‘Continuing to keep our eyes on it’: Nevada County officials discuss decreased COVID-19 cases, continued testing and vaccine availability
Nevada County is in a significantly better place in regards to COVID-19 than it was a few weeks ago, according to Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver.
Regarding the Omicron surge’s late January peak in the county, Gruver said in a Q&A Wednesday, “Since then, we’ve declined significantly, and great news to report that last week we saw our lowest number of cases since July of 2021.”
Last week, the county recorded a total of 55 cases. For comparison, the county saw as many as 488 cases during one week in September as the Delta variant surged, and 1,642 cases during the week ending in Jan. 28.
Gruver noted, however, that this week’s total had reached 64 as of Wednesday.
“So, (we are) definitely continuing to keep our eyes on it,” he said. “With the last two surges, we saw Nevada County plateau at a level that was elevated compared to the rest of the state, so (we are) continuing to take a look at our data and be cognizant of whether that will occur again this time.”
County Public Health Officer Dr. Sherilynn Cooke said Wednesday that “the potential for a surge is still there, we’re not completely beyond this yet, but I can’t say that there is an imminent surge going on.”
Nevada County identified its first case of the BA.2 variant after a COVID-19 specimen from the week of Feb. 22 was sequenced, county Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet said last week.
Cooke said Wednesday that the county has identified that single case, but added the example that Yolo County, “where they have far more genome sequencing done,” has found approximately 30% of its cases to be the BA.2 variant.
“I think, basically, the best strategy is we have to be prepared,” said Cooke. “We have to be vigilant.” She said that precautions may be prudent despite not being mandated, noting that both the state and county continue to strongly recommend masking in settings where it is no longer required as of last month.
Nevada County Public Health Director Jill Blake said Wednesday that the state plans to maintain some of its critical resources, “even though there is sort of this lull in the pandemic.”
The county’s COVID-19 testing sites in Grass Valley and Truckee, for example, are almost entirely state funded, said Blake, and may be reconfigured as the state balances currently decreased demand and utilization with preparedness for potentially increased need in the future.
“We always look at whether or not we should adjust our days of operation, or hours of operation, to try to get it as close to utilization as possible,” said Blake. “But, the state is now looking at converting those testing sites from being primarily PCR test sites to becoming antigen test sites, so it will be a place where people can go and get rapid tests and PCR tests will be an option.”
According to Blake, this strategy is meant to make the sites more useful while case rates and transmission are down, while keeping the testing resources in place in case of a future uptick.
Trochet recommended Wednesday that people continue to wear a mask, or if someone chooses not to, to “keep them in reserve in case you need to again.”
Trochet added that COVID-19 vaccines remain available and effective even considering the Omicron variant. Vaccine providers can be found through MyTurn, she said.
“You hear about decreasing effectiveness of the vaccines, and that’s true with every variant, but still, being fully vaccinated and having a booster if indicated, does protect you from severe disease, protects you from hospitalization, and from death,” she said.
According to state data, from Feb. 21 to 27, unvaccinated people were 5 times more likely to get COVID-19, 7.3 times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus, and 14.5 times more likely to die from it than those who were vaccinated and boosted.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com
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