Monterey County’s COVID-19 rates decreasing ‘quickly’ Keep up to date on local COVID-19 news

Editor’s note: The following is a collection of breaking news updates, helpful informational sites and links to appropriate local institutions during the coronavirus pandemic. Send announcements to admin@voicesofmontereybay.org.

Monterey County COVID-19 rates decreasing ‘quickly’
Feb. 23 — More vaccinations are available, elementary school officials are generating plans to reopen classrooms and the pure case-rate numbers are dropping in Monterey County.

“The number of cases from week to week has decreased quickly,” said Dr. Ed Moreno, the county’s public health officer. He noted that only 59 people are in hospitals for treatment of symptoms for the virus in Monterey County today, compared to more than 200 in early January. “We are over the second surge,” Moreno said.

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Monterey County's health charts show decreasing case rates

He also said that county residents aged 65 and over will be able to start getting their vaccines starting March 3, and that vulnerable residents between the ages of 60 and 64 will be qualified for vaccinations on March 15.

National officials noted this week that 500,000 people have now died of symptoms related to COVID-19. Monterey County’s death toll reached 323 with the report of another six victims today.  The toll in Santa Cruz County is now 174.

During a presentation to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, Moreno said that health officials “still have a lot of work to do” before the county reaches numbers that would move the region into the state’s “red tier” phase, which would allow officials to ease restrictions.

He indicated that he is more optimistic about the county’s ability ease restrictions relatively soon due to the availability of vaccines.

See here for more information about the county’s vaccine strategies, availabilities and registration instructions.

More than most counties in the state, Monterey County has struggled to receive and to administer vaccines from suppliers. The latest numbers indicate that Monterey County has administered a bit more than 60,000 doses, or less than 14,000 doses per 100,000 people. That’s compared to Santa Cruz County, which has administered 69,987 doses, or 25,564 doses per 100,000.

Moreno and others say that Monterey County has infrastructure in place to administer as many doses as it can get, but that it is not getting a sufficient amount of vaccine. County officials have sent urgent letters to the Gov. Gavin Newsom pointing out the inequities, particularly among vulnerable people in the Salinas Valley who are catching the virus at a higher rate than others regions.

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Monterey County COVID-19 death toll exceeds 300
Feb. 11 — With seven new confirmed fatalities related to COVID-19 reported today, more than 300 Monterey County residents have now died as a result of complications resulting from the virus, according to county health officials.

Today’s fatality report shows the largest number of deaths in several weeks, and is likely a result of a backlog of reporting.  The report comes as county officials prepare to open vaccinations to a larger group of people next week, including residents 65 years of age and older who live in specific ZIP codes.

Today’s report also shows that 41,076 county residents — or more than 9 percent of the population — have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic. In addition, 301 have died and 1,216 patients have required hospitalizations. The good news is an apparent improvement in the number of hospitalizations; today’s report shows that only 99 people are in hospitals, after more than 140 patients had been reported this time last month.

Health experts report that more than 471,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic early last year.

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Monterey County vaccination eligibility to expand next week
Feb. 9 — Help might be on the way for farmworkers and older Monterey County residents anxious to get their vaccines.

The county’s health director, Dr. Edward Moreno, said that vaccines for people 65 years of age and older will be available starting next week, and priority will be given to people “at risk of exposure while working in food and ag, childcare and education and emergency services.” Moreno announced the expansion of the vaccination program at the Board of Supervisors meeting this afternoon.

As before, the demand for vaccine in Monterey County continues to exceed supply, and county officials continue to lobby the state for more.

Priority will be given to people living in ZIP codes that are currently sustaining the worst of the virus, including those in Salinas Valley, Seaside and Marina. The priority ZIP codes include:

Monterey County has been lagging behind in moving through the first phase of vaccinations, mainly due to the distribution stream that favored counties with larger hospital chains. As of this week, only essential workers, health-care workers and vulnerable people over the age of 75 have been able to get vaccinated in Monterey County.

According to a written statement from Moreno, “this strategy addresses the county residents most likely to die of COVID-19, while beginning to protect additional essential workers, and considers equity by offering vaccine to individuals in communities historically burdened with poorer health and social outcomes.”

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CVS will distribute vaccine in Salinas next week
Feb. 5 — Within a day after the Monterey County Board of Supervisors asked for a break from CVS, company officials announced the pharmacy will indeed distribute COVID-19 vaccine from one of its Salinas locations.

The Board of Supervisors dashed off a letter to company officials earlier this week after learning that CVS planned to make its vaccine allotment available its Monterey and Carmel locations through its Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Supervisors told CVS that the inoculations should be administered to people in Salinas because that’s where the virus is striking hardest in the county.

More than 70 percent of the positive cases and more than 60 percent of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been reported in the Salinas Valley. The supervisors’ letter said said the community “would be better serviced both from an equity and disease control perspective” if CVS would distribute the vaccine in the Salinas Valley. County officials are especially concerned about the spread of the virus among farmworkers, especially as the harvest season starts in earnest in the Salinas Valley next month.

On Thursday afternoon, the company’s western region communications consultant,Monica Prinzing, announced that Salinas will be included as one of about 120 pharmacy locations in California on Feb. 12. Her statement did not say which Salinas location would be included or how many vaccines would be available. “As more vaccine supply becomes available, we expect to add more locations and appointments statewide,” she said.

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Monterey County pleads with CVS for “equitable” distribution of vaccine
Feb. 4 — Monterey County is pleading with CVS Health to prioritize distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to regions of the county with higher infection rates.

In a letter to CVS CEO Karen Lynch in Rhode Island, the county Board of Supervisors has asked that the vaccine “must be administered equitably to ensure it does not exacerbate the alarming trend we are seeing in the County and across the country of COVID-19 spreading through communities of color at higher rates.”

The letter was sent after news spread to supervisors that CVS will be getting its own allocation of vaccine and that it would be making it available on the Monterey Peninsula, at the expense of the hardest-hit areas of the county, including Salinas Valley.

The letter, sent on Wednesday, said that the community “would be better serviced both from an equity and disease control perspective” if the vaccines were instead allotted to CVS pharmacies in East Salinas and in Soledad.

County health officials say that the incident rate on the Salinas Valley in January was up to seven times higher than the rate in Carmel.

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Hospitalizations and case rates decreasing in Monterey County
Feb. 2 — Monterey County officials heard good news about COVID-19 from health officials today, with cases and hospitalizations steadily decreasing.

In a report to the Board of Supervisors this afternoon, Dr. Edward Moreno noted a “steady decline in the number of cases” since a high of daily cases two weeks ago. The same is true of hospitalizations and testing positivity rates, he said.

Dr. Craig Walls of Natividad Medical Center said the number of COVID-19 patients in his hospital is down to 30 today, while Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital reported a COVID patient count of 29. Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula reported that it has 19 patients. Including the King City hospital, patient count today is at 88, a drop from a high of about 200 several weeks ago.

As of today, 285 Monterey County residents have succumbed to symptoms related to the virus, while 39,966 people have tested positive COVID-19.

Also during the Board of Supervisors meeting today, health officials and other Monterey County leaders continued to express frustration at the slow distribution of vaccine into the county.

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Montage Health vaccination clinics already booked solid this week
Feb. 1 — Montage Health officials announced this morning that Monterey Peninsula residents will have greater access to COVID-19 vaccines with the opening of clinic locations this week. But within an hour of the announcement, all available time slots for two dates this week were filled.

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From the Montage Health website today

The clinics — at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and at the Montage Wellness Center in Marina — will be capable of providing inoculations to up to 7,500 people weekly. Those numbers will depend on the supply Montage is able to receive from the Monterey County Health Department.

The first clinics — for those 75 and older and for healthcare workers in Phase 1a (tiers 1, 2, and 3) — will be held at Community Hospital on February 4 and 5 by appointment only and only for those receiving a first dose, according to a written statement released by Montage this afternoon.

Additional clinics will be added at both locations in the coming weeks. Appointments can be made at www.chomp.org/CovidVaccine. The appointments will be first come, first served. The vaccine appointment web site indicates that all slots are taken this week.

“We have been working on setting up these vaccine clinics for months,” said Cynthia Peck, vice president, Community Hospital and Montage Health, who is leading the operations of the vaccination clinics. “As vaccine is available, we are enormously pleased to provide this vital service to our residents and to help our community return to a healthy normal.”

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Monterey County to Newsom: Hurry the vaccine already
Feb. 1 — Monterey County officials have formally asked the state to ramp up its supply chain of COVID-19 vaccinations, saying the distribution system currently is “patently unfair” to county residents. And it is also seeking a “special allocation” of vaccine for agricultural workers.

In a letter sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom late last week, the Board of Supervisors wrote that Monterey County “has been placed at a distinct disadvantage compared to Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties and others around the state.”

The primary issue is that Monterey County does not house “multi-county entities,” or health institutions like Kaiser and Sutter, that are able to receive large shipments of vaccines, “while Monterey County only gets an allocation after the MCE cut has been taken off the top at the state level.” As a result, vaccines that could be going to vulnerable workers in agriculture and state prisons are instead going elsewhere.

“(B)ecause the County’s seasonal agricultural workers are not included in the county’s population, there is no allocation for the estimated 35,000+ seasonal workers which migrate to the county starting in March,” according to the letter.

The letter notes that “our hospital and health partners, and industry leaders from agriculture, hospitality and education all agree that it is imperative that we vaccinate the most at-risk for exposure who are our valued farmworkers, quickly and safely, for the wellbeing of the entire community.”

“Previously, the county requested that farmworkers be prioritized for receiving the COVID-19 vaccination in order to adequately keep our farmworkers safe. While this community was included in Phase 1B of the state’s initial vaccination plan, and the state is currently in that Phase, the county is not receiving an adequate amount of vaccine to quickly and effectively vaccinate this population. We request the state’s immediate assistance to supply vaccines for the current agricultural workforce population, and for the additional influx of migrant agricultural workers coming to our community starting in the next few weeks.”

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Moreno: Monterey County not receiving vaccines quickly enough
Jan. 26 — Monterey County health officials say the are prepared to vaccinate up to 7,600 people daily against COVID-19, but are hampered by the amount of vaccine it is receiving.

In order to speed this up we really do need more than two to 4,000 doses per week coming into Monterey County,” Dr. Edward Moreno told the Board of Supervisors this afternoon.

Monterey County health officials this week are expanding their COVID-19 vaccination regimen to include residents 75 years of age and older, but supplies are limited. He said about 13,000 people have been vaccinated in the the county since last month.

Moreno told supervisors that people working in child care, education and agriculture will simply have to wait. “We don’t have enough vaccine to get to everyone,” he said.

Gerry Malais, the county’s director of emergency operations, said the county has secured 32 vaccination sites and 64 “medically qualified volunteers” to administer the shots. Under best-case scenario, up to 7,600 residents could be vaccinated each day, he said. “Our limitations at this point are strictly the amount of vaccine we can acquire,” Malais said.

Moreno said the county receives about 2,000 to 4,000 vaccines each week, and the county would need 514,000 vaccines to meet its goals. Moreno said the county does expect to start getting more vaccines, but his office hasn’t been told what those increases might be and how soon they’ll be able to get them.

Meawhile, the county Health Department has determined that “sufficient progress has been made vaccinating Phase 1a health care workers,” according to Karen Smith, a spokeswoman for the county. That determination means that the vaccines can start becoming available to the next phase of recipients, starting with older people.

“After consulting with representatives from our local health care community and reviewing data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we believe that prioritizing people 75 years of age and older at this time will save the most lives,” added Moreno.

Officials ask that people seeking vaccinations register on the county appointment registration website here. However, the site shows that most available vaccinations dates are already full, particularly on the Monterey Peninsula.

Moreno and other county officials this afternoon updated the Board of Supervisors of local vaccination plan. The YouTube stream can be found here. The Board of Supervisors ultimately voted to send the state a letter asking for more vaccines.

With its plans in place, County Administrative Officer Charles McKee said the county “is ready to go.”

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Newsom lifts statewide stay-at-home order
Jan. 25 — Restaurants, hair salons and barbershops can reopen immediately in California after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted his stay-at-home orders this afternoon.

During his daily briefing, he said projected positivity rates and anticipated hospitalizations resulting from the COVID-19 virus are decreasing in the state, allowing him to lift the stay-at-home order that has restricted business operations, though he said the state is “not out of the woods” yet.

“As we have battled our way through the most challenging surge, and now I see true light at the endof the proverbial tunnel,” Newsom said, though he added that the number of deaths attributed to the virus continues to be high.

Overall in California, Newsom said, the number of cases are down almost 38 percent during the past week, while hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19 have been reduced 20 percent during the past two weeks.

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New COVID variant detected in Monterey County
Jan. 18 — The state Department of Public Health announced today that a variant of  SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been identified using genetic sequencing in multiple counties, including Monterey County.

The 452R variant is now been found throughout California, according to Monterey County health officials. The variant is different than the B.1.1.7 variant first  detected in the United Kingdom. As the number of specimens tested to monitor for variant strains has increased at California labs, the 452R variant has been identified more frequently since November. 

