Gilroy City Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz (left) is joined by Mayor Marie Blankley and others during a press conference at San Ysidro Park on Dec. 28. Photo via Santa Clara County Public Health Facebook

With the intensive care unit beds full at St. Louise Regional Hospital, health and city officials converged in Gilroy Dec. 28 to urge residents in South County to stay home and avoid gathering with others over the New Year holiday.

South County continues to be a Covid-19 hotspot, according to health officials, with Gilroy reporting 517 new cases between from Dec. 20-27, while Morgan Hill had 228 over the past week.

Covid-19 is projected to be the third leading cause of death in Santa Clara County this year, behind only cancer and heart disease, according to county officials, as 652 deaths have been reported since March.

The Latino community continues to be the most affected population, representing 52 percent of all Covid-19 cases while being only 25.8 percent of the county’s population, according to county health data.

Officials held a conference in Spanish and English at San Ysidro Park in Gilroy, hoping to reach the Latino community by urging them to avoid gatherings and practice safe hygiene.

According to St. Louise Hospital Executive Gloria Dela Merced, as of Dec. 28, only 29 ICU beds are available throughout the county, representing nine percent capacity. The South County hospital has used all of its supply of ICU beds and is now opening its surge beds as well as transferring patients daily to other hospitals in the county, she said.

“If the number of people with Covid-19 continues to rise, very soon all of our hospitals will be out of beds and we will no longer be able to support each other,” she said. “We continue to do all we can to care and treat our patients, but it gets harder all the time.”

Merced urged residents to wear masks when out in public or with people not from their households, social distance and stay home if they don’t have any essential needs.

That sentiment was reiterated by others who spoke during the conference, which included Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley, Gilroy City Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz, Morgan Hill City Councilmember Yvonne Martinez Beltran, Morgan Hill City Manager Christina Turner, Teresa De Silva of Nueva Vida and Maria Noel Fernandez of Working Partnerships USA.

Martinez Beltran said the Latino community is at a higher risk of contracting the virus because many work in frontline jobs and do not have the luxury of working from the home, among other factors.

“We are worried,” she said. “The risk is too high that we will get Covid-19, get sick, or worse, die.”

Blankley urged residents to “respect the masks and the social distancing.”

“I’m here to ask that everybody get out of our own heads and out of our own little bubble and instead think more frequently about all the people around us who are being affected in many different ways,” she said. “Some have lost family members, some have lost their livelihoods. Some are losing their spirit.”

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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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