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Santa Cruz County sees concerning rise in COVID-19 spread, 27 cases at nursing facility

Watsonville Post Acute Center COVID-19 outbreak


UPDATE 9/24/2020 10:30 a.m. Santa Cruz County health officials provided an update on COVID-19 cases around the county, and they said the trend they are seeing is concerning.

Officials said the transmission curve is increasing dramatically, and Santa Cruz County is one of the worst in the state right now in terms of the exponential spread of the virus.

Some of the factors attributed to the rise in cases include Labor Day, wildfire evacuations and person to person spread within households. Spread within households continues to be the leading cause of spread.

“We’re in such a concerning place right now our epidemic curve is going up dramatically, and when you compare how exponential our spread is we’re one of the worst preforming counties in the state right now,” Health Services Director Mimi Hall said.

Another cause for concern is the number of COVID-19 cases reported at the Watsonville Post Acute Center. Out of 73 residents, 28 have tested positive for the virus along with six staff members. Dr. Gail Newel said there is a potential for more cases and a significant potential for fatalities. Newel said the facility has not relaxed visitation policies and precautions have been taken to prevent more spread.

The facility says in a statement on its website, “residents who tested positive are in isolation meanwhile the employees who tested positive are at home in quarantine.”

The facility and its sister facility are not admitting new residents or discharging residents.

The California National Guard was brought in to help assist the limited staff.

No non-essential visitors have been allowed to enter the Post Acute Center during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, the health officer relaxed some of the visitation restrictions for county SNFs. The order allows pre-planned family visits only if a facility has no new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, no staff shortages and has adequate testing and protective equipment.

Three residents are in the hospital, as of Thursday night.

The county is expected to stay in the red tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy through at least Oct. 6, and schools have been allowed to open. A total of 14 schools have plans to open this week or next week, but public schools are still closed. Some of the public schools are committed to staying closed for the remainder of the calendar year and some have been impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex.

Newel said the county will not release Halloween guidance yet because they are waiting for a plan from the state, but she is confident that no gatherings of any kind will be allowed, including haunted houses and parties.

A new COVID-19 death was reported Wednesday. Newel said the person was a woman in her 60's with underlying health conditions. The county has received reports over the phone of two additional potential COVID-19 deaths, but Newel said they are waiting for death certificates and confirmation that the people are residents before officially considering them Santa Cruz County COVID-19 deaths.

PREVIOUS STORY: Health officials in Santa Cruz County are holding a news conference to provide an update on COVID-19 in the county.

As of the last update, there have been a total of 2,319 confirmed cases. 306 of those cases are still active, and nine people have died.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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