More deputies fall sick as COVID-19 cases, deaths rise in the South Bay
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks with military leaders to plan for the arrival of the Navy's Mercy Hospital Ship to add 1,000 hospital beds in California as COVID-19 spreads across the state. Image courtesy the office of the Governor

A sixth Santa Clara County deputy has fallen sick with the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, marking the fifth case on a single team within the county’s “Custody Bureau.”

The county’s Custody Bureau includes several divisions at the Main Jail and the Elmwood Correctional Complex. The sheriff’s office hasn’t said where the deputies were based.

But officials did confirm that after four people in a seven-person Custody Bureau team were confirmed to have the virus, the remaining three were sent home to isolate as a precaution. It was one of those isolating at home as a precaution who tested positive on Thursday.

The final confirmed deputy was a patrol officer who tested positive last week.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and contact trace investigations are underway to identify other staff that may have been exposed,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday.

That news comes after the county confirmed that one inmate had tested positive for the deadly virus earlier this week, though officials say that inmate was isolated quickly, and assured that there was “no evidence to show that any inmates have been exposed as a result of the deputies.”

As of Thursday, Santa Clara County had announced 19 deaths due to COVID-19 and another 459 tested positive for the virus, though health officials say there are likely thousands more in the county who have the illness and can’t be tested due to limited supplies. Those numbers mark an 18 percent jump in reported cases and two new deaths compared to Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, almost half of the beds in Kaiser Permanente’s 242-bed San Jose hospital are filled with patients who appear to have the deadly virus, according to an executive vice president for the managed care consortium.

In a March 19 interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Stephen Parodi said Kaiser’s San Jose Medical Center “actually has almost half of the hospital filled with either COVID-confirmed or persons under investigation,” though the hospital said Thursday that number has since declined.

One intensive care unit at the hospital was filled entirely with COVID-19 patients, Parodi said, pushing the hospital to repurpose another unit to take intensive care patients who don’t have the virus.

Many of the patients with the respiratory illness have “rapidly deteriorated,” going from outpatient care to needing mechanical help to breathe from a ventilator within hours.

“It’s time now to scale,” Parodi said in the interview. “Open your surge plans up, get them going even if you haven’t seen it in your community. It will be there and you need to be ready.”

Kaiser, along with other hospitals around the region, have been scrambling for protective equipment — like gloves, face shields and masks — for medical personnel as they work with an influx of patients who may have the virus.

But businesses and individuals have been stepping up as the state scrambles to buy more supplies on the private market. While some have been busy making masks at home, Silicon Valley companies have donated more than $4 million to a fund for supplies that will go to hospitals within the Santa Clara County health care system. The fund, set up by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group last week, is taking in both financial donations and supplies that will go to the Valley Medical Center Foundation.

“Silicon Valley must step up even more to ensure we have a healthy region while ensuring we have a healthy economy,” Carl Guardino, the Leadership Group’s CEO, said last week while unveiling the fund.

Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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