Monterey County COVID-19 rates remain stable as world marks third year of pandemic – Monterey Herald
SALINAS – As the third anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic passed over the weekend, Monterey County’s case, test, and hospitalization rates seem to be stable with all three showing slight declines from last week. But the virus which has killed almost 7 million people worldwide is still a part of daily life and has the potential to evolve into something more threatening.
“New variants emerging anywhere threaten us everywhere,” said virus researcher Thomas Friedrich of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in an Associated Press story. “Maybe that will help people to understand how connected we are.”
According to the Monterey County Department of Public Health, the county’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate on Monday was 4.4 per 100,000, down from 5.2 per 100,000 last week. The county’s test-positivity rate was 8.2%, down from 8.7% a week ago. Hospitalizations numbered 25, down from 29 last week, and total deaths in the county from COVID-19 number 829, up two from a week ago.
A month ago, the Monterey County Department of Public Health reported the county’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate was 6.1 per 100,000, its test-positivity rate was 9.1%, hospitalizations numbered 18, and total deaths in Monterey County from COVID-19 stood at 821.
Last Saturday marked three years since the World Health Organization first called the outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and the United Nation’s health organization said it is not yet ready to say the emergency has ended, according to the AP story.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is constantly changing and accumulating mutations in its genetic code over time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New variants of SARS-CoV-2 are expected to continue to emerge. Some variants will emerge and disappear, while others will emerge and continue to spread and may replace previous variants.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the region that includes California, the COVID-19 omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant continues to dominate with 89.3% of cases, followed by BQ.1.1 accounting for 6.1%, BQ.1 with 1.6%, XBB with 1.4% and CH.1.1 accounting for 0.6% of infections in Region 9 which includes California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau.
A month ago, the COVID-19 omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant dominated with 56.9% of cases, followed by BQ.1.1 accounting for 24.9% of cases, BQ.1 with 10.0%, XBB with 4.0%, and CH.1.1 accounting for 1.5% of infections in Region 9.
The COVID-19 omicron sub-variants are more contagious and may cause a somewhat milder infection, but they have the ability to evade immunity conferred by past infection or vaccination, and are not completely harmless for everyone, particularly those who are unvaccinated who are still at risk for severe illness, hospitalization, or death.
Increases in infections are most likely due to a combination of two factors: increased transmissibility and the ability of the variant to evade immunity conferred by past infection or vaccination.
Of those Monterey County individuals 5 years of age and older who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, 90.1% have received at least one dose and 81.4% have completed their primary series, but only 19.3% have received an updated bivalent booster dose.
Vaccines reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. People who are up to date on vaccines, including booster doses when eligible are likely to have stronger protection against COVID-19 variants, including omicron. The CDC recommends everyone eligible get vaccinated and a booster shot.
During January, unvaccinated people were 2.9 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who were vaccinated with at least a primary series, according to the California Department of Health.
Monterey County health officials have continually stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 when eligible as well as adhering to measures such as staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands frequently to reduce the transmission of the virus.
Monterey County’s COVID-19 community level has ranked at low for the past two months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The COVID-19 Community Level is determined by the higher of the new admissions and inpatient beds metrics, based on the current level of new cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days.
Based on Monterey County’s current level, the CDC recommends staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, getting tested if symptomatic, and wearing a mask if symptomatic, testing positive, or being exposed to someone with COVID-19. It also recommends wearing a mask on public transportation. Individuals may choose to wear a mask at any time as an additional precaution to protect oneself and others. If at high risk for severe illness, consider wearing a mask indoors in public and taking additional precautions.
Go to mcvaccinate.com to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment and visit montereycountyvaccines.com/testing-sites to find a testing site. For those without internet access, dial 211, where a trained call specialist will provide confidential assistance.