San Diego County's COVID hospitalizations surpass 500
The number of coronavirus patients in San Diego County hospitals surged past 500 Friday, as local health officials urged residents to keep their New Year's Eve celebrations small and safe.
There were 510 people in the county hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Friday, up from 475 on Thursday, according to the latest state figures. Of those patients, 110 were in intensive care, down one from the previous day.
Those numbers come one day after the county reported 5,976 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths associated with the virus, bringing its cumulative totals to 420,089 cases and 4,461 fatalities since the pandemic began.
Amid the dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the more contagious Omicron variant, county health officials urged limiting holiday gatherings to family and close friends.
"San Diegans urged to keep New Year's celebrations small and limit them to family and close friends who are vaccinated and boosted if eligible to prevent the surge of COVID-19 cases that occurred last winter," county officials tweeted Friday.
"We get it. People are tired of the pandemic, but given the record number of cases, the brisk emergence of Omicron and the increased risks that come with gatherings, San Diegans must continue to make decisions to protect themselves and others," Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer, said earlier this week. "If you have New Year's celebrations, limit them to people who live with you and make sure everyone present uses the strategies we know work."
Such strategies include wearing the correct type of mask, limiting group indoor activities and staying home if presenting symptoms or testing positive.
"We all have the power to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Let's use it," Kaiser said.
RELATED: San Diegans are working every angle to get tested for COVID
The county recommends that people worried about COVID-19 infection and others seeking COVID-19 testing only go to a hospital to be tested if they have severe symptoms.
Those with mild COVID-19 symptoms should contact their health care provider via phone or telehealth for guidance.
The San Diego Library gave away more than 20,000 free COVID-19 test kits to the community in just a few days. The library system is completely out of the testing kits.
Antigen testing kits are available at retail stores, but have become more difficult to find as demand continues to grow.
The COVID-19 case rate is three times higher for those San Diegans who are unvaccinated compared to those who have received vaccines — 36 daily cases per 100,000 population compared to 11.4 per 100,000 for the vaccinated. Additionally, the hospitalization rate is four times higher for the unvaccinated and death rate is seven times higher.
Delta remains the most common variant in San Diego County, with more than 17,000 cases reported since mid-April. Omicron has just 91 confirmed cases in the county, but the time period measured began on Dec. 3. There have been no deaths from Omicron reported in the county and one hospitalization, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported.
A total of 28,472 tests were reported in San Diego County as of last Wednesday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 14.5%, up from 12.4% on Tuesday.