Santa Clara County sees rise in COVID variants

A hospital patient in New York City has tested positive for an aggressive variant of the coronavirus.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants continue to climb in Santa Clara County, leaving county officials worried about the region's ability to curb the pandemic. 

As of last week, two new variants detected in New York (B.1.525 and B.1.526) were each found in Santa Clara County. 

As of March 27, the county had 92 confirmed cases of the United Kingdom variant, three confirmed cases of the South Africa variant and one case first detected in Japan/Brazil. 

In addition, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases of two different California variants. 

"Right now, we're in a race between the variants and the vaccine," County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. 

Essentially, this means the main way to combat the variants is to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible, Cody said. This is because the more the virus circulates, the more it has the opportunity to take on mutations and change. 

She also cautioned residents to avoid interactions and travel, even if the activity is permitted by the state. 

And regardless of vaccination status, Cody recommended that everyone continue to wear masks and avoid gathering with people from different households.

"The reason why it's important to keep wearing a mask is because not everyone has been vaccinated. The proportion of people who've been vaccinated is not near the level of herd immunity," Cody said. 

Cody anticipates the county will see an uptick in COVID cases and this may be additionally concerning with new variants emerging. 

There is limited data and research done to understand the efficacy of certain vaccines on different variants, she said.

However, Cody said the good thing is because there are many different types of vaccines, some may be more effective at combatting different strains. 

And it's not all bad news in Santa Clara County. This week the county received its largest vaccine allocation since the pandemic's start with 71,900 doses - of which 49,000 are first doses. 

That means the county has 49,000 vaccine appointments available as of Thursday, Testing and Vaccine Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said. 

And by mid-April, Fenstersheib anticipates weekly vaccine allocations will increase again, keeping the county on track to vaccinate 85 percent of its 16 and older population by August. 

People eligible for vaccinations can book an appointment by visiting or by contacting their health care provider.