SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — With yet another day of record new COVID cases, Santa Clara County health officials warned Wednesday that hospitals in their county were down to just 69 beds available for patients requiring intensive medical care.
With multiple press conferences, Santa Clara County put the full court press on Wednesday, begging people, again and again, not to travel and not to gather for Thanksgiving.
Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, COVID-19 Testing Officer for the County of Santa Clara, said new cases were soaring with 512 reported on Tuesday and an even greater number expected on Wednesday.
On Sunday, the county reported there were 122 ICU beds available. In 72 hours, that number has been almost cut in half. There were 240 available last Friday.
The county announced it also had three new deaths reported on Tuesday. The county has recorded 467 deaths since 57-year-old Patricia Dowd, a senior manager for a Silicon Valley semiconductor firm, was the first in the nation to died of the illness on Feb. 6th.
“We are really, really concerned,” Fenstersheib said at a morning news conference. “All of the metrics that we have been following, that have done well in previous months, are now going up very steeply. Our positivity rate in our county is rising and especially in our most effected communities. The Latinx community is rising even faster.”
“Our case reports tell us that our numbers are higher than they have ever been,” he added. “If we look back in July, when we were really worried about an increase then, we saw 385 cases as a maximum. Our numbers are much higher. We were at 512 cases today. Tomorrow may be higher and we expect that to be the case.”
Of particular concern was the strain the surge was placing on local hospitals.
“We can’t depend on our counties next to us (to admit Santa Clara County patients) because they are under the same stress,” he said. “They can’t provide us with beds in their counties. So we are on our own and our hospitals are hurting.”
County executive James Williams said there were 45 new hospitalizations on Tuesday.
“We are extremely concerns about what this means for our hospitals to care for not only people with COVID-19, but other people who need access to care,” he said.
Williams urged local residents not to gather in large numbers for Thanksgiving and make sure to always wear a mask and keep socially distanced.
“We are urging all residents,” said Williams. “Do not have gatherings, and do not travel,” said Williams.
Despite the urgent pleas from officials not to travel and gather, people showed up for testing on Wednesday so that they could do jus that.
“I’m glad that we got here a little bit early,” said Kevin Baron of San Jose, arriving for a coronavirus test early Wednesday. “I feel like that makes a world of difference. It’s like if you get here 20 minutes afterwards, that is going to add an hour.”
It did not take long for the line to wrap around the parking lot at this morning’s pop-up testing event on Story Road. Why was Baron here?
“It’s Thanksgiving,” he says. “Since we’re going to be with the family everyone should get tested.”
“My family begged me to come home,” said Marie Spurlock, also waiting in line for a test. “They wanted me to book my plane ticket, I ended up driving instead. They really wanted to see me so I was convinced to see them. Part of the deal of me coming home was that I’d get tested.”
Spurlock knows what she’s doing is against the recommendations. Health officials say family can lead to a false sense of security.
“We sometimes think that our family members, our friends, we know them, they’re OK, they’ve done the right thing,” said Dr. Fenstersheib. “Not the case.”
“As we head into the holiday season, the way to show family, friends and fellow Santa Clara County residents that you care about them is to not hold large gatherings with them that can easily spread the virus,” said Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “We are reaching a tipping point with COVID-19 numbers and we need to change course now.”
Still, a lot of people were hearing the messages, but not entirely following the instructions.
“It’s not like, ‘OK we’re going to have this 25-person gathering’ by any means,” Baron says. “But we’re also not totally knocking off socially.”
Officials also said local law enforcement will be vigilant to make sure Black Friday shopping does not get out of hand. The county will utilizing additional resources to ensure stores follow the current state Purple Tier guidelines.
Currently, grocery stores must limit capacity to 50% and clothing and retails stores (including malls) must limit capacity to 25%. The Santa Clara County Fire Department, which has a traditional role in enforcing capacity issues for fire codes, will provide much needed support to the compliance unit’s efforts.
“Businesses have a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to protect their employees and the public,” said Michael Balliet, Director of Community and Business Engagement.