On Monday, Dec. 13, a new, statewide California mask mandate for indoor public places was announced in effect from Wednesday, Dec. 15 to Jan. 15. As of press time last week, it was not clear how these mandatory measures apply to restaurants. Are restaurants exceptions? Or does the mandate apply to restaurants only until customers reach their tables? Or does it mean that restaurants may seat customers outdoors only? This wasn’t clear, so the Town Crier contacted the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) asking for clarification, and the CDPH replied, “We are working on you[r] inquiry and will get back to you as soon as we can.”
The CDPH did get back to the Town Crier this past week with the further explanation that the new mask mandate requires people in restaurants to wear masks “except when eating or drinking.” We take that to mean that customers are required to wear masks at their tables while ordering and until food or drink arrives, replacing them again after they finish eating and drinking.
As of Tuesday morning, the Dashboard of the Hemet Unified School District (HUSD) reported recently confirmed cases (last two weeks) of COVID at Idyllwild School as being one student and no staff members, i.e., 0.33% of its combined stu-dent/staff population and one staff member less than last week. At Hemet High, 13 students and no staff members are reported as confirmed cases, which is 0.50% of its student/staff population, the same as last week.
The HUSD Dashboard states: “Positive cases will appear on the Dashboard for 14 days from the date they are reported and then will be removed after the 14th day.” So, HUSD’s rolling Dashboard does not report the cumulative confirmed cases throughout the district, but rather those cases confirmed as being active during the previous two weeks.
As of Tuesday, Riverside County Public Health (RCPH) reported 240 total cases of COVID in the Idyllwild-Pine Cove community, with four deaths and 235 recovered, leaving one case currently active in our community — one fewer than last week.
County-wide, as of Dec. 6, RCPH reported a total of 386,983 confirmed COVID cases (3,741 more than last week) with 5,536 deaths (34 more than last week) and 373,478 having recovered, leaving 7,969 active cases in Riverside County, 1,795 fewer than last week. The county reports 317 hospitalized COVID patients (the state reports 338 in Riverside County), 82 of which are in intensive care.
Tuesday morning, the state’s website reported 71 ICU beds available in Riverside County (13 fewer than last week). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been alternating between rating Riverside County as a “Substantial” vs. “High” transmission area. Currently, the county is again rated “High.”
RCPH reports that as of Dec. 13 in Riverside County, 6.7% of the population ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, while 49.8% of ages 12 to 17, 63.3% of all those ages 12 and up, 64.8% of all those ages 18 and up and 74.2% of all those ages 65 and up have been fully vaccinated. Currently, the term “fully vaccinated” does not yet include boosters. Visit https://rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine-with-Registration to schedule vaccinations.
As of Dec. 20, California reported 4,935,461 total confirmed COVID cases statewide (48,952 more than last week), with 75,167 resulting deaths (482 more than last week).
As of Dec. 17, CDC reported the national seven-day moving average of daily new U.S. COVID cases as 122,445, up 3.3% from the previous week.
Regarding the new, rapidly spreading Omicron variant, much remains yet to be discovered by scientists. However, while Omicron’s symptoms appear to be somewhat milder than Delta’s, it now appears clear that Omicron is extremely transmissible, far more so than the Delta variant. In fact, just this past Monday, CDC announced that Omicron already accounts for 73% of new COVID cases in the United States — a tremendous surge from its introduction into the U.S. two weeks ago, when it had 1% of the new COVID cases in the United States. One week ago it was 13%.
Only last week, we reported that, of the first 43 Omicron cases followed-up in the U.S., 34 had been “fully vaccinated” (which currently still means two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of J&J), 14 had received the booster dose and six persons had been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2. However, only one of these 43 Omicron cases was hospitalized (for only two days), and no deaths were reported.
CDC continues to advise that vaccination, along with other important prevention strategies, continues to be the best defense against severe disease. It urges to: 1) get vaccinated as soon as possible, with a booster shot just as soon as you are eligible for one; 2) wear a mask that covers both your nose and your mouth when in indoor public places; 3) whenever possible, stay 6 feet apart from people you don’t live with; 4) avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces; 5) continue to wash your hands often with soap and water, using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available; and 6) “consider” self-testing before attending indoor gatherings, and if you are sick or have symptoms, don’t go.
Of the above, self-testing before indoor gatherings may be the most problematic. Self-testing kits are not available everywhere, and, when you do find them, they tend to be expensive — 20 to 25 dollars or more. And it certainly does no good to self-test before attending an indoor gathering if you are not also willing to stay home should your self-test turn out positive.
Montréal Town Crier Members tipped us — and Canadian Broadcasting Company now reports — that, as of Monday evening, Québec establishments such as schools, bars, food courts, gymnasiums, spas, movie theatres and concert venues have been shut down again, and professional sports will have no audiences. Indoor restaurants may be open — half capacity only — from 5 to 10 p.m.
Dr. David N. Fisman, epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, recommends a return to high-quality N95, KN95 or CN95 masks instead of “baggy” surgical-type or homemade masks because of the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant in extremely fine exhaled aerosol particles. And “The fit is everything,” Fisman has said.
As of Dec. 21, recently downward-revised CDC reports now indicate that nationwide, 204.1 million people (61.5% of the U.S. population) have been “fully vaccinated,” while 29.8% have received booster doses. CDC now recommends booster shots for everyone ages 16 and older; however, at this time only the Pfizer booster is authorized and recommended for ages 16 and 17. CDC reports that more than 60.8 million Americans have received a booster dose, including 54.5% of those ages 65 or older. Those who received the J&J shot can get a Pfizer or Moderna booster, since CDC has authorized boosters of a different manufacturer than the original vaccination.
COVID vaccinations are available in Idyllwild by appointment at Idyllwild Pharmacy and monthly at Idyllwild School on scheduled vaccination Saturdays — the next scheduled Idyllwild School vaccination date is Saturday, Jan. 8.
Further CDC resources are available at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/.