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Seven workers of St. Louise Regional Hospital’s emergency department recently tested positive for Covid-19 as the hospital and others throughout the county are operating beyond capacity.

According to Santa Clara County Health System spokesperson Joy Alexiou, more than 80 individuals work in the South County hospital’s emergency department.

Hospital staff and leadership are working with the County Public Health Department and the California Department of Public Health to review the cases, she said, and the staff who tested positive are in quarantine for the required period as contact tracing is being conducted.

All staff who work with patients are required to be tested for Covid-19 every two weeks, according to Alexiou, while personnel in the emergency department are being tested more frequently, at least every three days, as a result of the recent cases. Daily rapid testing of emergency department personnel before their shift begins will also be implemented.

Alexiou added that more than 80 percent of the healthcare personnel who work at St. Louise Regional Hospital have received their first dosage of the Covid-19 vaccine.

At a press conference Dec. 31, Dr. Marco Randazzo, emergency department physician at Saint Louise and O’Connor hospitals, said patients who would typically require treatment in the Intensive Care Unit are being treated in the emergency department because ICU beds are full.

The only time a patient can be moved into the ICU is when a Covid patient has died, he said. According to health officials, 28 ICU beds are available throughout the county, or 8 percent of capacity, as of Dec. 31.

“We simply don’t have the room,” Randazzo said. “Our healthcare workers are continually being exposed and infected as we continue to care for our loved ones.”

As of Dec. 31, healthcare providers in the county have received 40,605 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 54,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine, plus additional deliveries directly to multi-county entities, such as Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, according to officials. Additional shipments are expected next week, including second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

Thousands of healthcare workers and medical first responders have been vaccinated since mid-December, and those who received their first doses of the vaccine will receive the second dose next week, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Covid-19 testing and vaccine officer for the county.

The county is currently in Phase 1a of the vaccine rollout, which includes healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Once vaccinations are complete, it will move on to Phase 1b, which includes frontline workers such as law enforcement, agricultural workers, grocery store staff and others. People aged 75 years and older are also included in this phase.

Fenstersheib said it will be “several months” before the county moves to Phase 2, where everyone not included in the previous phases will be able to get vaccinated.

“As we’re vaccinating people, you still need to wear your mask and still need to follow all the social distancing requirements,” he said. “Having some people vaccinated is not a time to take off your mask and act like the virus is under control.”

According to county health data, Gilroy reported 564 new Covid-19 cases from Dec. 24-31, while Morgan Hill had 223 over the same time period.

Fifty-one South County residents have died with Covid-19 since the pandemic began in March, according to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office.

Of the South County deaths, 36 were Gilroy residents and 15 lived in Morgan Hill. The coroner’s office supplied the numbers Dec. 31 in response to a request by this newspaper.

The 51 deaths in South County account for about 7.5 percent of the 673 Covid-19 deaths reported throughout the entire county as of Dec. 31.

Michael Moore contributed to this report.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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