By Debra Moore
Despite the rapid spread of the Omicron variant throughout the state and the country, Plumas County Public Health Director Dana Loomis said there are reasons to be optimistic this holiday season as opposed to a year ago.
“We are much better off now,” Loomis told the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 21, and then cited as reasons the availability of vaccines that help prevent hospitalization and death; increased immunity due to the vaccine and from people having contracted the virus; and better treatment options.
Looking ahead, he said that new oral drugs would be available soon, as well as greater availability of at-home testing. He envisions that the emphasis will shift to protecting vulnerable populations such as schools and skilled nursing facilities, rather than counting overall infections. In short, he sees the switch to looking at the situation as “a response to an endemic, rather than a pandemic.” He said it could be similar as to how health care responds to the flu, with annual boosters.
That being said, Loomis anticipates that January could be difficult following holiday gatherings and the known rapid spread of Omicron, which Loomis said now accounts for 70 percent of new COVID infections. As of his presentation, Omicron had not been detected in Plumas, but he anticipates that it will become the dominant strain here as well.
As for holiday gatherings and travel, he said plans could proceed with the proper precautions.
Plumas County reported 39 cases last week — all in Eastern Plumas and the Quincy areas. Traditionally Public Health reports cases on Monday and Thursday. On Monday, Dec. 20, 17 cases were reported, but there will be no report today, Thursday, Dec. 23, since it is a county holiday. The next report will be Monday, Dec. 27.
Plumas County’s test positivity rate is 5 percent compared to 3 percent for the state and there is currently no one hospitalized for COVID.
Loomis also reported that 19 percent of eligible Plumas residents have received a Booster shot and that vaccines are available at all of the hospitals, the public health department and local pharmacies. The CDC is no longer recommending the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to its reduced effectiveness against Omicron.