The Silicon Valley Voice

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COVID-19 Levels Rising in Wastewater Sewersheds

The County of Santa Clara wastewater monitoring program has detected a sharp increase in COVID-19 levels this past month. According to a news conference on Dec. 6, the current rise in COVID-19, along with high levels of flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) within the County, should serve as a stark reminder for everyone eligible to get vaccinated against both flu and COVID as soon as possible, especially in advance of the holidays.

The County’s four sewersheds are currently in the high category for COVID-19 concentration levels. The Palo Alto sewershed’s levels are higher than they were in January 2022, at the height of the Omicron surge last winter.

During its almost three-year history, the County’s wastewater monitoring program has proven to be an accurate indicator of rising and falling COVID-19 community transmission levels. Wastewater monitoring data has become even more important with the rise of at-home COVID-19 tests, which are not reportable and therefore don’t show up in official case counts. At-home tests enable the public to quickly determine if they may be infectious and to immediately take the necessary precautions. However, the data are not available to state and local agencies, placing a greater emphasis on the information garnered by the wastewater surveillance program.

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“Unfortunately, we have seen COVID-19 surge during the holidays the previous two years so this is not unexpected,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer and Director of Public Health for the County of Santa Clara. “Thankfully, there are actions each of us can take to live as safely as possible with COVID-19.  For those that haven’t already, now is the time to get your flu vaccine and bivalent COVID-19 booster, and we continue to strongly recommend testing before gathering and wearing a mask indoors in public settings.”

The CDC’s current definition of being up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations is having received the primary series plus a bivalent (Omicron) booster.

In addition to the County’s COVID-19 levels rising in wastewater samples, there was a steady rise in November of hospitalized patients who were COVID-19 positive. On November 1 there were 98 COVID-19 positive cases in hospitals throughout the County, but by December 2 that number had increased to 218.

Everyone is encouraged to check with their primary physician about receiving the flu and bivalent Omicron booster vaccines. Those without a primary healthcare provider or who are having difficulty finding an appointment can go through www.sccfreevax.org for an appointment. With County Public Health locations, there is no cost to be vaccinated or questions regarding immigration status.

The State of California’s “Vaccinate all 58” campaign will also be hosting vaccination clinics throughout the Bay Area.

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