Adventist Health Sonora August

A visualization of all COVID-19 hospitalizations at Adventist Health Sonora from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3 that shows the vast majority of patients continue to be people who are not vaccinated.

Data on serious COVID-19 cases from Adventist Health Sonora during the recent, ongoing delta variant surge continues to show unvaccinated people are the vast majority of those requiring hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit, and being placed on ventilators.

Regardless of people’s views on vaccines and COVID-19, local coronavirus hospitalization numbers from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3 are conclusive:

• 86 of 95 Adventist Health Sonora patients, or more than 87%, hospitalized during that period for COVID-19 were unvaccinated;

• 25 of 28 COVID-19 patients, or more than 89%, who required admission to the hospital’s six-bed intensive care unit were unvaccinated;

• and 19 out of 20 coronavirus patients, or 95%, who had to be placed on ventilators at the hospital during that period were unvaccinated.

That means vaccinated individuals made up less than 12% of Adventist Health Sonora’s coronavirus hospitalizations, less than 11% of the hospital’s ICU patients and 5% of those placed on ventilators between Aug. 1 and Sept. 3.


However, the math has not persuaded a large number of people who remain unvaccinated in Tuolumne County and distrustful of health officials and medical experts who overwhelmingly agree the vaccines are safe, effective and the best, quickest way to end the pandemic. 

On Saturday, more than 250 people turned out for a two-hour event billed as a Rally for Freedom at Courthouse Square in downtown Sonora. Some participants warned coronavirus vaccines are worse than the deadly pandemic, despite a lack of proof of widespread adverse effects caused by the jab.

Asked Monday whether Adventist Health Sonora has had any cases where people who got vaccinated against COVID-19 got sick from the vaccine or died from the vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alex Heard said, “No deaths, one long-term issue, lots of one day feeling blah.”

More than 52,000 vaccine doses have been administered in the county. though it remained at an extremely high risk level for unvaccinated people because there had been an average of 49.5 daily cases per 100,000 population in the past two weeks since Friday.

In August, Tuolumne County was one of nine California counties with more patients hospitalized for COVID-19 than at any other time in the pandemic. The other eight counties were Amador, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, and Lake.

“The message we want to get across to people is folks who are vaccinated do better when it comes to severe illness,” Heard said. “There’s another really important message we want to get across. We are here for the community, regardless of how they come into our hospital. We are here to give you the best care possible.”

Data for cases in which COVID-19 contributed to an individual’s death closely mirror Adventist Health Sonora’s hospitalizations data, Heard said. More than 95% of COVID-related deaths have involved unvaccinated patients.

The disease had contributed to the deaths of 99 individuals in Tuolumne County as of Friday, including at least 26 coronavirus deaths since Aug. 1, with individuals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s among the deceased. 

Two of the 99 county residents confirmed to have died of COVID-19 were vaccinated, or about 2%.

Unvaccinated COVID-19 patients have complicated the ability of hospitals to care for patients needing treatment for other types of medical issues in some parts of the United States where vaccination rates remain low, though Heard said that hasn’t been a problem yet at Adventist Health Sonora.

“To this point, we are adequately resourced,” he said. “We do have difficulty sometimes transferring people, and that’s more because the other hospitals are full.”

The current surge in Tuolumne County has been due to the highly contagious delta variant. Recent case numbers and case numbers from Saturday to Monday, to be released later Monday, were expected to show more positive COVID-19 cases that include people who attended Labor Day gatherings, Heard said.

“We’ll continue to see it go up and down,” he said of the county’s coronavirus cases and daily case rates. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Asked if he has any advice for people who want to continue to protest and express their opinions in public, Heard said it comes down to basics: “Wear a mask, wash your hands, remain six feet from others, be outside, be careful, and protect yourself.”

Being fully vaccinated continues to significantly reduce the risk of illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19, Tuolumne County Public Health staff have repeated in recent months.

“The vaccines are considered safe and effective,” Heard said Monday. “The main thing we want people to know is we love everyone, we’re going to approach everyone the same, we’re going to give everyone the same care, and we’re here for you.”

Divisive, hyperpartisan politics continue to play a significant role in how Tuolumne County residents view COVID-19, vaccines, masking, and other aspects of the pandemic. 

Supporters of recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom were outraged last week when more than 60% of voters statewide rejected the Republican-led effort to boot him from office and replace him with a conservative.

Exit-polling data statewide showed the top issue among the California voters in the Sept. 14 recall election was COVID-19, ahead of homelessness, the economy, and wildfires. In spite of that state trend, Tuolumne County voters supported the losing effort to recall Newsom by roughly the same percentages they supported former President Donald J. Trump’s unsuccessful bid at re-election in November 2020.

Contact Guy McCarthy at or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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