California again set new all-time records for transmission of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as heads of state and health officials prepare for the omicron variant to produce one of the weakest stretches most brutal of the coronavirus pandemic.
The California Department of Public Health, in a daily update, reported more than 143,000 new cases, bringing the state’s seven-day average to nearly 67,000 cases (166 per 100,000 population), a record high absolute. The CDPH reported 22.4% test positivity, also a record.
The state had 11,815 COVID-positive patients in hospital beds on Monday, the CDPH said on Tuesday. The number has increased from 350 to 825 patients each in the past 15 days, according to state data, as the pace of new admissions far exceeds releases.
The state had about 6,200 hospitalized with the virus on New Years Day. More than 1,800 are now in intensive care units, up from 1,200 on January 1.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday that state health officials expect California to reach a record hospitalizations for COVID-19 by early February, breaking the record of 21,983 patients set in January 2021. California has approximately 74,000 licensed hospital beds.
According to Newsom, state data shows that about 4.5% of people infected with omicron end up being hospitalized, which is a lower proportion than with the delta variant. But with the case rate in California already extremely high and still rising, the volume of patients could put “enormous strain on our hospital system,” Newsom said.
Unions and Newsom react to rules for asymptomatic health workers
Over the weekend, the CRPD in a letter to hospitals and skilled nursing homes across the state said healthcare workers who tested positive or exposed to COVID-19 but asymptomatic can return to work immediately, without no period of quarantine or isolation.
State health officials called it a necessary step to address severe staffing shortages in hospitals. The guide lasts until February 1.
The move was immediately condemned by unions representing healthcare workers, who say the rule will prove dangerous for both healthcare workers and patients.
“We want to take care of our patients and see them get better – not potentially infecting them,” said Cathy Kennedy, RN and president of the California Nurses Association. “Sacking nurses and other healthcare workers to work while they are infected is dangerous. If we do get sick, who will be left to care for our patients and our community? “
Asked about the directions at a press conference on Monday unveiling its 2022-2023 budget plan, Newsom replied: “This is called dealing with reality.”
The governor said California has also hired 2,250 workers to supplement hospital staff across the state and plans to add more in the coming weeks.
Officials at UC Davis Health and Kaiser Permanente in response to The Sacramento Bee on Monday said they were still reviewing the new guidelines. Dignity Health officials said they “may need to take this approach in the days and weeks to come” depending on staff shortages. Sutter Health did not respond.
Outbreaks reported in retirement homes
Fifty-seven of the state’s more than 1,200 skilled nursing facilities had at least 11 active cases of COVID-19 among residents on Sunday, and more than 250 facilities had at least 11 active infections from employees, according to a table CDPH data board.
Most of the recent resident outbreaks have occurred in facilities in Southern California and the Bay Area.
Outbreaks of trained nurses in the Sacramento area include The Pines at Placerville, a 99-bed facility in El Dorado County, which on its website reported having 32 residents with COVID-19 in its unit. coronavirus isolation on Sunday and 12 staff members who tested positive in the past month; and the 205-bed Westview Healthcare Center in Auburn, which had 19 COVID-positive residents isolated on Sunday and 30 employees of whom tested positive in the past month.
Across all facilities across the state, the seven-day average of cases among skilled nursing residents fell from 38 cases in the week ending December 26 to 137 in the week of January 2 and 234 in the week of January 6.
The rate of cases in skilled nursing homes has already risen nearly six times the peak of the summer delta variant wave, which peaked at about 40 cases per day statewide.
Sacramento City Unified suspends certain activities
The Sacramento City Unified School District announced in an email to families Monday night that it was temporarily suspending certain extracurricular activities. These include field trips; activities “that are not part of a structured group or cohort” such as dances, gatherings and food fairs; and “non-essential tournaments”, including competitions which are not part of the playoffs.
However, activities involving defined cohorts of students may continue. These include athletics, marching band and orchestra, and “other club activities,” according to the email.
The district on its COVID-19 dashboard reported 322 active cases as of Tuesday morning.
The San Juan Unified School District has a total of 1,838 student cases; that’s a jump of about 1,300 cases over the past week. Elk Grove Unified reports 237 active cases and a case rate of 108 per 100,000.
Los Rios Community College district to start virtually
The Los Rios Community College District announced Monday that it will start the spring semester with most distance learning courses due to the “skyrocket” of COVID-19 cases in the Sacramento area, joining most of the state public universities.
American River College, Cosumnes River College, Folsom Lake College, and Sacramento City College will all switch to distance learning when the semester begins January 15, and will remain virtual until at least January 31.
A limited number of career education programs that cannot be conducted online will continue to be held in person, district officials said.
Since October, Los Rios has required a full vaccination to attend in-person classes, and officials said Monday they expected the district to need booster shots in the coming weeks.
Latest issues for the Sacramento area
Sacramento County has recorded a total of 197,718 laboratory-confirmed cases and 2,571 deaths from COVID-19 during the pandemic, according to local health officials.
The county added nearly 10,000 new confirmed cases in the past three days on Monday, bringing the daily rate of cases to a record 147 per 100,000. The local health unit in its previous update Friday had reported the case rate at 101 per 100,000.
Prior to the omicron push, Sacramento’s highest case rate was 63.6, set as of December 2020.
According to the CRPD, the latest test positive rate for Sacramento County is 23.5%.
County hospitals were treating 464 patients with confirmed COVID-19 on Monday, up from 276 a week earlier. The total for intensive care fell from 57 to 89.
Placer County has counted 57,741 cases and 498 deaths from the virus so far, last updated Monday.
Local health officials last reported the daily case rate at 51.9 per 100,000 for the week ending December 29.
Placer’s positivity rate is 23.4%, according to the CDPH.
Placer County hospitals had 208 COVID-positive patients on Monday, up from 137 a week earlier. The ICU went from 24 to 29.
Yolo County has confirmed 24,788 infections and 266 deaths from COVID-19, last updated Monday.
The latest reported case rate in the county is 32.3 per 100,000, for the week ending Jan.5.
The CRPD reports Yolo County’s positivity rate at 8.5%, among the lowest in the state.
Hospitals in Yolo County were treating seven patients with COVID-19 on Monday, up from 11 a week earlier. The total for intensive care has been reduced from three to one.
El Dorado County has reported 19,858 cumulative cases and 175 deaths from COVID-19, last updated Monday.
The last reported case rate in El Dorado, for the week ending Jan. 3, was 80 per 100,000, expanding to an all-time high.
The county had a 23.7% positivity rate, the CDPH reported on Tuesday.
El Dorado County hospitals had 16 COVID-positive patients on Monday, up from 13 a week earlier. Two were in intensive care, up from six a week earlier.
Sutter County has recorded 16,441 cases and 203 deaths, and Yuba County has recorded 12,627 cases with 90 deaths, according to an update Monday from the bi-county health unit.
The CRPD reported Sutter County at 63 per 100,000 daily cases and Yuba County at 68 per 100,000 on Tuesday.
Positivity was 28.9% in Sutter and 28.6% in Sutter, ranking seventh and eighth respectively among 58 counties in California, according to the CRPD.
The only hospital serving Yuba and Sutter counties, Adventist Health and Rideout in Marysville, had 48 patients with confirmed COVID-19 on Monday, more than double its total of 23 a week earlier. Seven were in intensive care, compared to six.
Rosalio Ahumada of The Bee, Cathie Anderson, Sophia Bollag, Lara Korte and Ryan Lillis contributed to this story.