small numbers. The website indicates that past infections have been among employees.

Gerald E. Hunter, the facility’s administrator, said on the website there were 23 residents and four staff members who were positive for the virus on Oct. 5. He said the county’s numbers reflected the total infected since the outbreak started.

“Each day we evaluate all of our residents following CDPH and County of Santa Cruz guidelines to determine whom meets the criteria to be transferred out of the unit,” said Hunter on the website. He did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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Santa Clara County Moves To Loosen Shelter Orders

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA — Santa Clara County’s top health officer issued a revised health order Monday calling the loosening of shelter-in-place orders as soon as officials get the go-ahead from the state.

Under Dr. Sara Cody’s revised health order, indoor dining and church gatherings would be permitted with significantly reduced capacity.

Santa Clara County would need to move to the “orange” tier in the state’s monitoring system for areas considered to be at a moderate risk level for the spread of the coronavirus, with testing positivity rate of 2 to 4.9 percent.

The county is currently in the “red” tier, with positive rate of 5 to 8 percent.

The loosening of shelter orders figures to provide a boost to a local economy battered by the economic effects of the pandemic since shelter orders went into effect March 17.

But it is far from a declaration that the crisis is over, Cody said in a statement.

“It is imperative that we all continue to practice the precautions that have made our COVID-19 numbers move in the right direction,” Cody said.

“The fact that you are able to do something doesn’t mean that you should. The public’s commitment, both businesses and our residents, to wearing face coverings, and maintaining social distancing and testing is what will help us move forward to the next tier in the state’s COVID-19 blueprint.”

Once the county moves to the orange tier, outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people and indoor gatherings of up to 25 percent capacity or 100 people (whichever is fewer) would be allowed.

Indoor dining up to 25 percent capacity or 100 people, (whichever is fewer) would also be permitted.

“The fact that an activity is allowed does not mean it is safe,” the county’s Emergency Operations Center-Public Health Department said in a statement.

“COVID-19 continues to pose a serious risk to our residents. This is why we urge all residents to be cautious, stay home when possible, minimize interaction with anyone outside their household, maintain social distance, wear a face covering, and move activities outdoors when possible.”

This article originally appeared on the Los Gatos Patch

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Santa Fe dentist’s office reopens after COVID-19 closure | Coronavirus

A Santa Fe dental practice reopened Monday following a nearly two-week closure due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the doctor and one of his assistants.

Dentist Jared French said he saw one patient Sept. 14, a Monday, and then felt an itch in his throat and went home.

He took a test that afternoon to determine if he had contracted COVID-19, French said, and after it came back positive two days later, he closed his practice.

A patient, an assistant and a dental hygienist who were at the office Sept. 16 before the closure all tested negative.

“It’s a dicey situation. You have to open back up, but you want to protect people,” French said. “We were able to prevent transmission. In the end, that’s what really matters.”

Under guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for health care workers, French was not required to wait 14 days before returning to work. The CDC’s symptom-based guidelines say it’s safe to return to work if at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, at least 24 hours have passed since the patient last experienced fever and other symptoms have improved.

The doctor’s wife, Lara French, said she believes she might have become infected with COVID-19 while visiting family in Utah earlier this month and then infected her husband while she was quarantining after her return.

“It’s hard to know,” Lara French said. “I was only in close contact with a few family members there, but I think that’s where I got it.”

Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman with the New Mexico Environment Department, said the agency performed a rapid response at the dental office, which involves ensuring employers are following COVID-19 safety guidelines. Monitors determined a further investigation by the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau was not warranted, Hayden said.

During the roughly 48 hours between when the time French left the office with a symptom of the illness and the time he closed the practice, a dental hygienist — who did not work at the office Sept. 14 — saw patients at the practice, the dentist said.

French said he felt comfortable leaving the practice open while he awaited his test result because people who had close contact with him were isolating and the facility had been following health, safety and cleaning guidelines.

“We followed policies and tried to be reasonable, and that’s the decision we made,” French said. “I think the proof is in the pudding, as there was no transmission.”

At least one patient thought French should have closed the practice sooner or at least alerted patients about the possible infection.

“If someone had told me he was sick and went to get tested, I would have changed my appointment,” said Harriet Schreiner, who visited the office the morning of Sept. 16, a Wednesday.

She believes French put her and others in harm’s way by not disclosing he had left the office two days prior with COVID-19 symptoms.

“Nobody said anything to me

Santa Fe dentist’s office reopens after COVID-19 closure | Coronavirus

A Santa Fe dental practice reopened Monday following a nearly two-week closure due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the doctor and one of his assistants.

Dentist Jared French said he saw one patient Sept. 14, a Monday, and then felt an itch in his throat and went home.

