The answer is not in many parts of California. In 18 counties, mainly rural counties, more COVID-19 patients are hospitalized than they were a year ago. But urban counties are much better.
Holidays are here and people are ready to get together, hug and feast. But when it comes to COVID-19, is California in a better place this year?
Last year, as Thanksgiving approached, infectious diseases sneaked up, leading to a cruel winter surge, and the governor said. Curfew To delay the spread of the virus.
Overall, before the vaccine became available, the whole state was better than it was a year ago. However, a closer look at each county reveals that it is not “better” for everyone. At least 18 counties have more COVID-19 patients hospitalized than last year. The other five are just as many.
Most of what’s getting worse is in the Central Valley and the countryside of Northern California, and they’re still recovering from the bad summer surge. The Humboldt, Madera and Lassen counties show the largest year-on-year growth. In Madera, the average for seven days was 32 inpatients on Sunday, compared to 13 a year ago. Humboldt was hospitalized 11 times on Sunday, but 3 times on the same day last year.
This is a different situation and much better in the urban counties of California. Of the 10 most populous counties in the state, all but Fresno have fewer COVID patients in hospitals today than they did a year ago.
The Los Angeles, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties report less than half of their COVID-19 hospitalizations last year. In the counties of San Diego, Orange, Riverside, Santa Clara, San Bernardino and Sacramento, it is about 30% less.
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The surge last winter was tough for most of the state. But in some counties such as Butte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Shasta and Placer, this summer and fall were even worse.I saw some More patients are hospitalized Summer and autumn are better than last winter.
In Central Valley, some local hospitals are still tense. And experts say it’s a dangerous situation to enter a holiday when another wave of incidents is expected.
“I hope this downtrend is a sign that there is no future outbreak, but it’s unlikely that there will be more cases,” said Butte County Public Health Service Communications Director. Lisa Armager said.
As of November 16, 73 COVID-19-infected patients were being treated at the Kaware Health Medical Center in Visalia, home of Tulare County. In addition, infected patients have been hospitalized there since late summer.
“We found that the Delta variant is much more contagious, a little more severe, and unfortunately more patients need critical care and require significant oxygen,” Herbst said. I am. “In June or July, we had literally only four COVID-positive patients in the hospital and it was a bit of a celebration, but as our numbers began to grow exponentially. Look, it changed rapidly in August. “
Why are some counties still struggling?
From October 24th to October 30th, unvaccinated people were 11.9 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people, according to the California Public Health Service.
According to experts, the main driving force behind the increase in hospitalizations in some counties is low vaccination rates. Hospitalizations continue to increase in counties where the proportion of vaccinated residents is low. For example, Shasta and Merced have vaccination rates of around 50%, both of which have more COVID-infected people in hospitals than at this time last year.
However, this is not the case for all counties. In Humboldt County, about 76% of the target population is at least partially vaccinated. This is about the same as the state average. But Humboldt also had more people in the hospital this weekend than a year ago.
In some counties, resumption of business and reinstatement of normal activity may contribute to infection.
Andrew Neumer, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Irvine, who focuses on pandemic mortality, said: Infectious diseases and hospitalization rates may continue to be important in under-vaccinated counties due to high activity and low masking.
“In rural counties, population density should be a protective factor, but it is often seen that rural areas are inevitable. They may be struck later, but they are fierce. You could be hit, “Neumer said.
However, Neumer expects most counties to have experienced the worst either last winter or summer. “But we have some tough sleds before, and even if the worst goes past us, that doesn’t mean this winter isn’t tough.”
The number of new infections in most counties has been steadily declining since the summer wave.
Still, in 27 counties, the daily average of 7-day new cases last week exceeded 10 infections per 100,000.
However, compared to last year, infections have declined in most parts of California. Only four small counties, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono and Sierra, had higher daily case rates on Friday than they were a year ago.
Hospital still besieged
Health officials in Fresno County said on Friday that they are preparing for another potentially challenging winter. Dr. Wraith Vola, a health officer in Fresno County, said the hospitals were consistently operating beyond capacity and it was often difficult to transfer patients to hospitals in other areas.
“If you need to transfer a patient to keep the hospital running, you should be able to actually do it with one or two phone calls. That’s not the situation right now, and it’s more than one we do. It’s a point of frustration I’ve heard from the facility, “Vohra said.
The shortage of nurses is also a continuing problem. Nurses quit the workforce due to labor problems and burnout.. In Visalia’s Cavea, Herbst said the hospital has 650 recruitment jobs. Those 145 are for bedside nurses. Nurses work four or five times a week on a 12-hour shift, and Herbst is worried that staff may burn out as a result of the summer surge.
“They are exhausted and that’s our number one concern,” Herbst said.
Local health officials are looking for boosters as their immunity weakens and holidays approach. Although usually mild, hospitals are increasingly concerned about breakthrough cases. In Fresno County, the proportion of recently hospitalized vaccinated people has gone from 5-10% to 15-20% of hospitalizations, Vohra said.
apart from Some misleading messages At the federal level on who “should” boosters and who “may”, local health officials have completed the first series of shots more than six months ago, or Johnson &. A vaccine that encourages those who receive Johnson to have a two-month booster. “For all practical purposes, boosters are not an option,” Vohra said.
You can get a glimpse of hope. There is an increase in the number of people taking their first dose before vacation.
“Last week, 1.4 million people were vaccinated and 58% were boosted, but 42% were also vaccinated for the first time, which is encouraging,” Newsom said at the vaccine event on Monday. I mentioned in.
Some county officials are also optimistic that harsh summers can mean that innate immunity provides some degree of community protection — at least enough to avoid another catastrophic winter.
“We live here with hope,” Herbst said.
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