Omicron could threaten essential services

Disruption of essential services is the biggest threat to Marin posed by the omicron variant, the county public health official said Tuesday.

Hospitals, long-term care centers and schools could find it increasingly difficult to maintain staffing levels due to the exceptionally high number of people expected to be infected, Dr Matt Willis told the council county monitoring.

“Most of us will experience the infection personally or in our immediate family or social circles,” Willis said. “This is the reality of omicron.”

Marin County saw its largest single-day increase in COVID-19 infections on Dec. 28, when 412 cases were reported in one day. That shattered the previous single-day record of 172 last January. Over the past seven days, the county has averaged 313 new cases of COVID-19 per day.

“This matches what is seen around the world where omicron has become the dominant variant,” Willis said.

Case rates among unvaccinated county residents are about eight times higher than among vaccinated residents. Particular emphasis is placed on obtaining booster doses for all who are eligible.

“This booster dose indeed protects against the infection itself and, more importantly, against serious illness,” Willis said.

The California Department of Public Health reported more than 230,000 new cases on Tuesday, more than double what was reported the previous day.

The holiday data brings the closely watched seven-day average of new daily cases in California to a record high of 45,466 daily cases – almost double the data available the previous day. That figure looks set to top 50,000 average daily cases as more data is confirmed and the highly contagious omicron variant continues its staggering spread.

In highly vaccinated San Francisco, an average of 829 people test positive each day, more than double the peak last winter, and there are more than 95 cases per 100,000 residents in the city.

“We believe the height of this push is upon us,” city health director Grant Colfax said Tuesday at a news conference.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was allowing booster shots using the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15. Before these booster shots can be given, this approval must be reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of California. of Public Health and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

As of Tuesday, there were 13 people in hospitals in Marin with COVID-19, including three in intensive care. Due to Marin’s high vaccination rate, fewer residents who contract COVID-19 become seriously ill. As a result, the county decided to use hospitalization rates as a key indicator in determining pandemic policy.

Willis said, “There’s a nuance to even looking at hospitalization rates.”

People entering local hospitals for any reason are being tested for COVID-19. Willis said as the prevalence of infection in the community increases, more people in the hospital will test positive, but only some of them will be there because COVID-19 made them sick.

“Right now, between one-third and one-half of people in Marin County hospitals with COVID-19 aren’t there because of a COVID-19 infection, but all of them are counted in the eyes of the state. like COVID-19 infections,” Willis said. .

Willis said data from South Africa, the UK and other parts of the world where omicron became the dominant variant early demonstrate that omicron is a less virulent variant.

He said that in the UK hospitalization rates for omicron patients were three times lower than for delta variant patients. One in 15 omicron patients required intensive care, compared to one in five for delta patients.

Willis said other studies show that some of the mutations in the omicron variant allow it to reproduce more successfully in the throat and upper respiratory tract and less successfully in the lower respiratory tract. When people die from COVID-19, it is most often from pneumonia and the effect on the lower respiratory tract.

Consistent with these studies, Marin residents who were infected with omicron since December 20 reported sore throat as the dominant symptom as opposed to shortness of breath, which was the most common symptom reported with previous variants.

Willis said that despite the less lethal nature of omicron and the county’s 93% vaccination rate among eligible people, “we could still see an increase in the number of people entering hospitals just because of the raw number of people infected”.

He reminded the public that the CDC has shortened guidelines on how long people infected with COVID-19 should self-isolate and people exposed to the disease should quarantine.

“Modified isolation and quarantine are important because they shorten the amount of time an infected person has to be off work,” Willis said.

Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.

Michelle J. Kelley