By Debra Moore
Still on the fence about getting vaccinated? The latest data indicates that since the COVID-19 vaccine became available, 86 percent of Plumas County’s cases were among the unvaccinated, while 19 of the county’s 20 deaths were unvaccinated individuals.
Public Health Director Dana Loomis provided that information and more during the Board of Supervisors meeting Dec. 7.
Loomis told the supervisors that both California and the county had some good news to report, with positive cases trending down in both jurisdictions. The state has a case rate of 9 per 100,000 with a test positivity rate of 2 percent.
The county is reporting 10 per 100,000 with a test positivity rate of 4.5 percent — both above the state levels. However, Loomis was happy to report that Plumas County is no longer in the state’s top 10 for COVID incidence, and there were 22 cases in the past seven days, which is down significantly from prior weeks.
As for vaccinations, 77 percent of Californians have at least one dose, while 67 percent of Plumas County adults have at least one dose, and 61 percent are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17 age group, 40 percent are vaccinated, (35 percent fully); and 10 percent of the 5 to 11 age group are vaccinated.
With regard to the schools, Loomis reported that there were eight cases for the week ending Dec. 3, with no in-school transmission suspected. He said that the county has taken the lead among other counties by allowing athletes to play indoors without masks, as long as they test weekly. He added that new state guidance endorses this approach.
Loomis also shared more details regarding the 20 deaths in Plumas County due to COVID — eight occurred in the original virus wave, and 12 in the delta wave. The average age of those who died was 74, and 65 percent were men. Of the 20 deaths, 55 percent had known co-morbidities. One person was fully vaccinated; 19 were not.
While the delta variant continues to fill hospitals nationwide, attention is also being focused on omicron, which was first identified in South Africa on Nov. 24, though it’s now agreed that it had been circulating there and elsewhere before that date. Whether it’s in Plumas County has yet to be determined. Positive COVID tests would need to be sent to a state lab for sequencing.
“This variant does appear to be more transmissible,” Loomis said, but it’s unknown yet if it could cause severe disease. Some speculation indicates that it won’t, but Loomis said definitive data won’t be available for several weeks.
He said that vaccination )including booster shots), wearing a mask, getting tested; and staying home when sick; are the best methods to stop the disease spread.
Loomis said that oral anti-viral treatments will become available soon, which could reduce the most serious side effects of COVID and make it more treatable. The drugs by Merck and Pfizer would be available by prescription and probably in short supply initially. He reiterated that while the drugs could ease hospitalizations and deaths, they won’t end the pandemic.
Local mask mandate
When the Plumas case rate reaches 3 per 100,000 (it currently is at 10) then the county could lift the indoor mask mandate.