Weekly COVID-19 Deaths Nearly Double As Delta Variant Continues Surge
The 49 COVID-19 deaths reported in the past week nearly doubled the previous week's 25, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.
There were 37 men who died and 12 women. Most of the deaths occurred in late August. Forty-one had underlying medical conditions, four did not and four had medical history pending.
Of the 49 deaths, 12 were 80 years of age or older, 13 were in their 70s, 12 were in their 60s, seven were in their 50s and five were in their 40s.
"These deaths are very tragic because they could have been prevented," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "We now have very safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19. These deaths should not have occurred."
Most of the deaths being reported now have been San Diegans who were not vaccinated.
Public health officials expected that more people would get vaccinated after the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23. The region has seen a slight uptick in vaccinations.
An average of 3,749 San Diegans got their first doses daily between Aug. 23 and Saturday. In comparison, an average of 3,651 people received their first shot between Aug. 17-22.
"Unvaccinated San Diegans are primarily the ones ending up in the hospital and, unfortunately, dying," Wooten said.
No-cost COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in the region. They can be found at medical providers, pharmacies, community clinics and county public health centers for people who do not have a medical provider. A list of locations and more information is available at coronavirus-sd.com/vaccine.
Along with the deaths, the county reported 949 new COVID-19 infections Wednesday, increasing that cumulative total to 335,302.
San Diego County's case rate per 100,000 residents is 38.7 overall, 15.2 for fully vaccinated people and 68.0 for not fully vaccinated San Diegans.
A total of 17,204 tests were reported by the county Wednesday, and the percentage of new positive cases was 5.5%. The 14-day rolling percentage of positive cases among tests is 6.6%.
The increasing numbers were cited in a letter written by UC San Diego researchers published Wednesday, which found that the effectiveness of both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have significantly waned over time, partially due to the ending of mask mandates and the highly contagious Delta variant.
The letter, which appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine, was written by an interdisciplinary team of physicians and public health experts at UCSD. They measured the effectiveness of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines among health workers at UCSD Health, most notably during the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta virus variant and coincident with the end of the state's mask mandate — allowing fully vaccinated people to forgo face coverings in most places.
The authors noted that from March through June, vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic infection was estimated to exceed 90%. By July, however, it had fallen to around 65%.
Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were granted emergency use authorization by the FDA in December, with vaccinations of the UCSD Health workforce beginning the same month for employees with direct, patient-facing duties.
"The decline in effectiveness is not entirely surprising," said co- senior author Dr. Francesca Torriani, a professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health in the UCSD School of Medicine and program director of Infection Prevention and Clinical Epidemiology at UCSD Health.
"Clinical trial data suggested decreased effectiveness would occur several months after full vaccination, but our findings indicate that confronted by the Delta variant, vaccine effectiveness for mildly symptomatic disease was considerably lower and waned six to eight months after completing vaccination," Torriani said.
A total of 66 new community outbreaks were confirmed in the past seven days: 15 in business settings, 11 in daycare/preschool/childcare settings, nine in restaurant/bar settings, six in retail settings, five in health care settings, five in faith-based settings, four in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade school settings, three in government settings, two in construction settings, and one each in an emergency services, hotel/resort/spa, restaurant, grocery, distribution warehouse and college/university settings.
The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus increased by 14 to 667 from Tuesday, according to state figures. No new patients were admitted to local intensive care units. That number remains 182.
Nearly 4.56 million vaccine doses have been administered in the county, with 2.41
million — or 85.9% of San Diego County residents — having received at least one dose. Fully vaccinated county residents now number more than 2.11 million, or around 75.4% of the county's eligible population.