As the end of summer vacation approaches, health officials are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, warning that the start of the school year could bring a spike in cases.
Infections and hospitalizations are declining after a prolonged summer spell, but that progress could be challenged as schools reopen.
This will be the first time during the pandemic that the traditional school year will start in California without a statewide school mask mandate, and vaccination rates, while strong for the general public, are low among children.
While deaths from COVID-19 are rarer among young people than adults, they do happen. Los Angeles County on Friday reported its 12th COVID-19 death in a person under the age of 18.
“COVID-19 is here to stay, but we have learned methods and acquired tools to lessen its impact on our health and well-being,” the state Department of Public Health said. wrote in your latest guide to schools. “California schools can sustainably and adaptively manage this disease.”
Among the strategies state health officials are recommending are ensuring students and staff are up-to-date on immunizations, improving indoor air quality, promoting good hand hygiene, and supporting access to testing.
“Vaccines not only provide protection at the individual level, but high vaccination coverage reduces the burden of disease in schools and communities and can help protect people who are not vaccinated or those who are unable to mount a response. strong immune system from vaccination,” states the guide. .
About 41% of children ages 5 to 11 in California have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to data compiled by The Times.
Vaccination rates are highest in the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco83% of children ages 5-11 have received at least one dose, as have more than 90% of children ages 12-17.
“I predict that after kids go back to school … we’ll probably have another wave in the early fall,” Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said at a briefing Thursday. . He noted that the number of children vaccinated in Orange “is pretty low, like any other county.”
Chau said he thinks there will be “maybe, God forbid, another wave in the winter.”
“We can’t predict whether or not we’ll get another variant, and whether or not the new variant will be more severe and more transmissible than others,” he said.
There is a possibility of a small increase in cases as the academic year begins, especially in elementary schools, due to lower vaccination rates, but there are ways to reduce the risk, said the Los Angeles County public health director. Angeles, Barbara Ferrer.
“I think everyone knows what we can do to make schools as safe as possible, so that children can have all the learning opportunities that they need,” he said, noting that it would be wise to continue wearing masks inside schools. . . “Masks work, and they work well. And this would be an appropriate and time-limited approach to [add] in a layer of protection when transmission rates are still high.”
The California Department of Public Health strongly recommend masking in indoor public spaces.
While Los Angeles County is still dealing with a substantial spread of the coronavirus, it is slowing down. Authorities reported an average of 4,700 new cases per day over the past week, down 17% from the previous week. The latest weekly case rate per capita is 327 per 100,000 population; a rate of 100 or more is considered high.
Earlier this week, there were fewer than 10 new coronavirus-positive hospital admissions per 100,000 Los Angeles County residents, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; by Thursday it had marked up to 10.1. That keeps the county in the “high” community transmission level as defined by the CDC. A rate of less than 10 would allow Los Angeles County to fall into the “middle” category.
“We’re hopeful” that Los Angeles County will soon come out of the high tier, Ferrer said.
Given the declining number of cases and improving hospitalization rates, county health officials have ruled out reinstating the indoor mask mandate.
In total, 1,206 positive coronavirus patients were hospitalized at all 92 hospitals in Los Angeles County as of Thursday. That’s about 9% less than the wave’s apparent peak two weeks ago. About 43% of those patients are hospitalized with illnesses associated with COVID, health officials estimate; the rest are coronavirus positive but are in the hospital for unrelated reasons.
The percentage of emergency room visits in Los Angeles County associated with COVID-19 is also declining, as are the number of outbreaks in nursing homes and homeless shelters and the number of workplaces reporting case groups.
“The California Department of Public Health reports that overall hospital admissions have peaked statewide, including in Southern California,” Ferrer said. “its modeling predicts further declines in hospital admissions, along with some plateaus and fluctuations throughout the month of August.”
However, deaths related to COVID-19 are increasing. For the week ending Friday, Los Angeles County recorded 121 COVID-19 deaths, the most since late March. This is the byproduct of previous increases in cases and hospitalizations, and it will probably be some time before deaths start to decline, as other metrics have.
The latest pediatric COVID-19 death in Los Angeles County, announced Friday, was in a patient between the ages of 12 and 17. There have been seven COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County among that age group, three among children ages 5 to 11. -older and two among those under 5 years of age.
A pediatric death from COVID-19 is defined as one that occurred in someone who suffered from symptomatic disease before death or had pathologic evidence of a coronavirus infection in the heart, lungs, or other tissues at autopsy.
Orange County has reported five COVID-19 deaths among children under the age of 18. One of the deceased was a previously healthy, unvaccinated teenager suffering from multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which can be a deadly complication of COVID-19, according to an interview his father gave to KCBS Television.
California overall has reported 73 pediatric COVID-19 deaths: 48 between 5 and 17 years old and 25 among the youngest.
Meanwhile, some California counties are emerging from the high community level of COVID-19, the worst in CDC Three Tier Scale.
The number of counties with a high community score dropped in the past two weeks from 50 to 28. As of Thursday, 74% of Californians lived in counties with a high score, down from 83% the week before and 99% % of the previous week. that.
The most recent to drop out of the high tier are Sacramento, Kern, Tulare, Marin, Butte, Yolo, Shasta, Yuba, Tehama, Siskiyou, Amador, Mariposa and Trinity. A week earlier, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Placer, San Luis Obispo, El Dorado, Nevada, Calaveras, Lassen, Del Norte, Colusa, Plumas and Inyo all dropped out of the high tier.
Much of coastal Southern California remains in the high tier, including San Diego, Orange and Ventura counties. So are most of the counties in the Bay Area, along with some highly populated counties in the San Joaquin Valley, including Fresno, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus.
Statewide, there were about 14,500 coronavirus cases per day for the week through Thursday, down 18% from the previous week. On a per capita basis, that’s 260 cases per week per 100,000 population.
In the last week, there were 293 deaths. In early June, there were weeks when there were fewer than 200.
Omicron’s BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants continue to concern health officials, because both have shown the ability to reinfect people who have recovered from older Omicron subvariants or earlier strains of coronavirus, such as Delta.
According to the CDC, BA.5 compound in estimate 85.5% of new cases nationwide during the week ending July 30. BA.4 came a distant second with 7.7%.
But officials are also keeping a close eye on a new Omicron sub-variant, BA.4.6. A descendant of BA.4, it has accounted for only 1% of coronavirus samples in Los Angeles County, but is attracting attention because “it is accelerating at a rate similar to BA.5,” Ferrer said. “The question is really whether it will overtake BA.5 and really start to take over.”
Nationwide, an estimated 4.1% of cases were most recently attributed to BA.4.6, up from 2.3% in early July, CDC figures show.
“We’re paying attention to it,” Ferrer said. “We are watching it carefully, because it seems to have some advantages in the speed at which it proliferates. We’ll just have to see.”
A different subvariant of Omicron, BA.2.75, which raised concerns in India, has not yet had an impact in Los Angeles County. Only one case has been identified, “and this is an encouraging sign that this strain is not gaining dominance in Los Angeles County like it has in India,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer said there is an expectation that boosters that are designed specifically against BA.5 and BA.4 will be available perhaps as early as next month. However, it is unknown whether eligibility for the Omicron booster will be restricted by age or other criteria.