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Grim COVID Milestone: Santa Clara County Reaches 100,000 Cases; Vaccine Efforts Ramp Up

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- Nearly a year after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County, health officials marked a somber milestone, announcing the county had topped the 100,000 mark in coronavirus cases.

As of Thursday, there have been 100,468 postive cases, in the county, according to the county's COVID dashboard. The 7-day rolling average of new cases is 829, down from a high of 1,463 two weeks ago. 1,134 people have died in the county because of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 57-year-old Patricia Dowd, the first confirmed death in the U.S.

On January 31, 2020, Dr. Sara Cody announced the county's first known case of COVID-19. At the time, Cody said the patient was a man who had recently returned to the county after traveling to Wuhan, China, what was then the global epicenter of the outbreak.

Since then, 435,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

"I'm very sad. Every one of those people are not a number. They represent a person. They could be your parent, your brother, your sister, your mother, your father," Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, who oversees the county's testing and vaccination programs, said Friday.

Outside Regional Medical Medical Center in San Jose Friday afternoon, a grieving family gathered. They waited for the beloved matriarch of their family who died recently from COVID-19 to be loaded into a hearse in the hospital's ambulance bay. The family said they planned to follow the hearse from the hospital to the gravesite.

"We know the illness is rough. And there's certainly been a lot of mortality. But it's the isolation these patients are experiencing that just compounds everything. It's just terrible," says Dr. Paul Silka, Head of the Emergency Department at Regional Medical Center.

Silka also stressed that the pandemic is far from over. "We going to continue to see illness and death for some time to come," Silka said.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department said Friday its vaccination efforts are expanding even as supplies remained limited. The county reported it has administered at least 185,535 vaccine doses, including 147,838 first doses and 37,697 second doses. On Monday, the county had totaled more than 160,000 vaccines administered.

"The County and other vaccine providers have made substantial progress in vaccinating our residents age 75 and older, the group faces the very highest risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19," Fenstersheib said in a statement. "As we move forward in the vaccination process, equity continues to be a top priority and the County is committed to ensuring access to vaccines for our most impacted communities through a number of different strategies."

On Tuesday, the county announced residents 65 years and older were now eligible to get vaccinated and can schedule appointments through the county website. The expanded eligibility follows the state's current guidance for vaccine allocation.

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The County Health System said it was partnering with community-based organizations to get information, testing, and vaccinations into the hardest-hit communities. This week, partner Gardner Health Services opened the first drop-in vaccination site for healthcare workers and anybody aged 65 or older at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San José.

"As the vaccine becomes available to more of our residents, the County continues its deep commitment to equity and ensuring access for our communities most at risk of contracting COVID-19," said Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer for the County of Santa Clara Health System.

The county said it was also partnering with community clinics to and launched a pilot mobile vaccination clinic for residents and staff of long-term care facilities. It is also coordinating with local first responders to administer vaccines in the field and has set up three mass vaccination sites.

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The County said it was waiting for additional information from the State of California after this week's announcement of a third-party administrator for the state's vaccination system, as well as modifications to criteria for who should be vaccinated and in what order.

County officials also said it was looking for new options for mass vaccination sites and community-based locations in partnership with other entities.

"Everybody needs to keep masking, keep distancing, keep testing, and get vaccinated when it is your turn," said Fenstersheib. "Check with your provider, see if you are eligible, and sign up for a shot. These are the tools we have to steer the course out of this pandemic."


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