COVID-19 Surge Prompts Slight Mask Rule Change, concern for hospital space

Michael McGoughDecember 8, 2022, 10:36 AM

COVID-19 transmission continues to surge in California, along with spikes in other respiratory viruses, as state and local health officials urge indoor masking and additional precautions with end-of-year holidays approaching.

The statewide daily case rate jumped to 19.4 per 100,000 residents, the California Department of Public Health reported in a weekly update Thursday, up 34% compared to one week earlier and more than doubling since the start of November.

Positivity increased to 11.7%, up from 11.1% last week and more than double the 4.6% rate that began November.

CDPH on Thursday reported 4,387 COVID-positive patients in hospital beds statewide, including 487 in intensive care units. Those figures are increases of 16% and 22%, respectively, in the past week; and up 176% and 155%, respectively, since the start of November.

Sacramento County had 200 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds, according to state data updated Thursday, the first time at or above that mark since early August. The county had dropped to as few as 77 coronavirus patients in early November. Sacramento’s latest figure includes 29 patients in ICUs, up from 10 as recently as Nov. 27.

The increases in infections and hospitalizations come as subvariants of omicron known as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 make up a growing share of cases.

The two BQ-family variants combined for 63% of cases nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a weekly update last Friday, up from 55% the previous week.

‘Tripledemic’ concerns as flu, COVID and RSV spike

Sacramento County health officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said the latest COVID-19 numbers, while rising toward levels seen during last summer’s surge, are “much lower” relative to December 2021, when the original omicron variant BA.1 began to take hold.

At the peak of that surge, the county saw more than 650 concurrently hospitalized with coronavirus in January.

However, “with flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), the numbers are much higher than what we were seeing last year,” she said.

“The hospitals are being impacted by the number of cases coming in” for all three viruses, Kasirye said on a Wednesday call with reporters. “Our request is that for people who have mild disease, they should stay away from the emergency room so that we keep those services for those who are really sick.”

Kasirye also urged people to wear masks in public, especially in crowded places and on public transportation, and to get vaccinated and boosted when eligible.

State health leaders this week advised that while RSV numbers have started to taper off following a much earlier start than usual this year, COVID-19 and flu numbers are now rising quickly.

“Taken separately, these infections are manageable,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a news briefing. “But when they all come together, the difficulty posed to the (hospital) system is pretty extreme.”

The four-county capital region of Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo were all placed by the CDC into the “medium” community level last week, exiting the low level for the first time since CDPH changed the mask rules, due to increasing infection and hospitalization numbers.

This means masks are now required at all jails, prisons and shelters in the capital region.

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