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July HIP Council: Updates from County Public Health Officer and Representatives

At our July 9th HIP Council meeting, we were joined by Santa Cruz County Public Health Officer, Dr. Gail Newel, State Senator Bill Monning, and Assemblymember Mark Stone. Dr. Newel provided a local response update on the current state of COVID-19 and local initiatives in preparation of a larger outbreak as cases continue to rise. As expected, when the economy began to reopen cases have increased.

Dr. Newel emphasized that COVID-19 is predominantly affecting those residing in South County, particularly the Latinx population. Across the nation, we are seeing communities of color are at greater risk to be impacted by COVID-19. This is often related to employment in sectors where sheltering in place is not an option, as well as social determinants of health, such as poverty, crowded housing, food insecurity and linguistic and cultural barriers, that put vulnerable communities at greater risk.

The Santa Cruz Data Dashboard, not only informs us about the local status and demographics of COVID-19 but has been updated with predictive models that can forecast a surge in hospitalizations and positive cases. There has been an average of 5-10 hospitalizations across the 3 county hospitals, however, that is predicted to surge to 80-100 hospitalizations by early August. For more information and current data on COVID-19, please visit the County’s resource page:

Many counties in California are experiencing a dial back, in which their counties are being mandated to close due to high case rates, hospitalizations, and death rates. Our neighboring counties such as Santa Clara, Alameda, Monterey, and others have been placed on the monitoring list and have had to roll back their communities’ openings. Santa Cruz may be placed on the monitoring list if we reach 100 new cases daily per 100K population. Other indicators that are on the state’s watch list are the average tests conducted per day, testing positivity, hospitalization increases, and hospital capacity. For more information on the State’s Data Monitoring List, please visit

The County is rolling out an employer contact tracing program to help with tracking workplace outbreaks. The County is working closely with healthcare systems to do their own investigations and Environmental Health to oversee food service investigations. Additionally, the County plans to expand these activities by working with schools to do their own contact tracing as some classroom instruction is expected to resume this Fall.

HIPC member Larry deGhetaldi, MD, Division President at Sutter Palo Alto Medical Foundation, asked if members “will see transparent data on how many out of county, including San Quentin, patients admitted to our hospitals” and if Santa Cruz “[is] doing our fair share to support CA?” Due to time constraints in the agenda, Dr. Newel provided a written response after the meeting, copied here:

“Our hospitals have accepted some COVID transfers from out of county, areas more heavily hit with COVID than we are. None of them to date have been from San Quentin Prison. Out of county transfers are counted in our hospital census data, just as our county residents are when they are cared for out of county. However, deaths are recorded in the county of residence, so they would not be added to our data even if they occurred here. In addition, this data is not made publicly available in our hospital data, at the request of the hospitals and for the privacy of the patients.”

Senator Bill Monning (CA SD-17) and Assemblymember Mark Stone (CA AS-29) gave an update on the impact that COVID-19 has had on the state's budget, legislative schedule, and school reopenings. While the state is facing a $54B deficit, Senator Monning highlighted the state's investment in public health and COVID-19 response for protective equipment, hospital surge preparation, testing, tracing, etc. The state legislature has worked to defend an increase in funding in various areas, however, the state budget also requires dependency on further federal stimulus funds that would help decrease the projected budget deficit.


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