“The clinical and epidemiological significance of this strain is not known and is being  investigated,” said Dr. Edward Monterey, Monterey County director of Public Health, in a written statement. “Also concerning is that this case represents the first local evidence of infection, recovery, and repeat infection.” The state Department of Public Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local public health departments and laboratories to learn more about the variant, including how it spreads and any potential  impact on vaccine efficacy. Monterey County remains in stay-at-home mode, though most businesses remain open.

Earlier in the day, county health officials reported that 217 patients are being treated for COVID-19 symptoms in local hospitals, including at least 28 in intensive care units. As of today, 250 Monterey County residents have died as a result of complications attributed to the virus since early last year.

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Monterey County Coroner gets refrigerator to handle future COVID deaths
Jan. 12 — With the death rate in Monterey County continuing to rise at a steady clip, the Monterey County Coroner’s office has secured a refrigeration trailer in case the situation worsens.

Getting the 53-foot trailer was a “precautionary step in light of capacity concerns resulting from COVID-19 deaths,” according to a written statement from the department released Monday.

The statement said that hospitals, mortuaries and the Coroner’s office recently neared capacity. “It is unknown if utilization of the trailer will be required, but exceeding capacity limits in existing facilities is not an acceptable situation and the acquisition of this asset should eliminate that risk.”
Like elsewhere in the country — and as health officials warned this summer — the winter months have seen a precipitous rise in the number of deaths and new positive cases in Monterey County. Health officials reported 100 deaths during the first eight months of the pandemic in the county, and 142 since Nov. 8.
Hospital administrators have also issued warnings about the number of patients they are treating. As of Monday, 207 patients with COVID symptoms were being treated in the four county hospitals, including 26 in intensive care units. The hospitalizations and the growing number of positive cases throughout the San Francisco Bay region, which includes Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, has forced state health officials to extend lockdown orders indefinitely.

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Central Coast COVID-19 toll continues to rise
Jan. 7 — Citing technical glitches and the holidays that backed up their ongoing reports on COVID-19, public health officials on the Central Coast are catching up with the number of deaths and new reported cases during the past two weeks.

The Monterey County Health Department reported another nine deaths today, raising the total to 229 since the pandemic first struck. Santa Cruz County health officials added another 14 deaths to that county’s total on Wednesday. The new accounting indicates that 97 people have succumbed as a result of symptoms related to the virus.

Both counties have noted an increase in hospitalizations. Some 207 patients are reportedly hospitalized in Monterey County hospitals today, including 32 in intensive care units. Santa Cruz County hospitals are currently treating 74 patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms, including 14 in ICU.

Dr. Edward Moreno said Wednesday that the “rate of COVID hospitalizations have increased drastically,” noting that about 100 patients were in county hospitals this time last month. The test positivity rate has also shown dramatic increases during the past month. About 17 percent of all residents seeking tests have shown positive results, up from the 10 percent mark about a month ago.

Since early 2020, Monterey County has reported that 30,706 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, which represents about 7 percent of the entire population. Of those, nearly 78 percent of the positive tests have been found among residents who live in the Salinas Valley, a region that includes everything from Salinas to Jolon. Almost 61 percent of the deaths recorded in the county are Latinos.

About 55 percent of all the cases reported in Santa Cruz County have been concentrated in the South County city of Watsonville.

More than 361,000 people have died as a result of complications with the virus in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. California has reported about 27,000 deaths.

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Central Coast COVID-19 toll included 289 deaths in 2020
Jan. 1 — Public health officials reported that at least 289 residents from Santa Cruz and Monterey counties lost their lives to complications resulting from COVID-19 symptoms in 2020.

The latest daily report from the Monterey County Health Department, released this morning, shows that 196 people from the county succumbed to the virus, including three reported in the previous day, while 1,009 patients sought treatment for COVID in hospitals during the year. As of today, 198 patients are being treated in the four county hospitals, including 35 in intensive care.

Santa Cruz County reported at least 83 deaths last year, about half of which were reported out of several skilled nursing facilities. More than 300 Santa Cruz County residents required hospitalization, including 78 who are currently undergoing hospital treatment.

In both counties, the toll has had a devastating impact on the Latino community. In Monterey County, 73 percent of all those hospitalized were Latinos. At least 60 percent of the those who died identified as Latinos. Of the 28,604 county residents who tested positive for the coronavirus during the past year, more than 22,000 lived in two Salinas ZIP codes with a high concentration of Latinos.

In Santa Cruz County, 55 percent of all known positive cases were among Latinos.

Overall in the United States, more than 360,000 people have reportedly died as a result of COVID symptoms.

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Addition of backlogged COVID cases shows that more than 5 percent of Monterey County residents have tested positive
Dec. 18 — Monterey County health officials today dumped a couple thousand new positive COVID-19 cases into its daily “dashboard” update, explaining that most of the 3,304 new cases they reported were backlogged numbers from the two prisons in the county and a catch-up on its running total.

The first glance at the dashboard was rather shocking. Never have more than several hundred new cases been shown on the “confirmed cases” ledger in a day, and the county quickly followed up the dashboard with an explanation.

“Today’s COVID-19 data refresh shows the highest single day number of reported cases during the pandemic,” said Maia Carroll, a county spokeswoman. “About half of the new cases reported today come from a backlog of state prison inmate cases. These cases occurred over the last several weeks. Monterey County Health Department bulk processed the inmate population cases yesterday with assistance from the California Department of Public Health.

“The other half of cases included in today’s data refresh reflect a change in internal workflow processes and an extensive data cleaning process conducted yesterday, again with assistance from the California Department of Public Health. The community-based cases reported today are distributed over several days on the published data charts and tables.”

In addition to the backlogged cases, the daily update shows that a net of six new patients are now being treated in the four county hospitals, which means that 151 patients are now in hospitals for conditions related to the virus.  Twenty-nine of those patients are being cared for in intensive care units.

And the latest data shows that three more people have died in Monterey County, raising that total to 170 since the county started tracking the pandemic. The addition of backlogged positive cases means that 22,255 residents of the county have tested positive for COVID-19, a number that represents more than 5 percent of the county’s entire population.

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Latest 'dashboard' numbers from Monterey County Health Department

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Spike in Santa Cruz County deaths concentrated in nursing homes
Dec. 18 — A surge of infections in skilled nursing facilities accounts for the sudden and rapid rise in COVID-related deaths in Santa Cruz County.

State health officials indicate that at least 46 of the county’s 70 deaths are among nursing home residents in the county. Overall, 30 people in Santa Cruz County have died of complications related to the virus since ‘Dec. 5.

“To be honest we’re just kind of frustrated about it,” said Dr. David Ghilarducci, emergency medical services director for the county, during a press conference Thursday. “We had a lot of time to prepare.”

At least 58 patients are currently being treated in Santa Cruz County hospitals for COVID-19, including 11 in intensive care units.

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Santa Cruz County’s stay-at-home order begins Thursday
Dec. 16 — Several days after Monterey County imposed stay-at-home orders, the rest of the San Francisco Bay area, including Santa Cruz County, will move ahead with the shutdown starting Thursday night.

“With our case counts at an all-time high and headed higher due to the Thanksgiving surge, our  hospitals and health care delivery system are at the breaking point,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said. “We urge all residents to adhere to state guidelines as closely as  possible to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and help reduce impacts to our most vulnerable residents.”

Santa Cruz County’s COVID toll has been growing rapidly in recent weeks. The number of deaths attributed to complications resulting from the virus has doubled since Thanksgiving Day, including five fatalities in the past two days. Fifty-four residents are currently hospitalized for treatment of the virus, including 10 patients in intensive care.

The number of patients in Monterey County continues to spike, with a net of 15 more patients in hospitals seeking treatment, raising the current number to 148. Two more people were confirmed dead during the past 24 hours, and 167 have died since the county started tracking COVID-19. Sixty-seven deaths have been reported in Monterey County since Nov. 8.

Monterey County’s health officer, Dr. Edward Moreno, said the county will be vaccinating health care workers with the first 6,000-7,000 vaccines the county expects to receive in the coming week.

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Seven more fatal COVID victims reported in Monterey County
Dec. 15 — Monterey County health officials today confirmed one of the county’s worst single-day tolls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another seven people have died of complications related to the virus and six more patients have been hospitalized in Monterey County, health officials said.

Hospitals report they expect to start getting the vaccine later this week, and that front-line health workers will be the first to receive them.

In the meantime, hospital administrators are dealing with a surge of new patients. Last week they said that, while intensive care unit bed are available, hospitals don’t have enough trained staff to deal with the number of patients who require ICU care.

The latest report indicates that hospitals gained a net of six new patients, and that 133 people are being treated at the four Monterey County medical facilities.

Another seven patients have died, raising the total in Monterey County to 165 deaths since county officials started tracking the pandemic’s impact locally. Four of the seven victims reported overnight were under the age of 65. State health officials say that 14 patients in The Ridge Rehabilitation Center in Salinas are among those who have succumbed.

Today’s Health Department “dashboard” indicates that 295 more county residents tested positive for the virus. A total of 18,221 residents have tested positive since tests were made available in the county, with a positivity rate of nearly 12 percent.

California health officials have reported that 21,196 people have died of coronavirus since the beginning of the year, while the national death toll exceeded 300,000 yesterday.

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Today's toll numbers from Monterey County Health Department

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124 COVID patients currently being treated in Monterey County hospitals
Dec. 13 — Monterey County hospitals are now treating 124 patients admitted for COVID-related conditions, according to county health officials this morning. The patients include 21 people in intensive care units.

The county also reported two additional deaths, bringing the pandemic toll to 156. The latest report indicates that 105 of the Monterey County deaths are among people identified as Latinos, and 75 of all the 931 people who have been hospitalized since the pandemic started in Monterey County have been Latinos.

State health authorities say that 86 patients are currently being treated at the two Salinas hospitals, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and Natividad Medical Center. Thirty-two patients with COVID are being treated a Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, and six others are in Mee Memorial Hospital in King City.

The state indicates that 48 people with COVID symptoms are currently in the two Santa Cruz County hospitals.

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Hospitalizations and deaths along California’s Central Coast continue to spike
Dec. 11 — The Central Coast continues to see a precipitous rise in hospitalizations and death related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to reports from health officials in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

Officials in those counties have confirmed during the past 24 hours that eight people have died, including five in Monterey County, and another eight have been hospitalized for treatment of the virus.

Santa Cruz County in particular is seeing a big surge in recent weeks, especially compared to the relatively modest impact the virus was having in the county during the first 10 months of the pandemic. Health officials say that 31 people have succumbed as a result of complications attributed to the virus since Dec. 2.

Monterey County has already announced stricter stay-at-home orders, effective Sunday evening, but Santa Cruz County’s health officer has not yet made a similar announcement.

Hospital administrators in Monterey County said earlier this week that their medical facilities have reached capacity for patients requiring intensive care treatment due to shortages of nurses and clinicians. But today”s “dashboard” released by county health officials indicate that a net of five more patients are in local hospitals seeking treatment for COVID-19, raising the number to 119.

Monterey County also reported 222 new positive cases of the virus, raising the total to 17,739 since the county started tracking COVID-19.

Santa Cruz County officials reported four new hospitalizations, and 119 new positive cases. Almost one-fifth of all the positive tests reported in Santa Cruz County have been reported during the past 10 days.

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Monterey County imposes new health order, effective Sunday
Dec. 9 — After hearing that local hospitals have reached capacity due to the number of patients they are seeing, Monterey County’s health officer will impose a stay-at-home health order effective 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The announcement came during a quick Board of Supervisors office this afternoon. “Unfortunately we’re hitting the downward trends,” said Dr. Edward Moreno, the county health officer, citing reports that hospitals are starting to move intensive care patients into other departments because they’ve run out of beds and personnel in ICU units. “It’s time to move to the more restrictive order.”

In addition to banning large gatherings, other restrictions include the following:

  • Retailers can operate at 20 percent capacity; grocery stores are limited to 35 percent
  • Hair salons and barbershops must close
  • Restaurants can provide takeout only
  • Masks are required during all interactions.

The order will continue for at least the next month, through Jan. 11.

The order comes before the state threshold is triggered under the announcement by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week that placed Monterey and Santa Cruz counties in a region. That order kicked in stay-at-home restrictions if hospitals throughout the region have less than 15 percent capacities in the ICUs.

Moreno said local hospitals have currently met or are near their capacities, citing a shortage of nurses, doctors, clinicians and other professionals in the region.

The announcement also came several hours after the Health Department confirmed that 10 more local residents have died as a result of complications related to COVID-19.

Supervisor Chris Lopez, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said the order is a tough but correct decision. “The storm is raging around us,” he said. He said he had to call his parents to tell them that they’d have to shut their own business.

“To see 10 deaths in one day is tragic and heartbreaking,” added Supervisor Luis Alejo. The county has confirmed that 146 people have died as a result of complications attributed to COVID-19.

