The Perfect Enemy | COVID in California: California COVID cases jump 36% ahead of expected surge
December 3, 2022

COVID in California: California COVID cases jump 36% ahead of expected surge

COVID in California: California COVID cases jump 36% ahead of expected surge  San Francisco Chronicle

Read Time:12 Minute

Bay Area health officials on Wednesday said a substantial increase in flu activity and other respiratory viruses since the start of the month has led to a spike in emergency department visits and is already putting a strain on health systems across the region. It’s the first year health agencies are facing not just COVID-19, but increased influenza cases and unusually high levels of RSV, a common viral illness that can cause trouble breathing for infants and young children, and in older adults.

California COVID cases jump 36% ahead of anticipated surge

California’s COVID-19 trends have officially reversed ahead of an anticipated winter surge. The state is averaging about 9 new daily cases per 100,000 residents as of Thursday, marking a 36% increase compared to the 6.5 per 100,000 reported two weeks earlier, according to health department data. Before last week, the rate of new cases in California had been on a steady decline since a July peak. The state test-positive rate is also up for the second week in a row, growing to 6.3% compared to 4.5% just two weeks ago.

The pace of growth is similar to what the state saw ahead of previous waves, including the summer BA.5 spike. And it‘s likely that the reported numbers are a severe undercount with so many people taking rapid home tests.Hospitalizations are also rising sharply. There were 2,187 patients hospitalized in California with confirmed COVID-19 as of Thursday, a 19% increase from the prior week and the state’s highest daily total since mid-September.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units Thursday had risen 28% from last week to 287.San Francisco’s average test-positive rate has also jumped to 6.1%, after falling below 5% for the first time since April last month.The trends coincide with a higher circulation of newer omicron subvariants that are overtaking the BA.5 subvariant that fueled a summer coronavirus surge in the U.S., according to federal data.

While newer subvariants such as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are thought to be more immune-evasive, raising the possibility of reinfections, it’s unclear if they cause more severe illness than prior strains of the virus, health experts have said.About 72% of Californians have completed their primary vaccination series, with 13% of those eligible receiving the updated bivalent booster targeting the newer omicron strains of the virus, according to the state dashboard

Africa CDC chief urges more virust testing as cases rise

The head of Africa’s top public health institute is urging authorities across the continent to step up COVID-19 testing amid a concerning rise in new cases in some countries, according to the Associated Press.

The continent of 1.3 billion people saw a 37% rise in new cases over the past week, Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday. Over the last four weeks there’s been an 11% rise in new cases, he said. “COVID is still very much here with us and, in fact, when we look at the numbers we see that there are some member states that are actually going into a new wave and we are monitoring that closely,” he said. “When we have a clear analysis, next week we will be able to report to you if the new waves are holding or if those have been quickly brought under control.”

Expanded airport surveillance program detects an influx of XBB

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday announced it has expanded its airport genomic surveillance program, which tests international travelers to detect new variants entering the country. The service — which is already up and running in SFO, JFK, Newark-New York and Atlanta — is now available at Washington Dulles International Airport.

More than 60,000 people have voluntarily participated in the program from November 2021 through September 2022, with an average of 1,100 participants per week, per the CDC. Based on the latest data, there is a growing proportion of the omicron XBB subvariant arriving in the U.S., making up about 13% of the samples collected in the most recent week.  But the national health agency has not yet flagged it as a variant it is monitoring nationwide.

Global cases up for first time in 4 months, WHO says

Global coronavirus cases increased last week for the first time in four months, the World Health Organization reported on Wednesday. Since mid-July, the U.N. health agency reported that cases were either stable or on the decline. But the trend appears to be reversing now, as the number of infections worldwide rose to 2.3 million infections in the latest tally. The five countries reporting the most cases were Japan, South Korea, Germany, China, and the U.S., where cases increased by 10% over the past two weeks after falling steadily since August, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Japan’s daily COVID-19 cases topped 100,000 for the first time in two months as the country reopened to visitors from other nations, according to Kyodo News

CDC forecasts virus hospitalizations to rise for first time since July

For the first time since July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national ensemble predicts that the number of new daily confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions will likely increase, with 2,000 to 9,000 new confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions likely reported on Dec. 9. The health agency’s ensemble forecast for virus-related hospitalizations in the U.S. for the past four months has shown numbers to either remain stable or steadily decline. Some of the biggest increases have been reported in HHS Region 9.

Virus fight in China leads to 250,000 quarantine beds, iPhone production delays

China’s southern metropolis of Guangzhou announced plans Thursday to build quarantine facilities for nearly 250,000 people to fight surging coronavirus outbreaks even as the national government tries to reduce the impact of anti-disease controls that have confined millions of people to their homes. Guangzhou, a city of 13 million people and the biggest of a series of hot spots across China with outbreaks since early October, reported 9,680 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the Associated Press.

That was about 40% of the 23,276 cases reported nationwide. China’s infection numbers are low compared with the United States and other major countries, but the ruling Communist Party is trying to isolate every case. Repeated closures of neighborhoods, schools and businesses are fueling public frustration and clashes with health workers. A spike in infections has led officials in areas across China to confine families to cramped apartments or order people into quarantine if a single case is found in their workplace or neighborhood. The Communist Party promised last week to cut the cost of anti-virus controls by reducing the length of quarantines and changing other rules. However, party leaders said they will stick to the “zero COVID” strategy at a time when other countries are easing restrictions and trying to live with the virus. Access to a Zhengzhou industrial zone that is home to the world’s biggest iPhone factory was suspended this month following outbreaks. Apple Inc. said deliveries of its new iPhone 14 model would be delayed

Home births rose in pandemic’s second year

The number of people giving birth at home in the U.S. rose slightly in the second year of the pandemic, according to a CDC report released Thursday.

