SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Santa Cruz County Health officials announced that an elderly man has died from complications stemming from COVID-19 as it continues to move forward with reopenings.
The county said the patient was a man in his mid-90s who was in hospice care. He had several underlying conditions, and officials said though COVID-19 was a significant factor, it was not the primary cause of death. It was listed as a COVID-19 death, Santa Cruz County's third, after consulting with State public health officials. It is the first COVID-19 death in the county in two months.
“Our hearts go out to those whose lives were touched by this individual. We at County Public Health continue to do all we can to assure that these occasions are as few as possible, and want to remind everyone that COVID-19 remains a significant threat to all Santa Cruz County residents, but especially the elderly and medically vulnerable among us,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel said.
Although the method of transmission is still under investigation, health officials believe that it came from person-to-person contact with a close contact, such as a caregiver or family member.
This comes as the county is seeing an uptick in cases and announced a new reopening. Dr. Gail Newel said in a news conference said that she is updating new orders to extend through July 6, but after that the county will follow State guidance and not issue a new order. Face covering and other specific orders will still be in effect. One of the changes in the order is that children over the age of 2 will be required to wear face coverings. It has been optional up to this point.
As of midnight Thursday night into Friday morning, beach restrictions in Santa Cruz County will be lifted. That means that people will be allowed to sit on the beach and there will not be any more limits on when people can be there. Newell said this change is happening because people are "not willing to be governed" and law enforcement is not able to keep enforcing restrictions. State parks and city beaches may still have beach restrictions in place.
The reopening comes as the county sees an uptick in cases. Newel said 28 new cases were reported over the weekend, which is the greatest increase so far. She said it is not a surprise because there have been reopenings, protests, memorials and graduations, but emphasized that the increase in cases is not due to an increase in testing. Newel said she has been surprised and somewhat uncomfortable about the speed of reopening around the State, but said she also understands the need for economic recovery. She said she believes that if people with a lower risk are responsible while they are out for essential needs, it is safe.
The county is also working on increasing contact tracing and has the goal of beginning initial investigations within 24 hours of testing positive. When contact tracers reach out to people, the county said they will receive a call with the ID "COVID CA." The area code may be 916 or 454, and the calls are not recorded.
Read the updated order below.