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Huge increases of new patients filling Monterey County hospitals to capacity
Dec. 9 — A day after Monterey County health officials reported a strained system due to COVID-19 hospitalizations, they confirmed today that hospital population has grown to 112 COVID patients and that 10 more people have died as a result of complications from the virus.

The death total was the largest one-day leap in Monterey County, where 146 people have succumbed due to the virus.

“The populations are at a dangerous level,” Dr. Allen Radner of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital told the Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. He said all four county hospitals have stopped elective surgeries, all intensive care unit beds are filled “and we continue to admit large numbers of people.”

He described a case at SVMH on Monday involving a 26-year-old with a brain tumor. Doctors could remove the tumor, but the hospital did not have a place for the patient to recover because of the volume of critical COVID patients in the hospital.

Radner said beds are actually available for COVID patients, but the region does not have enough nurses to care for the volume of patients.

“As soon as a bed is empty, another patient will fill it,” added Dr. Gary Gray, CEO at Natividad Medical Center. “Our hospital staff is working really hard to meet the demand. While the metrics have been focussing on bed capacity, really the critical issue is the human capacity, the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, the other clinicians, housekeepers, (the people we) need to care for our patients.”

During a press briefing today, Dr. Martha Blum of Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula told reporters that administrators at area hospitals may need to start having the “difficult decisions” about rationing care if demand continues to exceed the hospitals’ abilities to meet all the medical needs. “We hope it doesn’t get to that point,” she said.

Despite the growing numbers, the county has not yet imposed stay-at-home orders in an effort to limit the spread.

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Hundreds of new cases reported as Central Coast awaits orders to stay at home
Dec. 7 — The weekend brought no respite for dozens of COVID-19 patients on the Central Coast, with hundreds of new positive cases confirmed this morning, and at least six more fatal victims in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

Santa Cruz County health officials this morning confirmed four new deaths, bringing the total to 44. Sixteen people have died as a result of complications from the virus since Nov. 24 in Santa Cruz County.  And Monterey County officials confirmed overnight that two more people have died, raising the total in that county to 136.

The latest reports come as public health officials in both counties mull strict new health orders that would severely limit business operations and personal interaction. The two counties are lumped together with the San Francisco Bay area in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest recommendation, which would automatically engage the strict orders in a region in which intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 percent. Five jurisdictions in the region have already imposed the order, even though the region overall has not reached the 15 percent threshold.

Alarmingly, the number of hospitalizations continue to climb on the Central Coast, according to numbers released this morning. Monterey County authorities reported that 97 people are now being cared for in county hospitals, up from 87 on Saturday. At least two dozen of those patients were in ICU on Saturday, according to state officials.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 16,600 Monterey County residents have tested positive for the virus, including at least 2,600 in the past two weeks. Twenty COVID-related deaths have been reported in Monterey County during that time.

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Number of COVID-19 deaths continues to climb in Santa Cruz County
Dec. 5 — The number of deaths in Santa Cruz County attributed to complications related to the COVID-19 virus are rising rapidly, according to numbers released by county health officials.

The demographics report issued Friday afternoon by health officials in Santa Cruz County indicates that three more residents have died as a result of the virus, raising the the total in the last week alone to 12. Overall, 40 people have succumbed in the county since officials started tracking the virus early this year.

The total number in Santa Cruz County is significantly lower than neighboring Monterey County, where 130 people have died, but the recent surge is alarming to public health officials. Residents in the two Central Coast counties are facing restrictive stay-at-home orders from the state if only 15 percent of available ICU beds are available in the San Francisco region, which includes the two counties.

State health officials reported that 46 patients in Santa Cruz County are hospitalized for treatment of the virus, including 10 in intensive care units.

Monterey County has 90 patients in hospitals, including 24 in ICU.

Almost 55 percent of all the cases confirmed in Santa Cruz County are among people who live in Watsonville, according to officials. Of the 4,794 total cases reported, 2,912 of them have been patients who live in the South County area, which includes Watsonville. Sixty percent of the cases are among people who identify as Latino.

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Five SF region areas issue early stay-at-home orders; Monterey and Santa Cruz counties hold fast
Dec. 4 — Officials in five San Francisco Bay region counties have decided to move forward with stay-at-home orders now, rather than wait for region hospitals to meet the threshold imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday. But Santa Cruz and Monterey counties have not initiated early orders.

At least not yet.

“We are aware of the decisions of the Bay Area counties to implement the Governor’s Stay At Home Order immediately rather than wait for the State criteria to be met regarding ICU capacity,” said Jason Hoppin, communications director for Santa Cruz County, in a written statement. “In collaboration with County leadership, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel is considering what additional measures may be necessary to protect the health and safety of local residents. At this time, we have not reached any conclusions but are considering all options.”

Maia Carroll, the Monterey County spokeswoman, said that “Monterey County is monitoring both local and regional adult ICU bed capacity.  Dr Edward Moreno, Monterey County Health Officer is reviewing the state Stay at Home Order and conferring with local and neighboring partners to determine whether state restrictions should also be implemented early in Monterey County to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect our hospital capacity.”

Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley, which has its own public health department, announced the new measures in a joint press conference Friday afternoon. The order in those counties will likely take effect on Sunday.

In those counties, restaurants must close both indoor and outdoor dining, and bars and wineries will close. So will hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and other personal care services. Retail stores can stay open, but must reduce capacity to 20 percent. Private gatherings of any size will also be prohibited.

Concern over a strain on hospital bed availability in California due to a surge of new cases, Gavin announced that regions where fewer than 15 percent of ICU beds are available will need to abide by stay-at-home orders. The San Francisco Bay region, where Monterey and Santa Cruz counties are included, has not yet reached that threshold.

Monterey County today reported that two more county residents have died and another eight patients have been hospitalized as a result of complications related to the COVID-19 virus. And it confirmed that another 226 people tested positive in the past 24 hours. In total, 130 Monterey County residents have died and 15,991 have tested positive since the start of the pandemic. Nine people have died in Monterey County because of coronavirus in the past week.

Santa Cruz County health officials have reported that 37 people have died of the virus since the start of the year.

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Gov. Newsom announces new regional stay-at-home order; Central Coast counties report 9 new deaths in past 24 hours
Dec. 3 — On the day after U.S. health officials reported the largest single-day number of deaths in the country as a result of COVID-19, the two counties along the Monterey Bay reported that nine more people from the Central Coast have died.

Also today, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new proposed stay-at-home orders on the 51 counties with sustained spikes in cases. Under the order, regions of California with hospitals where ICU availability reaches 15 percent or lower will be subject to the order.

Monterey and Santa Cruz counties have been included in the San Francisco Bay region, one of five regions created by the state for purposes of tracking ICU capacity. He said the region could hit the 15 percent threshold in the coming week.

“If we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said Thursday.

Health officials in Santa Cruz County, which has long lagged far behind Monterey County in terms of cases, deaths and hospitalizations, today confirmed that an additional five residents have died, raising the total to 37 since the first of the year.

And in Monterey County, four additional deaths were reported this morning. Overall, 128 residents have died in that county. Monterey County health officials also reported another 194 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least four more people have been hospitalized. State officials say that 82 patients were being treated in the three county hospitals, including 17 in ICUs.

Seventy-five percent of the 15,765 people who have been confirmed positive this year in Monterey County identify as Latinos, while about 60 percent of the 4,750 cases in Santa Cruz County are Latinos, according to health officials.

U.S. health officials reported that 2,885 people reportedly died of symptoms related to COVID-19 on Wednesday, the single largest death toll on a single day since the virus hit the mainland. Overall, more than 274,000 Americans have died as a result of the coronavirus.

Incidentally, the Monterey County Health Department has changed the way it is reporting hospitalizations in the county in its summary report; it is now posting real-time numbers of people who are currently hospitalized. In the past the county kept a running tab of all the people who have been hospitalized since the pandemic started.

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Today's Monterey County COVID-19 numbers, from the Health Department

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Monterey County health experts note alarming COVID-19 surge
Dec. 2 — Doctors and administrators from Monterey County hospitals have warned residents that the worst is yet to come as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths are rising swiftly through the winter months.

“It’s an enormous challenge,” said Dr. Allen Radner, an infectious disease specialist at Natividad Medical Center, “and the numbers are going to worsen.”

Radner and representatives from area hospitals provided an update on the current situation to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

“It’s only going to get worse,” added Dr. Martha Blum of Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She said the number of hospitalizations at the three facilities serving Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula are quickly approaching 100, and that doesn’t include an expected surge following the Thanksgiving holiday. “Indeed there’s going to be some very dire days ahead of us.”

Up until recently, the Monterey Peninsula has not been impacted as deeply by the virus. “People have thought the Peninsula is relatively protected, but that’s not the case anymore,” said Blum. “Infections are all over the Peninsula.”

This morning Monterey County health officials reported that 326 people were confirmed positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, one of the largest single-day increases this year. Another eight patients were hospitalized and another death was reported, the 124th since the county started tracking the virus early this year.

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County today reported that four more patients have succumbed of COVID-19 in recent days, raising the death toll there to 32. State officials say that at least 41 patients are currently being treated in Santa Cruz County hospitals.

Radner said the surge of new patients is taking a toll on hospital employees. “This is stressing our capacity, frankly.” He asked Monterey County residents to be mindful of safety protocols in the coming months. “With the fatigue everyone is experiencing, the holidays and the cold weather, we’re really trying to get the message out: This is real.”

And Blum said the numbers from the patients who were infected during the Thanksgiving holiday will start rolling in during the coming days. “We know it’s only going to be getting worse, and no matter what measures we take today — even if we went back to the draconian lockdowns — it would take weeks for us to see the flattening of the curve,” she said. “Indeed, there are some pretty dire days ahead of us.”

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Hospital admissions spiking in Monterey County
Nov. 29 — Health officials in Monterey County released another round of alarming new COVID-19 news this morning, including another death and 28 new reports of hospitalizations in four county facilities. State officials show that, as of Friday, a total of 76 patients were being treated for symptoms of the virus after being admitted to hospitals. The new numbers from Monterey County today indicate that more than two dozen more have been hospitalized. Fifty-seven of the 76 patients reported by the state are being treated at the two Salinas hospitals.

What’s more, the county confirmed today that an additional 298 people have tested positive for the virus, pushing the total to more than 15,000.

Almost 7,000 people were being treated in hospitals throughout California due to COVID-19 on Friday, according to the state, and the two-week “rolling average” for hospitalizations in the state continues to soar.

Monterey County has scheduled a couple of pop-up COVID testing sites next week, including from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Greenfield Library and from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the King City Library.

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Hospital admissions spiking in Monterey County
Nov. 29 — Health officials in Monterey County released another round of alarming new COVID-19 news this morning, including another death and 28 new reports of hospitalizations in four county facilities. State officials show that, as of Friday, a total of 76 patients were being treated for symptoms of the virus after being admitted to hospitals. The new numbers from Monterey County today indicate that more than two dozen more have been hospitalized. Fifty-seven of the 76 patients reported by the state are being treated at the two Salinas hospitals.

What’s more, the county confirmed today that an additional 298 people have tested positive for the virus, pushing the total to more than 15,000.

Almost 7,000 people were being treated in hospitals throughout California due to COVID-19 on Friday, according to the state, and the two-week “rolling average” for hospitalizations in the state continues to soar.

Monterey County has scheduled a couple of pop-up COVID testing sites next week, including from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Greenfield Library and from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the King City Library.

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Five new COVID-19 deaths reported in Monterey County
Nov. 28 — Today’s COVID-19 report from Monterey County indicates that the virus continued to devastate the region, with five new deaths and 140 additional cases. And a report from state health officials show that more people are currently hospitalized in Monterey County hospitals than at any other time during the pandemic.

The “COVID-19 Morbidity & Testing Information” report issued by county health officials issued today appears to be a catch-up of demographics after the Health Department shut down during the Thanksgiving holiday.

But today’s report of confirmed deaths raises the toll in Monterey County to 121, while the 140 new confirmed cases of positive tests raise that total to 14,791, which represents more than 3 percent of the total population.

Santa Cruz County health officials reported 226 new confirmed cases during the past several days, and the state reported that 32 patients have been hospitalized in Santa Cruz County hospitals.

Seventy-one people are in hospitals in Monterey County for treatment of symptoms related to the virus, according to the state report. The highest single-day number of hospitalizations prior to this week was on Aug. 17, when 62 patients were in Monterey County hospitals.

Eighteen of those patients are at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, while the two Salinas hospitals are treating 52 patients.

Monterey County has scheduled a couple of pop-up COVID testing sites next week, including from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Greenfield Library and from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the King City Library.

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Another huge surge of COVID-19 cases reported in Monterey County
Nov. 24 — With public-health concern mounting about family gatherings that could spread COVID-19, Monterey County officials confirmed today that another 315 people have tested positive for the virus. And in Santa Cruz County, 60 more cases have been confirmed, along with that county’s 28th death attributable to complications from the virus.

