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Omicron hits hard: Nevada County officials discuss surge in COVID-19 cases

Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver identified the county’s increased case rate as part of “the early stages of a large Omicron surge” during a press conference Wednesday.

Gruver said the county’s case rate peaked at 488 for the week ending Sept. 3. Since, the county’s weekly case count remained 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.

Placer County recorded 255,128 people who have been fully vaccinated. The county saw a 6,000 case increase over the last week.

VACCINATION

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, 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.

CONTACT TRACING

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, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com

Rebecca O’Neil contributed to this report

BY THE NUMBERS

NEVADA COUNTY

(As of Thursday morning)

Number of COVID-19 cases: 11,192

Number in western county: 8,418

Number in eastern county: 2,774

Number of active cases: 620

Number hospitalized: 12

Number of recoveries: 10,450

Number of deaths: 122 (one in the last three weeks)

PLACER COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 47,096

Number of recoveries: 39,705

Number of deaths: 499 (seven in the last week)

As case investigations are conducted and more information is gathered, case counts may change or even decrease due to residents’ locations being confirmed in nearby counties. The number of laboratory tests reported to the Public Health Department is approximate

Health officials address COVID surge at Good Morning Truckee

Officials from the health sector, Truckee, and Placer and Nevada counties came together at this week’s Good Morning Truckee forum to provide several updates as the community heads into 2022.

The spike in positive COVID-19 cases took center stage at the meeting following a week in which events and after-school activities for students were halted, and then resumed with greater restrictions in place.

Tahoe Forest Health System President and CEO Harry Weis said the hospital, which serves western Washoe County, eastern Placer County, and eastern Nevada County, has seen a surge of roughly five times the number of positive tests.

“That’s pretty remarkable as we look at the last 23 months,” said Weis. “Our health system has been very, very busy.”

Judy Newland, Tahoe Forest Health System chief operating officer, said the area has also seen a massive increase in the positivity rate for tests, which have jumped from around 5% to more than 30%. She added that many of the positive tests are coming from people experiencing only cold-like symptoms.

“It’s really, ‘I just have a runny nose,’ and those individuals are coming back positive,” said Newland. “If you have a runny nose, don’t just assume it’s a cold and please make sure you wear your mask.”

Tahoe Forest Health System only tests people who are symptomatic. The surge in cases has also resulted in more than 500 calls per day coming in to set up COVID-19 tests, according to Newland. Staffing-wise, Newland said 75 employees at the hospital are out with positive COVID-19 tests, while dozens more are also missing work as the quarantine.

The Omicron variant has been tied to the global surge in COVID cases, but locally, Chief Medical Officer Shawni Coll said that as of last week, four Omicron cases have been identified with another two suspected. However, health officials are still awaiting more data to come in.

“It just takes awhile to come back,” said Coll on sequencing the genomes of the coronavirus. “Our suspicion is that it is rising in our area, but we just don’t have the actual, concrete data to back that up.”

Free testing for people symptomatic and non-symptomatic is at the Logistics Health Inc. site at the Old Gateway Center, at 10990 Donner Pass Road. Pre-registration is required and can be done at www.lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling 888-634-1123.

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at jscacco@sierrasun.com

Nevada County seeing increase in COVID-19 cases

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.

VARIANTS

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.

TESTING

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 vpenate@theunion.com

LEARN MORE

For more information on COVID-19 testing in Nevada County, visit:

www.mynevadacounty.com/2979/Get-Tested

Nevada County Public Health list of local vaccine providers:

www.mynevadacounty.com/3183/Get-Vaccinated

To find a vaccine appointment, visit:

https://myturn.ca.gov

Nevada County COVID vaccination rate at 60%

 

Nevada County reported 149 new COVID-19 cases or a 2% increase this week. At least one in nine residents have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic, with over 10,000 reported cases.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard, there are 200 active cases and 9,924 people have been released from isolation. Since the Delta variant surge began in August, 42 people have died — none this last week — leaving the death toll at 121.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60,473 people — or 60% of the county’s population — are fully vaccinated. Forty percent, or 24,609 people in the county, have received a booster.

The vaccines and their mandates have remained highly controversial. Although those vaccinated may still become infected with COVID-19, according to local public health experts, the vaccination does mitigate the severity of the virus’ side effects.

MASK ORDERS

The first case of the Omicron variant in the Unites States was detected in California on Dec. 1, according to the state Department of Public Health. Little is known about the variant, other than its increased virility.

