'This pandemic is like a high speed train': Santa Clara Co. announces new restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County health officials announced new restrictions Saturday afternoon as hospitalizations and COVID -19 cases continue to rise at alarming rates.

The county reported a record number of 760 cases on Saturday. Another 239 people remain hospitalized, a number that's doubled since Nov. 12, according to county health officer Dr. Sara Cody.

RELATED: COVID-19 risk calculator: The safest and most dangerous things to do this holiday season

"Our case rates have been surging since November. In fact, we have the highest case rate of any county in the San Francisco Bay Area," Dr. Cody said.

A total of 71 patients are in the ICU in Santa Clara County, according to Dr. Cody.

The public health officer compared the surge in cases to a train that could derail in a matter of weeks.

"This pandemic is like a high speed train, and our projections tell us that we are on target to derail by around the third week of December if we don't apply brakes right now with all our collective might," Dr. Cody warned.

MAP: CA counties that can, can't reopen under new rules

App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window

As part of the new restrictions, recreational, professional, collegiate and youth sports are temporarily prohibited, Dr. Cody said. This includes the San Francisco 49ers, San Jose Sharks, and sports at San Jose State University, Santa Clara University and Stanford, a county official said.

"We are aware of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department's emergency directive. We are working with the NFL and our partners on operational plans and will share details as they are confirmed," said the 49ers in a statement.

Stores and other facilities will also be limited to 10 percent capacity. Essential businesses like grocery stories, drug stores and pharmacies will be able to operate at 25 percent capacity, according to the county.

The county is also issuing a mandatory directive on travel, which "strongly discourages" non-essential and leisure travel. Under the new order, anyone entering the county from more than 150 miles away must quarantine for 14 days.

RELATED: CDC to vote on who will receive COVID-19 vaccine 1st as Pfizer shot could be approved in weeks

"I think expecting people to stay at home for 14 days is quite excessive," said Melissa Chen, a college freshman who had just traveled back to Santa Clara County from Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, she said she plans on lying low and limiting her contact with people regardless.

"I do appreciate the county going in the right direction to slow everything down and keep it under control," added Chen.

For Edward Parker, staying home after traveling would be difficult with his job.

"I can't stay home for 14 days. I work for Amazon. I got to work," he said as he walked out of the terminal at Mineta San Jose Airport on Saturday.

Though, he said he understands the reason behind it after traveling to Houston and seeing lots of people without masks.

"Everyone thinks this COVID is a joke, they playing it like it's a joke," he said.

RELATED: Bay Area health officers warn of stricter COVID-19 rules as state reports distressing hospitalization rates

Beginning Monday, travelers heading into Santa Clara County from 150 miles away will have no choice, even essential workers. The only exceptions are for healthcare workers traveling into the county to provide care or patients themselves who are seeking treatment.

Outside San Jose airport, the Oliver family was heading home from a ski trip in Utah. Their fears of contracting the virus had already been realized earlier they summer, when their whole family came down with COVID-19.

"It was very challenging," said Isila Oliver. "It was pretty mild for most of us but my husband went through a few weeks of being sick in bed."

She said after they all recovered they had less concern for their own health when traveling.

"We figured we could go on a family trip because we already had COVID and we rented a place and had a nice Thanksgiving among each other," she said.

She said she agreed with the new regulations and still wore her mask, understanding fighting the virus is a community effort.

RELATED: 'It's a total bummer': San Francisco, San Mateo counties move to purple tier amid COVID-19 case surge

These changes will take effect Monday and continue through Dec. 21, county officials said.

Amid the COVID-19 surge, Dr. Cody warned of hospitals also needing to care for patients with the flu or cold, typically seen this time of year.

"To further complicate our situation, we also have many added challenges. At this point in the pandemic these projections that we have, they don't account for the fact that our hospitals typically fill with patients this time of the year, whether it be from cold and flu, or for other reasons," Dr. Cody said.

She said this means even less capacity to "absorb the surge in COVID patients."

VIDEO: Coronavirus origin: Where did COVID-19 come from?
EMBED More News Videos

The novel coronavirus was first discovered in China, but it rapidly spread around the globe. But where did it come from?



If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here

RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.