Lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases stayed mostly flat for nearly three months throughout the summer, county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said during a presentation to the county's Board of Supervisors.
Those case counts also were likely a fraction of the county's true number of active cases, Cody said, due to both asymptomatic cases and cases confirmed only by an at-home test.
In addition to cases declining locally, the amount of virus detected in all four of the county's wastewater surveillance sites has fallen steadily over the last six weeks.
While case counts have continued to fluctuate more than two years into the pandemic, Cody noted that COVID-19-related deaths have stayed relatively flat, under 20 per week for the last six months after a brief peak at around 50 per week during the winter surge.
Cody estimated that a booster vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna specifically formulated to target the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants will be available in October or November.
Cody said the county is taking actions similar to those it has used during the pandemic to mitigate the ongoing monkeypox outbreak. The county has received reports of 100 probable and confirmed cases of the virus, which Cody referred to as m-pox.
Local information for Santa Clara County residents about both COVID-19 and monkeypox can be found at publichealth.sccgov.org.
— Bay City News Service
Ravenswood school district drops mask mandate
For the first time in three years, Ravenswood City School District students and staff won't need to wear face masks in classrooms when they return to campuses on Aug. 24.
Despite comments from two out of the five school board members that the district should keep its indoor mask mandate, at least for the first few weeks of class, the Ravenswood board directed staff on Aug. 11 to drop the requirement. Instead, masks will be strongly recommended.
It was an overdue decision, said trustee Ana Maria Pulido. She also noted KN95 or N95 masks are the only masks that will be effective against spreading the omicron variant, otherwise wearing cloth or surgical masks is just for show.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cloth masks provide the least protection, well-fitted surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitted respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.
Trustees Bronwyn Alexander and Jenny Varghese Bloom supported a more conservative approach. Superintendent Gina Sudaria suggested a compromise: start with masks for one month and commit to revisiting the issue.
Vice President Tamara Sobomehin and President Mele Latu agreed with Pulido that it was time to get rid of the indoor mask mandate.
Last school year, district staff had cited elevated rates of COVID-19 in East Palo Alto, along with lower-than-county-average vaccination rates, for continuing to mandate face masks despite other neighboring districts dropping their mask mandates last spring.
A letter to families on the new guidance can be found at ravenswoodschools.org.
— Angela Swartz
Council review boosts condo project
On Monday night, the Palo Alto City Council generally endorsed a proposed 75-condominium development at 800 San Antonio Road, giving its firmest indications yet that it would like to see more residential growth in the area. It made little difference that the development would be taller and built at a greater density than the city's code typically allows.
The proposal from Yorke Lee calls for a five-story building with a height of 60 feet, exceeding the city's height limit by 10 feet. Its residential density would be 86 dwelling units per acre, well exceeding the 30 units that would have been allowed under conventional zoning.
The development is the city's latest "planned home zoning" proposal, a designation that the city introduced two years ago to encourage new housing. It allows builders to exceed zoning regulations and gives city officials wide discretion in reviewing proposals and demanding modifications.
Numerous council members encouraged Lee to proceed with the project, but council member Tom DuBois was more cautious, noting that roof equipment could add another 15 feet to the project, raising the overall height to 75 feet. He suggested that the developer consider limiting the overall height to 65 feet. DuBois also urged Lee to explore inclusion of ground-floor retail in the project.
For city leaders, San Antonio represents a key strategy for meeting the state mandate that requires them to plan for 6,086 new dwellings between 2023 and 2031.
The council is scheduled to discuss the city's new Housing Element, which lays out strategies for meeting the housing mandate, on Aug. 22.
— Gennady Sheyner
This story contains 787 words.
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