The Delta variant began its onslaught in August, yielding a case rate over twice what it was required in the Purple Tier while in California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

The state department has updated its guidance for the use of face coverings to require that masks be worn in all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status, until Jan. 15.

“This new measure brings an added layer of mitigation as the Omicron variant, a Variant of Concern as labeled by the World Health Organization, is detected across California, the United States, and the world and is likely to spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant,” stated the new guidance.

It added that, since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate had increased by 47% and hospitalizations had increased by 14%

PLACER COUNTY

As of Thursday morning, Placer County’s COVID-19 Dashboard was down.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com

BY THE NUMBERS

NEVADA COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 10,245

Number in western county: 7,949

Number in eastern county: 2,296

Number of active cases: 200

Number hospitalized: 2

Number of recoveries: 924

Number of deaths: 121 (none in the last week)

PLACER COUNTY

Not Available

As case investigations are conducted and more information is gathered, case counts may change or even decrease due to residents’ locations being confirmed in nearby counties. The number of laboratory tests reported to the Public Health Department is approximate

Nevada County COVID case rate now aligned with state

Nevada County’s average rate of daily new COVID-19 cases has been similar this week to the statewide rate for the first time “in a while,“ said county Director of Public Health Jill Blake in a Q&A Wednesday.

According to the state’s online dashboard tracking COVID-19, Nevada County’s rate rose quickly above the state average in July, peaking at over 70 while the statewide average peaked in the low 30s in August. The discrepancy between the state and county’s case rate remained above the statewide average until earlier this month.

As of Wednesday, both Nevada County and the state had average rates of 13.3 daily new cases per 100,000 residents, the dashboard stated.

Nevada County’s rate of new COVID-19 cases has remained fairly steady over the last two weeks, according to Blake.

“Last week, we reported 157 cases, which is about the same as the prior week at 171,” she said in a Q&A Wednesday.

Blake added that the county’s vaccination rate continues to rise, with 72.7% of eligible county residents having received at least one dose and 65.4% being fully vaccinated, as of Wednesday.

“And that couldn’t be more important as we head into these winter months, where people are gathered in close settings,” she said.

OMICRON VARIANT

On the Omicron variant, county Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet said in a Q&A Wednesday, “Cases have been reported from Sacramento, Yolo, and El Dorado counties, so there is no reason to think that it’s not in Nevada County.”

She noted that Yolo County has “quick access to genotyping,” and “not surprisingly” has reported more cases than the other two counties. Nevada County, she said, has to wait for a longer time for this kind of testing to be done.

“It takes about a week, in the best scenario, for us to get any kind of reports on the variants circulating in Nevada County,” said Trochet. “So, as of a week ago, Delta was still the main variant in Nevada County causing COVID, but I suspect that we do have Omicron now.”

Trochet said officials were hearing that the Omicron variant is “much more infectious” than the Delta variant, and appears to cause less severe disease. She qualified this evaluation, saying it is “subject to change as we learn more.”

Recent information from studies, she added, indicated that currently available vaccines provide “some immunity against Omicron, although it appears to be less than they’d provide for the older variants.”

Trochet said her recommendation was that those who have received an original vaccine series get a booster if the appropriate period of time — six months since the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two months since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — has passed.

“If you haven’t been immunized, it’s never too late to start getting immunized and get your first dose now,” she added.

According to Blake, as of Wednesday, over 21,600 boosters had been given to Nevada County residents.

MASK ORDERS

The first case of the Omicron variant in the Unites States was detected in California on Dec. 1, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The state department updated its guidance for the use of face coverings Monday to require that masks be worn in all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status, from Wednesday until Jan. 15.

“This new measure brings an added layer of mitigation as the Omicron variant, a Variant of Concern as labeled by the World Health Organization, is detected across California, the United States, and the world and is likely to spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant,” stated the new guidance.

It added that, since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate had increased by 47% and hospitalizations had increased by 14%.

Trochet said Wednesday that the state has also said that, if a local health officer order is in place, it supersedes the statewide order.

While the state was not previously requiring that vaccinated individuals wear a mask while in indoor public settings, and only required that unvaccinated individuals did so until its updated guidance went into effect Wednesday, Nevada County has had an order in place requiring this regardless of vaccination status since August.

“The Nevada County health officer order stands until it’s rescinded, and it hasn’t been rescinded,” said Trochet. “So, at this point, if anybody asks, follow the Nevada County health officer order.”

