San Diego County COVID cases cross 700,000 mark, but new cases trending downward
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Many health experts believe the Omicron surge has peaked in San Diego, new case numbers while still disturbingly high seem to be trending downward. But even though the latest coronavirus surge may be receding, it's leaving a deadly legacy. 113 deaths are reported in the county's most recent weekly COVID 19 a update. Although the highly contagious Omicron variant is responsible for breakthrough cases in San Diego health officials say an analysis of recent deaths from COVID still show vaccination and booster shots are the best defense joining me as San Diego union Tribune health reporter Paul Sissen. Paul, welcome back.
Speaker 2: (00:41)
Thanks for having me
Speaker 1: (00:42)
Is the number of deaths reported this week, significantly higher than what we've seen here in San Diego.
Speaker 2: (00:47)
It's trending up a bit. You know, we had 113 in the last, uh, week that are in this report that comes out every Wednesday. Uh, look back the week before that it was 69, then 24, the week before that and 34 the week before that. So it's trending upward. It really isn't quite as high. Uh, isn't nearly as high as we saw last year when coronavirus was really causing a lot more severe lung problems. I actually did a little bit of analysis of, of how many people had died each day. And, uh, it looks like the record for the whole pandemic, which the county just confirmed for me this morning. It was January 15th, 2021 when 58 people died on a single day. So, uh, the highest we've seen this winter has been January 10th when we saw 17. So that's still a lot of people and it's still terrible, but it doesn't yet appear to have, uh, been quite as severe as, as we saw last winter.
Speaker 2: (01:41)
And, and that's per probably down to a, to a virus that doesn't produce as severe lung problems as before. I think it's important also to note that the vote is still out on that we still have over 1300 people in our local hospitals who have tested co positive for, uh, for coronavirus and, and are fighting COVID 19 as we speak, you know, and will often fight for weeks in hospitals. So we, we don't really know the whole pattern yet. It takes weeks for, uh, for them to confirm these deaths and report them to the public.
Speaker 1: (02:11)
Yeah. Why does it take weeks to report the deaths from COVID? You
Speaker 2: (02:17)
Know, that's, uh, it's a bit of a mystery to me. Uh, you know, when I've been told and, and, you know, I've asked the folks who run the, the records in this town over and over again, exactly what the delays are. And they generally talk about processing delays. You know, it might take time for a, a hospital or nursing home or a per person dies to, uh, report that information to the county government. Uh, and then the county government has an entire verification process, uh, that they do, uh, where they look at health records and, and other things. And, and I'm, I'm a little cloudy on exactly all the tiny details of that process, but I guess sometimes it can just take them a while to, uh, decide for sure whether or not they want to put any given death on, on the list of those that they can consider to be COVID related. Now,
Speaker 1: (03:03)
We usually hear that most of the people who get seriously ill or die from COVID are over 65 with underlying conditions. Is that the case in this most recent report too?
Speaker 2: (03:14)
Yeah, absolutely. I, I went through and, uh, and looked at these 113 deaths and, uh, the average age there is 74, all, but two of these, uh, latest 113 had other underlying health problems present, uh, besides COVID tragically. We had two on the list though, uh, one who was 28 and one who was 31 both who'd had no other underlying problems according to the, the county's list. Anyway. So
Speaker 1: (03:39)
What about the vaccination status of people who recently died from COVID? Were they vaccinated?
Speaker 2: (03:45)
Sadly, we do not get granular information from the county on each person who died and whether or not they were vaccinated. You know, what we do know is that in general, 46 of these 113 who died and were now last week were fully vaccinated. 67 were not, we don't know how many of those exactly, uh, were boosted, although the county's data does indicate that there have just been two deaths in the past month of people who were boosted
Speaker 1: (04:17)
Well, the recommendation that a booster is the still the best protection for a fully vaccinated person. That's apparently true across the nation as well. Here's CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Wilinski, here's what she had to say about that yesterday.
Speaker 3: (04:32)
Unvaccinated individuals were 97 times more likely to die compared to those who were boosted.
