Monterey County’s COVID-19 community level remains low for past month – Monterey Herald

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SALINAS – Monterey County’s COVID-19 community level remains low for the fourth straight week according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but county health officer Dr. Edward Moreno recommends the community keep its guard up.

“At this point in the pandemic the recommendations still are to get vaccinated and take additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and also keep up to date on what the California Department of Public Health recommendations are for COVID-19,” said Moreno at Wednesday’s media briefing. “People can go to the CDPH website to look for any new updates to (its) masking guidance for California.”

Earlier this week, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said that “We should anticipate that we very well may get another variant that would emerge that would elude the immune response that we’ve gotten from infection and/or from vaccination.”

The CDC reports that in the region that includes California, the COVID-19 omicron BA.5 sub-variant currently makes up 90% of cases, three weeks ago it was 93.3% of cases. The omicron sub-variants BA.4.6, BF.7, and BA.2.75 account for 5%, 2.2%, and 1.8% respectively. 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.

According to the CDC, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is constantly changing and accumulating mutations in its genetic code over time. 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.

In the last month, the omicron BA.5 sub-variant continued to dominate the infection rates in the region that includes California, but what was once the second most common sub-variant, BA.4, has fallen behind the emerging BA.4.6, BF.7, and BA.2.75 sub-variants, and is now accounting for only 1% of cases.

The California Department of Public Health reports it is tracking variants to better understand if they spread more easily, cause milder or more severe disease, are detected by currently available viral tests, respond to medicines currently used, and change the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. The CDPH is working with the CDC to gather up-to-date information about the omicron variant and have found it to be at least two- to four-times more transmissible and certain antibody treatments show reduced effectiveness.

Though omicron may cause a somewhat milder infection, its sub-variants are more contagious and are not completely harmless for everyone, particularly those who are unvaccinated who are still at risk for severe illness, hospitalization, or death.

“What we’ve learned in the past is that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 with one of the FDA-authorized vaccines have a lower chance of serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 regardless of the circulating variants,” said Moreno.

There is a threat of a serious flu season on top of a possible COVID winter surge according to health officials.

“The most important thing that people should consider is getting vaccinated, being up to date with primary COVID vaccines and also scheduling an appointment to get vaccinated against influenza,” said Moreno. “As a reminder, people can get vaccinated with the COVID vaccine booster and get vaccinated against (influenza) at the same time. And then the other recommendations are for both COVID and flu and other viruses that cause common cold symptoms – stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands frequently, cover your coughs, but mostly people should get vaccinated.”

The good news, for now, is that Monterey County’s COVID-19 numbers are trending down.

According to the California Department of Public Health, Monterey County’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate on Tuesday was 4.4 cases per 100,000. Last week it was 5.8 cases per 100,000. The county’s test-positivity rate this week was 3.6%, compared to last week when it was 4.4%. Hospitalizations from the virus this week were at 14, compared to 19 last week. Confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Monterey County number 766 and remains unchanged from last week.

A month ago on Sept. 6, the CDPH reported Monterey County’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate was 11.7 cases per 100,000, its test-positivity rate was 7.4%, and hospitalizations stood at 24. There were 762 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Monterey County at that time.

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.

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