New COVID-19 infections and deaths fell on the plateau in the week ending February 24, when Tulare County exceeded 100,000 infections since the start of the March 2020 pandemic, according to data released Thursday by the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency.
The county experienced 1,853 new COVID-19 infections in the week ending February 24, while the previous week saw 2,006 new infections. So far in February, 6,448 people were recently infected with the virus, which is on the move with the fifth highest incidence of new infections since the pandemic started in March 2020.
New coronavirus-related deaths rose slightly week-over-week with 14 deaths reported by the county for the week ending Feb. 24. The county registered 11 new deaths, ending the week on February 15th. The previous week, 25 people died of COVID. -19 related causes.
So far in February, 52 people from Tulare County have died from COVID-19-related causes, speeding up the month the fifth deadliest of the pandemic.
The county’s new cases dropped to 34.9 daily infections per. 100,000 people from just over 200 at the end of January. The positivity rates for testing dropped to 10% from 32% at the end of January.
As of Tuesday, Kaweah Health treated 61 COVID-19 patients, eight in the intensive care unit. Across the county, 84 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. In January 2021, Kaweah Health had a record of 169 COVID-19 patients.
As Tulare County’s COVID-19 measurements continue to improve from the omircron-driven heights in December and January, the Biden administration announced that it would significantly loosen federal mask wear guidelines to protect against COVID-19 transmission.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is changing the metrics they use to determine whether to recommend face covers, shifting from looking at the COVID-19 case counter to a more holistic view of coronavirus risk to society. Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people living in communities with significant or high infection – about 95% of U.S. counties, according to the latest data.
The new measurements will still take into account case volumes, but also take into account hospital admissions and local hospital capacity, which have been significantly improved during the advent of the omicron variant. This strain is highly transmissible, but indications are that it is less severe than previous strains, especially for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Under the new guidelines, the vast majority of Americans will no longer live in areas where indoor masking in public is recommended, based on current data.
The new policy comes as the Biden administration shifts its focus to prevent serious illness and death from COVID-19, rather than all cases of infection, as part of a strategy adjustment for a new “phase” in the response, as the virus becomes endemic.
The change comes as almost all U.S. states that had introduced mandates for indoor mask-bearing mandates for the winteromicron rise let them expire as cases have fallen sharply nationwide. Some have removed the mandates altogether, while others have kept mask-wearing requirements in place for schools and medical facilities.
It was not immediately clear how the new CDC guidelines would affect U.S. federal mandates requiring face-lift on public transportation.
The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has said a change has been on the way.
“We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer. Our hospitals must be able to take care of people with heart attacks and strokes. Our emergency departments cannot be so overwhelmed that patients with acute problems have to wait in line, ”she said during a briefing in the White House last week.
Last week, California became the first state to formally switch to an “endemic” approach to coronavirus with Governor Gavin Newsom announcing a plan that emphasizes prevention and rapid response to outbreaks of mandatory masking and corporate shutdowns.
The milestone, nearly two years in the making, envisages a return to a more normal life using a series of initiatives and billions in new spending to more quickly detect increases or variations, add healthcare professionals, stock test and push back against false claims and other misinformation.
California still requires indoor masking for everyone in elementary schools, on public transportation, or in certain group facilities such as nursing homes, child care centers, prisons, and homeless shelters. However, the State Department of Public Health was able to announce changes in schools’ requirements on Monday.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, 101,143 Tulare County residents have been infected with COVID-19, and 1,293 people have died from complications of the virus.
The AP contributed to this report.
James Ward is a journalist for USA TODAY Network-California and manages content for the Victorville Daily Press.