“The percentage of U.S. home births rose from 1.26% (45,646) in 2020 to 1.41% (51,642) in 2021, an increase of 12% and the highest level since at least 1990,” the report’s authors wrote. 

Why the number of at-home births increased during the pandemic wasn’t immediately clear, but the increase corresponded with a time in which vaccines weren’t yet widely available, suggesting some people giving birth may have been reticent to go to the hospital. 

‘Swarm’ of variants is driving up California COVID cases. Is this the next surge?

New coronavirus subvariants are rapidly spreading across the country and California, overtaking the strain that led to a U.S. summer wave. Cases have begun to tick upward statewide after a monthslong decline, just ahead of the holidays and a cold weather front that will drive people indoors.

Last winter, the omicron surge took off during the holiday season and peaked in the second week of January, when an astonishing 18,000-plus cases per day were being reported in the Bay Area — nearly four times higher than the peak of the previous winter wave.

While a rise in cases may be expected this winter, public health experts voiced optimism that any wave won’t be as severe as surges the past two winters. The uncertainty stems in part from dealing with an unpredictable virus that continues to evolve, giving rise to new emerging offshoots. Read more here about COVID cases in California. 

UCSF’s Wachter discusses three strategies for safe holiday gatherings

With a “tripledemic” of respiratory viruses — COVID-19, flu and RSV — already hitting parts of the U.S., safely gathering for the holidays may prove challenging once again. On the latest “In the Bubble” podcast, guest host Dr. Bob Wachter of UCSF asked Dr. Caitlin Rivers, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, about steps people can take to better protect vulnerable family members during Thanksgiving. Ventilation is key, she said. “It’s November. It’s chilly in a lot of places. But if you can crack a window, if you can get that air circulating, that will reduce the risk from all three viruses,” Rivers advised. “Also, hand-washing. I think we‘ve all turned our nose up at hand-washing after airborne transmission became a more prominent part of COVID-19 transmission. But let’s not give it up completely.” She added that coronavirus testing should also be a part of the mitigation strategy. “Testing for COVID-19 can help to reduce the risk that someone infectious from that virus comes to your dinner.” She said while no plan is foolproof, any additional layer of protection should help. “We’re all about down risk right now, not eliminating it entirely.”

CDC report finds COVID-19-related death rate mostly stable since ‘rapid reduction’ in March

The U.S. death rate from COVID-19 decreased “substantially” in March and has since hovered around resulting lower levels, though the virus remains among the leading causes of death in the country, according to a new review of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. averaged fewer than 22 deaths per 100,000 people, for all age groups, from April to September this year, the longest interval of the pandemic to date with that low of a mortality rate, the CDC found. However, there were still 2,000-4,500 COVID-19-related deaths reported weekly during that period.

The CDC also found a decrease in COVID-related mortality rates for all racial and ethnic groups in early 2022 and that the risk of COVID-19 patients dying in hospital declined among all adult age groups from March-August 2022 compared to the previous nine months. While COVID-19 remained the underlying cause of death for most COVID-related deaths, a higher percentage of such deaths listed COVID-19 as a contributing cause from January-September 2022 compared to earlier in the pandemic, per the CDC.

Adults age 65 and older continue to display the highest COVID-19-related mortality rates. Starting this January, the proportion of such deaths in people under 65 began to decline, and it accounted for less than 15% of deaths from July-September 2022, despite those people making up about 84% of the U.S. population, the CDC found. Men continue to have a higher COVID-related mortality rate than women, with a likelihood of death ranging from 1.2-1.7 times higher during from March-September this year.

Vaccination status also had an effect: In August 2022, rate of COVID-19-related death for unvaccinated U.S. adults was three times higher for ages 18-29, five times higher for ages 30-49 and six times higher for ages 50-64 than among adults in the same age group who’d received a primary vaccine series, per the CDC. For ages 65-79, risk of death was nine times higher among unvaccinated adults than for those who received at least the primary series, the CDC found.

Despite fewer COVID-19-related deaths reported to date in 2022, provisional data indicates it remains the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., the CDC said. Only heart disease and cancer caused more deaths in the U.S. than COVID-19 in the past two years, per the organization. Factors impacting COVID mortality rates include immunity in the population from vaccines and prior infections, introduction of treatments and changes to the virus, the CDC said. 

Permanent COVID memorial planned in L.A.

Los Angeles may soon install a permanent COVID-19 memorial, city officials said Wednesday as they announced the launch of the COVID-19 Pandemic Reflections Initiative. “The COVID pandemic has impacted all of us in a profound way, including through the loss of family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a news release. “This memorial will provide us with a physical space where we can honor and remember our loved ones.” First steps for the project include a citywide survey and community listening sessions, according to the release. “In recognition of the many lives lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this initiative will give the residents of Los Angeles the opportunity to honor the people we loved and to reflect, remember, and instill hope as we move forward in our recovery and healing,” said Daniel Tarica, interim general manager of the Department of Cultural Affairs.

United expects busiest travel day since start of pandemic

United Airlines expects to carry 5.5 million passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period, marking a 12% increase over last year, Reuters reports. The carrier said Wednesday it will operate more than 3,700 flights per day on average between Nov. 18-30, accommodating as many passengers as it did over the same period in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline forecasts that Sunday, Nov. 27, will be its busiest day with more than 460,000 passengers.