As of August 3rd, 36 percent of Coronavirus cases in Santa Cruz County were contracted by 18-34 year olds, by far the largest age group of virus carriers. In response to this sudden and large case increase amongst the County’s younger population, the Santa Cruz County Business Council, Santa Cruz Works, and the Small Business Development Center of Cabrillo College put together a town hall on July 29th. For a little less than two hours, Dr. Gail Newell, the Santa Cruz County Health Official, and Dr. Marm Kilpatrick, UCSC Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, advised youth to “#dontkillgrandma.”
Robert Singleton, Executive Director of Santa Cruz County Business Council, introduced and facilitated the town hall, at first proudly announcing more than 150 viewers had signed in to watch. Dr. Newell presented first, reviewing the current state of COVID cases in Santa Cruz County. While her case counts are now inaccurate, she emphasized several trends important trends that are still relevant. “In almost every case we can identify a single person who was within six feet for more than 15 minutes with another person without a mask or in a space without proper ventilation.” On top of transmission trends, Newell also touched on several demographics with higher rates of COVID, mainly 18-34 year olds and latinx communities in South County. In both cases, rates could be higher “due to larger numbers of frontline workers in agriculture, grocery stores, retail, and other jobs.” However, Newell also proposed that South County suffered from higher cases from crowded housing, whereas 18-34 year olds struggle social distancing.
About 26 minutes into the presentation, Dr. Marm Kilpatrick began his presentation, “armed with best information possible, so [listeners] can protect [themselves] and others.” Dr. Kilpatrick covered a great amount of important information, relevant for all Santa Cruz residents, and most of which will not fit into 600 words, so I urge you to watch the presentation’s recording. In case you are unable, we’ll still cover some of Kilpatrick’s biggest takeaways. First, Dr. Kilpatrick debunked several COVID myths. (Note: Myths are listed prior to Dr. Kilpatrick’s correction.)
1) COVID cases are increasing solely due to increased testing, “In California, the number of hospitalizations has doubled, proving we’ve not just increased testing.”
2) Youth can’t be seriously harmed due to contracting COVID, “Younger people won’t die as often, but you can still get really sick.” According to Kilpatrick, many feel symptoms and long-term damage up to two months after infection.
3) Asymptomatic transmission is less likely, “You’re most infectious 2-3 days before you feel symptoms (in what’s called, pre-symptomatic transmission.)”
Dr. Newell and Kilpatrick then responded to many audience questions, revealing much more pertinent information. Amongst their discussion, listeners learned that Ramsey Park will close its testing service by the end of August, but free testing will soon be available at Safety Net Clinics (visit https://www.hipscc.org/sncc for more information). Also, Dr. Kilpatrick emphasized that “a negative test doesn’t rule out infection.” He then discussed potential false negatives with swab testing, especially after several days after developing symptoms.
At the end of this complex conversation, both doctors have simple advice, regardless of age. Wear a mask (over your nose, too!). Stay outside and six feet apart. Finally, make sure your friends and family are as well.
If you’d like to hear more of the presentation, you can find a recording on the Santa Cruz Works website, under the News tab.