SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Santa Clara County officials asked residents Monday to cancel any travel plans and use caution in interactions outside of their immediate household during the Thanksgiving holiday because of the spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the county and the state.

The announcement outlining the stricter measures came on the same day Governor Gavin Newsom announced rollbacks of COVID infection tiers in 41 counties, most now bumped back to the most restrictive Purple Tier, including the entire Bay Area, as the state’s daily cases doubled over the past 10 days. The change takes effect Tuesday at 12:01 a.m.

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While Santa Clara County hospital capacity remains robust, the uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations has health officials urging the public to “double-down” on safety protocols, in an efforts to avoid overburdening the system with sick patients.

The latest 7-day rolling average shows 231 cases, levels not seen since the second wave began, and the 7-day average peaked at 269 on July 17.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody appeared in public for the third time in a week, to address the sharp rise since November 2, when the 7-day average was 147.

“That curve is going straight up. That is what concerns us is how fast that number is changing that’s the concern,” said Cody.

Cody said hospitalizations tend to lag behind positive case detections by about two weeks. The number of daily new COVID-19 patients in the hospital hovered below 20 for weeks, but then began am upward trend November 3, peaking at 44 on November 13. The most recent data shows 33 new hospitalizations on November 15.

“In the past, while we knew that we could rely on asking for help from other jurisdictions if we needed it, that’s not the case now. Because everyone is quite busy, attending to their own residents and their own communities,” said Cody.

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Dr. Sanjay Kurati, medical director at Valley Medical Center, stressed urgency and not panic. He compared the current situation to the response back in March, when much was unknown about the virus and PPE and staffing were in short supply.

“But this time around, PPE-wise we’re doing well. Testing wise we’re doing well. Capacity wise, overall, even though we have four patients the hospital that are non COVID and we are seeing an uptick in terms of COVID patients. We feel very good about how much capacity we have,” said Kurati.

VMC is continuing normal hospital operations, but with additional staffing on standby, and has maintained its outdoor intake tent at the ER entrance. Patients can be shifted to O’Connor or St. Louise, both county-owned hospitals, if needed to make room for any COVID patient surge.

“It’s been nine months now into this pandemic that we have learned how to treat it. But it is still a deadly virus. But ultimately we want to make sure this hospital is available for everybody,” said Kurati.

Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose said they have not erected the outdoor overflow tent, seen earlier this year. Staffing from “outside the area” has been brought in to help.

Last week, Dr. Cody warned of a possible move back to the Red Tier because of the surge in cases. As it turned out, the county moved even further than that.

Among other things, a move back to the Purple Tier requires the closure of indoor dining, which was already planned in Santa Clara County for November 17, 2020, as well as the closure of all indoor activities associated with gyms, museums, zoos and aquariums, places of worship, and movie theaters. Shopping malls and all retail establishments must reduce to a maximum of 25 percent capacity.

Schools may not reopen fully for in-person instruction until the county has been in the Red Tier for two weeks. Schools that have already re-opened if the county was in a less restrictive tier do not have to close. However, if a school had not already reopened for in-person instruction, it may not reopen until the county moves back to the Red Tier for 14 days.

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