With 443 cases last week, Nevada County is experiencing the largest surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic. Cases have increased by 1200% since the week of July 1st.
Similar dramatic increases are being seen across the state. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently reported that California’s statewide case rate more than quadrupled from a low in May. The huge increase in infections is already taxing the healthcare system, with local and regional hospitals heavily impacted.
“There has been a substantial increase in COVID-19 patients coming to the hospital, which have resulted in more admissions,” said Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital President Dr. Brian Evans. “Our winter peak was 15 hospitalized patients, and we have now seen numbers as high as 29 in the last few days. The number of admissions fluctuates on a daily, and even hourly basis. The substantial majority of admissions for COVID are unvaccinated individuals. Nationally, unvaccinated patients make up well over 90 percent of admissions. At Sierra Nevada, we are having a similar experience. If you haven’t received your COVID vaccination, I strongly encourage you to do so.”
According to the State’s COVID-19 hospitalization data, there are currently 25 COVID patients admitted to local hospitals. Evans said that over 90% of those admitted to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital are unvaccinated.
As cases continue to surge throughout State, local officials are urging Nevada County residents to take precautions. “We would be beyond the Purple Tier if we were not Beyond the Blueprint,” said Health and Human Services Director Ryan Gruver, referring to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which state officials abandoned in mid-June.
“The dismantling of the tier system happened to correspond with the introduction of the highly contagious Delta variant,” said Nevada County Public Health Director Jill Blake. “Unfortunately, this may have given people a false sense of security in terms of disease transmission risk.”
Surge in COVID Cases is Linked to Delta Variant
According to state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) is up to 60% more infectious than the Alpha strain, and many more times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain.
Public Health officials first confirmed the appearance in Nevada County of this highly transmissible variant from samples taken in early June. Over 80% of current COVID-19 cases statewide are confirmed to be from the Delta variant.
“This variant is so contagious that people who are fully vaccinated can still get the virus,” Trochet said. “And those who are unvaccinated are at much greater risk.” According to the CDPH, COVID-19 case rates are 600% higher in unvaccinated people than those who are vaccinated.
Breakthrough Cases in Nevada County
Breakthrough cases currently constitute approximately 20% of new weekly COVID-19 cases. Public Health officials consider any infection in a fully vaccinated person to be a ‘breakthrough’ case.
Breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated individuals are not uncommon, given that the vaccines are not 100% effective. Age and underlying health conditions can contribute to a lesser immune protective response to the vaccine. With 28% of Nevada County residents over the age of 65, our community is uniquely vulnerable to breakthrough cases.
While such cases are expected, officials are concerned by recent evidence that those who are vaccinated may be able to spread the virus, even if they have no symptoms.
Vaccines Continue to Be the Best Way to Prevent Serious Illness and Death
All three available vaccines continue to provide a high level of protection against the Delta variant. In fact, the vast majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated. Out of 100,000 Californians, 33 unvaccinated individuals will contract COVID-19 each day, compared to 7 vaccinated individuals, according to the CDPH.
While vaccines have been effective against the Delta variant, the virus continues to mutate as more people get sick. “If we allow people to continue to get infected, we will get a variant that escapes the effectiveness of vaccines,” Dr. Trochet said. “If everybody had gotten the vaccine when it was first available, we would not be here now. But it’s not too late to prevent this from getting worse.”
As families prepare to send kids back to school in the coming weeks, this is particularly important to protect children under 12 who are not currently able to receive a vaccine.
To schedule a vaccination, online at go to MyTurn.ca.gov or call 1-833-422-4255.
Tips to Stay Safe and Limit the Spread
With the recent rise in cases, the Nevada County Public Health Department issued a recommendation on July 29th encouraging vaccinated individuals to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. Both the CDC and the CDPH released similar recommendations the same week.
In California, unvaccinated individuals are required to wear a mask in indoor public places like stores, restaurants, and theaters. Everyone is required to wear a mask in certain public settings, including on public transit and in schools. To learn more about the State of California’s mask requirements, go to https://covid19.ca.gov/masks-and-ppe.
Local health officials are also encouraging residents to rethink attending large gatherings where people may be unvaccinated and unmasked. “I would think long and hard about attending large gatherings,” said Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet. “There are certain groups who are at higher risk, vaccinated or not. It would be better to not to go than to be exposed,” Trochet added.
Those who do decide to attend crowded events should wear a mask to protect themselves and others.