Santa Clara County is grappling with how to implement the latest COVID-19 changes, as the state lifts rules on masking and vaccinations in April.
The county will follow new state guidelines starting Monday as California loosens requirements, but officials are cautious a month after Governor Gavin Newsom declared the state’s COVID-19 emergency over.
Starting next week, masks will no longer be required in California’s high-risk and health care facilities including jails, homeless shelters and long-term care homes. Health care workers will no longer be required to get vaccinated for COVID, and people with the virus can end isolation after five days, among other changes.
A county health department spokesperson said there are still serious threats to people with certain medical conditions and for those who need vital health care services, especially during high transmission periods.
“In general, the county’s public health officer is aligning local requirements with state and federal COVID rules and guidance,” the spokesperson told San Jose Spotlight.
The county has issued an updated health order requiring masking in health care settings during the winter – November 1 to March 31 – in order to protect people from disease and prevent the overcrowding of hospitals. County officials also strongly advise health care facilities to closely monitor local and internal data, and set masking requirements and other policies that best protect their patients and ensure ongoing access to critical services during periods when risk is high. The county’s COVID dashboard will continue to operate and post data pertaining to the virus.
Santa Clara County has been at the forefront of the country’s governmental response to COVID and was first in the nation to declare COVID-19 a public health emergency on Feb. 10, 2020, when there were two confirmed cases of the disease in the county and 13 confirmed nationwide.
Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of global health, infectious diseases and epidemiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said COVID isn’t gone and it’s important to keep monitoring trends, which includes assessing the need for additional boosters.
“Given the high degree of population immunity from infection and vaccination this is the right time to lift the emergency measures,” she told San Jose Spotlight.
She said the number of people who have gotten booster shots is still low and she urges residents to get them.
County data shows only 33% of eligible residents have received the updated bivalent COVID booster, and 12% have not completed the initial series of COVID vaccines. Only 25% of the eligible population statewide has received the bivalent booster.
Maldonado added that masking has been an effective tool in reducing disease transmission and that health care workers should be vaccinated in order to maintain protective immunity among patients and staff.
Santa Clara County health officials highlighted that federal rules still require all Medicare and Medicaid-certified providers to ensure that applicable health care staff are vaccinated for COVID.
While major strides have been made in responding to the virus, Santa Clara County is stressing that COVID is still being detected at medium levels in wastewater samples and officials strongly recommend people wear masks indoors in crowded or high-risk settings, such as health care facilities or nursing homes.
Local updates on COVID-19 are available from the county on its website.
This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight and Joshua Ram.
Contact Josh Ram at firstname.lastname@example.org or at @JoshuaWRam on Twitter.