San Diego, Imperial Counties have entered 'low' community COVID-19 levels
San Diego County COVID-19 levels have continued their winter decline, public health data shows, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reason to be optimistic.
The federal government’s metric for community levels of the disease, based on local hospital strain and seven-day case rates, showed a new, “low” level for the county when it updated Feb. 9. That means San Diego has joined almost all other California counties in receiving the distinction, which brings with it relaxed recommendations for individuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Public health officials at the local, state and federal levels still urge bivalent booster vaccines and equitable access to tests. But now, instead of focusing on masking for individuals with high risk of severe disease, the CDC gives general tips for all individuals, like avoiding people with COVID-19 and improving ventilation wherever possible.
“The decline of virus levels in San Diego County, and our move to the ‘low’ designation category as judged by the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels, are encouraging,” San Diego County Deputy Public Health Officer Ankita Kadakia said by email. “However, because the virus still remains widespread, people should continue to follow our well-known prevention strategies. They work to protect you, and those around you, and vaccination remains a key component.”
Last week, according to data released Thursday, the county counted more than 1,900 new COVID-19 cases, nearly 200 hospitalizations and 14 deaths related to the disease.
San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten said in a statement that COVID-19 prevention “remains extremely important.”
“The coronavirus is still circulating in our community and can be dangerous and even fatal for some who contract it,” she said. “The best way to prevent getting seriously ill is to get current with your COVID-19 vaccinations, including your bivalent booster.”
San Diego County most recently left the “low” community level late last year. Since then, winter outbreaks have kept the region — and most of California — increasingly aware of the pandemic. Now, only a handful of counties in Northern California have stayed at “medium.” Imperial County also fell to “low” on Feb. 9.
The news comes as San Diego’s city council voted to lift the longstanding employee vaccine mandate and the COVID-19 state of emergency, following similar moves from the state and federal governments. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to end its state of emergency last week as well.
“What we accomplished collectively is regarded as one of the best responses in the nation, with recognition from the federal government, the governor and the state, and many other leaders.” San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione said in a statement. “We set the bar for others to follow.”