Santa Clara County has reported 24 deaths in 24 hours, health officials said Wednesday. That is the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths reported in one day in the county since the pandemic began.
Since a briefing announcing the grim tally Wednesday morning, the county's dashboard is reporting an additional eight deaths.
Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the County’s COVID-19 testing officer, appealed to the community and especially to younger people to adhere to public health directives.
“Just think of potentially infecting a relative, your mother, your father, your grandparents, and they end up in the hospital and god forbid, they die,” he said. “We’re not anywhere out of the woods yet with people dying, with the numbers of cases. The problem is that our hospitals are filling up. And right now, hospital beds and ICU beds are dwindling.”
Fenstersheib said Santa Clara County is averaging well over 1,000 COVID-19 cases per day, triple the daily amount that occurred during the July surge. Currently, 4% of standard ICU beds and 6% of standard non-ICU hospital beds are available. Hospitals also maintain surge bed plans for both ICU and non-ICU beds.
On Tuesday, the county's top health official, Dr. Sara Cody, gave an emotional update on the pandemic's dire trajectory to the Board of Supervisors.
Choking up and having to take a long pause after communicating the large number of recent deaths, Cody then tearfully summarized her report.
"We have lost 553 people in our county," she said. "COVID, in fact, is on track to be among the five leading causes of death here in our county. Our pandemic locally is out of control."
Fenstersheib said he knows the messaging around safety sounds monotonous, but he once again urged people to wear face coverings, to keep socially distant and to to refrain from traveling during the upcoming holidays. He said he will not even visit his own father, who turns 94 this month.
“I’m very sad about that. But he knows, and I know, that this is the way we’ll protect each other,” he said.
On the hopeful side, Fenstersheib said he's excited that the county received a shipment of the vaccine, which arrived on Tuesday. Workers in skilled nursing facilities and health care staff will be prioritized for the first round of vaccinations. Officials allocated more than 17,500 doses of Pfizer vaccine to Santa Clara County in the initial shipment. If the Food and Drug Administration grants emergency use authorization to the Moderna vaccine at its meeting Thursday, Fenstersheib said, the county expects it will receive nearly 40,000 doses next week.