Final December 15, as the unique Omicron wave gained critical momentum, California reinstituted a statewide indoor masks mandate. State Public Well being Officer Tomás Aragón mentioned the transfer was “so as to add a layer of mitigation because the Omicron variant, a Variant of Concern as labeled by the World Well being Group, elevated in prevalence throughout California, america, and the world and unfold way more simply than the unique SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant.” On the time, the state’s 7-day common fee of check positivity was 2.6%.
As we speak, the state is beset by one other Variant of Concern known as BA.5, a sublineage thought to have a progress benefit a minimum of 4 occasions that of the unique Omicron from December. CDC information signifies that, on the finish of final week, BA.5 and sister subvariant BA.4 accounted for about 68% of recent instances within the area comprised mainly of California, Arizona and Nevada. BA.5 accounts for the overwhelming majority of these instances and appears set to push out all different variants within the coming weeks.
California’s present 7-day check positivity fee is 16.7%. That provides the present summer time surge the doubtful honor of getting the second-highest fee of check positivity the state has seen through the pandemic. It’s second solely to the very peak of final winter’s Omicron wave. And it’s nonetheless going greater.
Since BA.5’s elevated progress fee is essentially attributable to its capacity to evade the safety supplied by earlier an infection and — to a lesser extent — the safety supplied by vaccination, the state can’t depend on vaccination in the identical method it might with the unique Omicron wave.
What’s extra, the three most regarding metrics to well being officers — hospital and ICU beds occupied by these contaminated with Covid and the common variety of each day Covid deaths — are already far above the place they have been earlier than Christmas.
The director of public well being within the state’s most populous county, Los Angeles, mentioned yesterday that she expects her county will transfer into the CDC’s “Excessive” degree Covid designation subsequent week on account of the rising numbers. If L.A. stays in that class for 14 days, the county will reimpose a masks mandate in public locations.
Throughout the state, 35 of California’s 58 counties are additionally so designated by the CDC. Few of them have spoken about reinstituting masking. Nor has the state.
One seeming shiny spot within the area’s state of affairs dims on nearer inspection.
Reported instances over the previous month, whereas steadily rising, haven’t jumped at almost the speed they did in December. The issue is, reported check outcomes have dropped dramatically since December as extra Californians use at-home kits, the outcomes of which aren’t captured in official reporting.
Due to that, White Home COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha informed Lester Holt on NBC’s Nightly Information final night time, “There’s no query in my thoughts that we’re lacking a overwhelming majority of infections proper now.”
Even with the restricted check reporting, the quantity recorded in California right now — 13,000 new instances — is already 44% above the roughly 9,000 instances reported on December 15 of final yr. That, coupled with the Golden State’s sky-high check positivity and a way more infectious variant, doesn’t bode properly.
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