‘How widespread the transmission is’: Nevada County officials discuss surge in COVID-19 cases
Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver said Wednesday that the county appears to be seeing “the early stages of a large Omicron surge.”
In a Q&A, Gruver noted that, after peaking at 488 new cases of COVID-19 recorded the week ending in Sept. 3, Nevada County had plateaued for some time at a somewhat lower level. Starting in late September, the county’s weekly case count had stayed below 200 for 15 weeks — until last week, when the county recorded 453 new cases.
After 259 cases were recorded Monday — the highest number of new cases recorded on any single day of the pandemic up to that point, according to the county’s Coronavirus Dashboard — this week’s case count so far had reached 473 by Wednesday, surpassing last week.
“So it’s quite possible that we’ll exceed our previous peak of 488 before this week is done,” said Gruver, adding that the trajectories and case charts from some places further into a surge of the Omicron variant have peaked as high as 300% to 400% of their previous pandemic peaks.
“I think we can expect that we’re early stages here, and we can expect to see significantly more cases over the coming weeks,” he said.
As of Wednesday, according to state data on vaccination status, over 64% of eligible Nevada County residents had received a full original series of vaccines. Of these individuals, 26,291 had also received a booster.
“One of the things that’s concerning about Omicron is that it does appear to more effectively penetrate the initial protection of the vaccine against infection,” said Gruver. He explained that, according to statewide data, people who are unvaccinated for COVID-19 are approximately four times more likely to get the virus than those who have been vaccinated — a decrease from earlier in the pandemic, when unvaccinated individuals had been eight to nine times more likely to have a case.
“That protection increases if you receive your booster, so it’s still an effective tool,” said Gruver. He said this is especially the case given the statewide data showing that those who were unvaccinated were still, as of late December, eight times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and approximately 20 times more likely to die from it than people who had been vaccinated.
Nevada County Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet said Wednesday, “If you are five to six months past your initial doses and you get a booster, that booster almost immediately — you don’t need to wait the two weeks, within just a few days — increases your defenses against Omicron, and it appears to be fairly effective.”
People who are due for a booster, and are able to get one, should do so as soon as possible, said Trochet.
Regarding contact tracing and case investigation, Trochet said Wednesday that, as they have during past surges, public health staff are currently focusing on particular groups in the community considered to be at the highest risk. These include individuals who live or work in “high-risk congregate settings,” such as correctional facilities, shelters, or assisted living facilities, as well as those in health care facilities.
If Public Health has an individual’s phone number or email when the person tests positive, said Trochet, they will receive isolation and quarantine guidance as well as an electronic survey to notify the department if they are in need of assistance — but, at least for the “general public,” should not wait for a call from the department in order to begin isolating.
Blake said Wednesday that COVID-19 case numbers reported by the state, or on the county’s Coronavirus Dashboard, reflect only a portion of the situation.
“Not everybody is getting tested, there’s more significant use of the rapid tests, and of course, those results don’t show up on our dashboard — we’re reporting only the lab-confirmed PCR tests,” she said. “So, don’t underestimate just how widespread the transmission is in our community at this time.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com
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Local schools are adjusting to challenges resulting from Nevada County’s current surge in COVID-19 cases.