Nevada County reported 91 new COVID-19 cases over the last week — a 1% increase — bringing the total number of cases to 9,942.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard, 9,707 people have been released from isolation and 116 people had active cases. Since the Delta variant surge began in August, 40 people have died — four last week — bringing the total number of deaths in Nevada County since the pandemic began to 119.

PLACER COUNTY

As of Thursday morning, Placer County reported 322 new cases, a 1% increase in cases from the prior week.

There were seven recorded deaths caused by COVID-19 in Placer County last week, bringing the death toll to 486.

Placer County has distributed 595,337 vaccines since their introduction. The number of fully vaccinated Placer County residents is now 248,838 people.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com

The Union and Sun Staff Writer Rebecca O’Neil contributed to this report

BY THE NUMBERS

NEVADA COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 9,942

Number in western county: 7,757

Number in eastern county: 2,185

Number of active cases: 116

Number hospitalized: 8

Number of recoveries: 9,707

Number of deaths: 119 (four in the last week)

PLACER COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 39,293

Number of recoveries: 37,847

Number of deaths: 486 (seven in the last week)

Number tested negative: 679,551

As case investigations are conducted and more information is gathered, case counts may change or even decrease due to residents’ locations being confirmed in nearby counties. The number of laboratory tests reported to the Public Health Department is approximate

1st COVID-19 case caused by Omicron variant discovered in El Dorado County

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The first coronavirus case caused by the Omicron variant has been confirmed in El Dorado County, health officials announced Friday evening.

The El Dorado County case occurred in a traveler who departed from South Africa in late November. The county resident who tested negative at the time of departure and was asymptomatic, developed mild symptoms and tested positive several days after completing travel, said a press release from health officials.

Because travelers from South Africa were being monitored for this variant and instructed to quarantine or isolate, the risk of this case resulting in additional cases was minimized.

“This was not unexpected,” says El Dorado County Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams in the release. “The variant has already been detected in at least 25 U.S. states, including California. Since the first case involving a California resident (which was also the first in the U.S.) was identified on Dec. 1, in a traveler who had returned from South Africa on Nov. 22, several other California counties have identified cases among their residents.”

The Omicron variant was first declared to be a COVID-19 variant of concern on Nov. 26 by the World Health Organization following discovery of numerous cases in South Africa.

While early data indicates that Omicron causes milder disease, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.

“To date, we have no evidence of community transmission of the Omicron variant in El Dorado County.” Williams said. “However, because it is believed to be more easily transmitted than prior variants, including the currently dominant Delta variant, we are likely to see other cases in the future.”

Williams says it’s important to continue to protect against acquiring infection or transmitting it to others.

She emphasized that this variant evolved, as prior ones have, through mutations that occurred while the virus replicated in an infected person’s body.

“Allowing the virus opportunities to continue to mutate through infections of others increases the probabilities of further mutations and, undoubtedly, more new variants,” Williams said. “We won’t be able to stop this entirely, but to reach a state of living that is closer to normal, we need to slow transmission of all COVID-19 variants.”

According to Williams, vaccination remains the most important tool to protect against serious COVID-19 illnesses. Continuing to take other precautions is also important, especially during the holiday season when people spend more time indoors, and sometimes in large gatherings, with family members and friends who may have traveled to or from places with high COVID rates.

For more information about the Omicron Variant, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html.

For more information about making vaccination appointments, visit https://myturn.ca.gov/.

A rendering of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Getty Images

The Tahoe Daily Tribune is a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

Public Health officials highlight COVID precautions at school sporting events

No reports of the Omicron variant have been made in Nevada County since the first case of the variant cropped up in San Francisco two weeks ago, though cases continue to ascend in Nevada County.

As of Wednesday, according to the state dashboard tracking COVID-19, Nevada County had a seven-day average of 17.1 daily new cases per 100,000 residents, while the average rate per 100,000 residents statewide was 10.9.

The county’s seven-day average test positivity rate as of Wednesday was 5.4%, according to the dashboard, while the statewide rate was 2.5%.

Nevada County reported 158 new COVID-19 cases over the last week — a 2% increase — bringing the total number of cases to 9,851.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard, 9,580 people have been released from isolation and 156 people had active cases. Since the Delta variant surge began in August, 40 people have died — two last week — bringing the total number of deaths in Nevada County since the pandemic began to 115.

