France, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. have all reported finding a new COVID variant, sometimes referred to as the Deltacron variant. The good news is that is this new variant is rare and appears not highly transmissible while being vulnerable to existing vaccines. It may also be less likely to cause severe disease compared to earlier variants. (All as told to The New York Times by virologists at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, where this new variant was first reported.) More will be known about Deltacron after several more weeks.
With COVID on the wane, the Centers for Disease Control‘s (CDC) emphasis is now on persons at high risk for severe illness, hospitalization and death. So, at this point, who is most likely to die or become very sick from COVID? The aged and those with underlying medical conditions are most vulnerable, particularly if they’re not up to date with vaccinations. Underlying medical conditions include (in alphabetical order, only): cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, chronic lung diseases (including asthma and COPD), cystic fibrosis, dementia or other neurological conditions, diabetes (types 1 and 2), disabilities, heart conditions (possibly including high blood pressure), HIV, immune systems that are weakened, obesity and overweightness, physically inactive persons, pregnancy, sickle cell disease or inherited red blood cell disorders, smoking (former or current), stem cell or organ transplant recipients, stroke or cerebrovascular disease, substance use disorders and tuberculosis.
As of March 14, the state of California reports 588,487 total cases in Riverside County with 5.9 new cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day moving average. (With 2,418,185 residents in the county as of the 2020 census, that works out to 142 new cases over a seven-day moving average period in our county.) The state reports 6,332 confirmed COVID deaths in Riverside County. The state also reports 115 hospitalized COVID patients with 50 ICU beds currently available in the county, 48 fewer than last week.
As of Tuesday morning, the Dashboard of the Hemet Unified School District (HUSD) reported active cases (last two weeks) of COVID at Idyllwild School as being no students or staff members, which is down to zero. At Hemet High, one student and two staff members were reported as active cases, which is 0.12% of its combined student/staff population. Hamilton School reported no students and two staff members with active COVID, which is two more staff members than last week and now 0.44% of its student-staff population.
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 reports active cases confirmed during the previous two weeks.
We previously reported that CDC has now replaced reporting “transmission areas” with “community levels.” A community level takes into consideration the number of people admitted to local hospitals during the past week, the number of total hospital beds with COVID patients, and new COVID cases during the past week. Community levels are rated Low, Medium and High. Riverside County continues to be rated Low. People in all community levels are recommended to stay up to date with their vaccines, and to get tested if they have symptoms.
As of March 14, Riverside County Public Health reports that in Riverside County, 19.3% of the population ages 5 to 11 are now “fully vaccinated” — while 50.4% of ages 12 to 15, about 55.3% of ages 16 to 24, 59.7% of ages 25 to 44, 73.1% of ages 45 to 64 and 75.6% of ages 65-plus have been fully vaccinated. Currently, the term “fully vaccinated” still does not include boosters.
As of March 14, California reported 8,438,328 total confirmed COVID cases statewide (26,017 more than reported last week, which is a 16.4% reduction of new cases from the previous week) with 86,794 total resulting deaths (945 more than reported last week, which is a 17.8% reduction in new deaths from the previous week).
As of March 9, the CDC current seven-day national moving average of daily new COVID cases was 37,147, a 28.8% reduction from the previous week’s seven-day moving average. The Omicron variant accounts for virtually all new cases in the U.S., with Delta variant at zero. More than 79 million total COVID-19 cases and 961,620 COVID deaths have been reported in the U.S.
CDC reported cases and hospitalizations in January 2022 were the highest since the pandemic began, but in February and March, cases have trended rapidly downward. So, do COVID vaccines really work? Recall that back in December, CDC’s COVID Data Tracker showed un-vaccinated adults ages 65 and older were 49 times more likely to be hospitalized than people in that age group who were up-to-date with their COVID vaccines, including boosters — not twice as likely, 49 times more likely.
CDC advises that vaccination, along with other important prevention strategies, continues to be the best defense against severe COVID disease. Everyone ages 5 years and up is recommended to be vaccinated, with boosters for everyone ages 12 and older — specifically the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for those ages 12 to 15. CDC now recommends that people with weakened immune systems get their booster doses three months after their second dose instead of waiting five months.
COVID vaccinations are available in Idyllwild by appointment at Idyllwild Pharmacy (1-951-659-2135). Riverside County is not listing any place on the Hill as a future county vaccination location, but places in Hemet, San Jacinto, Banning, Beaumont, Moreno Valley, Desert Hot Springs and Palm Desert are listed. Visit https://rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine-with-Registration to schedule vaccinations through RCPH.
Also, CDC suggests visiting vaccines.gov, calling 1-800-232-0233 or texting your ZIP code to 438829 to find a vaccination site near you. Further CDC resources are available at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/COVID-data/COVIDview/.