Meanwhile, state officials reported that 58 Monterey County residents are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 19 who are being treated in ICUs. It is the largest number of hospitalizations in the county since 62 patients were in one of four hospitals in the county on Aug. 17. The state reported that 24 Santa Cruz residents have been hospitalized.

In Monterey County, today’s daily COVID-19 update indicated that another person has died as a result of complications due to the virus, bringing the total to 116. Nine residents of the county have died in the last 11 days. Overall, more than 14,400 Monterey County residents have tested positive for the virus since health officials started testing, with a test positivity rate approaching 11 percent.

As usual, the latest numbers from Monterey County shows that the virus continues to impact Latinos in the Salinas Valley at a much greater rate than most places on the Central Coast. More than 43 percent of all the cases in the county have been among residents who live in two ZIP codes in East Salinas. By contrast, only 1,425 cases have been reported on the entire Monterey Peninsula, including the South Coast.

Also, almost 80 percent of the deaths and the hospitalizations in the county are among people who identify themselves as Latino.

Nearly 250,000 people have died in the United States as a result of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. California yesterday confirmed 17,572 new cases, the largest number of people who tested positive in the state in a single day.

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Numbers from the latest Monterey County Health Department, Nov. 24, 2020

Monterey County Health Department

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New positive COVID-19 results soaring in Monterey County
Nov. 22 — Monterey County health officials reported 834 new positive results to COVID-19 testing during the past week, according to daily reports issued by the Health Department. And state officials say that 52 county residents were hospitalized on Friday, including nine in intensive care units.

The growing numbers of patients in hospitals might be most alarming. A month ago, only 20 people were being treated in hospitals for the virus. The growing numbers of new cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the past week are similar to the spike experienced in August.

Today’s report indicates that 141 new positive cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, while another death was reported and five additional people were admitted into hospitals for treatment of symptoms related to the virus.

Overall in Monterey County, the Health Department has recorded 13,868 cases and 114 deaths since the pandemic struck the region. During that time, 775 patients were admitted to local hospitals because of the virus. More than 10,000 people with the virus have recovered. The test positivity rate in Monterey County is hovering around 11 percent, well above the baseline required by the state for officials to begin consideration of lifting restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

By contrast, Santa Cruz County has recorded 27 deaths and 3,819 positive cases since the beginning of the pandemic. About 210 patients have required hospitalizations and 25 people are currently being treated in area hospitals.

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With cases on the rise, Santa Cruz County returns to purple tier
Nov. 22 — Santa Cruz County has been returned to the restrictive “purple tier” COVID-19 health level, effective immediately. Officials cited the rising number of positive cases locally and throughout the state.

“The sharp rise in COVID-19 cases is very concerning,” said Jen Herrera, Chief of Public Health, in a written statement. “COVID-19  continues to pose a severe risk to our community. It is critical that everyone follow social distancing guidelines  and not gather in groups as we head into the holidays.” 

In the purple tier, places of worship, movie theaters, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers will only be allowed  to have outdoor services with health and safety modifications. Businesses need to have new restrictions in  place no later than Tuesday, November 17th.  

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Monterey County reports 265 new positive COVID cases overnight
Nov. 15 — Monterey County health officials today reported a huge surge of new cases of COVID-19, including two new deaths. Ten residents have succumbed to complications resulting from the virus during the past week and the COVID death toll in the county is now 110.

The county reported 265 new cases and five new hospitalizations were confirmed during the past 24 hours.  The state Health Department reported that 44 patients are currently hospitalized in Monterey County hospitals, including 40 at the two Salinas medical centers.

Since the county started tracking the virus early this year, 13,034 residents have test positive for COVID-19, and 734 have required hospitalization.  Of those who have tested positive, 10,644 of them live in the Salinas Valley and 10,030 identify themselves as Latinos.

The number of deaths confirmed in the U.S. now exceeds 245,000, with 1,210 reported Saturday.

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Four new COVID-19 deaths reported today in Monterey County
Nov. 13 — Monterey County health officials reported the largest one-day death toll attributable to COVID-19 this morning, posting on its daily update that four more patients have succumbed to the virus. The death toll is now 107 in Monterey County.

The report comes a day after authorities noted an alarming uptick in the number of cases and deaths nationally. They reported that 152,391 new cases were counted on Thursday alone, and that more than 66,600 victims are currently hospitalized. Worried about a winter resurgence of the virus, authorities are asking residents to limit their contacts with others and to scale back their holiday plans.

Today’s report from Monterey County shows that two of the four deaths were Latinos, raising that number to 84. Also, 95 new cases were reported in the county, which means that 12,701 county residents have tested positive for the virus since the county started keeping track early this year. More than 725 patients have been hospitalized since the pandemic hit.

Of the 95 new cases, 74 were among residents of Salinas and Salinas Valley, where the virus continues to find victims at a much higher rate than the rest of the county. Earlier this week Monterey County learned that its request to ease public-gathering restrictions was denied by the state.

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Central Coast gets bad news from state over reopening
Nov. 10 — The Central Coast received bad news today in its effort to rebound from the financial troubles cased by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Santa Cruz County learned that it is returning to the red-tier level under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, while Monterey County’s request to leave the most restrictive purple tier was rejected.

Health officials in Santa Cruz County said the county “remains relatively safe.” But they also noted that the number of active cases has doubled in recent weeks “with a weekend increase in case counts that appears related to Halloween,” according to Jason Hoppin, a county spokesperson.

“While many of our new cases are among young adults who can have mild symptoms, it’s  important to remember that they can transmit the disease to others, with potentially severe  consequences,” sadded Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel. “We are entering an  especially dangerous period of the pandemic, and we ask everyone to meet this challenge by  taking measures to protect one another.” 

Restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and museums must decrease  indoor operations from 50 percent to 25 percent of capacity. Retail establishments may continue  operations at a reduced capacity of 50 percent. See more information about reopening here

Under red tier, bars, breweries and distilleries must close, and wineries must close indoor operations. Gyms and  fitness centers should reduce capacity to 10 percent of normal operations. Amusement parks,  family entertainment centers, nonessential offices and live-audience sports are no longer allowed. 

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk has not been operating its rides and indoor arcades and games have been shut down during the pandemic, but it recently reopened its outdoor arcade games, food and shopping.

Monterey County had asked the state to ease some of its restrictions under the purple tier it is currently operating. But a spike of new cases and nearly daily reports of at least one death forced state health officials to reject the application.

Santa Cruz County has reported 3,227 cases and 26 deaths since the pandemic started, while Monterey County reported its 102nd death attributed to COVID-19 today. Some 12,463 cases and 725 hospitalizations have also been reported in Monterey County, mostly in the Salinas Valley.

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Monterey County COVID-19 toll exceeds 100 deaths
Nov. 8 — The COVID-19 toll in Monterey County has exceeded 100 deaths and 700 hospitalizations, according to health officials. They say more than 12,500 residents have contracted the virus since the pandemic was first reported on American soil early this year.

The virus has been especially difficult for Latino residents of the Salinas Valley, where more than 82 percent of the cases have been reported despite continuing efforts by public health officials to promote safe practices to ward off the number of cases.

While the numbers in the Salinas Valley continue to mount, the county is asking the state Department of Public Health to allow the county for permission to reopen more businesses. Health officers said the request is based on adjusted test positivity rates, based on the discovery that some private laboratories were apparently not reporting tests correctly to the state.

Today’s report from the health department shows that 101 people have died as a result of complications resulting from COVID-19, and 720 people have been hospitalized, including 11 since yesterday. Seventy more people were confirmed to have contracted the virus during the past 24 hours.

Of the deaths, 79 have been victims identified as Latinos and 64 reportedly were 65 or older. More than 5,000 of the reported cases are among people who live within two ZIP codes in East Salinas.

In California, 972,801 cases and 17,964 deaths have been reported since the beginning of the year, state officials say. More than 236,000 deaths have been reported in the United States.

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Three new COVID-19 deaths reported in Monterey County overnight
Oct. 29 — With three more deaths reported by Monterey County health officials this morning, the COVID-19 toll appears to be surging again in the Salinas Valley.

Ninety-five people have now reportedly died in Monterey County as a result of complications resulting from the COVID-19 virus, including nine in the past nine days. The daily demographic report from county health officials indicates that the latest three deaths were all Latinos over the age of 65.

Nearly 80 percent of all the virus-related deaths in Monterey County have been victims identified as Latinos. Additionally, 782 percent of the 673 patients who have required hospital treatment in the county are Latinos, while 78 percent of the 11,616 positive cases have been among Latinos.

Today’s report from Monterey County shows that 78 new cases were reported this morning.

While Monterey County appears to be surging, deaths statewide appear to be dropping. California health authorities indicate the fatalities are down more than 11 percent during the past two-week period, while cases have grown by 39 percent during that same period. The state reports that 17,541 Californians have died as a result of complications from the virus since the pandemic started.

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Five new COVID-19 deaths reported on the Central Coast
Oct. 21 — Five more deaths attributed to complications resulting from COVID-19 have been reported on the Central Coast during the past couple of days, according to health officials in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

Three of those fatalities were reported in Monterey County. All of them were older Latinos. The two fatalities reported this week in Santa Cruz County appear to be residents of the Watsonville Post-Acute Center,  which is dealing with the largest outbreak of the virus in a single facility on the Central Coast. State health officials now report 12 residents of the nursing facility have died and 39 have tested positive.

The reports released today indicate that 86 Monterey County residents with COVID-19 have succumbed since the pandemic started, including 69 Latinos. A total of 11,225 residents have tested positive, and 654 of those have required hospitalization. About 80 percent of the cases have been reported on the Salinas Valley side of the county.

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County reports smaller numbers, with 23 deaths and 2,774 cases. Of those cases, 181 have required hospitalization. Like Monterey County, COVID-19 appears to be concentrated in the Latino community in Watsonville.

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Program to isolate farmworkers with COVID launched in Monterey County
Oct. 14 — Monterey County is offering more housing to area farmworkers impacted by COVID-19. The “Housing for the Harvest” program is a new effort to reduce the spread of the virus among agricultural employees by moving workers who test positive to safe alternate rooms during quarantine.

The program is administered by the Monterey County Emergency Operations Center  in coordination with the Health Department which oversees the referral process. 

“Housing for the Harvest was inspired by a temporary farmworker housing program in Monterey  County created by Grower Shippers Association earlier this year,” according to Maia Carroll, a county spokeswoman. “It helps positive or exposed  workers protect their loved ones, coworkers and community by giving them a space to safely  self-isolate.”

The county’s Project Roomkey program has been providing  housing for any COVID positive county residents including farmworkers since April of this year.  Housing for the Harvest provides the same assistance, but adds medical oversight of those isolating which is part  of the new state program. 

Under Housing for Harvest, the state contracts with hotels to secure local rooms  and county staff coordinates with the state to book rooms for agricultural workers. 

To be eligible for Housing for the Harvest assistance, participants must: 

  • Work in California food processing or agriculture  
  • Meet FEMA non-congregate sheltering criteria for COVID-19 
  • Have tested positive, or 
  • Been exposed as documented by a public health official or medical health professional Be unable to self-isolate at home 

While Monterey County’s COVID-19 cases overall are currently showing a slowdown, the  coronavirus continues to have a disparate impact in certain areas in our community and on certain industries, Carroll said. Providing safe isolation options for workers to recover goes hand in hand with  community efforts to slow the spread of the virus and help our community recover and reopen.

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Central Coast COVID-19 death toll reaches 100
Oct. 11 — The COVID-19 death toll on the Central Coast of California has now reached 100, according to reports issued by health officials in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

With two new deaths confirmed in this morning, health officials in Monterey County have reported that 80 people have died since they started tracking the spread of the virus early this year. And a recent outbreak at a nursing home in Watsonville has pushed the death toll in Santa Cruz County to 20.

Fully 75 percent of the 13,254 cases of coronavirus confirmed in the two counties have been among Latinos. Communities with predominantly populations in both counties have reported the largest outbreaks. For instance, almost 58 percent of the 2,595 cases reported in Santa Cruz County resident in Watsonville, a city that represents less than 20 percent of the county’s population. About 63 percent of all cases are among people who identify as Latino in Santa Cruz County.

In Monterey County, almost 83 percent of all COVID-19 cases reported are among people who live in the Salinas Valley.

Sixty-three of the deaths in Monterey County have been among people who identify as Latino. Nine of the 20 deaths reported in Santa Cruz County are a result of a cluster at the Watsonville Post-Acute Center, according to county health officials.

If there is any good news, it’s in the reduced number of cases that have been reported in Monterey County the past two days. County health officials have reported only 72 cases during the past two days, and the test positivity rate is now under 11 percent.

In California, 16,571 people have succumbed to the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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COVID-19 toll at Watsonville nursing home rises
Oct. 7 — Santa Cruz County public health officials said today that an outbreak of COVID-19 at a skilled nursing facility in Watsonville has resulted in nine deaths.

