Santa Cruz County COVID-19 death
Dr. Gail Newel, Santa Cruz County Health officer, announces the first COVID-19 death in Santa Cruz County at a press conference in 2020. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—A Santa Cruz County man who tested positive for COVID-19 died Saturday, marking Santa Cruz County’s first death from the coronavirus, the county’s Health Services Agency announced Sunday.

The victim was in his early 70s and had an underlying health condition. He was admitted to a local hospital on March 19 with symptoms including fever and shortness of breath, County Health Officer Gail Newel stated in a press release.

“We are deeply saddened to have one of our community members die due to this outbreak,” Newel said. “Our top priority is protecting the lives of our community members, and we are working hard to make sure these solemn occasions are as rare as possible.”

The patient was employed in both Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. He had not recently traveled and had not had contact with another known case, Newel said. 

County officials did not release any other information about the man.

Public Health’s Communicable Disease Unit determined that this infection was community acquired. 

Santa Cruz County now has 41 confirmed cases, with the vast majority between the ages of 18 and 65 years old. All are self-isolating at home.

The first known COVID-19 case in the county was identified on March 6

According to Newel, guidelines imposed to keep residents separated to slow the spread of the virus appear to be successful. 

“It looks like our efforts to flatten the curve are working,” she said. “We see some hopeful signs, although it is early. But we’re hoping that our shelter-in-place efforts and our physical distancing is working. So we want to urge the public to continue to follow those orders.”

In the three-week span from when the county’s first case was announced, Newel said the cases in the county are below previous projections.

The number of cases is now not increasing every 24 hours, but rather every three days. The increase is showing a slower curve.

“We’re not close to New York or Italy in numbers. Shelter-in-place is working,” Newel said. 

Thus far, of 287 test results, 41 have tested positive.

ealth officials said plans are in place for overflow cases to be  held at the Simpkins Swim Center on 17th Avenue in Live Oak, but that it is not yet being used. 

“It would be a dream come true  if we didn’t have to use an alternative care site,” Newel said.

Newel went on to emphasize three important points in not getting the virus:

        • Stay at home.

        • maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.

        • Cover your cough and sneezes with your elbow, not your hand.

For local information on COVID-19, go to, call 211 or text COVID19 to 211211. Residents may also call 454-4242 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week.

Editor’s note: Reporter and photographer Tarmo Hannula contributed to this report.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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