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COVID updates: California hospitals add surge beds; cases soaring at nursing homes

Sacramento Bee - 1/14/2022

Jan. 14—While some experts and health officials' projections suggest the state will reach a peak within the next few weeks, California's COVID-19 infection rate continues its steep climb in mid-January, placing ever-increasing strain on hospitals, schools, businesses, prisons, jails, nursing homes and more.

The California Department of Public Health on Friday reported over 119,000 new lab-confirmed cases, driving the daily case to another all-time record of 232 per 100,000 residents.

California's test positivity rate is showing very early signs of slowing down: CDPH reported positivity at 22.9%, down from an even 23% on Thursday and 23.1% on Wednesday. Before then, the state had broken its positivity record in every daily update this year.

CDPH reported 13,349 COVID-positive patients in hospital beds Thursday, up 44% from the 9,279 reported one week earlier. More than 2,050 are now in intensive care units, a 37% jump in the past week.

"We are all going to have to buckle up," Carmela Coyle, president of the California Hospital Association, said Thursday. "We are bracing for a rough several weeks when we are expecting the health care system in California will be overwhelmed based on the experience in the rest of the nation."

The highly-contagious omicron variant now makes up at least about 91% of samples tested for variants, CDPH said in a weekly update Thursday, with virtually all of the remaining samples confirmed as the previously dominant delta variant. Omicron crossed 50% and overtook delta on Dec. 21, state data show.

Omicron has shown a smaller proportional rate of hospitalization than delta, but it is still threatening to overwhelm health care systems due to its magnitude. California's latest case rate is seven times higher than the peak of summer's delta surge.

Gov. Gavin Newsom at the start of this week said state health officials project California will reach about 23,000 hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 by Feb. 2. That would break the pandemic record of just under 22,000 recorded in January 2021, and it'd also represent nearly one-third of all licensed hospital beds in the state occupied with virus-positive patients.

To date, California has detected more than 6.4 million cases of COVID-19, and at least 76,940 Californians have died from the disease.

Kaiser adding surge beds at South Sacramento facility

Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento has set up "several temporary surge units" totaling 56 hospital beds to address soaring hospitalization totals in the region, the health provider said in a statement Friday morning.

The state is providing the staffing for the surge units, which will be used for non-COVID patients.

"The current surge is building on what has already been an incredibly challenging and stressful 24 months for our members, communities and workforce," Kaiser officials wrote.

CDPH reported 505 COVID-positive patients were hospitalized in Sacramento County as of Thursday, just shy of the all-time record of 518 recorded Dec. 22, 2020. Eighty-two were in intensive care units Thursday, still well short of the winter 2020 record of 130.

The county health office reported COVID-19 made up 14% of all emergency room visits in Sacramento for the week ending Jan. 2, yet another all-time record. The winter 2020 surge and last summer's delta variant surge each peaked around 10%.

Infections climbing at California nursing homes

A data dashboard from CDPH displaying coronavirus infections at California's skilled nursing homes shows the case rate among residents has increased nearly 15-fold since Christmas, exploding from an average of 32 daily cases to 452 daily cases across the state's 1,223 licensed facilities in less than three weeks.

The latest rate is more than 11 times higher than the peak of summer's delta variant surge, and is only eclipsed by the winter 2020 surge, which saw the daily total peak at about 725.

Deaths have not started to increase, but it remains early in the surge.

About 9,500 of California's 77,000 total COVID-19 deaths have come in skilled nursing residents, with the vast majority of fatalities having come before vaccines rolled out.

About 88% of nursing home residents statewide are vaccinated, CDPH says. Health data show vaccines provide strong protection against severe illness from omicron, but older adults throughout the pandemic have been among the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19.

Sheriff releasing over 200 jail inmates amid new outbreaks

A Sacramento County Sheriff's Office spokesman said Thursday that 203 total inmates will be released from the Main Jail downtown and the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, in an effort to mitigate COVID-19 spread.

As of Thursday, the Main Jail had 76 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates, up from 27 one week earlier; and 48 at RCCC, up from zero. That means the case total between the two facilities has more than quadrupled in the past week.