A total of 61 residents and staff at the Watsonville Post-Acute Center have tested positive for the virus, according to Corrine Hyland, a public information officer for Santa Cruz County. Five people have died as a result of symptoms related to the virus in recent days, bringing the total to nine. The spike has raised the total deaths throughout the county to 16.

State Department of Public Health officials have been working closely with managers at the center, located on Auto Center Drive, Hyland said, providing daily tests and reviewing protocol. The California National Guard is also providing “staffing support.”

Overall, 2,535 Santa Cruz County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since health officials started tracking the virus. Of those, 1,460 cases were reported in Watsonville.

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COVID-19 cases in Monterey County now exceed 10,000
Sept. 28 — With 55 new cases of confirmed coronavirus cases reported today, Monterey County has reached 10,000 cases since health authorities starting tracking the virus at the beginning of the year.

The daily demographic report from the Health Department today shows that 10,008 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Since the beginning of the year 72 Monterey County residents have died as a result of complications related to the virus, while 588 people have required hospitalization.

Compared to the rest of California, Monterey County ranks 9th in the county in the number of cases per 100,000 residents. While the numbers are high, Monterey County also has one of the lowest death rates in California. Taking the biggest hit has been Latinos and agricultural employees.

Nearly 24 percent of all the cases reported this year are among farmworkers, while 77 percent of the cases are among people who identify as Latino or Hispanic. About 45 percent of all the cases confirmed in Monterey County are among people who live in two ZIP codes in neighborhoods with a high concentration of Latinos in East Salinas. Local officials have launched multilingual public-education campaigns encouraging farmworkers and those living in tight conditions to wear masks and to be careful.

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More than 80 percent of the cases are in the Salinas Valley

Monterey County Health Department

The numbers in Monterey County are significantly higher than those of neighboring counties with similar populations. In Santa Cruz, for instance, only 2,379 cases have been confirmed, resulting in nine deaths and 155 hospitalizations, according to state health officials. In San Luis Obispo County, 3,546 cases have been reported, with 29 deaths.

The numbers in Monterey County indicate that almost half of the confirmed cases are among people under the age of 35, but 80 percent of all the fatalities are among people over the age of 55.

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COVID-19 continues to sweep Monterey County’s Latino population
Sept. 27 — COVID-19 continues to impact Latinos in Monterey County at a rate much higher than everyone else, according to the latest demographics report released by county health officials.

With total cases about to reach 10,000 in the county, more than 77 percent of all the confirmed coronavirus cases have been among people who identify as Latino or Hispanic. With another death of a Latino reported today, 58 or the 72 fatalities in Monterey County as a result of complications related to COVID-19 have been among Latinos.

The county today reported that six more people have been hospitalized for treatment of symptoms linked to the virus, while 69 new cases have been reported. Eight-four percent of all the cases confirmed in Monterey County live in the Salinas Valley.

Even on the Monterey Peninsula, which has reported only 877 cases of COVID-19 since the county started keeping track early this year, 492 of the people who have confirmed positive are from Seaside. The latest demographic information indicates that almost 44 percent of Seaside’s residents are Latino.

The latest fatal victim was reportedly a Latino under the age of 54.

The Johns Hopkins University of Medicine reported this morning that 204,566 residents of the United States have succumbed to COVID-19, while 15,589 Californians have died.

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Chart from Monterey County Health Department, Sept. 27, 2020

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Watsonville care facility reports COVID-19 outbreak
Sept. 24 — A Watsonville nursing facility has reported an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, with at least 30 residents and staff members testing positive.

In a message to the public, officials at the Watsonville Post Acute Center announced that 27 residents and four staff members have tested positive. “We are working with Public Health to stop the spread of Covid19,” according to the message, posted on its web site. “At this time, all infection control and safety protocols are in place. Residents who tested positive are in isolation (and) the employees who tested positive are at home in quarantine.”

No deaths have been reported at the facility, which is located on Auto Center Drive, according to the state Department of Public Health.

It is the first major outbreak at a Santa Cruz County care facility, according to the state.

The county health department reported earlier today that a ninth person in the county has died as a result of complications related to COVID-19. The victim was a Latino women in her early 60s, according to health officials. They also said they are also investigating two other possible deaths recently reported to the department.

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Monterey County’s COVID-19 death toll continues to rise
Sept. 24 — The toll continues to rise among patients with COVID-19 in Monterey County, as health officials have reported five new fatalities attributed to complications resulting from the virus during the past week.

And with more than 310 new confirmed cases reported during the past seven days, the number of people in Monterey County who have tested positive could reach the 10,000 mark by the end of the month. The county Health Department has reported a total of 7,772 cases since it started tracking the virus at the start of the year.

Seventy county residents have succumbed to the virus, including 27 under the age of 64. Fifty-six of the fatal victims were Latinos from the region. Another 34 people were reportedly hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 during the past week, raising that total to 568.

In Santa Cruz County, health authorities reported another fatality attributed to the virus, raising the death toll to nine. Almost 2,320 people have tested positive for the virus in Santa Cruz County since the start of the pandemic, and 149 of them have been treated in hospitals.

Overall, the COVID-19 death toll in the United States exceeded the 200,000 mark this week, while 15,316 patients in California have died.

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Monterey County still far from meeting COVID-19 metrics
Sept. 16 — Monterey County has been reporting fewer cases and fatalities related to COVID-19, but it still has a way to go before it meets states metrics to completely reopen. Even with a relative downturn in the number of cases, the case rate is at 13.9 per 100,000 people, nearly double the safe rate of seven per 100,000.

Also, the positivity rate is at 9.8 percent, according to county Health Department officials, which is above the 8 percent requirement.

The latest Monterey County coronavirus numbers, released by the Health Department today, shows that Monterey County has now exceeded 9,000 confirmed cases since it started keeping track earlier this year. Five more Monterey County residents were reported admitted into hospitals during the past 24 hours, raising that total to 534. The county reported an additional fatality in Tuesday’s report, raising the death toll in Monterey County to 65.

The national death toll now exceeds 196,000 people, and California has reported more than 14,600 deaths attributed to complications due to the virus.

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Monterey County reports two new COVID-19 deaths
Sept. 11 — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Monterey County are declining, but health officials are still reporting new fatal victims of the virus.

The latest daily update from the Monterey County Health Department indicates that two more people have died, raising the total to 64 since officials started tracking coronavirus early this year. The victims were both Latinos, one under the age of 54 and the other over the age of 65, according to the daily report.

They were the fourth and fifth deaths reported this month in Monterey County.

But while the death rate continues to climb, new cases and hospitalizations appear to be declining. The latest report shows that only 23 new cases of COVID-19 were reported during the past 24 hours, and only one new patient was admitted to a hospital for treatment of symptoms. Overall, 8,761 Monterey County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 522 were hospitalized for their condition.

Seventy-eight percent of the fatal victims are Latinos, and about a quarter of all the cases reported by county officials are among people who work in the agricultural industry, according to county statistics.

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Three new COVID-19 deaths reported in Monterey County
Sept. 8 — Three additional deaths health officials attributed to complications related to COVID-19 were reported in Monterey County this afternoon.

The newest fatalities raises the number in the county to 62 since county authorities started tracking the spread of the virus. Today’s report from the county Health Department also notes that 32 new cases have been confirmed and another patient has been hospitalized for treatment for the virus.

Two of the fatalities were reported over the age of 54, and two of them were Latino, according to charts accompanying the county’s daily report. As of today, 8,661 Monterey County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the year.

In California, 13,788 people have reportedly died as a result of COVID-19, while 741,655 have contracted the virus.

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Health officials report first September COVID-related death in Monterey County
Sept. 7 — Monterey County health officials confirmed that another victim of COVID-19 succumbed of complications related to the virus today, the 59th death since the beginning of the year.

After an active month of August, which saw 32 deaths in Monterey County, the latest victim is the first to be confirmed in September. During the first week in September, 37 new patients have been hospitalized and another 649 people have tested positive in the county, raising those totals to 515 and 8,629, respectively.

The test positivity rate continues to climb in Monterey County, and is at 11.25 percent. Extrapolating from today’s report from the Health Department, the latest fatal victim was a Latino under the age of 54.

Latinos remain the primary target for the virus in Monterey County. Almost 80 percent of all the patients hospitalized in the county identify themselves as Latino. About 78 percent of those who died are Latino. And 73 percent of all cases reported in the county are among Latinos.

Health workers in the county have been stepping up their community outreach programs in an effort to educate farmworkers and others about COVID-19 and its spread.

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32 Monterey County COVID deaths reported in August
Aug. 31 — Thirty-two Monterey County residents were confirmed to have died in August as a result of complications arising from COVID-19, according to records kept by county health officials.

With two more fatalities reported this morning, the toll in Monterey County has risen to 58 victims since the pandemic was first reported in the county early this year. Also, 478 people have been treated in hospitals for coronavirus and 7,980 people have tested positive.
Also alarming is the test positivity rate in Monterey County, which continues to climb and now exceeds 11 percent. By comparison, the positivity rate in California is about 5.2, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. With Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest guidelines for reopening the various operations in the state, Monterey County’s numbers seem to be heading in the wrong direction.
The virus continues to have its biggest local impact on the Salinas Valley and the agricultural industry. Of the 58 fatalities, 45 were people who identified as Latino or Hispanic.  More than 81 percent of all the people who have tested positive for the virus live in the Salinas Valley, and 1,766 of the positive cases were among people who work in agriculture.
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COVID-19 toll continues to rise in Monterey County
Aug. 25 — The COVID-19 death toll continues to rise in Monterey County, with 17 fatalities reported by county health officials during the past two weeks.

Following a pattern, the latest death, reported today as the 53rd fatality attributed to complications from the virus in the county, was an older Latino. Since the county health officials started tracking COVID-19, more than 75 percent of the deaths have been among people who identified as Latino, while about 83 percent of them were aged 55 or older.

Another alarming trend for Monterey County is the growing positivity rate among those who are being tested. Last month that rate hovered between 9 and 10 percent, but it is now reported at 11 percent.  By comparison, the test positivity rate in all of California is about 6.4 percent. Almost 450 Monterey County residents have required hospital care since January, according to county officials.

As of this morning, 7,393 people in Monterey County have tested positive for coronavirus. Of those, about 73 percent identify as Latinos and almost 83 percent live in the Salinas Valley. More than 1,600 of the confirmed positive cases are among people who work in Monterey County’s agricultural industry.

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Central Coast issues message to Labor Day beach visitors: Stay Away
Aug. 20 — State Parks and county officials have joined city managers in coastal cities on the Central Coast to issue a message to would-be Labor Day visitors: Stay off our beaches.

Calling it an “unprecedented joint statement,” Nat Rojanasathira, Monterey’s assistant city manager, said that representatives from every city — from Carmel to Santa Cruz — intend to shut down beaches during the Labor Day holiday, So will the state Parks Department. County beaches in Santa Cruz will also close. The officials cite concern about the spread of COVID-19. Pending approval by elected leaders in each of the cities, the beaches will shut down from Sept. 5 to 7.

Meanwhile, Pacific Grove isn’t waiting around for Labor Day. City administrators there announced they are closing city-operated beaches and restricting parking near the shoreline starting this Saturday.

In their joint statement, the city managers said “We are deeply concerned about public safety and the impacts the coronavirus has sustained in our communities. We know that we must take action this Labor Day holiday to protect our residents, and help our communities get past the pandemic-caused shelter in place so we can all get back to work, school, and a more normal way of life. The more stringent measures we take now will reduce more COVID-19 positive cases and hasten our economic recovery, thus relieving devastating stress, worry, and heartache for so many.”
The planned closures, which will only allow for access to the ocean, include the following beaches, in order from Santa Cruz to Carmel: the beach at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (including Main and Cowell Beach), Seacliff State Beach,  Capitola Beach, Manresa Main State Beach, Sunset State Beach, Marina State Beach, Fort Ord Dunes State Park, Monterey State Beach (includes beach sections in Seaside and Sand City), Del Monte Beach, San Carlos Beach, McAbee Beach, Lovers Point Beach and Park, Asilomar State Beach, Carmel Beach, Carmel River State Beach, and Monastery Beach.
The cities and state park officials will assign teams to help manage the beach closures.
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Two new deaths in Monterey County as COVID-19 toll continues to rise
Aug. 20 — Two additional patients have died in Monterey County as a result of complications related to coronavirus and 10 more residents have been hospitalized, according to county health officials.

Meanwhile, operators of a Soledad care center for seniors acknowledge on Wednesday that it is taking action to recover from a COVID-19 “outbreak” that started in late July.

The latest daily numbers from the Monterey County Health Department show that the two most recent confirmed deaths have raised the toll in Monterey County to 49, while hospitalizations continue to mount.  As of Tuesday, 62 patients were reportedly being treated for virus-related symptoms in the four hospitals serving Monterey County.

Also today, the county reported that 80 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total to 6,865 since the pandemic first hit Monterey County.

