SALINAS – As the U.S. passes 1 million deaths due to COVID-19, Monterey County sees its case, and test rates rise from the dominant omicron subvariant, which is easier to transmit than previous incarnations of the virus.
“Case rates are rising slowly, representing increased transmission,” said Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno at Wednesday’s media briefing. “Here in Monterey County, we also have an upward trend in positivity rates. Fortunately, the number of hospitalized people has increased a bit over the last few weeks, but has not risen to the levels we have seen in previous parts of this pandemic. “
According to the California Department of Public Health, Monterey County’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate Tuesday was 12.1 per. 100,000, up from 10.2 last week. The county’s test positivity rate on Tuesday was 5.0%, up from 4.8% a week ago. CDPH reported six people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Monterey County from Tuesday, down from 11 last week. There have been 735 confirmed deaths in the county as a result of the virus since the start of the pandemic, two up from last week.
One month ago, CDPH reported the county’s case rate as 3.1 per. 100,000, its test positivity rate was 1.9%, there were five admissions due to COVID-19, and the death toll from the virus was 727 confirmed in Monterey County.
Moreno said the numbers serve as a reminder that we are still in a pandemic and people need to take steps to protect themselves and others by being fully vaccinated, staying up to date on boosters and wearing face masks in public indoors surroundings.
On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration extended the booster eligibility of the Pfizer vaccine to those 5 years of age and older. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 51.6% of those 12 years and older eligible in Monterey County have received an initial booster.
“We will continue to offer COVID vaccine options throughout Monterey County, as we have done since vaccines were first available,” Moreno said.
But the omicron subspecies and its pedigrees are more contagious than previous variants of the virus, driving the numbers up.
“The data show that omicron is the predominant variant of COVID-19, not only in Monterey County, but also in California and most parts of the United States,” Moreno said.
“The omicron variant spreads more easily than previous variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, including the delta variant. The CDC expects that anyone with omicron infection, regardless of vaccination status or whether they have symptoms or not, can spread the virus to others,” according to Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention website.
Symptoms of the omicron variant are similar to previous variants, but its presence and severity may be affected by a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status, the presence of other health conditions, age, and previous infection history. Omicron infection generally causes less serious illness compared to previous variants, but some people may still have serious illness, need hospitalization and may die from the infection with this variant.
“COVID-19 vaccines continue to be the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19 and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging. This includes primary series, booster shots and additional doses for those who need them,” “says the CDC website. “Current vaccines protect against serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections may occur in people who have been vaccinated. People who are updated with their COVID-19 vaccines and receive COVID-19, are less likely to develop serious illness than those who are unvaccinated and receive COVID-19. “
According to the CDPH, from 18 April to 24 April, unvaccinated people were 4.8 times more likely to get COVID-19 than people who received their booster dose.
The CDC currently considers Monterey County’s community level too low. A COVID-19 community level, ranked as low, medium, or high, is based on hospital beds used by patients with COVID-19, new hospitalizations among people with COVID-19, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in the area.
Salina’s Valley Memorial Healthcare System has an established mobile health unit that serves the community five days a week in six locations during the more than two-year pandemic. During that time, it has received 7,474 patients, administered 1,226 COVID-19 vaccine doses and 1,746 COVID tests.
In addition to primary care, health screenings, flu vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, it provides families with gift cards for food, free blood pressure machines for vulnerable patients, biometric scales for vulnerable patients, gas cards, ride-share gift cards and non-perishable groceries.
On Sunday, the mobile health unit will also be handing out thousands of diapers to underserved families, collected by SVMHS nursing staff during a diaper run this month, with help and support from donations from its Hospital Foundation and Costco.