California — and the Sacramento region — continues to see an increase in respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, flu and RSV. State and local health officials are urging residents to mask in indoor spaces and get vaccinated before winter holiday celebrations begin.
A Thursday update from the California Department of Public Health shows statewide COVID-19 rates have spiked to 19.4% per 100,000 residents, with an average of over 7,800 new cases recorded per day.
Continued concern for a ‘tripledemic’ in the Sacramento region
On a press call Wednesday, Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye announced that cases of respiratory viruses have continued to increase in the area in recent weeks.
The latest surge in COVID-19 cases, Kasirye said, is “much lower” than in December 2021, but is still high enough to move the county from the “low” to “medium” level for COVID-19 danger, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. Placer, El Dorado, Yolo and San Joaquin counties have also moved into the same tier.
This triggers a change in indoor masking requirements: Masks are required at all shelters, jails and prisons in counties which are classified with “medium” levels of COVID-19 danger. Masking indoors is also recommended for vulnerable people in these counties.
Kasirye said the area’s hospital system is still feeling the pressure from a spike in other respiratory viruses like RSV and flu.
“Hospitals are being impacted by the number of cases coming in,” she said. “Our request is that for people that have mild disease, that they should stay away from the emergency room so that we keep those services for people that are really sick.”
An El Dorado County resident died of seasonal flu, county health officials announced on Wednesday. It is the first flu-related death recorded in the county since 2020.
"This flu-related fatality is a painful reminder that COVID-19 is not the only illness threatening the most vulnerable among us," said Dr. Nancy Williams, El Dorado County’s public health officer. "Continued vigilance to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses in our communities remains important for everyone."
Yolo County officials announced Wednesday that they are urging everyone under the age of 2 wear a mask in indoor spaces after seeing an increase in wastewater levels of flu, RSV and COVID-19 in Yolo County.
“Hospitalizations and emergency department visits for respiratory illnesses are also increasing, along with absences from school and work,” county officials said in a release.
Kasirye, Williams and Dr. Aimee Sisson, Yolo County’s public health officer, urged residents to get vaccinated for both flu and COVID-19.
“We must remain vigilant against both COVID and influenza in the months ahead,” Sisson said. “Now is a great time to get your bivalent COVID booster and annual flu shot to protect yourself and your family this fall and winter.”
Statewide RSV rates start to plateau, though flu and COVID-19 continue to rise
California’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said during a press call Tuesday that statewide RSV cases have plateaued, “even come down a bit,” in recent weeks. However, rates of flu and COVID have continued to increase.
“California is now considered by the CDC to be in their highest level of influenza activity,” he said. “We know that we're climbing up in terms of the level of circulating flu.”
Ghaly said California’s current flu transmission rates are comparable to pre-pandemic flu seasons. He said this year is different, though: The combination of an earlier flu season and an increase in other respiratory virus transmission is putting a strain on the state’s hospital system.
“Over the past few weeks, we've seen an ongoing increase and these curves are getting steeper each week around flu, COVID 19 and other respiratory viruses,” he said. “Taken separately, these infections are manageable. But when all come together, the difficulty posed to the system is pretty extreme. And we're seeing that now.”
Ghaly said public health experts anticipate 4,000 more people will need to be hospitalized for COVID and the flu before the end of the month. He added that these respiratory viruses are increasingly impacting adults.
“The impact is certainly happening for adults, especially older Californians,” he said. “It's the pediatric systems who continue to be stretched and the adult systems who are experiencing overall hospital census numbers that rival some of the hardest moments of the pandemic.”
Ghaly, like Sisson, Williams and Kasirye, stressed that with an increase in travel and indoor gatherings, now is the best time to consider getting vaccinated for both the flu and COVID-19.
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