From Soledad, operators of the Eden Valley Care Center released information about an outbreak at its facility in which 14 residents and 20 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. At least one death has been reported from the facility. A spokeswoman for Eden Valley said that, as of Wednesday, all residents who were in isolation are back in their regular rooms and that all infected staff is back at work.

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With new patients, more than 500 Central Coast residents have required COVID-19 medical care
Aug. 19 — More than 500 Central Coast residents have required hospital care for treatment of COVID-19 symptoms since the pandemic started, according to health officers in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

Monterey County hospitals have treated 409 patients since January, while Santa Cruz medical centers have seen 109, according to the cumulative numbers compiled by health officials. Monterey County today reported nine new hospitalizations, and another death. The latest fatality is the 47th in Monterey County, while Santa Cruz has reported seven since it started compiling COVID-19 data.

Monterey County also reported that an additional 123 people were confirmed positive for the virus during the past 24 hours. The county has confirmed 6,785 positive cases among its residents this year.

As President Trump hastens to remind Americans, more people are testing positive because more tests are being administered, but it’s the number of hospitalizations and death that are of concern to state and local health authorities. According to Monterey County’s tabulations, 28 of the deaths have occurred in the past month, while 188 patients have been treated in area hospitals during that same period.

Also of concern is the positivity rate among Monterey County residents being tested. That rate is now approaching 11 percent, which is considerably higher than the 6.3 positivity rate in all of California.

While that rate is high, the death rate in Monterey County (0.7 percent) is lower than the rest of the state. (1.8 percent), according to figures compiled by 1Point3Acres.  The John Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center reports that 11,504 Californians have succumbed as a result of complications related to COVID-19.

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With 5 new deaths, Monterey County reports largest one-day total of coronavirus-related fatalities
Aug. 15 — Monterey County reported its largest one-day surge of coronavirus-related deaths today, with five fatalities, raising the total number to 41.

County health officials also reported that eight more patients have been hospitalized, while 167 more county residents have tested positive for COVID-19. It was unclear how many of the people represented in the new numbers were being reported from among the 300,000 cases previously unreported as a result of a state Health Department computer glitch discovered eight days ago.

It appears that most of the new deaths were among Latinos aged 55 years and older. The daily demographic report issued by the county indicates that 36 of the fatal victims reported in Monterey County were Latinos, while 37 of them were over the age of 55.

The Salinas Valley continues to get slammed with COVID-19, with nearly 83 percent of all cases reported from the city of Salinas down the valley to the San Luis Obispo County line. The city of Soledad, with a population of about 25,000, has reported 436 cases, while the city of Greenfield (population about 16,000), reported 474 cases.

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Santa Cruz County confirms two new COVID-19 fatalities
Aug. 14 — Santa Cruz County health officials today confirmed that two more residents have died as a result of complications from COVID-19. With two others who reportedly died earlier this month, the COVID-19 toll in Santa Cruz County is now eight fatalities.

Corrine Hyland, a public information officer for the county, said the patients died last week. One of them was a male in his 60s and the second was a female in her late 90s. Both had underlying health conditions. The female had been hospitalized for more than two weeks, while the man died in his home, Hyland said. The man had not sought medical care prior to his death and tested positive for COVID-19 “post mortem.”

Compared to the rest of the counties in California, Santa Cruz has had a relatively low occurrence of COVID-19. Since health officials started keeping track in January, the county has reported 1,371 cases of the virus and 102 hospitalizations. In adjacent Monterey County, 5,890 cases have been confirmed, with 382 hospitalizations and 41 deaths.

Both counties have seen a significant rise in hospitalizations and deaths during the past month. Monterey County health officials today reported the 41st death of a patient stricken with coronavirus, in addition to 87 new cases. Monterey County health officials have reported 11 deaths they attribute to COVID-19 since Aug. 1.

In California, the John Hopkins University of Medicine has reported that 597,984 people have tested positive in California, while 10,870 residents in the state have died as a result of complications related to COVID-19.

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Carmel discouraging beach use with citations and fines
Aug. 13 — Carmel police will start enforcing restrictions at Carmel Beach that prevent beachgoers from hanging around unless they’re there for exercise.

City Administrator Chip Rehrig on Wednesday issued the order to prevent visitors from showing up at the famed beach with coolers or picnic items; umbrellas, shade or tents; beach equipment, folding chair or barbecues; and items that encourage group activities.

The area will still be available for people who walk or run on the beach, or surf or swim in the water.

Violators will be cited by Carmel police starting on Saturday. Fines for the first offense will be $100. Repeat offenders will pay up to $500 in fines.

Meanwhile, beaches in Monterey remain open to all activities, “in accordance with State and County guidelines,” according to City Manager Han Uslar. He said city officials throughout the Peninsula will be discussing potential beach closures for the Labor Day weekend.

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COVID hospitalizations continue to rise in Monterey County
Aug. 13 — Hospitalizations in Monterey County medical centers related to COVID-19 continue to rise, along with death rates and the number of new cases, according to county health statistics.

As of this morning, 59 patients were being treated for virus-related symptoms in the four county hospitals, including 44 in the two Salinas hospitals, Salinas Valley Memorial and Natividad Medical Center. Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula reported 12 patients.

The county Health Department this morning reported that another Monterey County resident has died as a result of complications related to COVID-19, raising the death toll to 40. Another 19 people were confirmed as being hospitalized, while another 175 people tested positive for coronavirus.

Those daily numbers may still be skewed, however, as the county could still be catching up with the backlog of numbers caused by a glitch in the state Health Department’s computer system earlier this month. In its daily report, the department noted today that “while the issue with the statewide surveillance system appears to be resolved, there is a large backlog of electronic laboratory reports being evaluated and processed by the Monterey County Health Department.”

As usual, county health officials are not identifying the latest death, but overnight changes to the daily report indicates that the victim was a Latino over the age of 54.

Nearly 50 percent of all the cases in Monterey County have been reported among people who live in two ZIP codes in East Salinas.

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COVID-19 tolls continue to rise in Monterey County
Aug. 12 — The death and hospitalization tolls attributed to COVID-19 continue to rise in Monterey County, with two more fatalities and seven new patients admitted to hospitals reported this morning. Four deaths have been attributed to the virus in Monterey County since Tuesday.

Monterey County now has 39 confirmed deaths since health officials started tracking coronavirus in January. Thirty-one of the fatalities have been among people over the age of 54, while 30 of the victims have been Latinos.

Another 134 people were confirmed as testing positive today, raising the number of COVID-19 cases in the county to 5,628. The county has been catching up with case counts and test results since Friday, after state Health Department officials announced that a glitch in its computer system had undercounted results for almost two weeks.

As of today, nearly 57,000 tests have been administered in the county, and the positivity rate has been hovering at about 10 percent for several weeks.

Among those hospitalized in Monterey County, 21 are reportedly under the age of 24, according to the health department. Ninety-six of the hospitalized were 65 years old or older, while 74 fall in the 45- to 54-year age range.

More than 42 percent of all confirmed positive cases in Monterey County were among people aged 25 to 44, according to county health records, while 25 percent were under the age of 25.

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Two new deaths in Monterey County attributed to COVID-19
Aug. 11 — Two additional deaths related to complications related to COVID-19 in Monterey County were confirmed today, raising the total to 37 since health officials started tracking the spread of the virus.

Of those deaths, more than 76 percent of them were among people identified as Latino or Hispanic, according to county health officials. U.S. Census figures estimate that about 59 percent of the county’s residents are Latino.

That is in line with much of the morbidity information compiled by the Monterey County Health Department. For instance, of the 5,494 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the county since early January, 74 percent of them were among Latinos. Nearly 82 percent of all the cases have been found in Salinas and Salinas Valley, and nearly half the cases can be traced to two ZIP codes in East Salinas, where populations are predominantly Latino.

Similar disparities can be found in Santa Cruz County, where Latinos make up about 34 percent of the population. About 59 percent of the 1,287 COVID-19 cases reported in Santa Cruz County are among Latinos, with half of the cases reported in Watsonville.

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Counties catching up with COVID-19 cases after state health department reporting glitch
Aug. 10 — County health officials expect to see a surge of new coronavirus-related numbers in the coming days, but mostly because the state Department of Public Health is releasing a backlog of testing data that was delayed due to problems with the statewide surveillance system.

Dr. Edward Moreno, Monterey County’s public health director, said the county expects to see results of at least 1,700 tests that weren’t sent to his department from the state for a 12-day period ending last Friday. He said the state appears to have found a way to resolve the problem and those results have been coming to Monterey County over the weekend.

Moreno’s comments today came a day after Dr. Sonia Angell, the state director of public health, resigned abruptly from the job. No reason was given, but her resignation came after mounting criticism about glitches in testing and reporting of COVID-19.

News reports indicate that up to 300,000 records had not been processed by the computer system established provide to local officials the COVID-19 test results.

While the anomalies in numbers will be reflected in the daily “morbidity” reports released by Monterey County health officials, the individual cases will be assigned to the dates in which results were initially posted so that the overall “curve” will be accurate, Moreno said.

The higher numbers are not expected to impact existing health orders, since Monterey and most other counties are already under the state’s most extreme health orders.

The county already appeared to be catching up with a number of lab tests taken by county residents during the 12-day period but not reported. The daily reports for the past three days have shown an inordinate number of lab test results — almost 2,400. Today’s numbers also showed 153 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Monterey. But today’s report didn’t show any additional hospitalizations, after reporting on Sunday that 16 new patients admitted to hospitals.

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Two new coronavirus deaths reported in Santa Cruz, raising total to six
Aug. 8 — Santa Cruz County health officials this week confirmed two new deaths related to COVID-19, raising the total in the county to six.

The two latest deaths were noted Wednesday on the county Health Department’s regular online updates. Santa Cruz County also confirmed that four additional patients have been hospitalized, raising that number to 47, and that 1,238 people have tested positive for coronavirus since the county started tracking the spread of the virus in January.

The latest update in Monterey County, released this morning, shows that four more people were confirmed to have been hospitalized, raising the number to 325, while a total of 5,212 people have tested positive for the virus.

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Monterey County COVID-19 death toll reaches 35
Aug. 6 — The coronavirus death toll in Monterey County has now reached 35, with a new victim confirmed today by county health authorities. The Health Department also said another six people have been hospitalized due to severe symptoms related to COVID-19.

The department’s latest numbers are included in its online daily updates. This week the department noted that the data it is presenting likely represents and “under-count of local cases” due to an issue with the statewide surveillance system. The notice suggests that the department is not receiving all the data collected by the state, but that “local data will continue to be published while the issue is being addressed by the California Department of Public Health.”

Today’s numbers indicate that 71 new cases have been confirmed in Monterey County, raising the total to 5,120 since the county started tracking COVID-19.

In Santa Cruz County, 1,213 cases have been recorded, with 93 hospitalizations and four deaths since January.

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Santa Cruz County to issue citations for health order violations
Aug. 4 — Santa Cruz County just cracked down on your uncovered mug.

The Board of Supervisors today approved an urgency ordinance that would allow law enforcement to cite people who go out in public without face coverings in violation of health orders due to COVID-19. The citations aren’t as harsh as being charged with misdemeanor violations, which could have carried a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. The citations will result in fines of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second, and $500 for a third.

“The ordinance cover all aspects of state and local public health orders, including the local order to wear face coverings,” said Jason Hoppin, a county spokesman, in a written statement.

The Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance unanimously.

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COVID-19 death toll continues to rise, with 4 more deaths in Monterey County
Aug. 4 — Monterey County health authorities this morning confirmed four more deaths of patients in the county they attribute to COVID-19.

The death toll in Monterey County is now 34. Twelve people have reportedly died as a result of complications related to coronavirus during the past 12 days, according to the county’s reports.

Also, with seven new hospitalizations reported in the daily coronavirus update, 302 people have been hospitalized in the four hospitals serving the county since January.

The demographic report issued by the county indicates that a vast majority of the confirmed cases recorded in Monterey County are among residents under the age of 55, while more than three-quarters of the deaths reported in the county are among residents aged 55 or older.

The 34 deaths are among the approximately 9,500 people who have died in California as a result of COVID-19. Nearly half of the confirmed deaths in the state have been recorded in Los Angeles County.

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Positive coronavirus test percentages continue to rise in Monterey County
Aug. 3 — The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in Monterey County continues to rise, even as the percentage appears to be dropping throughout the state.

According to figures released this morning by the county Health Department, more than 10 percent of all the people tested for the virus have shown positive results. With 102 new confirmed cases reported this morning, 4,924 county residents have tested positive. Of those, 295 have required hospitalization and 30 people have died as a result of complications attributed to COVID-19.

In the state of California, 6.4 percent of the tests administered came back with positive results, according to the John Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Santa Cruz County positive-result percentage is about 4.1 percent, with 1,151 cases, 89 hospitalizations and four deaths.

More than 50 percent of all the cases in Monterey County continue to come out of two densely populated ZIP codes covering East Salinas, while almost 73 percent of the positive cases have been found among residents who identify as Latino or Hispanics.

