COVID-19 infections are rising again in Ventura County, a modest increase that is not likely to come close to rivaling previous surges, a county public health official said Tuesday.
The county reported 424 infections over the last week, a gain of about 26% gain over the previous week. State data released Tuesday show the county’s infection rate rose to 5.8 cases per 100,000 people, compared with to 5.1 cases reported Friday. The metric is calculated on an eight-day lag, meaning real-time numbers could be higher.
“Bottom line, it reminds us that COVID is still in the community,” said Rigoberto Varas, the county’s public health director.
But the numbers remain far lower than they were three months ago. Across the county, only 16 people diagnosed with COVID-19 required hospital care as of Monday, compared with to the omicron surge’s peak of 366 hospitalizations at the peak of the omicron surge in January.
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Hospitalization rates are considered more reliable than the COVID-19 case data because the latter doesn’t include people who have come up positive for the virus in home tests, said Dr. Uldine Castel, a Ventura family physician and chief medical officer of Primary Medical Group.
The current rise was expected and appears driven by the subvariant BA.2, Vargas said. It could be part of a continuing ebb-and-flow pattern and won’t likely be nearly as severe as omicron itself.
“It feels like we’re definitely turning a corner. We’re not out of the woods completely,” he said.
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The rising infections already constitute a new surge in California, said George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at UC San Francisco. But they also show that BA.2 often brings less severe symptoms, resulting in much less strain on the health care system.
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Rutherford urged people to get vaccinated and boosted and called for people 50 and older to get their second booster shots. He said he’ll continue to wear masks on airplanes and in crowded stores.
He cited data released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention that suggests nearly 60% of Americans have already been infected with COVID-19.
“This may be something where everybody gets infected,” he said. “On the other hand if you can get away with relatively mild infection that doesn’t lead to hospitalizations, that’s not too bad.”
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Ventura County officials reported six more COVID-19 deaths bringing the pandemic’s tally to 1,487. Vargas said people are more vulnerable to infection and serious illness if they aren’t vaccinated and boosted or have health conditions that weaken immunities.
“We urge them to take precautions and stay safe,” he said.
Castel said she is “mildly concerned” by the rising transmission and will continue to advocate for masks in health-care settings. But she also thinks it’s possible future variants will be progressively less severe, especially if more people are vaccinated and boosted.