Nevada County public health officials noted that the Delta variant resulted in a number of outbreaks out of local skilled nursing facilities since August. Still, public health officials maintain that those who received the vaccine between January and March were less affected by the the Delta variant of COVID-19 than they would have been without it.

Public Health Officer Scott Kellermann said a variant of the virus warrants concern given any one of three factors — being more transmissible, more virulent, or less responsive to existing treatments.

Discussing the variant, Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver said there are “a lot of unknowns at this point” surrounding the variant, including whether it will be transmissible enough to stick around and whether existing vaccines and treatments will be effective against it.

Nevada County administered approximately 3,933 vaccines over the last seven days, bringing the total number of doses delivered to 142,223.

Over the course of last week, 985 people in the county became completely vaccinated, bringing that number up to 59,302.

Kellermann encouraged vaccination for COVID-19, calling it “our primary defense” and adding that those who are eligible for a booster dose should get one.

Explaining the difference between cases in people who are vaccinated and those who are not, Kellermann said, “The viral loads initially can be very similar, particularly in the nose and mouth (and) the oropharynx, but they drop off quite appreciably in the vaccinated versus the unimmunized.”

He explained that this means someone who is vaccinated could contract the virus and experience initial symptoms shortly afterward, but that antibodies stimulated by immunization should then kick in to prevent illness from progressing further. This, he said, is why the two groups see significantly different rates of COVID-19 hospitalization.

SCHOOL SPORTS

School guidance from the state Department of Public Health updated last month stated that, if masks are not worn due to heavy exertion during sports-related activities such as practice, conditioning, or competition, it is “strongly recommended that individuals undergo screening testing at least once weekly.”

“We’re really happy the kids are back in school. We’re really happy they’re participating, and we certainly applaud all these activities,” said Kellermann. “But, in order to protect the kids, we’d like to see measures a little stricter than what the state is recommending.”

Kellermann stated Wednesday that it’s recommended that others present at youth sports events — including coaches, spectators, and those not actively playing — wear masks, and that all participants in youth sports also be vaccinated.

He added that, since teams often compete in other counties, his recommendation is that they follow the guidelines of whichever county has the stricter measures in place.

Nevada County Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet said Wednesday that, going above what the new county health order requires, “best practice“ would be for all team members to be vaccinated for COVID-19, wear a mask, and be tested on the day of an event or game.

“But, we have been made aware that that is not feasible for most schools to be able to provide, particularly when there are so many sports going on,” said Trochet. “And that is why, if that best practice can’t be done, then the second best is the testing twice a week, two days apart, and that’s what the Health Officer order requires.”

Trochet clarified that the new order is only related to school activities, and that all previous orders — such as the requirement that people wear masks in public while indoors, or outdoors if distancing is not possible — remained in place.

PLACER COUNTY CASE UPDATE

As of Thursday morning, Placer County reported 573 new cases, a 2% increase in cases from the prior week.

There were 14 recorded deaths caused by COVID-19 in Placer County last week, bringing the death toll to 479.

Placer County has distributed 580,654 vaccines since their introduction. The number of fully vaccinated Placer County residents is now 246,079 people.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com

The Union Staff Writer Victoria Penate contributed to this report

BY THE NUMBERS

NEVADA COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 9,851

Number in western county: 7,708

Number in eastern county: 2,143

Number of active cases: 156

Number hospitalized: 10

Number of recoveries: 9,580

Number of deaths: 115 (two in the last week)

PLACER COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 38,971

Number of recoveries: 37,538

Number of deaths: 479 (14 in the last week)

Number tested negative: 668,792

As case investigations are conducted and more information is gathered, case counts may change or even decrease due to residents location being confirmed in nearby counties. The number of laboratory tests reported to the Public Health Department are approximate

Health officials brace for Omicron variant

Nevada County Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellermann said it will take weeks before key questions are answered regarding the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

The Associated Press reported California recorded the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the United States on Wednesday.

Kellermann said in a Q&A Wednesday that a variant of the virus warrants concern given any one of three factors — being more transmissible, more virulent, or less responsive to existing treatments.

Discussing the variant, Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver emphasized that there are “a lot of unknowns at this point” surrounding the variant, including whether it will be transmissible enough to stick around and whether existing vaccines and treatments will be effective against it.

“Those things will require more data and more science,” he said. “My understanding … is that it should be some weeks before we have science on that, which is actually remarkably fast, so it shouldn’t take too long before we have those answers.”

