By NICOLE ABRAMS
On July 18, 2022, the San Diego City’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Committee held a meeting to discuss the effect of COVID-19 on the community, new data on sub variants, and tips on how to stay safe right now. Dr. Jennifer Tuteur, MD, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the County of San Diego, presented the new COVID-19 data from the County Health and Human Services Agency.
As of July 13, San Diego County’s COVID-19 Community Levels and Community Transmission are high, much like the rest of California. This means that right now the virus is spreading rapidly and everyone must do their part to stay safe and keep others safe.
When referring to a graph showing the levels of cases in the community, Tuteur said, “Our case rate is growing very high here but we can see that the case rate for people who are not fully vaccinated is two times higher than those who are vaccinated and boosted.”
During the meeting, Tuteur also discussed the prevalence of certain sub variants in the community. According to San Diego’s wastewater, the BA.5 subvariant makes up 72% of the variants while the BA.4 makes up 13%. This means that the BA.5 is the most contagious variant right now and is causing the surge in San Diego County. There is a new sub variant that is also emerging called the Omicron BA.2.75. It was first detected in India in May and is now spreading to Australia, Germany, the U.K., Canada, and the U.S., according to the agency. Also, according to the agency, this new sub variant is even more contagious than the BA.5 and is expected to continue to grow.
With the emergence of these new sub variants, Tuteur said that it is incredibly important that everyone gets vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus.
“Even though BA.5 is very contagious and has some immune evasion, it is still very important to get vaccinated and boosted because that prevents hospitalizations, severe illness, and people dying.”
Another topic that was discussed was that children as young as 6 months old are now able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The agency stressed the importance of making it easier for children to get vaccinated so that schools and other childcare centers can be safer.
Tuteur also brought up a U.S. study from Nature magazine on the importance of getting boosted. According to the study, unvaccinated people who are 50 and older have 42 times the risk of dying compared to people who are vaccinated with two boosters.
There is a new booster under development called the Omicron-Adapted vaccine, which is expected to be made available in October of this year. The new vaccine is said to be more effective in providing resistance against the new sub variants. In addition to this booster, there are multiple vaccines that are being developed and tested by the FDA which are more effective.
As for face coverings, the agency strongly recommends that masks be worn in indoor public settings, on public transit, and in transportation hubs. Masks are still required in healthcare settings, correctional facilities and detention centers, homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers. Although the agency says that masks are strongly recommended, the mask mandate has not been reinstated.
According to Tuteur, “The theme of today is that layered approach following science of what we need to do in the surge not only to protect ourselves but to protect others and so wearing a mask in public indoor settings, including schools, is strongly recommended by the CDC given our community levels today.”
The agency also went on to describe the different COVID-19 treatment options for high-risk individuals, which included Paxlovid, Remdesivir, and Bebtelovimab.
For more information to learn about COVID-19 and what to do to stay safe, visit the San Diego County website on COVID-19: www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/community_epidemiology/dc/2019-nCoV/status.html