Speaker 1: (04:40)
Now, Paul, you spoke with Dr. Rodney hood who told you, he thinks the message about vaccinations and boosters is getting through to more
Speaker 2: (04:48)
People. Yeah, that's right. Uh, Dr. Hood, um, is a, a very well known physician, uh, in many parts of San Diego, especially, uh, serving San Diego's black community, which has a, uh, you know, throughout the pandemic through this last year, when the vaccine has been available, it has been, uh, more reluctant to get vaccinated. I think it's fair to say that's what the numbers show compared to the population as a whole people, uh, who are African Americans, uh, have just reached a 50%, uh, vaccination rate. And the county's overall vaccination rate is 80%. So, uh, you know, it's, uh, it's pretty clear that, that there has been some reluctance there. Uh, but if Dr. Hood definitely indicated that he's seeing more interest, uh, as more people in the community have direct experience, uh, with this virus, uh, people, you know, a lot of times maybe not hospitalized, but are still ending up, uh, with a, you know, severe case convalescing at home. And, uh, you know, what he said is, you know, if you know, somebody, you know, who's important in your life who has recently gotten sick, you're just significantly more likely to consider vaccination. If you're not already vaccinated,
Speaker 1: (05:57)
Is the county confident that the number of COVID cases is going down in San Diego?
Speaker 2: (06:01)
I think they are. I think if you look, uh, at the cases, by the dates that people got sick, rather than by the, uh, dates that those cases were announced to the public, uh, you can see a pretty solid trend. You know, it looks like we, we pretty definitely peaked in, uh, mid to, uh, early January. And, you know, I think there was one day in there where we had 16,000 positive cases in a single day. I, I think the caveat there as they indicated in their press release yesterday, has to do with all the, um, home tests that are, that are occurring. Those are not reported, uh, to the epidemiology department. So they don't quite have a handle on, on how many home tests are coming positive and yet not being communicated, uh, widely. Uh, but I think overall the trend, you know, we were, we were seeing, uh, numbers, uh, in the five digits for quite a while. And mid-January, and the last few days, uh, the numbers have been under 3000. I think they are pretty confident that we've seen the height of infection in, in Theron wave thus far.
Speaker 1: (07:08)
I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, health reporter, Paul Sissen Paul. Thank you very much. Thank you.
San Diego County is seeing a decrease in positive COVID-19 tests, but a rising death toll had public health officials Thursday remind residents vaccines can save lives as the county reported 2,925 new infections and 25 deaths.
Hospitalizations and deaths are considered a lagging factor, so the above-average deaths due to the virus may be a result of the Omicron spike in December and January. Additionally, actual case counts may be higher due to the increasing popularity and availability of home antigen tests, results of which are not reported to the county.
RELATED: Pandemic milestone: 700k COVID-19 total cases reported in San Diego
In the past week, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency, a total of 29,508 lab-confirmed cases were reported in the region, around half of the COVID-19 cases the week prior — 60,548.
"It's important to note that lab-confirmed cases currently only make up a portion of the actual cases in the region, as more and more people rely on home antigen tests," said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer. "Virus activity in the region is likely a lot higher than confirmed cases reflect, so people should continue to take precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones."
RELATED: Scripps Health predicts omicron surge to wind down by early March
New hospitalizations in the region have started to decrease in the past week, indicating that the peak of infections from the Omicron variant wave may have occurred.
According to the latest state data, the county's hospitalizations from the virus decreased by 24 to 1,105. The total number of people in intensive care beds declined by 11 to 206 on Thursday. ICU beds available increased by 10 to 171.
Meanwhile, the county reported an additional 113 deaths since its last weekly update on Jan. 26. Since the beginning of the year, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 225 San Diegans.
"There is a common misconception that the Omicron variant is not as deadly as prior strains of COVID-19," Wooten said. "The latest data show that since the Omicron variant was first identified, COVID-19 deaths are on the rise, both here in San Diego and across the country.
"While you can still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated and boosted, the vaccine keeps most people out of the hospital and reduces the risk of virus-related deaths," she said.
The latest county data increased the county's cumulative totals to 702,789 infections and 4,735 deaths.
There were 35,675 new tests reported Tuesday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 19.8%, down from 25.2% on Friday. The county reports this figure on Tuesdays and Fridays.
A total of 1,072,823 (51.8%) of San Diego County residents who are fully vaccinated have received a booster shot, according to the HHSA. Boosters are currently available for everyone 12 years and older.
The county has more than 400 vaccination sites including pharmacies, medical providers, clinics and county locations. Appointments can be made and sites can be found by calling 833-422-4255 or visiting the MyTurn or coronavirus-sd.com websites.
Nearly 2.88 million, or 91.4%, of San Diego County residents age 5 and older are at least partially vaccinated and more than 2.53 million, or 80.4%, are fully vaccinated.