Sacramento County COVID-19 cases remain on the rise due to the delta variant, but the latest data continue to reflect strong effectiveness of vaccines against severe illness, and demand for them has been increasing, local health officials said Thursday.
Of 98 recent hospital admissions for the virus in July, 89 of the patients, or 91%, were not fully vaccinated, county immunization program manager Rachel Allen said during a weekly call with reporters.
Just shy of half of all county residents, about 49.5%, are fully vaccinated, and 56% have had at least one dose, according to California Department of Public Health data updated Thursday.
Allen said residents received 41% more initiating doses July 18 to 24 than two weeks earlier, July 4 to July 10.
The earlier week had a dip in doses due to the July 4 holiday. But growth from July 17 to July 31 was even bigger: weekly first doses rose by 48%, state data show. Allen said providers have also been ordering more doses as of late.
Following recent reports that the Food and Drug Administration could grant full approval to a COVID-19 vaccine by as early as September, Allen cautioned against hesitating to get the jab.
“If you’re waiting for that, I would re-evaluate .... Delaying even a day could be risky.”
The COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to nearly 200 million people in the U.S. since first receiving emergency use authorization last December. Allen said there is ample data to show they are safe and effective.
Still, she acknowledged that the county expects another jump in demand upon full FDA approval.
Where are outbreaks happening?
County health officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye last month said congregate care facilities such as nursing homes were not seeing outbreaks at that time, likely due to their high vaccination rates.
Kasirye on Thursday’s call said those settings are now seeing some outbreaks, but that they have been small. She said vaccination rates are very high among residents but lower among staff, and that it is largely unvaccinated employees who are driving the outbreaks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that health workers in both California’s public and private sectors would have to either provide proof of vaccination or be subject to regular testing and masking protocols.
The state’s requirement also applies to “high-risk congregate settings like adult and senior residential facilities, homeless shelters and jails,” Newsom’s office says.
Kasirye said the county has begun working with local health networks to establish vaccine verification systems and testing programs in accordance with Newsom’s policy, which gives facilities until Aug. 23 to comply.
Sacramento County epidemiology program manager Jamie White said Thursday that she is “worried about the potential for outbreaks in schools once they’re open.” Elementary schools are a point of concern because children under 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Many large districts begin their academic calendars in the next few weeks and will proceed with on-campus learning and masks required, in accordance with state guidance.
White said the health office will be in close contact with schools to monitor potential outbreaks.
Sacramento’s latest COVID-19 numbers
Sacramento County health officials on Thursday reported an average of about 420 new cases per day, or 27 per 100,000 residents. Infections are now being recorded at the highest rate since late January.
That’s the eighth-highest rate among California’s 58 counties over the past week, according to CDPH. Sacramento returned to mandatory masks regardless of vaccination status a week ago, on July 30. It remains too early to see a potential impact in the data.
Sacramento’s test positivity rate of 9.4% ranked 21st, worse than the state average but better than most of its neighbors. Yuba (16.6%), Sutter (15.1%), El Dorado (11.1%) and Placer (9.6%) counties all had higher positivity than Sacramento. Yolo County, which has one of the state’s most rigorous testing networks, had the state’s lowest positivity at 2.5%.
CDPH reported 253 patients hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 in Sacramento County including 54 in intensive care. Hospital numbers have reached levels not seen since February.
Statewide, California on Thursday surpassed 5,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 for the first time since mid-February. The total had dropped below 1,000 in mid-June.
Sacramento County has confirmed at least 39 COVID-19 deaths from July, more than May or June and two shy of April’s reported toll of 41. July’s tally likely will increase as more death investigations are completed from late in the month.
To date, close to 119,000 Sacramento County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. At least 1,795 have died from the virus, the local health office says.
A vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in 2021 have come in the unvaccinated, officials say.