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Update: Monterey County reports four new COVID-19 deaths
Aug. 1 — Public health authorities in Monterey County reported four more deaths related to complications related to COVID-19 this morning, while 10 new patients have been hospitalized.

It was the largest one-day death toll in the county since the county Health Department started keeping track in January.  The victims reported today all appear to be over the age of 55 and Latinos, according to the county’s daily update.

That update, posted this morning, also reports 155 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, raising the cumulative total in the county to 4,697, with 30 deaths and 279 hospitalizations. Among the totals, 83 percent of the cases live in the Salinas Valley and 73 percent identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic.

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital currently reports it is treating 19 patients with the virus, while Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula is treating 11. Reports from Natividad Medical Center in Salinas and Mee Memorial Hospital in King City are not available this morning.

Santa Cruz County has reported a total of four deaths, and 1,109 confirmed cases. California has confirmed more than 501,000 cases, with 9,233 fatalities attributed to COVID-19.

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Monterey County hospital officials: Don’t get tested unless you’re symptomatic or work in healthcare
July 28 — Local hospital administrators are urging residents not to get tested for COVID-19 unless they provide essential medical services or unless they are obviously symptomatic.

With backlogs in commercial laboratories extending up to a week, Natividad Medical Center CEO Gary Gray said health officials are now asking people with no symptoms to wait. That message is different than it was weeks ago, when officials were asking everyone to get tested. But Gray said today that the additional lag time is not giving people or health officials an accurate gauge about their situation, since a negative (or positive) test result only reflects a person’s health at the time the test was administered. That “snapshot” is not helpful if results are a week late.

“If you have to wait a week to get results, you really lose the ability to intervene and have a widespread public health impact,” said Gray.

The top executives from the four hospitals in the county gathered this morning for a press conference to ask residents to comply with the basic safety protocols — wear your facial coverings, wash your hands and keep your distance.

Their message came on a day when the county Health Department reported  two more deaths as a  result of complications from the virus, raising the cumulative total to 26 since officials started keeping track. Also, eight more people have been hospitalized for COVID-19, raising that total to 272. And an additional 148 people were confirmed to have tested positive during the past 24 hours. As of today, 4,288 Monterey County residents have tested positive.

To commemorate the deaths, Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez, chairman of the board, called for a moment of silence, and the press conference was conducted in front of 26 empty chairs.

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Cover that mug or face fines in Monterey County
July 28 — People who fail to cover their faces in Monterey County could be fined up to $500 after unanimous action by the Board of Supervisors today. The board approved an ordinance imposing fines against people who ignore state face-covering health orders in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Scofflaws who are cited would be fined $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second, and $500 for each subsequent violation. While the first several violations would not be considered a criminal matter, the ordinance approved by the Board of Supervisors today would allow the District Attorney to prosecute repeat violators on misdemeanor charges.

The action today also allows the county to hire temporary workers to enforce the health order. 

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Confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Central Coast now exceed 5,000
July 28 — Another COVID-19 patient has died in Monterey County and nine more people have been hospitalized, according to health officials.

The death is the 24th in Monterey County — and the sixth in the past eight days. While no information about the latest victim has been released, the county’s demographic tracking indicates that the victim was under the age of 54. And the nine new patients in hospitals raise the total in the county to 264 since county health officials started tracking COVID-19 activity.

Including Santa Cruz County, more than 5,000 people have now tested positive for coronavirus since January. Santa Cruz County health officials, which was ordered to start shutting down certain business activities by the state because of a surge of new cases, has now confirmed 980 positive test outcomes, while Monterey County has confirmed 4,082.

Like Monterey County, a majority of cases in Santa Cruz (or 54 percent) have been confirmed among people who identify as Latinos or Hispanics. In Monterey County, almost 75 percent of the positive tests have been among Latino residents.

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More than a quarter of Monterey County Jail inmates tested positive for coronavirus since outbreak
July 27 — More than a quarter of inmates tested by officials at Monterey County Jail since July 6 have tested positive since July 6, according to Jim Bass, the chief deputy in charge of corrections.

Bass told reporters today that every inmate at the jail has been tested for COVID-19, and 195 of them have tested positive. Four of those inmates have hospitalized for advanced care, but all have been returned to the jail. He said 713 people are currently housed at the jail.

Bass also said 11 staff members at the jail have tested positive, though none have required hospitalizations.

Because of the outbreak, 63 of the inmates at the county jail have been released from the jail, and 34 of those were allowed early release due to an order signed by Superior Court’s presiding judge. He said every new inmate will be tested before admission and will be quarantined until their tests results are returned. All inmates are issued masks, which are replaced twice weekly.

Meanwhile, Monterey County health officials today confirmed an additional 80 residents have tested positive during the past 24 hours. Three of the have required hospitalizations. Since the Health Department started tracking the coronavirus in January, 4,082 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 255 have been hospitalized, while 23 people have died, including five during the past week.

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Half of Monterey County’s COVID-19 patients under the age of 34
July 26 — About half of the Monterey County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 are under the ages of 34, according to county health officials, and a quarter of the confirmed deaths resulting from complications of the virus were among people under the age of 54.

The county Health Department this weekend started included more detailed demographic information about people who have tested positive and who have died.

Also this morning, a 23rd death was confirmed during the past 24 hours — the fifth fatal victim recorded in the past week — and the number of confirmed cases in Monterey County climbed to 4,002.

The more detailed information presented in the Health Department’s daily reports indicates that 84 percent of the 252 people who have been hospitalized since the outbreak of coronavirus identify as Latinos or Hispanics. Also, more than half the cases reported in the county are among people living in two ZIP codes covering East Salinas.

The virus is more likely to be found in people between the ages of 25 and 44, with 1,752 of the people within that age range testing positive. While only 604 of the residents who have tested positive are over the age of 54, 70 percent of all the fatal victims in the county fall into that age category.

The following is the most recent summary chart released by the Health Department:

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Hospitalizations on the Central Coast continue to climb
July 25 — The numbers of hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19 patients on the Central Coast continue to climb, with five more admitted to hospitals in Monterey County during the past 24 hours.

More than 250 patients from Monterey County have been admitted into hospitals since county health officials started keeping track in January.  Twenty-two Monterey County residents have died from complications related to the virus, including four in the past week.

In its latest tally of coronavirus-related statistics, county health officials reported that 88 new patients have tested positive, raising the total to 3,953.

In Santa Cruz County, which reported its fourth death attributed to COVID-19 earlier this week, 66 people have been hospitalized for treatment, while 885 have tested positive. The county has had good success in containing the virus until recently, but it was recently flagged for possible inclusion to the state watchlist, with possible closures of indoor-operated businesses imminent. Monterey County was under orders to shut down those types of operations several weeks ago.

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Death toll and case counts in Monterey County rise dramatically
July 23 — Monterey County health officials reported the fourth death attributed to complications from COVID-19 this week. The latest unidentified victim is the 22nd since the county started tracking the virus in January.

It latest daily update also indicated a one-day high of 181 new cases, with eight additional patients hospitalized. Overall, the county has now confirmed that 3,726 people have tested positive, and 245 have been hospitalized. Almost 9 percent of the 40,757 people tested in the county have tested positive for the virus, but the death rate in the county is less than 1 percent.

The increasing numbers of positive cases and deaths appears to be a continuing trend in Monterey County. Nearly two-thirds of all the confirmed cases have been found during the past 30 days, and seven people have died since the first of the month. More than 3,000 cases have been confirmed in Salinas and the Salinas Valley., with 75 percent of the cases reporting as Latino or Hispanics.

Across the United States, more than 4 million people have tested positive, with 145,888 deaths. In California, those numbers are 421,462 confirmed cases and 8,052 deaths.

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Monterey County COVID-19 death toll reaches 21
July 21 — The COVID-19 death toll in Monterey County has now reached 21, with two new deaths attributed to complications resulting from the virus confirmed by the county Health Department this morning.

The number of new cases reported by the county is relatively low; the 26 positive tests is one of the lowest one-day totals in the past month. But six more people have been admitted to county hospitals, raising that total to 227 since January.

As always, health officers are not identifying the most recent fatal victims or their hometowns, citing privacy laws.

As of this morning, 3,379 Monterey County residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

Santa Cruz County health officials say that 58 additional people have tested positive since its previous update, raising the total in that county to 830, while 62 patients have been hospitalized and three people have died.

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Outbreak shuts down Salvation Army Shelter in Watsonville
July 20 — The Salvation Army Shelter in Watsonville has closed temporarily after eight residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Shelter residents have been relocated to sites that allow for isolation, according to Jason Hoppin, a spokesman for the county of Santa Cruz. Hoppin said all those who tested positive are asymptomatic and have been referred to the Homeless Persons Health Project for support.

The outbreak was discovered when a Salvation Army resident tested positive for positive while preparing for an unrelated medical procedure. The local communicable disease unit was dispatched to test others at the site, and seven additional residents and staff members tested positive, Hoppin said.

He added that operations at the shelter are expected to resume after the isolation period and after a “thorough” site cleaning. The shelter is located at 214 Union St. in Watsonville.

Santa Cruz County has reported 772 cases of COVID-19 in the county since January.

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Nineteenth Monterey County coronavirus death reported
July 20 — Monterey County reported its 19th death attributed to complications related to COVID-19 today,  along with 125 new positive tests and four more hospitalizations.

While the numbers are growing rapidly in Monterey County, the key percentage markers are holding relatively steady. As of today, 3,353 people in the county have tested positive for COVID-19 since the county started keeping track in January, which represents about .08 percent of all the residents who have been tested.  Statewide, that percentage is 2 percent.

On the other hand, almost two-thirds of the positive tests in Monterey County have been discovered during the past month, which like is the result of the growing number of residents being tested.

Also, the positive outcomes continue to be concentrated on the Latino population and in the Salinas Valley. Fifty percent of all the people who have tested positive live in two ZIP codes in East Salinas, and 2,771 of the cases are people who live in the Salinas Valley. Almost 27 percent of the people with the virus work in the agricultural industry.

The latest numbers released by the Monterey County Health Department today shows 125 new cases were confirmed during the past 24 hours and that 221 patients have been hospitalized in area hospitals since the pandemic started.

In Santa Cruz County, officials have reported 772 total cases, 59 hospitalizations and three deaths.

California has 7,718 deaths and almost 390,000 cases.

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Numbers of COVID-19 cases in Monterey County growing steadily
July 11 — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Monterey County has almost doubled during the past month, according to the running count of reported cases issued by the county’s health department.

With 121 new cases reported today, a total of 1,312 people have tested positive for the virus since June 11, representing nearly 45 percent of all the cases the county has reported since it started keeping track in January.  While the case numbers have grown significantly during the past 30 days, the death rate in Monterey County is relatively low. The 0.7 percent death rate compares to a 2.2 percent rate throughout California and the 4.2 percent rate across the United States.

Today’s report shows seven more people have been admitted to area hospitals, raising that cumulative total to 172. It also indicated that 102 of the new patients reportedly live in the Salinas Valley. Eighty-three percent of all the COVID-19 cases in Monterey County live in ZIP codes covering the Salinas Valley, according to health department statistics. More than a third of the people who have tested positive in the county live in two ZIP codes covering East Salinas.

It is unclear how many of the patients in the latest counts are inmates at Monterey County Jail. Other local media has reported that 67 inmates in one housing unit at the jail have tested positive.

More than 32,000 Monterey County residents have been tested for COVID-19, and the positive rate is about 7.8 percent, according to health department statistics.

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County has seen a climb of 31 new coronavirus cases during the past 24 hours, bringing its total to 568. Three people have died in Santa Cruz County as a result of complications due to COVID-19, while 18 have succumbed in Monterey County.

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Administrators at Salinas Valley Memorial warn the hospital is reaching COVID capacity
July 10 — Administrators at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital say they are worried the medical center may soon reach “the dangerous point of taxing hospital capacity.”

“That appears a very real possibility right now,” said Pete Delgado, president and CEO of SVMH, in a written statement released this afternoon. The hospital is currently caring for 22 COVID-19 patients, and three of them require the use of ventilators, Delgado said.

“Our team is doing an outstanding job making adjustments to safely accommodate all of our patients,” Delgado said. “However I’m concerned we may see another wave of COVID patients related to the recent holiday gatherings.”

What concerns administrators at SVMH is the steady increase of patients, he said. A month ago, the hospital was treating nine COVID-19 patients. The hospital has had to open a second unit in the hospital for COVID-19 patients. “Additional surge plan contingencies will be rolled out as needed,” according to the written statement.

Meanwhile, across town, officials at Natividad Medical Center said they are currently treating 14 COVID-19 patients at the hospital. And medical teams at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula are currently treating 11 patients.

Salinas has been the hardest-hit city in Monterey County, with 1,416 people testing positive for the coronavirus. That represents more than 58 percent of cases reported in the entire county.

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One more death in Monterey County attributed to COVID-19
July 10 — Monterey County has recorded another death related to complications from COVID-19, and seven more people have been hospitalized with symptoms of the virus, according to county health officials.

