Dr. Sara Cody's message: Keep your mask handy, wear indoors in crowded spaces as virus once again surges

With the novel coronavirus once again on the rise, Santa Clara County's top health official, Dr. Sara Cody, shares a message to keep your mask handy and to wear it indoors, especially in crowded indoor spaces. She adds that we need to take more precautions than we did a month ago. 

"All metrics that we follow are pretty much ticking up," Cody said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference with her latest update. "What we're seeing now is similar to what we were seeing in mid-February and it's more than what we were seeing at the height of the Delta surge."

She acknowledged cases are likely being underreported with at-home rapid tests now being the norm, but said San Jose's sewer shed, which covers the majority of the population in Santa Clara County, the levels of virus there are now more than twice what they were two weeks ago. Cody said there's a not-surprising uptick in reported outbreaks from schools, work sites and other congregate facilities. 

"Many of them are related to social gatherings. It's spring, school is ending, people are gathering and COVID is spreading." More poignantly, she said there are early signs this is translating to an uptick in COVID-related hospitalizations. 

The current variants that are spreading are more transmissive than earlier variants of this pandemic. For those banking on immunity from already having contracted the Omicron variant, Dr. Cody has this bad news: "You can still get COVID again, unfortunately." 

Cody once again finds herself stressing the importance of getting vaccinated if you have not already done so. "It's still the best way to prevent hospitalization, severe illness and even death from COVID." A second booster shot for anyone over 50 is currently available, but Cody strongly recommends this additional booster for anyone over 60 years old. While she wouldn't describe the interest in the second booster as a "surge," she noted that there is a steady stream of people getting the booster. 

One practice that seems to have gone to the wayside in public as of late is wearing a mask. Cody said to keep them handy, more specifically the highest grade you are comfortable with. This often has meant KN95, N95 or a double surgical mask or surgical cloth combo for most people familiar with this practice. 

"Wear it whenever you're indoors, especially if it's crowded or not well-ventilated. Break out those tests that you may have stockpiled and gotten free from the government. Use them if you think you've been exposed and develop symptoms." She is once again encouraging to gather outdoors over indoors. If you do get sick, seek treatment she says. Treatment that did not exist during previous waves of the pandemic is now available. 

She doesn't mention the antiviral Paxlovid by name, but refers to "pills" that you can take to prevent severe illness from COVID. She said many people are eligible for the drug and that you should talk to your health care provider to see if this is the best option for you if you do have COVID.

Cody mentions that with new variants arising, it's becoming more difficult to avoid infection considering re-openings and the rollback of mandates. But she stresses that it is still worth it to try to avoid getting infected with COVID. "If you're sick, you're gonna miss work, you're gonna miss school, you might expose someone else who's not going to do well with COVID." She mentions that you also wouldn't want to catch COVID because of the risk of developing the still mysterious long COVID; a wide-range of debilitating symptoms that can appear after you had COVID, but impact your health for an indefinite amount of time. 

"Two and a half years in, we're not out of it yet," Cody said in part of her summary. But the good news is that the durability of vaccines and boosters against severe infection, hospitalization and death appears to be holding, even against the newer variants and sub variants, Cody said. However, with every Omicron successor, it is becoming more vaccine evasive. Cody said it's still unknown what further boosters will be needed. 

"The conditions are present for new variants to emerge and they could emerge from really any corner of the world," she said. "It is something that we're going to be living with for quite some time. We can't completely ignore it though because it has completely wreaked havoc. We have to have balance and do those things that we enjoy doing." 

Santa Clara County COVID-19 cases for Tuesday, May 10, 2022: 325,219 cases, 2,272 deaths (324,687 cases, 2,272 deaths on Monday)