The Perfect Enemy | Monterey County COVID-19 rates tick up, considered stable, but ‘we’re still in a pandemic’ - Monterey Herald
April 14, 2024

Monterey County COVID-19 rates tick up, considered stable, but ‘we’re still in a pandemic’ – Monterey Herald

Monterey County COVID-19 rates tick up, considered stable, but ‘we’re still in a pandemic’  Monterey Herald

SALINAS – Though Monterey County COVID-19 case, test-positivity, and hospitalization rates are up from a month ago, those numbers are still considered stable by health officials while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks the county’s COVID-19 community level at low.

“For the month of January and February the rates that we posted on our website are considered stable, and I think that’s just reflective of a variety of things – the current variances circulating, the percent of individuals that are considered fully vaccinated, and the time of year,” said Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno at Wednesday’s media briefing. “So it’s still important for people to remember that we’re still in a pandemic, there’s still COVID out there and anyone eligible to receive their booster should consider getting a booster, and if you have any questions about whether or not a booster’s right for you, you can certainly check with a health care provider.”

According to the Monterey County Department of Public Health, the county’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate on Monday was 5.2 per 100,000, up from 4.5 per 100,000 last week. The county’s test-positivity rate was 8.7%, up from 7.6% a week ago. Hospitalizations numbered 29, up from 24 last week, and total deaths in the county from COVID-19 number 827, up two from a week ago.

A month ago, the Monterey County Department of Public Health reported the county’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate was 4.6 per 100,000, its test-positivity rate was 5.4%, hospitalizations numbered 7, and total deaths in Monterey County from COVID-19 stood at 819.

Moreno said that the data shows individuals who are in the hospital and test positive for COVID-19, whether they are there because of COVID-19 infection or for some other reason and happen to test positive for COVID-19.

During January 2023, unvaccinated people were 2.9 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who were vaccinated with at least a primary series, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ranked Monterey County’s COVID-19 community level at low for the last seven weeks. The COVID-19 Community Level is determined by the higher of the new admissions and inpatient beds metrics, based on the current level of new cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days.

Based on Monterey County’s current level, the CDC recommends staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, getting tested if symptomatic, and wearing a mask if symptomatic, testing positive, or being exposed to someone with COVID-19. It also recommends wearing a mask on public transportation. Individuals may choose to wear a mask at any time as an additional precaution to protect themselves and others. If at high risk for severe illness, consider wearing a mask indoors in public and taking additional precautions.

The CDC reports that of those individuals 5 years of age and older who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Monterey County, 90.1% have received at least one dose and 81.3% have completed their primary series, but only 19.1% have received an updated bivalent booster dose.

As the county, state and nation move out of COVID-19 emergency declarations, Moreno said there are important things to remember to avoid getting ill from COVID-19

“Big picture – we’re still in a pandemic, which is a virus that continues to spread across the globe,” said Moreno. “No matter if you’re here and stay here, or you travel, you’re in a pandemic. So the thing to remember is there are multiple things you can do to protect yourself.”

Moreno stressed staying home if you’re sick, getting fully vaccinated, washing your hands frequently and following public health recommendations.

“If you’re going to be traveling remember wherever you go we’re still in a pandemic. So one thing that’s still recommended but even though probably not required in most countries is to wear a well-fitting face covering” because using public transportation conveyances, such as plains, trains, and buses, could lead to exposure to COVID-19.

According to the CDC, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is constantly changing and accumulating mutations in its genetic code over time. New variants of SARS-CoV-2 are expected to continue to emerge. Some variants will emerge and disappear, while others will emerge and continue to spread and may replace previous variants.

The CDC reports that in the region that includes California, the COVID-19 omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant continues to dominate with 86.3% of cases, followed by BQ.1.1 accounting for 8.6%, BQ.1 with 2.5%, XBB with 1.2% and CH.1.1 accounting for 0.7% of infections in Region 9 which includes California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau.

A month ago, the COVID-19 omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant dominated with 45.8% of cases, followed by BQ.1.1 accounting for 31.0% of cases, BQ.1 with 13.6%, XBB with 4.0%, and BN.1 accounting for 2.0% of infections in Region 9.

Though omicron may cause a somewhat milder infection, its sub-variants are more contagious, can evade immunity conferred by past infection or vaccination, and are not completely harmless for everyone, particularly those who are unvaccinated who are still at risk for severe illness, hospitalization, or death.

Increases in infections are most likely due to a combination of two factors: increased transmissibility and the ability of the variant to evade immunity conferred by past infection or vaccination.

Vaccines reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. People who are up to date on vaccines, including booster doses when eligible are likely to have stronger protection against COVID-19 variants, including omicron. The CDC recommends everyone eligible get vaccinated and a booster shot.

Go to mcvaccinate.com to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment and visit montereycountyvaccines.com/testing-sites to find a testing site. For those without internet access, dial 211, where a trained call specialist will provide confidential assistance.