The death is the 18th for the county, and 2,419 people have tested positive for the virus since health officials started tracking COVID-19 in January. The seven new hospitalizations raise the cumulative number to 165.

As has been the case from the start, the Salinas Valley continues to see the largest spikes. In today’s report, 64 new cases were reported in Salinas Valley, compared to five on the Monterey Peninsula. Overall, 2,019 people from the valley have tested positive for the virus, compared to 212 in the Monterey Peninsula area that stretches from Marina to the Big Sur Coast.

Seventy-five percent of the patients in Monterey County identify as Latino or Hispanic.

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Monterey County formally receives its marching orders from the state
July 8 — Monterey County today received its formal order from the state to start restricting business activity again, and the order to close indoor operations at restaurants and wineries and to shut down bars and taverns completely is effective today.

In a written release from the county’s administrative office, the county is subject to the restrictions “because it is exceeding state health indicators.” The new order is in effect for at least three weeks.

The new order means that bars, breweries, pubs and brewpubs must shut down both indoor and outdoor operations immediately. And indoor dining at restaurants and wine tasting will not be allowed. “Restaurants should continue to encourage takeout and delivery service whenever possible,” according to county officials. The order also means that museums and other indoor recreational facilities must shut down. Because of the order, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has delayed its planned reopening, which was supposed to happen this week.

Earlier today, the county released its daily report, which indicated that 31 more people in the county have tested positive for COVID-19, while three have been hospitalized. While those number are significantly lower than reports in the past two weeks, the report also shows that an increased number of cases have been reported in regions of the Monterey Peninsula outside of Monterey, Seaside and Marina.

The county reports numbers by ZIP code, but only identifies numbers in specific ZIP codes when they exceed five patients. Today’s report shows 19 new cases have been reported outside the three cities. Overall, 197 people from the entire Monterey Peninsula have tested positive for COVID-19 since the county started reporting cases in January. That’s compared to the Salinas Valley, where 1,897 of the total 2,270 cases have been reported.

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Two more COVID-19 deaths reported in Monterey County
July 7 — A day after the governor asked Monterey County to scale back its reopening, the news from the county’s health department didn’t get much better. Two more people have reportedly died in the county as a result of complications related to COVID-19, three more people have been hospitalized, and 88 additional patients have tested positive, according to the numbers released today by county health authorities.

Of the newest cases, 60 were reported in the Salinas Valley, while 21 were concentrated within the Seaside ZIP code.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a tweet asking Monterey County and five other counties to close indoor operations in restaurants and wineries, while instructing health officers to shut down bars and taverns, due to the increasing numbers of hospitalizations of patients in the county.

As of today, 142 people have been admitted to hospitals in Monterey County due to the coronavirus since the county started keeping track. During that time, 17 people have died and 2,239 people have tested positive. The county reported today that 30,122 residents have been tested for coronavirus, and that 7.43 percent of them have tested positive.

No details about the fatalities have been released by county health officials.

Meanwhile, in Santa Cruz County, 501 residents have tested positive and 48 have been hospitalized, while three people have died.

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Governor asks Monterey County to close indoor dining again
July 6 —Citing the “alarming rates” of spread of COVID-19 in Monterey County, Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking Monterey County and five other counties in the state to close indoor operations in restaurants, wineries and movie theaters. And it is instructing health officers in those counties to close all bars.

Monterey County was placed on the state’s “watch list” on Friday as state officials saw an increasing number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The county was apparently unable to bring those numbers down since then, triggering the governor’s request.

Newsom issued his statement via Twitter about 12:20 p.m. today, and Monterey County’s health officer, Dr. Edward Moreno, has not yet issued his own order. At the time of the governor’s tweet, Moreno was on a press briefing with local media and said that he hadn’t heard from the governor’s office this morning.

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Monterey County reports 87 new COVID-19 cases, only one hospitalization
July 6 —Eighty-seven people from Monterey County were confirmed positive for the coronavirus during the past 24 hours, but only one patient has been admitted to a hospital, according to the Monterey County Health Department.

The hospitalization number may be key in whether state health officers keep the county on its watch list. If the county was unable to meet certain thresholds during the three-day holiday, the state will require the county to close bars, brewpubs, breweries for at least three week, while indoor dining will be put on hold.

The state placed the county on the watch list on Friday after an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases ad hospitalizations last week. According to the state’s calculations, the county should not be exceeding its patient hospitalizations over a three day period, compared to the previous three days.

The numbers released today indicates that 68 of the newest cases were among patients who lived in the Salinas Valley. While 27 of the cases reported on Sunday were concentrated in Seaside, today’s report shows that only one of the new patients is from Seaside.

Overall, 2,151 Monterey County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since the county started keeping track in January. Fifteen have died, and 149 have been hospitalized, according to county officials.

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Seaside the new local coronavirus hotspot in Monterey County
July 5 —Monterey County reported another big jump in coronavirus cases again this morning, with 149 patients confirmed testing positive during the past 24 hours. It was the second consecutive day of record highs in the county. In today’s count, 27 of the new patients were from the Seaside ZIP code, an unprecedented number for that city.

As of today, more than 2,000 people from Monterey County have been confirmed positive for COVID-19.

The latest report from the Monterey County Health Department comes a few days after state health officials placed Monterey County on the COVID-19 watch list, which means that bars and restaurants might need to be shuttered again if the county exceeds basic standards.

During the past two days, 273 new cases have been confirmed, raising the total to 2,064. In todays count, an addition eight patients have been hospitalized, raising the total to 148 since the county started keeping track of COVID-19 in January. The number of deaths in Monterey County remains at 15.

The new numbers reported today from Seaside represents nearly one-third of the 84 cases reported in the city since January.

While high in Seaside, the Salinas Valley continues to be hit hardest. Today’s count includes another 104 patients in Salinas and Salinas Valley. Nearly 85 percent of all the cases in Monterey County have been confirmed in that region. Seventy-six percent of the patients identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic.

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Monterey County reports spike, but few new hospitalizations
July 4 —With state health authorities keeping an eye on Monterey County while tourists flood into town, locals are watching the COVID-19 numbers carefully. This morning’s report from the county Health Department may not have been good news, with health officials reporting that 124 new people have been confirmed positive for the virus during the last 24 hours.

That’s the largest one-day jump since Monterey County started keeping tabs on coronavirus in January. More alarming, almost 25 percent of all cases in the county have been reported during the past week. The good news is that no new deaths were reported, and only three of the patients required hospitalizations.

Monterey County was placed on the state’s watch list on Thursday after an alarming spike of new deaths and positive tests. Almost immediately, local officials closed off access to beaches in the county in an effort to slow the onslaught of tourists in town for the Fourth of July weekend. The beach closures will continue through Sunday.

According to today’s report from the Monterey County Health Department, 1,915 people in Monterey County have tested positive for COVID-19, and 140 of them have required hospitalization. Fifteen people have died. Today’s report shows that 103 of the people testing positive in the past day live in the Salinas Valley. Seven are from the Monterey Peninsula. Nine people from Castroville were confirmed with the virus, bringing the total there to 39.

Santa Cruz County has been reporting increased numbers also, with 455 total confirmed cases, 48 hospitalizations and three deaths. The county has reported 97 new cases since Sunday.

California has reported 6,319 deaths since January.

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Monterey County on the state watch list; access to all local beaches closed this weekend

July 2 —Monterey County has been listed on the state’s “watch list” because of the persistent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Not coincidentally, access to beaches in Monterey County will be restricted and some beaches will be closed during the Independence Day weekend, starting on Friday.

A statement from the Monterey County Health Department this afternoon noted that the county is on the watch list because it has been exceeding both the state’s 14-day case rate threshold and its three-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

If the county remains on the watch list for at least three days, the state will require Monterey County to close all brewpubs, breweries, bars and pubs for at least three weeks. It will also require closure of indoor operations of dine-in restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms and other indoor public facilities.

“There is still much we must do as a community to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Edward Moreno, Monterey County health officer in the statement.  “Wearing a face covering when out in public, staying physically apart from people outside of your household, washing hands frequently, and staying home when sick can help to stabilize our case rate and protect the most vulnerable among us.”

The metrics the State is using to monitor the spread of the virus and county responses to the CDPH COVID-19 Data Monitoring Project team are available on the California Department of Public Health’s website.

Meanwhile, access to beaches up and down Monterey County will be off-limits to vehicles and beach visits are being discouraged, beginning on Friday. Even the Pebble Beach Co. is closing 17 Mile Drive to visitors, and is shutting down access points to attractions and beaches along the way.

Beaches administered by the State Parks Department will also be closed. They include Asilomar, Point Lobos and beaches down the Big Sur coast. Monterey and Pacific Grove are also closing parking lots and other access points to beaches in their cities.

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State Parks and PG shut down access to beaches
July 2 — State parks officials and the city of Pacific Grove are shutting down access to popular beaches and parks for the coming weekend, starting Friday, joining Monterey city officials in an effort to stave off the expected onslaught of tourist crowds during the Independence Day holiday.

Pacific Grove city officials said they are closing the turnouts along Ocean View Boulevard, as well as Lovers Point Park and surrounding beaches. City Manager Ben Harvey authorized the closures.

He said the western side of Lovers Point Beach will be open, but only for “water recreational activities,” including surfing, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling. The city is discouraging people from hanging around beaches unless they are engaging in the water activities.

The state Parks Department has closed vehicular access to its beaches in nine counties, including Monterey and Santa Cruz. A notice on the Point Lobos State Park website notes that the park is “open to local residents that can walk or hike” into the park, so long as they practice physical distance guidelines. Parking along Highway 1 near the gate of the park will apparently not be available.

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Monterey to shut down beaches this weekend
July 1— Monterey city officials will close off beach and public parking lots this weekend in an effort to keep huge crowds from its beaches.

The city also issued a new emergency order today that the state public health guidelines that would impose fines of $100 on people who violate mandatory face-mask orders $100, effective immediately.

“Our code enforcement officer has the authority to cite without warning anyone not wearing a face covering in our business areas,” said City Manager Hans Uslar, in a written statement issued this morning “People and business know by now that masks are required and we have to compel compliance to reduce the spread of the virus. Our educational approach has shown success, yet, we need to do much better.”
The parking lot and “hard closure” of beaches will be imposed on Saturday and Sunday, in anticipation of large crowds during the 4th of July weekend. Ocean activities will be allowed, including swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and surfing, and  scuba  diving. But all beach activities will be prohibited.
No-parking signs will be posted on Del Monte Beach neighborhood streets, the Monterey Bay Park parking lot, and Sand Dunes Drive near Monterey Tides Hotel. The Waterfront Lot will remain open including the area in front of and behind Dust Bowl Brewery.
“These weekend restrictions may not be popular, but they are imperative to save lives and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Mayor Clyde Roberson, in the statement released today.

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One new death and 8 additional hospitalizations reported in Monterey County
June 30 — A third death attributed to COVID-19 in the past three days has been reported in Monterey County by public health authorities, and another eight people have been hospitalized.

The Monterey County Health Department’s daily updates during the past several days seem to indicate that an increasing number of the new cases are being confirmed on the Monterey Peninsula. During the past two days, 16 people were reported as testing positive. About half of those numbers were concentrated in Seaside, and at least two of the patients are from Monterey.

Kate Woods Novoa, who publishes a news blog called Big Sur Kate, reported this weekend that the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Big Sur. The patient is apparently an employee at a restaurant on the South Coast.

In its report today, the county health officer reported that 37 new cases were confirmed over the past 24 hours, raising the total to 1,642 in Monterey County since health officials started keeping track in January. The eight new hospitalizations raise the total in Monterey County to 130.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases also continue to grow in the Salinas Valley, with 1,417 patients reportedly testing positive for the virus. The death reported today raises the total in Monterey County to 15.

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Monterey County reports 104 new COVID-19 cases overnight

June 28 — Monterey County public health officials this morning reported 104 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the largest single-day count since they started keeping track of the virus in January. They also reported another death, the 13th attributed to complications arising from coronavirus.

The officials included no information about the latest fatality, but only listed it on its daily local data report.

The 104 new cases represent the largest daily jump for Monterey County, though the daily report also noted that only one new patient has been hospitalized in county hospitals. The daily report noted that 98 of the new cases were from the Salinas Valley, and that 61 of them are from two ZIP codes in East Salinas. Two new cases were reported in Monterey.

To date, Monterey County officials have confirmed 1,548 cases of coronavirus, 121 of which have required hospitalizations. They reported that 924 of the the patients have recovered. In a county with a population that’s about 60 percent Latino, 80 percent of the patients identify as Latino or Hispanic.

About one-third of all the cases confirmed in Monterey County have been reported during the past 18 days.

California has reported 210,673 cases, with 5,900 deaths attributed to COVID-19, while the United States has reported almost 2.6 million cases, and almost 128,000 deaths.

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Joe Livernois

About Joe Livernois

Joe Livernois has been a reporter, editor and columnist in Monterey County for 35 years.