He took a test that afternoon to determine if he had contracted COVID-19, French said, and after it came back positive two days later, he closed his practice.

A patient, an assistant and a dental hygienist who were at the office Sept. 16 before the closure all tested negative.

“It’s a dicey situation. You have to open back up, but you want to protect people,” French said. “We were able to prevent transmission. In the end, that’s what really matters.”

Under guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for health care workers, French was not required to wait 14 days before returning to work. The CDC’s symptom-based guidelines say it’s safe to return to work if at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, at least 24 hours have passed since the patient last experienced fever and other symptoms have improved.

The doctor’s wife, Lara French, said she believes she might have become infected with COVID-19 while visiting family in Utah earlier this month and then infected her husband while she was quarantining after her return.

“It’s hard to know,” Lara French said. “I was only in close contact with a few family members there, but I think that’s where I got it.”

Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman with the New Mexico Environment Department, said the agency performed a rapid response at the dental office, which involves ensuring employers are following COVID-19 safety guidelines. Monitors determined a further investigation by the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau was not warranted, Hayden said.

During the roughly 48 hours between when the time French left the office with a symptom of the illness and the time he closed the practice, a dental hygienist — who did not work at the office Sept. 14 — saw patients at the practice, the dentist said.

French said he felt comfortable leaving the practice open while he awaited his test result because people who had close contact with him were isolating and the facility had been following health, safety and cleaning guidelines.

“We followed policies and tried to be reasonable, and that’s the decision we made,” French said. “I think the proof is in the pudding, as there was no transmission.”

At least one patient thought French should have closed the practice sooner or at least alerted patients about the possible infection.

“If someone had told me he was sick and went to get tested, I would have changed my appointment,” said Harriet Schreiner, who visited the office the morning of Sept. 16, a Wednesday.

She believes French put her and others in harm’s way by not disclosing he had left the office two days prior with COVID-19 symptoms.

“Nobody said anything to me

Latest Santa Cruz Case Count; County Releases Halloween Guidance

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, CA — Haunted houses, large parties and indoor mazes should be a no-go in the era of the coronavirus, Santa Cruz County officials announced Monday.

And even if your Halloween costume comes with a mask, you should still wear a face mask, officials said in a news release jointly issued by Bay Area health officers. Maybe this year is the one to focus on decorations and virtual costume contests.

The public should keep a close eye out for COVID-19 symptoms after the holiday — especially three to seven days afterward. Anyone who experiences symptoms can learn how to get tested in Santa Cruz County here.

“These holidays are no different than the rest of the year when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19,” health officials wrote.

Officials gave guidance on which seasonal activities are lower-risk, moderate-risk, high-risk and very-high risk. Here’s the official word on Halloween and Día de los Muertos traditions, according to the county:

Lower Risk

“Stay home, keep it small.”

  • Carving pumpkins, scavenger hunt trick-or-treat with members of your household

  • Outdoor pumpkin patch visit (while masked and maintaining six feet of distance from others)

  • Carving pumpkins outside with very small group (while masked and maintaining six feet of distance from others)

  • Virtual costume contest

  • Decorating your home

  • Creating in-home ofrendas

  • Preparing traditional recipes and playing music at home to honor loved ones who have died

  • Vehicle-based gatherings, such as drive-through attractions or drive-in movies

Moderate Risk

“If you must.”

  • One-way trick-or-treating, with individually wrapped goodie bags for guests to grab and go at the end of a driveway (while masked and maintaining six feet of distance from others)

  • Small outdoor movie night or costume parade (while masked and maintaining six feet of distance from others)

  • Themed outdoor dining

Higher Risk

“Please avoid.”

  • Traditional trick-or-treating, which brings people from various households together

  • Rural fall festival outside of your community

Very High Risk

“Not permitted by state and local orders.”

  • Crowded parties, whether indoors or outdoors, are linked to many Bay Area COVID-19 cases

  • Sharing, eating, drinking, talking loudly, singing with people outside of your household

  • Haunted houses

  • Indoor mazes

  • Trunk-or-treat, with candy handed out from cars in parking lots

There have been 2,394 cases of the coronavirus reported in Santa Cruz County as of Tuesday morning, including 10 confirmed deaths and 2,082 recovered cases. Here’s the breakdown by location:

  • Aptos: 103

  • Ben Lomond: 18

  • Boulder Creek: 18

  • Capitola: 63

  • Felton: 24

  • Freedom: 128

  • Santa Cruz: 446

  • Scotts Valley: 56

  • Soquel: 63

  • Watsonville: 1,348

  • Under investigation: 103

  • Unincorporated: 24

This article originally appeared on the Santa Cruz Patch

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