Sonoma County is seeing a decrease in COVID case rates

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, September 6, 2021

covid testing

People get tested for COVID-19 in Cloverdale's downtown plaza on Dec. 17, 2020. (Photo by Cherie Kelsay)

 

Sonoma County COVID-19 case rates are stabilizing and decreasing according to recent data revealed during a Sept. 1 community COVID briefing with local health officials.

As of Sept. 1, Sonoma County’s case rate is 19 per 100,000 people per day. The case rate for fully vaccinated individuals is just 4.7 per 100,000 people per day, however, the case rate for unvaccinated individuals is 23.9.

The county’s overall testing positivity is 4.8% and the testing positivity in the lowest quartile of the healthy places index is at 5.8%.

“A promising trend that we do see is that we appear to see case rates stabilizing and decreasing,” said Kate Pack, a Sonoma County epidemiologist.

Pack noted that one of the county’s health systems experienced some delays in transmission of lab data, however, the issue has been resolved and some of that new information should be coming in later this week.

“We may see this curve adjusted a little bit as we backpopulate that data, but even factoring that in, starting about Aug. 9 we begin to see a downward trend in our case rates,” she said.

Since the start of school in mid-August, there have been 201 school-related cases. This includes 107 elementary school cases, 65 high school cases, 28 middle school cases and less than five cases in special education schools.

The total includes 182 student and 19 staff cases.

According to county data, the majority of cases, 53%, report unknown exposure. Twenty-six percent of cases are household or other close contacts. Fifteen percent are cases of documented, reported, or likely on-site exposure and 3% are community exposures and transmission on sports teams.

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said cases are still relatively low for schools.

“Only 10 cases were reported as in-school transmission. We know that there will be more cases this school year since the virus spreads more easily in congregate settings, but for a county with more than 66,000 students in public schools, our case numbers are quite low so far,” Mase said. “We would like to keep them low. That is why we issued new guidance for schools, including a recommendation for masking when outdoors and a strong recommendation against overnight excursions such as field trips.”

Universal masking among students and staff also helps to reduce the spread of COVID, especially among those who are unvaccinated.

Mase said the county will be issuing guidance for youth sports, including a requirement to wear masks indoors for all participants, coaches, personnel and spectators regardless of vaccination status.

Masks are also required for both competitions and practice as well as during conditioning, weight lifting, physical education and other indoor activities.

With measures such as these in place, Mase said she is hopeful that Sonoma County students can have a safe and productive school year. She reiterated that the best tool against COVID and to protect the community is the vaccine.

Testing also plays an important role.

According to Mase, COVID-19 testing in Sonoma County has increased 88% in the past month. The current testing volume is 494.7 tests per 100,000 people.

In terms of COVID related hospitalizations, as of Aug. 31, 75 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 19 were in the intensive care unit. The majority of hospitalizations remain among the unvaccinated, according to Pack.

Pack said hospitalization rates are increasing in 50- to 64-year-olds and in 18- to 49-year-olds and looking since June 1, deaths among the unvaccinated are trending younger than vaccinated deaths.

Dr. Chad Krilich, the chief medical officer for Providence Sonoma County, said his main message is to get vaccinated.

“If you are vaccinated, please have a conversation with anyone who you know is unvaccinated and to share with them what your experience has been,” Krilich said during the Wednesday briefing. “August was a month for our hospitals where we had a surge of COVID patients. The number of patients who are in the hospital compared to what we saw in March and July is twice of what we had seen previously.”

He said in looking at the numbers of patients in the hospital with COVID from January to today, 89% of those patients were not fully vaccinated.

Sonoma County Vaccine Dr. Chief Urmila Shende and Krilich said the vaccine is safe, effective, free and widely available.

Krilich said that if you are immunocompromised and are vaccinated, you should reach out to your primary care physician about getting a third vaccine if it has been 28 days since your last Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

According to the county’s most recent data, 74% of the county’s eligible 12 and older population is fully vaccinated with another 8% that has been partially vaccinated. Eighteen percent of the county’s eligible population is unvaccinated.

“We can beat COVID. It is going to require collective action by our community, which includes getting vaccinated, making sure you are wearing your mask and in addition to washing your hands, getting tested if you become symptomatic,” Krilich said.

To learn about how to get vaccinated or tested, visit https://socoemergency.org/emergency/novel-coronavirus/.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org