California virus cases stop falling, governor urges caution
California Governor Gavin Newsom rolled up his sleeve on Wednesday and received a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine, a move he has encouraged others to make as the state heads into the time of year that , in 2020, ushered in the deadliest peak in COVID-19 cases.
Much has changed since then – 88% of those 18 and over in California received at least one dose of a vaccine that did not exist last fall and millions have survived by contracting the virus and have a level of d. natural immunity, although it’s not clear for how long.
Yet millions of people go unvaccinated and new cases and hospitalizations have stabilized after a steady two-month drop that saw California post the lowest infection rate in the country. State models show a gradual increase in hospitalizations over the following month.
Newsom was vaccinated at an Oakland clinic by Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. He said it was painless, then bowed to the celebration. After a 15-minute break to make sure there are no immediate side effects, he warned of the dangers of the upcoming holiday season.
“It’s an incredibly important moment because what tends to happen this time – it happened last year – is that our attention is waning,” Newsom said. “We start to focus on other things. And as a result, we can let our guard down.”
The state appears to have reached what Ghaly called a plateau after its steady decline in cases and hospitalizations since the summer outbreak of the delta variant of the virus.
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Models show that coronavirus hospitalizations increase slightly over the next month, from about 3,800 in hospitals now to about 4,460 by Thanksgiving.
Models predict a gradual decline in the number of ICU patients, but with a worrying upward curve starting in about two weeks. Deaths are expected to continue their inexorable rise, adding nearly 3,000 to a pandemic total of 74,000 by Thanksgiving week.
The rate at which each infected person spreads the disease, known as R-effective, remains below 1 statewide, but has increased from mid-September until another recent drop. Anything less than 1 means the number of people infected will decrease.
This pattern is reflected in most areas of the state, but the rate in the Greater Sacramento area has returned to above 1, meaning the virus will start to spread.
Still, the numbers are a far cry from what the state experienced less than a year ago.
At the end of last year and into January, more than 50,000 new cases were recorded in a single day, compared to an average of about 5,900 new cases per day in the state over the past two weeks. Nearly 21,000 Californians have been hospitalized at the peak and more than 18,500 people have died in January alone.
Other experts expect nothing like last winter’s deadliest wave, though people are spending more time together indoors given the approaching cold, bad weather and vacations .
“I’m not as pessimistic as the state or the governor,” said Dr. Lee Riley, president of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. “The name of the game really is vaccination.
Other places where winter conditions have already set in are not seeing significant jumps, he said. He expects testing systems to be blocked as doctors and patients differentiate between coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses.
“The most mitigating factor is certainly the immunity of the population,” agreed Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern California.
Counterintuitively, he expects the hardest hit and most vulnerable populations to last the best protection because they have developed natural immunity. So areas like Los Angeles, which have experienced disproportionate levels of infections, hospitalizations and deaths, are likely to be protected from a wave.
In contrast, Klausner expects the San Francisco Bay Area, with higher immunization levels but fewer disease, “will potentially be the most susceptible to an outbreak because their immunity … is primarily derived from the disease. vaccination, what we have learned is in fact not as strong and lasting as the immunity acquired after infection.
California is prepositioning millions of small-dose Pfizer vaccines in anticipation of the federal government giving final approval to administer the vaccines to children ages 5 to 11 by the end of next week. About 3.5 million children would be eligible, or 9% of California residents, state epidemiologist Dr Erica Pan said.
The state plans to impose vaccination on schoolchildren, but this is not expected to come into effect until the 2022-2023 school year. In the meantime, California will wait until after this winter to review its school masking requirements, then look at typical indicators such as the number of people vaccinated and the rate of transmissions and hospitalizations, Ghaly said.
Despite the governor’s call for more people to be vaccinated or given booster shots, the state government has failed to enforce its own rules.
Newsom was the country’s first governor to require all state officials to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo weekly tests. The policy went into effect on August 2, but the Los Angeles Times reported this week that many state agencies had ignored the deadline without consequences.
Data from the California Department of Human Resources showed that about half of the state’s 59,000 unvaccinated employees were tested during the first week of October. At the Department of Motor Vehicles, where about 3,600 unvaccinated staff are due to be tested, only 411 of them have been tested, the newspaper reported.
Critics have said the state’s jaded approach undermines the mandate’s purpose, which is to ensure that state agents who interact with the public are protected and protect others.
Newsom said that after the mandate, the number of officials vaccinated rose from 62% to 67%.
“We are doing something on a large scale that has never been done,” Newsom said Wednesday. “So I like the progress we’re making. “