San Diego County reports 578 new COVID-19 cases, four deaths
Speaker 1: (00:01)
Masking social distancing and urgent please to get vaccinated are with us. Once again, this holiday season San Diego county has reported only a handful of OCN cases, but health officials told the San Diego union Tribune that the current number vastly underestimates the amount of virus spreading in the community. Healthcare workers here and around the country are preparing for a holiday surge in cases just as one vaccine falls out of favor. Joining me with a COVID update is KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:35)
Hey Maureen. Great to be here. San
Speaker 1: (00:37)
Diego county has just six official cases. OFN in hiss way report, but health experts also say it will probably become the dominant strain here by the end of December. What are researchers discovering about this variant?
Speaker 2: (00:51)
Well, there's new information coming out literally every day about this variant, but what we know is that it's much more transmi than the current dominant variant, which is the Delta strain. And we know that it and replicate a lot faster. Now we have heard from health officials that, um, nationwide, you know, the dominant strain here is still Delta. Uh, on Wednesday we heard the CDC say about 96% or so of cases are still Delta, um, higher in some areas like New York city, but they expect it to become the dominant strain. This OAH in the coming weeks, the CDC says, uh, it's one thing, keep in mind too, um, to actually figure out which type of strain of viruses like after somebody gets it, it can take, uh, up to a few weeks to do that. So officials are dealing with a little bit of a lag time there. We also know that researchers have found while maybe more transmissible. Uh, it looks like the severity of the infection is lower. Now
Speaker 1: (01:39)
What's known about the amount of protection vaccines can provide. Again, Atoma Macron
Speaker 2: (01:43)
In terms of preventing hospitalizations and or death, you know, we're hearing, um, that it's less effective. Um, but it's about 70% effective. Um, the, the, the current vaccines. Um, and, and we know that that booster shots offer much more protection against Omicron, which is really good. And we know that, you know, nationwide 60% of seniors have already gotten their booster shots. Those people who are most at risk. Uh, so that's the messaging right now is get vaccinated or get a booster. Um, one thing to note too, Maureen, you know, we could still see infections in people who are vaccinated, you know, breakthrough infections, but keep in mind, the vaccines were designed to prevent hospitalizations and death. Not necessarily infections
Speaker 1: (02:22)
Is Omoro the reason that California has reimposed the mask mandate,
Speaker 2: (02:27)
You know, that was mentioned in part of the reasoning. Um, but basically the state's top doctor says that they've seen a more than 40% increase in California's case rates. And so that's why, uh, they're putting this indoor mask mandate, you know, indoor only. Um, and we know that that's because, you know, an indoor areas where officials have expect a lot of people to have holiday gatherings, uh, that the virus can spread a lot more, especially when there's poor ventilation. Um, and if there's one person that has it, uh, it could just be a whole disaster,
Speaker 1: (02:55)
Have COVID cases or hospitalizations shown an uptick here in San
Speaker 2: (02:59)
Diego cases are fluctuating up and down. But generally I will say that there's been a slight increase since Thanksgiving and the same with hospitalizations. Um, and I will note too, that tho those hospitalization increases the case increases largely in the unvaccinated population. Um, interesting to note two Maureen, still a lot of community outbreaks happening in the county's most recent weekly report. You know, there were 30 in a seven day period. Uh, they happened at school settings, churches, restaurants, different workplace settings, um, and nationwide, we know that hospitalizations are up. Um, and, and unfortunately, you know, something that this pandemic has reminded us, you know, this week we passed 800,000 Americans who lost their lives due to this virus. And CDC says that we're still averaging about 1200 deaths a day. Now
Speaker 1: (03:42)
The news this week is that the CDC decided to recommend the use of the Pfizer and Moderna shots over Johnson and Johnson. Tell us about that decision. So
Speaker 2: (03:52)
The CDC here says that they are following the signs, you know, that they're letting Americans know that they're watching these vaccines, watching the COVID pandemic. Um, and you know, we, we heard about this before that there were some rare blood cloting, um, rare reports of that. Um, they started to see a few more and we're still talking about very rare reports of that. Uh, but just to be safe now they're asking people, um, you know, to get these mRNA vaccines, uh, when we say mRNA, we're talking about Moderna and, and Pfizer. Um, but they are saying, you know, if you, you already have the Johnson and Johnson one, they're asking you to get boosted with those other vaccines. And there's
Speaker 1: (04:25)
Been some movement on treatments for people who come down with
Speaker 2: (04:27)
COVID yeah. You know, monoclonal antibody treatment, something that's been coming up back in the news again, uh, something that we've had here, uh, for months in San Diego, uh, that the federal government really tried ticking up when we saw cases really expanding, uh, a a few few months ago during the last winter surge. Um, we, we know that these monoclonal antibodies, uh, you have to seek them early. So if you get infected, you start to have some symptoms, you can get these monoclonal antibodies, it's a little IV bag that they put into your arm. And they say, you know, within hours, or even within a couple days, uh, you can start, feel, start to feel better. And the point of those monoclonal antibodies is to prevent, you know, serious illness or death, you know, going to the hospital, um, after getting the infection.
