Virus vigilance: Nevada County officials remain watchful, though virus case rate remains low
Special to the Sierra Sun
Nevada County’s Health and Human Services Department is urging caution about the Omicron sub-variant of the coronavirus, which has become the leading type of infection.
The new variant is 75% more transmissible than the original Omicron variant, though both cause less severe illness than the Delta variant, said Jill Blake, director of the county’s Public Health Department.
Blake said that this week three additional specimens from Nevada County were found to be the sub-variant, which brings the total up to seven.
“At this point we have to assume that most of the virus circulating in Nevada County is BA.2,” said Blake of the variant. “In contrast, the number of cases of COVID-19 in the county is steadily decreasing. Our seven-day average case rate as of Tuesday was 2.7 per 100,000, the lowest it has been before June 15, 2021. But this case rate only reflects lab-confirmed (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests and does not include antigen test results.”
Additionally, Blake said current vaccines are effective against both Omicron variants, though she cautioned medical professionals cannot predict the future.
“We do not know if there will be another surge in cases,” she said. ”It is prudent to remain prepared and vigilant, so if there is another surge in cases our public health system can respond promptly. And if there is another surge, all strategies to contain the spread will be considered, knowing that we have many more tools available now than were available in 2020.”
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
The county Public Health Department continues to strongly recommend wearing masks at indoor public spaces to protect from possible infection. Blake said that people with medical conditions or of an age that puts them at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 ought to continue to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves from infection.
And now that the world is two years into the pandemic, there has been significant advances in knowledge of COVID-19 and successful prevention and treatment.
According to the county’s Coronavirus Dashboard, as of Friday there were 24 active cases, two hospitalizations and 136 deaths.
The new Omicron variant is now the dominant coronavirus mutation in the U.S. and it accounts for 55% of all new infections. However, it does not appear to cause more severe illness than the earlier variant. And while existing vaccines are apparently just as potent against it, the unvaccinated are at far greater risk for developing serious infection.
In an effort to safeguard the most vulnerable, the Food and Drug Administration this week approved a second booster vaccine dose for people 50 or older. They can receive the extra dose at least four months after their last vaccination, according to the Associated Press. Those who are severely immune-compromised, including organ transplant patients and children as young as 12, are also eligible.
Blake said the local Public Health Department will provide the second booster once the California Department of Public Health recommends it.
President Joe Biden has urged Congress to approve billions of dollars in more funds to combat COVID-19. He prodded Congress to ante up funding promptly to assure a store of vaccines that has helped the country begin to arise out of the pandemic.
The president got a second booster Wednesday. The extra shot is intended to build up the body’s protection against COVID-19, which has killed more than 975,000 in the U.S. Despite the disease slowing down, there are still 30,000 cases per day, a level last seen in July. Hospitalizations have dropped to 18,000 per day and intensive care admissions fell to under 3,000.
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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