Santa Clara County health officials announced Wednesday that COVID-19 is projected to be the third leading cause of death in the county in 2020.
The projection was made after the county this week reached 632 cumulative deaths due to coronavirus.
"Tragically, these are 632 families who are grieving this holiday season. Let’s not forget the countless others who have loved ones in the hospital, and the healthcare workers trying to keep them alive as we speak," Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez said in a statement.
As the death toll climbs, officials urged the public to not gather for the holidays and cancel all travel plans, not only for personal safety but to help health care workers who are physically and emotionally exhausted.
"We’re affected just like everyone else in terms of being tired from being away from our families, missing them, and often times as health care workers quarantining away from our own families," Santa Clara Valley Medical Center emergency room Dr. Heng Duong said.
A week before Thanksgiving, three people on average died per day due to COVID-19, the county said. A month later, an average of about six people were dying per day due to COVID-19.
The county’s seven-day average positivity rate as of Dec. 13 was 7.7%, the highest mark since the pandemic began, according to the county. Back on Nov. 19, that number was at 3.4%.
"This is not the data any of us wanted to share but it is the reality of where we are in this pandemic," Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a statement. "The numbers do not lie. We have now seen how Thanksgiving gatherings fueled the spread of the virus and we must slow it down now before it completely overwhelms our health systems. We are nearly at the breaking point."