COVID-19 Safety

Keeping Safe from COVID in the Holiday Season

As the days grow shorter and colder, flu season approaches, and the realities of a very different holiday season nears, it’s good to remember that we all have an important role to play in limiting the spread of COVID-19 here in Santa Cruz County. Knowledge about local virus transmission is increasing and we hope that by sharing the data with you, we can protect ourselves, our families, and the essential workers on whom we rely. Special thanks to Dr. Marm Kilpatrick, infectious disease specialist at UCSC, for analyzing our local data and helping us make safer decisions.

How We’re Getting Sick and How to Avoid it

In the early days of the virus, most of the cases were from unknown “community transmissions” or travel. By October, however, it is reassuring to know that most cases are transmitted through a “known contact.” In other words, we can now pinpoint the source of infection for about ¾ of all cases. Here are a few big takeaways about those infections:

  • Most known infections (71%) happen when there is close contact with someone already experiencing symptoms. That’s right--we are getting infected primarily by exposing others when we already have (often mild) COVID symptoms. That means that we can substantially reduce transmission by getting tested and staying home at the first sign of a symptom. Of course, we need to be careful when “staying home” to avoid infecting our family or household members. We can reduce transmission, whenever possible, by wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with household members until we get our test results at the first sign of symptoms. Please encourage your co-workers, employees, friends, and family to do the same.
  • When one of us becomes infected, we most often spread the virus to the people we live with. In fact, 61% of cases in Santa Cruz County with a known contact got infected from a household member. The virus spreads between households primarily through social gatherings with family and friends (8.3%), travel (8.6%) and at work (19.4%). Workplace infections often occur through socializing activities including lunch breaks and after hours work parties.

Lowering Transmission

Remember that the majority of all people who have been infected in Santa Cruz County have had close contact with a person that later received a confirmed diagnosis and that person often had COVID symptoms during contact with others. We are most infectious a few days before any symptoms occur (if they occur at all) and we often have mild symptoms. It is extremely important to get tested and stay home if you have even mild symptoms, and as soon as symptoms appear. Getting tested immediately when you have even mild symptoms enables the health department to quickly trace contacts you may have infected and stop them from transmitting the virus. And when you are near others always opt for a mask, even if you feel fine. To be safe, let’s recommit to the basics:

  • Protected (wear a mask)
  • Spatially distant (at least 6 feet apart)
  • Well ventilated (outside is best)
  • Brief (keep close contact with non-household members under 10-15 minutes and remember that its best not to chat with the cashier, linger in the aisle, etc.)

Meeting a person you don't live with? It’s safest to meet them outside, and if it's hard to have at least 6' of space, wear a mask. If you have to meet someone indoors, it’s safer to keep it very brief, wear a mask, and, if possible, keep at least 6' between you and them and open a window or make sure there is plenty of ventilation. When interactions cannot be brief, make sure that the other 3 precautions are in place. Likewise, when you can’t visit outside, make sure you do the other 3.

Get that Flu Shot!

The flu vaccine is widely available in Santa Cruz County and we encourage everyone to get one soon! Like COVID-19, influenza is a respiratory virus. We want to do everything we can to minimize having two respiratory outbreaks circulating in our community at the same time.

Save Lives Pajaro Valley Community Group

A Different Kind of Holiday Season

Avoiding indoor family gatherings during the holidays is going to be tough. But the more cases we have in Santa Cruz County, the more likely our reopening status gets set back, hurting our local businesses working so hard to survive, and putting vulnerable populations at higher risk. More help preparing for a safe holiday season and private gatherings is available from state health experts.

Creative Solutions and New Traditions

The State’s new tiering system is in place. We are currently in the second tier which allows some businesses to be open with modifications. Let’s keep making progress to reduce infections and allow even more local business activity. Perhaps we’ll start new traditions and gather for socially distanced beach walks or enjoy family while bundled up in the backyard. We’ll cultivate gratitude with a walk in the redwoods and help support local businesses by shopping for gifts in Santa Cruz County. Thanks to your generosity, we’ll keep caring for families that need support making ends meet. Most importantly, we’ll continue to protect each other through kindness and care.