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Santa Cruz Health Officer Braces For A COVID-19 Surge

Hannah Hagemann
Beach restrictions in Santa Cruz County were lifted on June 25.


New COVID-19 cases have been spiking in Santa Cruz County. Health officials are preparing to handle even more cases.


“We’re pretty much surrounded now, and the virus doesnt know county boundaries,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said on Wednesday. 

As of July 10,Santa Cruz County’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard showed 537 total known cases, an increase of 31 new cases since the previous report. Last week, there were 417. A month ago -- 239.

Newel said she’s worried her community is headed in the wrong direction. 


“After a few weeks lag, we will be joining our neighbors, I’m sure, in being dialed back by the Governor,” said Newel.

The state directed Monterey County to shutdown indoor operations of restaurants, wineries, movie theaters and museums this week; bars had to completely close. It’s expected the restrictions won’t be lifted until at least July 22. 

Compared to the Bay Area, and California at large, COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz have been relatively low, but Newel said it’s a different story now. 

“We are experiencing a large surge in cases,” she said.  

Local health officials are preparing for a range of scenarios. Once again, they are scouting for alternative sites where COVID-19 patients could get care, if hospitals become overwhelmed.

Newel attributes the spike to more than one reason why.  


“When the governor reopened the state, we had a lot of visitors come into our county. All of the reopening, and summer weather and beach season has contributed to more spread of COVID,” Newel said.

Santa Cruz beaches were partially closed until recently, when officials decided it was too hard to keep people away. 

“People on the beaches were less and less willing to be enforced, and were not cooperative with law enforcement,” Newel said, adding enforcement was costly.

Santa Cruz was one of just a few areas in the state that did not shut down shorelines over the Fourth of July weekend.


Hannah Hagemann is a 2019 Kroc Fellow. During her fellowship, she will work at NPR's National Desk and Weekend Edition.