WATSONVILLE, Calif. (KION) Of the 205 total confirmed cases of coronavirus in Santa Cruz County, 91 are from the city of Watsonville.
The number spiked following four separate clusters at family gatherings from Mother's Day weekend.
“The clusters were multi-households, and in one case multi-state. So it was a family reunion of sorts, and that’s particularly concerning, because it's possible that new genomics strains could be brought into our community,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said.
The number of Hispanic people with COVID-19 also jumped after the clusters. The Hispanic/Latino ethnicity now makes up 50% of the county's cases.
“Latino families do have strong connection to families and want to be together celebrate together. Religion [also] plays a big part,” Watsonville City Councilmember Francisco Estrada said.
The increase in South Santa Cruz County cases led county leaders to create a outreach group for the Pajaro Valley to improve coronavirus awareness.
“Seeing the low numbers before, maybe people feel like it's okay to come together, have gatherings and celebrate each others life milestone's not really realizing the impact they can have on the community,” Estrada said.
Health officials and Watsonville Police are also concerned about the Watsonville Farm Worker Cruise that was held last Saturday to raise money for farm worker families. Police said it turned into a large gathering and issued several citations at the event.
“Our officers were overwhelmed with the crowds that gathered here in the city," Michelle Pulido with the Watsonville Police Department said. "People were tailgating. People were getting in and out of their cars and stopping traffic. We had fights. We had people drinking out on the street, gathering and wearing no masks.”
Health officials worry more clusters will follow, because of Memorial Day weekend gatherings like the farm worker cruise in Watsonville.
“We believed this large event would draw large crowds, and that’s exactly what happened,” Pulido said.
The drive by fundraiser was not approved by the city.
Extra officers were called in to help with enforcement at the event. Watsonville PD is working with the District Attorney's Office to determine if citations should be issued to event organizers.