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San Diego County reports 14,437 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths

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Mike Damron / KPBS
A COVID-19 testing site in City Heights on Jan. 3, 2022.

San Diego County reported 14,734 new COVID-19 infections and 11 deaths in its latest data as an "unprecedented" rate of cases and hospitalizations continue to roll in.

Thursday's data increased the county's cumulative totals to 558,356 cases and 4,540 deaths since the pandemic began.

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COVID-related hospitalizations in San Diego County increased by 76 to 1,226 on Thursday, which follows a record-setting weekend when hospitals struggled to keep up. Hospitalizations have increased at a steeper rate than when the county reached its peak — 1,725 on Jan. 11, 2021, according to the latest state figures.

Of the hospitalized patients reported Wednesday, 173 were in intensive care, up four from the previous day.

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According to state data, COVID-19 hospitalizations more than tripled in the past 30 days.

Some COVID-positive patients may have been hospitalized for other reasons and had their COVID status discovered by hospital-mandated tests.

A total of 12,563 new COVID-19 cases were reported by the county Monday, along with 17,507 on Sunday and 19,009 on Saturday. The previous daily high in cases was 8,313 on Jan. 2.

The county Health and Human Services Agency reported the record numbers — a third of which came from reporting delays — as local hospitals were "struggling with staffing amid hundreds of their employees contracting the virus and being unable to report to their shifts," a statement from the agency read.

There are nearly 600 health care workers at UC San Diego Health out sick because of COVID-19, CEO Patty Maysent said Tuesday. Additionally, the number of children testing positive for COVID-19 at Rady Children's Hospital set a record Monday, according to Dr. John Bradley, the director of infectious diseases at the hospital.

"We expected to see a surge after the holidays, especially with the arrival of the more transmissible Omicron variant, but these numbers are unprecedented in this pandemic," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "The virus is everywhere in our community. We must all step up now and re-dedicate ourselves to the precautions that we know work."

Wooten reminded residents that the Omicron variant can be dangerous or deadly, despite what she said is a common misconception.

"Hospitalizations are increasing amid this current surge and it's important to understand that hospital admissions are a lagging indicator," she said. "We expect hospital admissions to increase even further in the coming weeks as people who are currently ill develop more severe symptoms."

To help alleviate the strain on local hospitals and prepare them for the expected surge in admissions, the HHSA recommends that only people needing emergency care should go to a hospital emergency department.

Additionally, at this time, COVID-19 testing should be reserved for those at higher risk of serious illness and people who need it the most. People should not go to an emergency department for testing with no or mild COVID symptoms, she said.

There were 54,809 new tests reported Thursday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 28.8%, up from 28.1% on Wednesday.