COVID-19 cases are surging dramatically in Santa Clara County and as the holiday season rapidly approaches, the county is ramping up testing and urging residents to avoid large gatherings outside their households.
According to county officials, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients increased by more than 50 percent in one week. There were 110 hospitalizations for COVID-19 on Nov. 12 but that number grew to 166 by Nov. 19, bringing county numbers back to the startling levels seen at the beginning of the pandemic.
Hospitals could exceed capacity in just three weeks if cases continue to rise at this rate — an even more concerning picture as flu season draws near.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County has reached 30,025 as of Nov. 20 with 407 new cases and four new deaths. The seven-day average of new cases is the highest it has been since the beginning of the pandemic, health officials said.
Santa Clara County is taking urgent action to increase testing efforts and is providing free flu shots at several sites in Santa Clara, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Gilroy and Milpitas.
The state is also on high alert. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a curfew Nov. 17 for purple tier counties, mandating that all non-essential businesses close and gatherings cease from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The curfew begins Nov. 21 and ends Dec. 21.
While some may get a COVID-19 test to prepare for travel and visiting relatives, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, COVID-19 testing officer for Santa Clara County, cautioned residents against using testing as a way to justify leaving home or convening in large groups.
“A negative result does not mean someone has a pass to put themselves and others at risk,” Fenstersheib said. “People who test negative can still be carriers of the virus but be in an early stage of infection. It’s critically important that you not travel during this time of heightened COVID-19 risk.”
Despite Thanksgiving around the corner, the county urged residents to refrain from gathering with anyone outside their household. The state allows limited outdoor gatherings with a maximum of three households, masks and physical distancing. Gatherings must end by 10 p.m. under the new curfew and health order that goes into effect tonight.
Dr. Ryan Knueppel, chief of infectious disease at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center, said social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing are key to staying safe during the holidays.
He said people who choose to gather should avoid sharing food or utensils, keep gatherings small and limit them to two hours. His biggest piece of advice: get a flu shot.
“As the weather gets colder, people stay inside and congregate in smaller spaces, leading to an increase risk of flu and COVID-19 infections,” Knueppel said, adding that getting vaccinated helps doctors rule out the flu when trying to diagnose COVID-19.
Due to increasing demand, COVID-19 testing at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds will be expanded to accommodate 3,000 appointments a day starting next week and 5,000 by mid-December. Testing is free regardless of a person’s citizenship or health care plan.
Testing sites will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Those seeking COVID-19 testing or flu shots can go to the following locations. Click here to schedule an appointment.
Appointment-based COVID tests and flu shots
Location: Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Parking Lot A (across from the blue arch), across the street from the fairgrounds main entrance, 344 Tully Road.
Availability: Drive-through, bike and walk-up appointments. Appointments are available five days in advance of Nov. 24, 25 and 27, 11:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.; Nov. 28 and 29, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Murphy Park, 260 N. Sunnyvale Ave.
Availability: Appointment-only for Nov. 23, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Morgan Hill Council Chamber Building, 17555 Peak Ave.
Availability: Appointment only for Nov. 24, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Santa Clara Central Park Library, 2635 Homestead Road.
Availability: By appointment only for Nov. 25, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Walk-in COVID tests only
Emmanuel Baptist Church, 467 N. White Road. Nov. 23 – Nov. 25, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Public Health Story Road Hub, 1775 Story Road. Nov. 25, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
South County Annex (formerly Del Buono Elementary) 9300 Wren Ave. Nov. 23 – Nov. 25, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
COVID-19 testing at hospitals
Kaiser Permanente, Sutter/Palo Alto Medical Foundation and other county healthcare providers are required to offer free testing to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or anyone who has had a prior diagnosis of COVID-19.
Essential workers, including teachers, healthcare professionals, agricultural workers or food manufacturers, are also entitled to free testing by these medical centers.
Kaiser is offering free drive-thru flu shots to their members at the following locations:
San Jose Medical Offices at Hospital Parkway, San Jose. Monday to Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Gilroy Medical Offices at 7520 Arroyo Circle, Gilroy. Monday to Friday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. through December.
For COVID testing, members can make an appointment through kp.org.
For more information, call 2-1-1 or visit the county’s COVID-19 testing frequently asked questions page.
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.