SALINAS – As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline this month, the Monterey County Health Department continues to record more COVID-19 deaths as the omicron rise slows.
Monterey County has reported 30 deaths attributed to COVID-19 this month (excluding one death that the Department of Health removed last week, citing data cleansing), including one Wednesday and eight Tuesday. In all, the county says 697 Monterey County residents have died from COVID-19.
Kristy Michie, assistant director of public health for Monterey County, said during Wednesday County’s media briefing that death is a lame indicator of COVID-19 in an area. While testing for the virus is typically received in no more than 24 hours, the process of getting sick and dying from COVID-19 can take weeks.
“People get infected with COVID-19, they show symptoms a few days later, their symptoms get worse, and we’ve seen a pattern where the symptoms tend to really get worse around day 10 of illness,” Michie said. “People typically come to the hospital, they’ve received excellent care here in Monterey County, but it’s a long-term course where people can sometimes spend a few weeks in the hospital and then unfortunately expire.”
According to the California Department of Public Health, Monterey County’s average seven-day case rate is 35.3 per day. 100,000, down from a record high level of 188.9 per. 100,000 on January 15th. The county’s seven-day test positivity rate is 6.6%. Michie said she would like to see this figure below 5%, but she acknowledged that the price has taken a steep drop off a few weeks ago. The figure has fallen from the highest level ever at 25.5%, recorded on 16 January.
“We’re a really good place,” Michie said. “All our numbers and our surveillance measurements are pointing in the right direction. Our case frequency is declining.”
Hospital admissions fell by seven on Wednesday, meaning 47 people are currently hospitalized in the county with COVID-19. During the current rise, hospital admissions rose as high as 119 on January 28th. Last winter’s rise peaked at 217 admissions in mid-January.
Monterey County reported two new COVID-19 admissions in people ages 1-17 Wednesday. While the county’s 94 total admissions of children represent 4% of all admissions – in an age group representing about a quarter of the county’s population – at least 59 of these admissions have come since the beginning of the current school year.
Michie said it is important for parents to continue to get their children vaccinated.
“We have seen some children get really affected by COVID-19, we have seen children hospitalized, unfortunately we have seen children go away from COVID-19, and we really do not have a good understanding of the long-term effects of COVID-19 in children. “So I think in order to keep our children safe and keep our schools open, vaccination of young children is really important.”
Children aged 5 to 11 are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Children under 5 years of age may be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine in smaller doses as early as April.
In addition to the importance of vaccines, Michie said that mask use among children has limited the spread of the virus in society. She said she was not aware of any studies showing that wearing masks is emotionally harmful to children.
“Mask wearing is relatively new in the United States, but it has been very common around the world, especially in other cultures,” she said. “We’ve seen about a year of mask use among children, and I think in some ways, children adapt better than adults.”
While the state-wide indoor public mask mandate ended last week, K-12 students are still required to wear masks indoors at school.
After the mandate expired, Monterey County stated that it continues to require masks for visitors to all of its buildings, regardless of vaccination status. The county also continues to require employees to wear masks with few exceptions.
Michie said the omicron has been the dominant variant found in Monterey County since mid-January. She said the county sequences about 3-5% of the samples to determine variants.
“We have not found any BA.2 lineages here in Monterey County,” she said. “Our entire genome sequencing program here in Monterey County and our public health lab can detect it, but so far it has not been identified among the samples we have sequenced.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the World Health Organization said the BA.2 subdivision should continue to be considered a variant of concern and should remain classified as omicron, adding that it should continue to be monitored as a separate subdivision of omicron by public health authorities.