Sonoma Valley COVID-19 update
By Shannon Lee
Anew order (C19-35) of the health officer of Sonoma County was issued on Jan. 10 and took effect at midnight on Jan. 12. This new set of guidelines was developed in response to rapidly increasing cases throughout the county and will be in place until Feb. 11. The basis for issuing the order stems from case rates (with exponential growth) and positivity rates seen in the county now that are higher than at any point since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, testing resources are stretched thin, hospitalizations rose from 28 to 76 patients in just 6 days, and state-wide modeling suggests the potential for 3x the hospitalizations seen during the big surge of Winter 2021. Finally, this surge is expected to disproportionately impact low-income residents of color due to “over-representation in the essential workforce, lack of sick leave/job protections, poverty-induced household density or shared living situations, and use of shared transportation placing these residents at higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.” The full text of the health order can be found at SoCoEmergency.org.
Although this health order has been described by some as a shelter in place, that is not what is mandated by the text itself. Primarily this health order targets large gatherings (>50 indoors or >100 outdoors), which have been identified as the most significant source of spread in our county. The health officer has stated that these gatherings must be cancelled, postponed, or conducted virtually. However, here are the exemptions: “work, courthouses, places of worship, cafeterias, or any venue that is open to public circulation as part of its regular operations such as shopping malls, stores, restaurants/food facilities, and museums” and “regular school instructional events such as daily classes or outdoor recess.” The order also prohibits gatherings of >12 if “individuals of any age at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19” are to be included (list of what constitutes high-risk can be found at the cdc.gov/ coronavirus/2019-ncov). Finally, the order states that “smaller gatherings should be, but are not required to be, postponed, canceled, or conducted virtually.”
COVID-19 cases have been surging over the last several weeks. As of Jan. 9, the Sonoma County database listed 2,129 new cases in the previous 24 hours. The county is currently at over 8,000 active cases, a full 1.6% of our population. In the past 60 days, 70% of the new cases are individuals who are 44 years old or younger and 20% are under the age of 17.
The testing positivity rate is 15%, up from 9.4% on Dec. 27 and 2.5% back in mid-November. The state of California’s positivity rate is currently at 21.7%, and the United States is 27%. It should be noted that we (West Coast and Bay Area) are just beginning to see the arrival of the Omicron variant and the case counts/positivity rates in our area are expected to keep rising at least over the next several weeks.
The overall case rate (number of cases per 100,000 individuals; sevenday average; seven-day lag) is 96.2. The unvaccinated case rate is 149.2, and the vaccinated case rate is 79.2. In Sonoma County, 78% of the eligible population are fully vaccinated, 8% are partially vaccinated, and 14% are unvaccinated. More than 90% of folks over 70 are fully vaccinated. Glen Ellen (95442) still lags, with a fully vaccinated statistic of about 55%. Kenwood is at 86% fully vaccinated, and the ZIP code including Oakmont is over 81%. The state of California is at 72%.
While the likelihood of hospitalization with Omicron has dropped compared to the Delta variant (~2% versus ~6% of symptomatic cases, as indicated by data out of South Africa, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), extreme numbers of cases can still translate to healthcare system overwhelm. The Sonoma County Health Officer reported 76 COVID hospitalizations on Jan. 9. Our highest numbers during past surges were 104 on Jan. 7, 2021, and 84 on Aug. 15, 2021. We expect to exceed last year’s high shortly. Currently, 22% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds are available in Sonoma County, a better position than this time last year, when we were down below 7%.
Data presented in this article was accessed on Jan. 9 and came from Sonoma County, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker, and the California Department of Public Health. For information about COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, visit www.socoemergency.org or call 211.