The state Department of Public Health tracks variants of concern, providing an update each month with the percentage of specimens sequenced that are among a list of monitored variants. As of November, according to the state list, over 90% of sequenced specimens were the Delta variant during each of the last five months, with the proportion rising to 99.7% in November.

Regardless of a new variant, said Kellermann, Nevada County still has “a lot of viral transmission.” As of Wednesday, according to the state dashboard tracking COVID-19, the county had a seven-day average of 15.9 daily cases per 100,000 residents.

The statewide average as of Wednesday was 9.3 cases per 100,000 residents.

Precautions include wearing a mask in public — especially indoors, but also outdoors if in a crowded setting — as well as staying home when sick, and both staying home and notifying contacts if testing positive for COVID-19, said Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet.

Kellermann encouraged vaccination for COVID-19, calling it “our primary defense” and adding that those who are eligible for a booster dose should get one.

Explaining the difference between cases in people who are vaccinated and those who are not, Kellermann said, “The viral loads initially can be very similar, particularly in the nose and mouth (and) the oropharynx, but they drop off quite appreciably in the vaccinated versus the unimmunized.”

He explained that this means someone who is vaccinated could contract the virus and experience initial symptoms shortly afterward, but that antibodies stimulated by immunization should then kick in to prevent illness from progressing further. This, he said, is why the two groups see significantly different rates of COVID-19 hospitalization.

Trochet agreed, adding that being vaccinated for COVID-19 also makes the likelihood that the individual gets infected in the first place “a lot less” than if they had not been vaccinated.

She said that she is commonly asked why someone should get vaccinated if people who get vaccinated might still get sick.

“And it’s because some vaccinated people still get sick, but most vaccinated people do not, as opposed to most unvaccinated people that encounter the virus, they will get sick,” said Trochet. “And the vaccine protects against hospitalization and death from the virus to a much greater degree than if you’re not vaccinated.”

According to the state COVID-19 dashboard, from Nov. 14 to 20, unvaccinated people statewide were 7.2 times more likely to get COVID-19, and 12.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with it, than people who were vaccinated.

NEVADA COUNTY CASE UPDATE

Nevada County reported 132 new COVID-19 cases over the last week, bringing the total number of cases to 9,693.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard, 9,383 people have been released from isolation and 197 people had active cases. Since the Delta variant surge began in August, 38 people have died — four last week — bringing the total number of deaths in Nevada County since the pandemic began to 113.

Nevada County public health officials noted that the Delta variant resulted in a number of outbreaks out of local skilled nursing facilities since August. Still, public health officials maintain that those who received the vaccine between January and March were less affected by the the Delta variant of COVID-19 than they would have been without it.

Nevada County administered approximately 3,103 vaccines over the last seven days, bringing the total number of doses delivered to 138,290.

Over the course of last week, 403 people in the county became completely vaccinated, bringing that number up to 58,317.

PLACER COUNTY CASE UPDATE

As of Thursday morning, Placer County reported 410 new cases, a 1% increase in cases from the prior week.

There were six recorded deaths caused by COVID-19 in Placer County last week, bringing the death toll to 465.

Placer County has distributed 565,574 vaccines since their introduction. The number of fully vaccinated Placer County residents is now 242,632 people.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com

The Union Staff Writer Victoria Penate contributed to this report

BY THE NUMBERS

NEVADA COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 9,693

Number in western county: 7,599

Number in eastern county: 2,094

Number of active cases: 197

Number hospitalized: 11

Number of recoveries: 9,383

Number of deaths: 113 (four in the last week)

PLACER COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 38,398

Number of recoveries: 37,127

Number of deaths: 465 (six in the last week)

Number tested negative: 654,877

As case investigations are conducted and more information is gathered, case counts may change or even decrease due to residents location being confirmed in nearby counties. The number of laboratory tests reported to the Public Health Department are approximate

70% of Nevada County partially or fully immunized

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nevada County had reached 9,414 as of Thursday morning. There are 132 new cases since Nov. 11, indicating a 1% increase over last week.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard, 9,111 people have been released from isolation and 198 remain active. Since the Delta variant surge began in August, 30 people have died, bringing the total number of deaths since the pandemic began to 105.

This week marks the first seven-day duration since August that Nevada County has not endured a COVID-19-caused death.

Nevada County public health officials noted there had been “several outbreaks” in skilled nursing facilities since August. All of them are over, except for one, said Glennah Trochet, deputy public health officer, in the office’s Q&A Wednesday.

