Santa Clara County closing mass COVID vaccine and testing sites
Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody speaks about COVID-19 in 2022 in this file photo.

    Santa Clara County will close its mass COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites by the end of February, but the pandemic is far from over for those with compromised health conditions.

    County health officials gathered Wednesday to discuss the closures, which are set to happen by Feb. 28. But the pandemic’s long-term impacts on vulnerable populations cannot be overlooked, experts said.

    “We are still in the middle of a pandemic, but we are transitioning from a full-blown response where we have a sense of urgency every day to one where we are adapting to living with COVID,” Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said.

    The county has three mass vaccination and testing sites remaining. Testing will end at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds site on Feb. 24, and vaccinations will end on Feb. 25. Testing and vaccinations will end at the San Martin site by Feb. 25. Testing has already shut down at the Mountain View site and vaccinations will end on Feb. 28. Cody said the county’s day-to-day COVID operations will still be active, including tracking outbreaks and working on infection control.

    Recent county dashboard data reveals the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 infections is 144 as of Wednesday. Infections reached as high as 6,813 cases this time last year. The county continues to monitor COVID infections in wastewater systems to address underreporting.

    County Executive Jeff Smith said the rollback comes after the distribution of more than 1.9 million vaccines, equaling at least one dose for 90% of county residents. The county’s clinics will continue to distribute vaccines, he added.

    “We saved thousands of lives in this county by being on top of the pandemic right away,” Smith said. “We are stopping the mass vaccinations and testing because testing is available widely… vaccines are available.”

    Marcelle Dougan, San Jose State University assistant professor of public health, said resource distribution remains critical as agencies decrease services. Research needs to be done on long COVID, as well as other consequences of COVID-19, such as increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. Officials also need to learn from past experiences and improve safety measures, she added.

    “If anything, (resources) need to be redeployed into other places,” Dougan told San José Spotlight. “How do we protect people in service-related jobs who don’t have the opportunity to work from home? How do we make transportation safe, so that people can get safely to and from work?”

    Santa Clara University Department of Public Health Chair Sonja Mackenzie said the pandemic continues to affect the region’s most marginalized residents, especially communities of color. Data from the 2022 Silicon Valley Pain Index reveals Black and Latino residents have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, with average income for Black residents dropping by $2,593 in 2021. East San Jose families also faced high numbers of COVID infections and deaths, impacting student learning. At the federal level, national health emergency declarations are set to expire in May, potentially impacting access to vaccines and testing, she added.

    “While the young, the white, the able-bodied and those without health vulnerabilities may feel ready to move on from this pandemic, from a health equity perspective, we must understand that the most vulnerable groups will continue to bear the burden,” Mackenzie told San José Spotlight.

    Assemblymember Evan Low said with the possibility of new variants or surges, accurate public health communication should be prioritized. Low authored Assembly Bill 2098 which passed last year. The law allows the Medical Board of California to sanction and even revoke a doctor’s license for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccinations. AB 2098 is currently held up due to a federal lawsuit filed by two doctors last October.

    “People think that COVID has gone away,” Low told San José Spotlight. “It’s important to help support science and doctors who are doing the important work to protect patients… making sure that members of the public are informed about what’s going on in real time.”

    Cody said residents should continue to take safety precautions, such as wearing masks indoors and receiving booster shots and vaccinations.

    “As the situation around us changes, and when there’s more risk to the public, so too does our response,” Cody said. “Everyone has seen that the county of Santa Clara will do what it takes to keep the public safe.”

    Updates on local COVID-19 information can be found at

    Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

    Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story did not mention the lawsuit against AB 2098.

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