Speaker 1: (05:05)
Now this week, a new mask mandate, of course, as we've said, has gone into effect here in San Diego. We've seen scheduled performances of the Nutcracker at the civic theater canceled because of a COVID diagnosis. Uh, I think we all know of, of Christmas parties that have been canceled. Is there any new guidance on holiday gettogethers or travel that people should be
Speaker 2: (05:25)
Aware of? You know, county health officials are asking people to be careful this holiday season. And they're saying, look, uh, we're in a much different position than we were a year ago. You know, about to head into winter. Uh, millions of people are vaccinated. We know much more about how this virus spreads, and we know that large holiday get gathering. Some of the things you were talking about are prime candidates for spread. So they're asking people just to be smart, you know, if we want to continue, um, you know, not having any, you know, restrictions, uh, we need to be smart and we need to be safe to have a, a, a good holiday season.
Speaker 1: (05:56)
I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, and Matt. Thank
Speaker 2: (06:00)
You. Thanks Maureen.
San Diego County public health officials Thursday reported 578 new COVID-19 infections and four additional deaths, increasing the region's cumulative totals to 396,307 cases and 4,399 deaths since the pandemic began.
The number of coronavirus patients in San Diego County hospitals remained unchanged at 359, according to Thursday's data. Of those patients, 92 were in intensive care, two fewer than Wednesday.
A total of 22,529 new tests were reported to the county on Thursday. A total of 4% of all tests returned positive over the past week.
In light of a statewide increase in cases and hospitalizations, and the spread of the Omicron variant, the California Department of Public Health implemented a renewed mask mandate Wednesday. It will remain in place until Jan. 15.
Among the indoor public spaces affected by the mask mandate will be retail stores, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers and government offices that serve the public.
According to a University of Hong Kong study released Wednesday, Omicron infects people around 70 times faster than the currently dominant Delta variant and the original COVID-19 strain, though the severity of illness is likely to be much lower.
RELATED: New California rules end distinction for vaccinated workers
As of Wednesday, more than 5.89 million doses of the three vaccines now available have been administered throughout the region.
More than 2.72 million San Diego County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, around 86.5% of all eligible residents. More than 2.42 million San Diegans, or 76.9% of eligible residents, are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, 601,951 booster shots have been administered in the region.
Also Thursday, an advisory panel to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously voted to give a preferential recommendation to mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna over the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to rare but serious blood clots associated with the latter.
Dr. Isaac See of the CDC said health officials have confirmed 54 cases of the blood clots — nine of which have been fatal — and two additional deaths suspected to be related to the blood clotting issue.
The CDC temporarily suspended approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April while initial reports of the blood clots were investigated, but decided at that time that the vaccine's benefit outweighed the risks.
The CDC's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, is expected to decide whether to accept the panel's recommendation on Friday.