Should California worry about another wave of COVID-19 this winter?

There are ongoing concerns that California could see a resurgence of COVID-19 over the coming weeks and months.

What that might look like, and how dangerous it ultimately might be, remains an open question.

Officials and experts largely agree that California is unlikely to see an increase of The bleak heights of last winter — which has overburdened hospitals with COVID-19 patients and killed tens of thousands statewide — largely because many residents have already been vaccinated.

But the sharp rise in cases during the winter months, when temperatures dip and a busy holiday calendar may tempt residents to travel and socialize without taking proper precautions, is still a real possibility.

“With the number of cases rising in most parts of the state, we cannot let our guard down, nor can we underestimate this deadly virus,” said Dr. Thomas Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health and state public health officer. Monday statement.

Below is a breakdown of where we are now.

What is the source of anxiety in the winter holidays?

Health officials have warned of a possible new spike in COVID-19 cases in California as seniors who got vaccinated last winter — and did not receive a booster dose — may begin To see their immunity diminish, which puts them at greater risk of infection and hospitalization, and as people gather more indoors with colder weather and holidays approaching.

Demand for booster shots has fallen below expectations in California. And every infected Californian is increasingly spreading the coronavirus to more people.

As of Saturday computer models estimated That every infected Californian spreads the virus, on average, to 0.96 other people. If this number rises above 1, that will pave the way for further growth of the epidemic.

Officials hope strict vaccination requirements in some of California’s most populous areas will help slow the spread of cases in the winter. In Los Angeles, a Rule the new city In general, recipients are required to show proof of full vaccination to enter venues such as indoor restaurants, gyms, cinemas, and hair and nail salons. It went into effect on Monday but will not be imposed Even after Thanksgiving.

What is the situation on the ground?

Statewide, infections and COVID-19 in hospitals have stabilized after months of decline.

But in some areas with low vaccination rates, hospital admissions for COVID-19 have risen significantly since mid-October: 35% in San Bernardino County and 27% in Fresno County. Even in Orange County, where vaccination rates are relatively high, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up 29% over the same time period.

San Joaquin Valley reports highest rate of hospitalizations in the state from COVID-19; For every 100,000 residents, the district has 25 people hospitalized with COVID-19, compared to 15 per 100,000 in rural Northern California, 14 in the greater Sacramento area, eight in Southern California, and four in the San Francisco Bay Area.

some experts Say an average of five or more is worrying.

In Southern California, San Bernardino and Riverside counties reported the worst hospitalization rates per 100,000 residents: 15 and 10, respectively. San Diego County is 8th, Orange County 7th, Los Angeles County 6th and Ventura County 4th.

How do we compare to 2020?

On November 8, 2020, California reported a seven-day coronavirus infection rate of 6,200 new cases per day. One month later, the state was reporting 26,000 new cases per day. In early January, the number jumped to over 45,000. The daily reported caseload didn’t consistently drop below 10,000 until mid-February.

Current case rates are about the same as last year at this time. For the seven-day period that ended Monday, California was reporting 5,720 cases of the new coronavirus daily, According to the data compiled by The Times.

Where is California in vaccinations?

Approximately 62% of Californians are fully vaccinated.

However, millions of residents statewide have less protection against the coronavirus. Given the evidence that vaccine immunity can wane over time, officials stress that it’s important for everyone who’s eligible — especially those at risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms — For a booster dose.

Unvaccinated Californians continue to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic, Show country data. Unvaccinated individuals are about seven times more likely to contract COVID-19, are nearly 10 times more likely to need hospitalization, and 18 times more likely to die than those who have been vaccinated.

What is the national image?

The largest concentration of coronavirus cases has expanded from Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming and is spreading as far south, through Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

States with lower vaccination rates, such as Wyoming, where only 44.5% of the population are fully vaccinated, have among the highest rates of infection in the country, as do many states with vaccination rates similar to California’s 61.9%, such as Colorado at 62.1% Mexico is 62.6% and Minnesota is 61.6%, Rutherford said.

“Even in highly vaccinated places like New Hampshire and Vermont, you can see how these northern levels of counties are starting to have outbreaks and more transmission, like in Alaska,” said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and disease expert. Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, said newly In a campus forum.

That’s why Colorado, New Mexico and Minnesota could be warning signs for California’s future, Rutherford said. These three states have weekly rates of coronavirus cases that are three times what California is now reporting. Wyoming is three times worse than California.

Rutherford said Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, relatively speaking, are doing well. But he cautioned that San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have a high level of cases.

These factors all suggest that people who are not immunized should get their vaccines, Rutherford said, including children ages 5 to 11 who just became eligible last week.

People who have recovered from COVID-19 still need to be vaccinated, too. a study Published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention She said COVID-19 survivors who remained unvaccinated were five times More susceptible to infection with the new coronavirus than fully vaccinated people who have never been infected.

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