SALINAS — Monterey County’s COVID-19 community level has moved into medium after spending about two months at high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The designation comes as the county’s case, test positivity and hospital rates show declines, and the newly approved COVID-19 booster shots, aimed at omicron subvariants, are ready for widespread distribution.
“Regarding the new boosters, I think anyone who is interested in finding out if it’s available and scheduling an appointment should go to MyTurn, that’s the place where they’ve been going to schedule their regular series and previous boosters, so that’s where people should go if there are any available,” said Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno at Wednesday’s media briefing.
The CDC Thursday endorsed the use of updated COVID-19 booster shots specifically designed to battle the two most prevalent omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5. The green-light from the CDC enables a full roll out of the vaccine boosters for a fall campaign that will hopefully stem the tide of a possible winter surge.
The CDC reports that in the region that includes California, the COVID-19 omicron BA.5 subvariant now makes up 94.3% of cases, the subvariants BA.4.6 and BA.4 account for 3.1% and 2.5% respectively. 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.
The Moderna bivalent vaccine is authorized for use in people 18 and older, while the Pfizer bivalent vaccine is authorized for those 12 and older.
According to the Monterey County Department of Public Health, 600 doses of the Pfizer bivalent COVID-19 vaccine have been ordered but Moreno said he does not know when those will arrive and it may not receive all doses requested.
The CDC’s COVID-19 community levels, ranked as low, medium or high, are based on hospital beds being used by patients with COVID-19, new hospital admissions among people with COVID-19 and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in the area. The calculations used by the CDC are from a week to nearly two weeks prior.
According to the California Department of Public Health, Monterey County’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate on Tuesday was 11.7 cases per 100,000, last week it was 16.6 cases per 100,000. The county’s test-positivity rate this week was reported to be 7.4%, last week it was 8.7%. Hospitalizations from the virus this week numbered 24 on Tuesday, down from 38 a week ago. There have been 762 total confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Monterey County, which is unchanged from last week.
On Aug. 9, the state reported Monterey County’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate was 20 cases per 100,000, the test-positivity rate was 11% and 29 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. There were 760 total confirmed deaths in Monterey County at that time as reported by the state public health department.
The Monterey County Department of Public Health reports that county case and test-positivity rates are slowly declining, and though hospitalizations remain elevated, they are relatively stable.
The CDC reports that of people 5 years of age and older in Monterey County, 88.9% have received at least one dose and 79.7% are fully vaccinated, but the agency also reports that in Monterey County, only 52% of eligible individuals 5 years of age and older are fully vaccinated and have the first booster.
Based on Monterey County’s current community 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 time it takes for an infected person to develop symptoms after exposure is shorter for the omicron variant than for previous variants — from a full week down to as little as three days or fewer, according to the CDC.
Typical symptoms of the omicron variant include sore throat, hoarse voice, cough, fatigue, nasal congestion, runny nose, headache and muscle aches.
Though omicron may cause a somewhat milder infection, its subvariants are more contagious and are not completely harmless for everyone, particularly those who are unvaccinated who are still at risk for severe illness, hospitalization, or death.
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.
Contributed by local news sources