"The transmission we are seeing in the jails mimics what we are seeing in the community," health officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said in a news release from the county. "This omicron variant is very contagious and easily spread from person to person."

The two jails previously saw a large outbreak that started in October. A county inspector general's report cited overpopulation, weak adherence on mask-wearing and social distancing and a low vaccination rate in contributing to that outbreak.

Positivity soars to record high in Sacramento County

Sacramento County in an update this week to local COVID-19 data dashboard reported that 43% of tests from the week of Jan. 2 to Jan. 8 returned positive, with the last four of those days each exceeding 60%.

It's by far the highest test positivity rate the local health office has reported, nearly tripling the 16% rate recorded one week earlier, which had been a record.

"Several factors may be contributing to this percentage, in addition to widespread community transmission," Sacramento County spokeswoman Samantha Mott said in an emailed response. "Anecdotally we are seeing people test positive using an at-home or antigen test and then going and getting a PCR test for confirmation. "

This would drive positivity higher, as those who test positive using rapid at-home tests would be more likely to seek a PCR test than those who test negative at home.

"With the exception of very few antigen tests that are genome sequenced, the dashboard reflects only PCR confirmed cases," Mott continued.

It is unclear why the percentage is so much higher than that reported by CDPH, which recorded positivity at 24.8% for Sacramento County and 22.9% across all of California in a Friday update. The state health department data dashboard notes that recent test numbers, from within the past week, are incomplete.

Latest Sacramento-area numbers

Sacramento County has recorded 211,136 total lab-confirmed cases and 2,586 deaths from COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, according to local health officials.

The county on Friday reported the daily case rate at 203 per 100,000 residents, another record. The case rate is now more than triple the pre-omicron record of 64 per 100,000 from December 2020.

According to CDPH, Sacramento County's latest test positivity rate is 24.8%.

County hospitals were treating 505 patients with confirmed COVID-19 as of Thursday, up from 319 one week earlier. The ICU total increased to 82 from 69.

Placer County has tallied 47,096 cases and 499 virus deaths to date, last updated Wednesday.

Local health officials last reported the daily case rate at 88.7 per 100,000 for the week ending Jan. 3.

Placer's positivity rate is 25.3%, according to CDPH.

Placer County hospitals had 205 COVID-positive patients Thursday, up from 162 one week earlier. The ICU increased to 33 from 22.

Yolo County has confirmed 25,664 infections and 266 deaths from COVID-19, last updated Thursday.

The county's latest reported case rate is 110 per 100,000, for the week ending Jan. 7.

CDPH reports Yolo County's positivity rate at 8.5%, among the state's lowest.

Yolo County hospitals were treating 14 patients with COVID-19 on Thursday, up from nine one week earlier. The ICU total increased from two to four.

El Dorado County has reported 20,690 cumulative cases and 178 deaths from COVID-19, last updated Thursday.

El Dorado's latest reported case rate, for the week ending Jan. 6, was 110 per 100,000, expanding on an all-time record.

The county had a positivity rate of 25.5%, CDPH reported Friday.

Hospitals in El Dorado County had 13 COVID-positive patients Thursday, up from nine a week earlier. Four patients were in ICUs, up from two.

Sutter County has recorded 17,204 cases and 205 deaths, and Yuba County has recorded 13,042 cases with 91 deaths, according to a Thursday update from the bi-county health office.

CDPH reported Yuba County at 126 daily cases per 100,000 and Sutter County at 104 per 100,000 as of Friday.

Positivity was 34.4% in Sutter and 32.7% in Yuba, ranking fifth- and seventh-highest, respectively, among California's 58 counties, according to CDPH.

The lone hospital serving Yuba and Sutter counties, Adventist Health and Rideout in Marysville, as of Thursday had 34 patients with confirmed COVID-19, up from 27 one week earlier. Six were in the ICU, ticking up from five a week earlier.

The Bee's Rosalio Ahumada and Cathie Anderson contributed to this story.


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