Coronavirus cell

Coronavirus cell

Tuolumne County public health officials are recommending people break out their masks again, regardless of their vaccination status, in response to surging COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant combined with lagging vaccination rates and a lack of other preventative measures.

Shortly before reporting 14 new community cases on Thursday afternoon, the county Public Health Department sent out a news release recommending everyone go back to wearing masks in indoor public settings.

“The Public Health Department is seeing an increase in cases in the state, our region, and the county,” the news release said. “However, with the emergence of the Delta variant, this rise in cases is markedly more than anticipated.”

The county’s 14 new cases on Thursday followed 18 reported Wednesday, which was the most for a single day since February and included four new inmate cases at Sierra Conservation Center outside of Jamestown.

Since June 15, when most remaining COVID-related restrictions were lifted by the state, the county’s two-week running average of new cases per day has increased from 0.5 to 9.4 on Thursday.

People who are not vaccinated have accounted for all but 12 of the 168 new cases in the county since May 24, when the Public Health Department began reporting the vaccination status of each new case.

There were two additional vaccinated cases among the 14 reported on Thursday.

Only two of the 12 vaccinated cases have required hospitalization, including one on Wednesday and another person who was admitted briefly over the weekend before being released to their home.

No one in the county who is vaccinated has died from COVID-19 at this point. Experts say that currently 99.5% of deaths and 97% of hospitalizations across the United States are people who are unvaccinated.

About 47% to 51% of the county’s eligible population 12 and older are vaccinated, compared to more than 61% statewide and about 57% nationwide. 

Data updated daily on the California Department of Public Health’s website showed the county had 21,668 fully vaccinated people as of Wednesday out of an estimated eligible population of 46,300, representing nearly 47%.

However, the state data does not include doses administered by the Indian Health Service, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website does include the doses administered by the federal agencies and showed on Wednesday that 23,225 people in the county were fully vaccinated.

The CDC data also still showed less than half of people in the county 12 and older were fully vaccinated at 47.8%, because the agency uses a higher population estimate than the state.

A recent presentation by the county Public Health Department to the county Board of Supervisors listed the number fully vaccinated at 23,288 and rate at 50.3%. 

Michelle Jachetta, the county public health director, said the discrepancy between the county’s numbers and those on the state and CDC websites was because she used data from the CDPH that’s not available to the public.

Regardless of the difference in reported vaccination rates, Jachetta said it’s still a frustrating challenge that the county remains stuck at about 50% fully vaccinated when the ideal rate would be 70% or more.

In addition to wearing masks again and getting vaccinated, the county Public Health Department recommend on Thursday that people:

• get tested if they experience symptoms and every 14 to 28 days if they come into regular contact with the public; 

• cooperate with case investigations, contact tracing and quarantine procedures; 

• and stay home if they’re sick or having symptoms.

“Thankfully, these measures have limited impact on our economy, and are interventions proven to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus (as well as other respiratory illnesses),” the county Public Health Department said.

See below for information on testing and vaccinations available in the county:

Testing

When you should get tested: Five days after travel or close contact with others outside of your household; as soon as possible if experiencing symptoms; and/or every 14 to 28 days if regularly working with the public.

Testing is available from:

• Local health care providers;

• Adventist Health Sonora, call first: (209) 536-5166;

• Rite Aid at 855 Mono Way, Sonora: www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/services/covid-19-testing

• Tuolumne Veterans Memorial Hall, 18375 Fir Avenue — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Appointments are recommended and can be scheduled at www.lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling (888) 634-1123.

Vaccinations

• The Tuolumne County Public Health Department: To find out if you’re eligible and register for available vaccination clinics, visit: https://myturn.ca.gov/.

• CVS and Rite Aid stores in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties: Sign up at https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine or www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/covid-qualifier.

• Adventist Health Sonora: Find out more information by going to www.adventisthealthsonora.org/covidvaccine or call (209) 536-5165.

• The Safeway pharmacy: Register at mhealthsystem.com/3127tuolumne.

• Twain Harte Pharmacy: Call (209) 586-3225 for information and appointments.

• The Calaveras County Public Health Division has a clinic at Frogtown, 2465 Gun Club Road, outside Angels Camp. Register for appointments at https://bit.ly/3dZqvDh or call (209) 419-7314.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 768-5175.