An increase in family and community gatherings has also led to an increase in COVID-19 cases in San Joaquin County, which has reached a new peak in hospitalizations.

On Wednesday, Dr. Maggie Park, San Joaquin County’s public health officer, presented the latest COVID-19 numbers to the county board of supervisors. She also described the findings of the county’s contact tracers, who follow up on cases to find out where a patient contracted the coronavirus in an effort to find out who else is at risk of getting sick.

“To be honest, it’s starting to get a bit overwhelming at Public Health, to do all of our contact tracing and case investigation, because there are so many new cases per day,” Park told the board.

As of Thursday, San Joaquin Public Health Services had recorded 2,884 cases since the first case was reported March 6, and 1,469 of those people have recovered.

The number of new cases per day had reached an initial peak in mid-April and declined going into the first week of May, but it has been on the rise since then. That rise has coincided with the reopening of many businesses and venues and the relaxing of statewide quarantine orders.

The county passed its early peak of single-day COVID-19 cases on May 29, when 44 cases were reported. Since then, there have been 16 days when more than 50 cases were reported in a single day. On seven out of 13 days between June 12 and Wednesday, more than 100 new cases were reported each day, including 162 cases reported this Monday — the most so far in a single day.

The initial peak in COVID-19 hospitalizations, 39, was reported on March 30, and that number declined to just seven people on May 19. Hospitalizations have been on the rise ever since, passing the previous peak June 8 when 43 patients were reported to be in the hospital. There were 92 county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

A total of 233 Tracy residents had been diagnosed with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, with 144 of those from the 95376 zip code at the center of town. There have been 23 cases reported in Mountain House.

Efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus here have been effective primarily in preventing the local hospital from being overwhelmed.

Sutter Tracy Community Hospital CEO David Thompson said that only a few of the 35 or more patients who stay overnight at the hospital on any given night are known or suspected to have COVID-19. Even with the countywide spike in cases, the local hospital is averaging about two COVID-19 patients a day, Thompson said. The local hospital does not have any COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

“We see a lot of patients that we suspect might have COVID-19, but their symptoms are not dramatic enough to be hospitalized,” Thompson said, adding that they generally test negative. “We had plans to accommodate 100, but we’re nowhere near that.”

Park told the supervisors on Wednesday that older residents accounted for many of the early cases, but now about 40% of all people testing positive for COVID-19 are between the ages of 25 and 44.

“That is mostly because they’re out and about more. They’re not retirees. They’re essential workers, so they’re just working in general and they’re out socializing,” Park said. “We believe that, although they’re not the ones predominantly getting sick and in the hospitals, this group of people are probably the biggest spreaders.”

When she breaks the numbers down by ethnicity, Park notes that Hispanic or Latino people account for nearly half the positive cases. The county’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that this group, which makes up 41.1% of the county, accounted for 43.9% of all positive cases as of Wednesday, but only 32.7% of deaths.

Asian people are 14.9% of the population and accounted for just 6.9% of cases but 24.5% of deaths. White people make up 32.7% of the county, 12.1% of cases and 32.7% of deaths. Black people represent 6.6% of the county, 3.5% of cases and 8.2% of deaths. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are 0.5% of the county and account for 0.6% of cases and 2% of deaths.

The largest group of people by occupation to test positive are laborers and private household workers, followed by unemployed people, which Park noted could include agricultural workers between jobs. Retirees, clerical and office workers, and health care workers are also high on the list.

Park added that contact tracing on the new increase in cases shows no recent outbreaks reported at skilled nursing facilities or jails or among homeless people.

“When we go back into our contact tracing, we’re finding that it’s just regular people out in the community having gatherings,” she said.

Park added that contact tracers have found large family gatherings to be likely sources of the recent increase in cases. One group of new cases was linked to a large birthday party that drew friends and family members from out of the county.

“An adult showed up, very mildly ill, not thinking that he had COVID, and we ended up with 10 people that had COVID from that party,” Park said, adding that the risk of spread increases when people go home to large households.

San Joaquin County’s peak in new cases and hospitalizations coincides with statewide increases.

Tuesday saw the biggest single-day increase in new cases so far in California (7,149), and as of Wednesday, a total of 195,571 cases had been reported in the state since late January.

The state had seen a gradual rise in new infections leading up to May 30, when 3,705 new cases were reported, the first time more than 3,000 new cases were reported in a single day. Since then, there have been 14 days when more than 3,000 new cases have been reported, and seven days — including five days in a row leading up to Wednesday — when more than 4,000 new cases were reported.

Los Angeles County is the hardest-hit area, with 89,566 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, nearly twice as many as the next four counties — Riverside, San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino — combined. Los Angeles County has recorded 3,205 COVID-19 deaths.

The state reported that 4,240 people confirmed to have COVID-19 were hospitalized on Wednesday, the highest single-day total of confirmed patients in California hospitals so far. Adding in suspected cases of COVID-19, the state had 5,522 people hospitalized because of the disease that day, the highest number since April 7 (5,792), though at that time only 2,714 cases were confirmed COVID-19 and 3,078 were suspected.

The state has reported that 5,733 Californians have died from COVID-19 since the first death was reported in the state on March 13. Deaths rose steadily for the first few weeks after that, and the peak for single-day deaths (115) was April 22. Since then, the state has averaged nearly 67 deaths per day, and there have been five other days when deaths exceeded 100, with 101 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday.

Testing continues to increase in the state as well. As of Tuesday, nearly 3.6 million people had been tested since late January, and 195,571 people had tested positive in that time — slightly over 5%.

The state was doing about 30,000 tests per day as of the start of May and was up to about 60,000 tests per day by early June. About 80,000 tests have been done each day since last week, including 101,446 on Wednesday.

Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com or 830-4227.

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