COVID 19 testing

Staff members from the San Joaquin County Clinic place a tests sample in a bag at a drive-up COVID-19 testing site that opened outside San Joaquin General Hospital on April 8.

During her presentation at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park reported that the county had reached a new milestone of recording over 70,000 COVID-19 cases. Concurrently, the county faces another issue of residents not returning for second-dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

As of Tuesday, San Joaquin County has had 72,724 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,382 COVID-related deaths. According to Park, the county is at an adjusted case rate of 8.2 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, a slight rise since her report of 7.7 cases just two weeks ago.

The number of county residents currently hospitalized for COVID-19 stands at 43 – an uptick from the 31 hospitalizations that were recorded about a week prior – with 13 patients in ICU. Ten of those 13 ICU patients, according to Park, are on ventilators.

While on the surface, these numbers appear to be plateauing, Park says she is keeping an eye on things.

“We have not earned a week towards Orange yet, because our case rate’s still in the Red. And in order to get from the Red Tier to the Orange Tier, that case rate needs to get to at least 5.9 cases per 100,000 over the seven-day period that's measured,” said Park. “You will note that our unadjusted case rate went from 8.1 to 8.4 – so a little concerning there.”

Park said that the adjusted case rate had reached as high as 8.9 per 100,000 last week, a 15% increase from the county’s previous recording. According to tier guidelines, if that number had not improved by the time numbers were recorded by the state, San Joaquin County would have actually been at risk of moving back to the Purple “widespread” tier.

“As I told you this before, if we move forward on an accelerated progression rule framework – which we did – the rules for moving back to Purple is that our case rate would have to exceed 15%. So from 7.7 going up to 8.9, we would have hit that 15% rule and earned a week back towards purple,” said Park. “But somehow from Friday to now, we've gotten back down from 8.9 to 8.2 – but certainly moving in somewhat of the wrong direction as our numbers are going up, not down.”

Park added that the reason for rising cases can be due to multiple factors, such as different variants of mutated COVID-19 strains that have been identified as “variants of concern” and “variants of interest” in the state. This includes the U.K. B.1.1.7 variant, which has been labeled as the “dominant” variant found in the state, representing about 45% of the circulating strain in California. San Joaquin County has reported 36 cases of the B.1.1.7 and 28 reported cases of other known mutated strains.

Vaccines were the other big topic of Park’s COVID-19 report.

A total of 449,796 doses have been administered in San Joaquin County so far. San Joaquin Public Health Service reported that 21,608 doses have been given to Tracy residents with 15,221 having received their first dose and another 6,387 have received their second dose.

The matter of concern, Park pointed out, was the number of residents missing their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which Park has continuously pointed out is the key component to finally moving away from the pandemic.

“So whether it be Pfizer or Moderna – doesn't really matter – you can see that just in the month of April, that huge upswing of people who started missing their second doses,” said Park. “So if you look back at December, January – where we had health care workers who could get that second jab where they worked – and then we had elderly people who were very committed to getting their second dose and had high demand. We've had a lot of follow through.”

Park said it was just in the last month that the County noticed the decline of those returning for a second dose and that her team was currently looking into the matter, while it was also planning outreach strategies to combat the issue of vaccine hesitancy.

“I will tell you that we have now collected thousands of names of people who are still within the timeframe of getting that vaccine on time,” said Park. “So what we're going to be doing is, our contact tracing team has started to call each of these individuals to try to reach them and find out what the barriers are and try to get them into that second dose appointment before it's too late.”

• Contact Brianna Guillory at bguillory@tracypress.com or 209-830-4229.

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