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San Diego County's COVID-19 hospitalizations surpass 400

Christa Jones, a nurse in the Sharp Grossmont Hospital intensive care unit, takes a moment to comfort a COVID-19 patient. April 20, 2020.
Zoë Meyers
Christa Jones, a nurse in the Sharp Grossmont Hospital intensive care unit, takes a moment to comfort a COVID-19 patient. April 20, 2020.

San Diego County's number of coronavirus cases surged over the weekend, officials said, while the number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 surpassed 400, according to the latest data.

Local health officials reported 1,678 new cases as of Friday, 1,252 Saturday and 2,681 Sunday. The county also reported three additional fatalities linked to COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing its cumulative totals to 414,057 infections and 4,445 deaths since the pandemic began.

The county's COVID hospitalizations increased from 355 Sunday to 404, while the number of those patients in intensive care increased from 92 to 95, according to the latest state figures.

A total of 7,227 tests were reported in San Diego County over the weekend, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 11.3%, up from 7.4% as of Thursday.

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Meanwhile, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorizations for two new oral antiviral medications to treat COVID, supplies of these medications "will initially be very limited and San Diegans should continue to mask up this holiday season to prevent infection," a statement from the county health agency said last week.

The county expects its first shipment of Pfizer's Paxlovid any day now. A second oral antiviral, Merck's molnupiravir, is expected to start arriving in the region soon afterward, according to the HHSA.

A prescription will be required for either drug. Both drugs are to be taken over several days in pill form. Both will be available to patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms who are at risk of progressing to severe coronavirus disease, including hospitalization or death.

"The FDA's emergency use authorization of these new oral antivirals comes at a critical point in the pandemic as we see an increase in cases and a rapid spread of the Omicron variant," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "However, news of the arrival of these drugs does not mean we can let our guard down.

"We need to continue to mask up, especially in crowded indoor spaces, and I urge anyone who has not gotten vaccinated, or is overdue for their booster shot, to get vaccinated as soon as possible," she said.

Once the new drugs arrive in the region, they will initially be distributed through about two dozen pharmacies, pre-selected by the California Department of Public Health. The amount each pharmacy is receiving is "based on community impact from the pandemic."

The state and county will expand distribution to more pharmacy locations as supplies increase.