“We saw a lot of elderly residents test positive,” Trochet said. “Several were hospitalized because of the infection. We believe these fully vaccinated residents may have had decreased immunity (because) they received their vaccination back in January to March.”

When asked about the status of the county’s plateauing case rate, Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellerman said numbers of active cases went up slightly.

“I hope we’re having a plateau,” Kellerman said. “This week it appears that we’re heading upward, sadly.”

Kellerman noted that the plateau post-Delta was higher statewide, but was eager to celebrate increased immunizations.

“(Partially or fully) immunized over 70% of our population 5 and up,” Kellerman said. “Which is impressive for our community. Sadly, we still have a high virus rate.”

According to the state COVID-19 dashboard, using a seven-day average, Nevada County’s daily new case rate per 100,000 residents was 23.4 as of Wednesday, nearly twice the state’s number.

Nevada County administered 3,763 vaccines over the last week, bringing the total number of doses delivered to 132,426.

Over the course of last week, 395 people in the county became completely vaccinated, bringing that number up to 57,669.

PLACER COUNTY

As of Thursday morning, Placer County reported 397 new cases, a 1% increase in cases from the prior week.

There were 18 recorded deaths caused by COVID-19 in Placer County last week, bringing the death toll to 457.

Placer County has distributed 544,008 vaccines since their introduction. The number of fully vaccinated Placer County residents is now 239,284 people.

VACCINES FOR CHILDREN

According to its website, the Tahoe Forest Health System began vaccinating school-aged children — ages 5 to 18 — last week. The Tahoe Forest Gateway Vaccine Clinic, at 11004 Donner Pass Road, offers the pediatric Pfizer vaccine to children aged 5 to 11 years old.

Appointments for the clinic can be made through MyTurn.

As of Wednesday, two weeks after the state announced children ages 5 to 11 were eligible, 16% of Nevada County children in that age group had received their first dose, according to state COVID-19 vaccination data.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com

BY THE NUMBERS

NEVADA COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 9,414

Number in western county: 7,406

Number in eastern county: 2,008

Number of active cases: 198

Number hospitalized: 11

Number of recoveries: 9,111

Number of deaths: 105 (none in the last week)

PLACER COUNTY

Number of COVID-19 cases: 37,756

Number of recoveries: 36,224

Number of deaths: 457 (18 in the last week)

Number tested negative: 637,970

‘Better to be safer’: Nevada County officials discuss COVID-19 cases, vaccines

Nevada County is experiencing “somewhat of an increase” in COVID-19 cases, county Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver said in a Q&A Wednesday.

From peaking at 488 new cases reported in a single week in early September, the county then saw a significant drop in new cases, with the week ending in Oct. 22 reporting 117 new cases, said Gruver. However, he said, the three weeks since then reported 157, 132, and then 167 new cases.

“So, generously interpreted, we’ve plateaued,” said Gruver. “But, it looks as though we have somewhat of a surge on our hands, and we’ll be closely looking at how things play out from here.”

According to the state dashboard on COVID-19, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, people who were unvaccinated were 6.9 times more likely to get the virus, and 11.9 times more likely to be hospitalized with it, than those who had been fully vaccinated.

Although the 5 to 11 age group only became eligible earlier this month, according to state data on vaccination, 16.2% of Nevada County children in this group had received at least one dose as of Wednesday.

Overall, according to Gruver, around 63% of eligible Nevada County residents have been fully vaccinated, and approximately 8% are partially vaccinated.

Dr. Glennah Trochet, the county’s deputy public health officer, said Wednesday that it was a good time for all residents who are eligible, whether they are children or adults, to receive a first dose if they have not done so yet, or to get a booster dose if they are eligible.

“We are entering the winter season, and it’s better to be safer if you’re going to be meeting with family members, particularly elderly family members,” said Trochet.

While previous eligibility guidelines for vaccine booster doses had taken into account factors such as age group or health conditions, Trochet said Wednesday that state officials had recently directed vaccine providers to give boosters to anyone who wants one and meets the appropriate timeline.

As a result, Trochet explained, boosters are being offered in California to anyone 18 and older who wants a booster and has passed two months since receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or six months since the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union and Sierra Sun. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com

LEARN MORE

To find and make vaccine appointments, visit:

myturn.ca.gov

For information on local providers, visit:

https://www.mynevadacounty.com/3183/Get-Vaccinated