COVID-19 transmission levels in Santa Clara County have begun to fall for the first time since mid-May, but still remain high due to highly contagious subvariants of the omicron variant, the county’s top health official said Tuesday.
Lab-confirmed COVID cases stayed mostly flat for nearly three months throughout the summer, county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said during a presentation to the county’s board of supervisors.
Those case counts were also likely a fraction of the county’s true number of active cases, Cody said, due to both asymptomatic cases and cases confirmed only by an at-home test.
In addition to cases declining locally, the amount of virus detected in all four of the county’s wastewater surveillance sites has fallen steadily over the last six weeks.
“But I just want to say, they’re still high,” Cody said of the county’s current transmission levels. “They’re about where we were in early May,” when local case counts were roughly the same as the peak of the delta variant surge during late summer 2021.
While case counts have continued to fluctuate more than two years into the pandemic, Cody noted that COVID-related deaths have stayed relatively flat under 20 per week for the last six months after a brief peak at around 50 per week during the winter surge.
As of Aug. 16, 2,416 county residents have died from COVID.
Cody estimated that a booster vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna specifically formulated to target the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants will be available in October or November.
“We anticipate we’re going to hear more about these soon,” she said.
Cody said while the county is taking actions similar to those it has used during the pandemic to mitigate the ongoing monkeypox outbreak. The county has received reports of 100 probable and confirmed cases of the virus, which Cody referred to as m-pox.
She noted that the World Health Organization is likely to change the virus’ colloquial name, as it was only named monkeypox because it was first identified in lab monkeys in the 1950s.
Nearly 3,400 doses of the Jynneos vaccine for smallpox and monkeypox have been administered across the county between large health care systems and the county’s own clinics, but vaccine allocations from the federal government continue to lag far behind demand.
“A majority of the vaccine, we’re giving out through county sites, and some of the vaccine we’re allocating to health care system partners who have told us that they want to be vaccinators and they’re ready to go,” Cody said.
“What we don’t want is to send it to a health care system if they’re not ready and then have the vaccine sitting if we could have been getting it out more quickly to people at highest-risk,” she said.
As of Aug. 11, 1,945 probable and confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported statewide.
Local information for Santa Clara County residents about both COVID and monkeypox can be found at https://publichealth.sccgov.org/home.