Nevada County seeing increase in COVID-19 cases
Special to the Sierra Sun
The new COVID-19 cases reported this week, as of Wednesday in Nevada County, surpassed recent weekly totals, according to the county’s Coronavirus Dashboard.
Following the first two weeks of December, which each saw close to 160 new COVID-19 cases in Nevada County, the weeks ending in Dec. 17 and Dec. 24 recorded 128 and 115 new cases, respectively.
Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver said in a Q&A Wednesday that, despite it having been a short week with disruptions to the Grass Valley testing site, the county recorded 187 new cases last week — and had recorded 308 so far this week, as of Tuesday.
“I will mention that that is a little bit garbled because we did have days when we weren’t able to report information, so that includes some cases, certainly, from last week,” said Gruver. “But, also, we should note that we’re getting that high number despite the testing site having been closed for a number of days, so it’s significant that we’re already at 308 cases despite it being only two days into the week.”
Another 34 cases were reported Wednesday, according to the county dashboard.
Despite the increase, according to Gruver, Nevada County is as of this week still not seeing the growth in case rate seen statewide.
As of Wednesday, according to the state’s dashboard tracking COVID-19, Nevada County has a seven-day average of 18.4 daily cases per 100,000 residents.
Statewide, as of Wednesday, the average was 88.7 cases per 100,000 residents.
Nevada County’s rate had been higher than the state’s for much of the year, until mid-December, when the state’s rate — as it did in December 2020 — experienced a rapid increase, according to the dashboard.
Gruver described the statewide increase in new COVID-19 cases as a “dual surge,” both a surge in cases fueled by the Delta variant continuing to circulate and the emergence of the Omicron variant.
According to the state’s monthly update tracking variants of concern, as of Dec. 21, 84.1% of sequenced specimens were the Delta variant, while 15.7% were the Omicron variant. Prior to that, the Delta variant had totaled over 90% each month since July.
“Nevada County, we’re likely seeing a mix as well, although I believe we have very few Omicron cases identified yet,” said Gruver. “So our surge is probably related to the Delta seasonality. At least, it has been.”
He noted that, throughout the pandemic, a pattern has played out in which a new development which arises overseas will then be seen in other parts of the United States, such as the coasts or bigger cities which bring in a high level of travel.
“And rural counties like Nevada (County) seem to lag behind,” said Gruver. “That doesn’t spare us, it just puts us on a different timeline than other folks.”
“There is still a lot we do not know about Omicron,” said county Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet in a Wednesday Q&A. “What we are hearing is that it is much more contagious even than Delta, and Delta is much more contagious than earlier variants.”
Trochet added that the Omicron variant is also said to cause more upper-respiratory symptoms — those related to the nose, mouth, and throat — and fewer pulmonary symptoms, and is believed as a result not to cause severe disease to the same degree as previous variants.
“That is yet to be seen in the United States, because, even if it tends to cause less severe disease, if too many people get it, some people will get the severe disease and cause problems for hospitals,” said Trochet.
She added that the measures which have been recommended for COVID-19 mitigation throughout the pandemic “continue to work against Omicron.”
“So, getting boosted helps, the masks, keeping 6-foot distance from others, staying home when you’re sick,” she said. “Letting people know if you test positive so that they can get tested also and they can quarantine if they need to, that helps too.”
According to County Director of Public Health Jill Blake, as of Wednesday, over 26,000 boosters had been received by Nevada County residents, and nearly half of the county’s residents aged 65 or older had been fully vaccinated as well as received a booster.
Blake said in a Q&A Wednesday that the county is responding to an increase in demand for COVID-19 testing.
According to Blake, the testing site at 231 Colfax Ave. in Grass Valley was closed for a number of days last week due to storm activity as well as a lack of electricity. As a result, she said, it was used at around 34% of its capacity that week, after previously being at over 100% of its capacity.
“In the days it has been open since then, we’re seeing over 100% utilization each day as well, I think trying to catch up with rescheduling those people who weren’t able to get tested when they were scheduled to get tested,” said Blake. “And then, I think we’re also seeing increased demand.”
In response, said Blake, the county has submitted a request to the state to extend the site’s hours, increasing its capacity. She said that, beginning Jan. 10, the testing site will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com
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