Cases per 100,000 population as of July 22, 2020. Source: Santa Clara County Health Department
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Gilroy has the highest rate of Covid-19 infections of any city in Santa Clara County, according to statistics released by the county’s department of public health. 

“The rates in the city of Gilroy are actually higher than elsewhere,” Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Sara Cody noted in a July 22 presentation.

With 429 cases so far, Gilroy has an incidence more than 50 percent higher than in San Jose, the next highest city on the list. Gilroy’s rate is 791 cases per 100,000 residents, and San Jose’s is 527.

“When we look to see where there are concentrations of cases, we see that in San Martin,” Dr. Cody said. The small, unincorporated community reported 43 cases, a rate of 714 per 100,000.

The general statistics for San Jose, a city of more than a million persons, don’t tell the full story, however. Four zip codes there each had more than 500 Covid-19 cases. 

All four of the San Jose hot spots had infection rates much higher than Gilroy’s, ranging from 809 per 100,000 persons in South San Jose to 833 in Alum Rock and 959 and 1,043 in two parts of East San Jose.

The high-infection areas in East San Jose are the 95116, 95122 and 95127 zip codes. Another is 95111 in South San Jose, which stretches down the west side of US 101 from the County Fairgrounds to Edenvale, just north of Morgan Hill.

Cody commented on the virus’ portability in a large region in which families and jobs are spread out over many counties, not all of which have followed the same sheltering protocols. “We are not an island,” she said. “We are connected to all the communities around us.”

“One of our greatest challenges… is the lack of a standardized approach across the state and across the nation. We really have been at this whack-a-mole for way too long and we need to get at least a statewide plan,” Cody told the San Jose Rotary Club in a Zoom presentation.

“I think it was enormously helpful in the Bay Area that we had a regional plan and that we did it all together. It was easier for people to understand, easier for people to comply with and certainly a lot easier to message.”

“Our county demographic and our county epidemic is not just interacting across the Bay Area region,” Cody said. “Particularly on the east side of our county [and] in the Central Valley—lots of trouble. Case rates there are increasing really fast, just exponentially. We have a lot of workers who live in the [San Joaquin] Valley, where it’s less expensive, and work in our county. 

“We also have a lot of families where part of the family lives here in our county, and part of the family lives in the Central Valley. So it really cannot be a county-by-county approach.”

“My concern is that if we don’t get a larger collective to come together and row in the same direction, we are going to be playing whack-a-mole for a very, very long time,” Cody said.

On July 14, Gilroy had 323 confirmed cases. That number rose to 429 on July 21.

Health officials point to an increase in the number of testing in recent weeks as a cause for the rising numbers. A “pop-up” testing site located in the former Antonio Del Buono Elementary School in Gilroy has been active since July 7, and is scheduled to continue July 28-Aug. 1. Another pop-up site was located in Gilroy earlier in June, and a testing site operated by OptumServe at Christopher High School has been operational since May.

According to Covid-19 Testing Officer Marty Fenstersheib, a total of 7,345 tests were completed in South County from June 27-July 17, with a little more than 6,000 of those conducted at the pop-up sites.

Fenstersheib said the pop-up sites conduct about 600-800 tests daily.

“There’s so many people coming that we’ve begun using a wristband system so that we can guarantee tests for everyone,” he said.

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Dan is a newspaper editor and publishing executive.


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