SALINAS – Monterey County had an early winter surge of COVID-19 cases that in the past few weeks have been stable and seem to be trending down as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now ranks the county’s community level at low.
“We have had a little bit of increase in transmission during this winter, fortunately we didn’t see nearly the number of cases that we have in prior surges,” said Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno at Wednesday’s media briefing.
According to the Monterey County Department of Public Health, the county’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate on Tuesday was 4.8 per 100,000, down from 6.3 per 100,000 last week. The county’s test-positivity rate was 6.6%, compared to 7.9% the previous week. Hospitalizations numbered 18, last week it was 22 and total deaths in the county from COVID-19 number 809, up three from last week.
A month ago, the Monterey County Department of Public Health reported the county’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate was 7.8 per 100,000, its test-positivity rate logged in at 6.9%, hospitalizations numbered 26, and deaths stood at 798.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monterey County’s COVID-19 community level ranks at low once again. 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.
“All we can do is describe what we see and then go on to continue to encourage people to take steps to try to keep the transmission level as low as possible by getting vaccinated which includes the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine,” said Moreno.
The CDC reports that of those individuals 5 years of age and older who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Monterey County, 89.8% have received at least one dose and 81.2% have completed their primary series, but only 17.5% have received an updated bivalent booster dose.
“We recommend that individuals follow CDC guidance to try to keep the transmission of COVID-19 in our community as low as possible and the guidance is based on evidence that is available that shows that the COVID-19 vaccines, including the bivalent booster, can still reduce a persons likelihood of getting COVID and if they do get COVID-19, it reduces the likelihood that they will have a serious illness or be hospitalized or even die from COVID-19,” said Moreno.
The bivalent COVID-19 vaccines include a component of the original virus strain to provide broad protection against COVID-19 and a component of the omicron variant to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant.
The CDC reports that in the region that includes California, the COVID-19 omicron BQ.1.1 sub-variant dominates with 38.8% of cases, followed by BQ.1 accounting for 27.5%, XBB.1.5 with 15.85%, XBB with 6.5% and BN.1 accounting for 3.5% 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 BQ.1.1 sub-variant dominated with 36.1% of cases in Region 9, followed by BQ.1 with 33.3%, BA.5 with 9.5%, XBB with 8.2%, and BN.1 accounting for 4.5% of infections in Region 9.
Though Region 9 is currently dominated by BQ.1.1, XBB.1.5 has been the dominant strain in the majority of the U.S.
“Early reports show that XBB.1.5 may be more contagious than previous variants,” said Moreno in a previous media briefing. “Regardless of the characteristics of the variants, the recommendation continues to be to get fully vaccinated and receive a bivalent booster, stay home if you are sick and get tested and treated if you are positive for COVID-19.”
Though omicron may cause a somewhat milder infection, its sub-variants are more contagious, have the ability to 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.
Moreno said that the Monterey County Department of Public Health encourages people to follow the guidance that is coming out of the CDC, and recommended by the FDA on vaccines and treatments as well, to reduce the severity of illness here in Monterey County.
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.