Tag Archives: Coronavirus variant

Solano County at 55.6% vaccinated, 7-day average of 15.6 daily cases per 100K residents

[Editor: Among California counties, Solano currently ranks near average in percent vaccinated (55.6%), and well above average in 7-day cases per 100K residents (15.6).  See chart below.  -R.S.]

COVID spreading fast in well-vaccinated California counties

Cases falling in counties with below-average vaccination
As the United States continues on a path to near pre-pandemic normalcy, experts remain concerned over low vaccination rates and the spread of variants, which could potentially exacerbate a pandemic that has upended life for more than a year and inflicted a damaging toll on Americans and the world. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Vallejo Times-Herald, by John Woolfolk & Harriet Rowan, July 24, 2021

California and its big coastal cities have embraced vaccines to beat back the COVID-19 pandemic. But a Bay Area News Group analysis shows not only are cases rising fast in much of the Golden State, they are soaring in many urban counties that boast high vaccination rates.

Five California counties have both a higher percentage of their eligible residents fully vaccinated and a higher average daily case rate than the statewide average: Los Angeles, San Diego, Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco. The five counties with falling case rates — Modoc, Glenn, Lassen, Del Norte, San Benito — have below-average vaccination rates.

Detail from chart, hovering over “Solano”.  Solano County residents 12+ vaccinated = 54.65%; 7-day average of daily cases per 100,000 residents = 15.56. (See Times-Herald interactive image for detailed data on all counties).

That doesn’t mean the vaccines don’t work — rates for infection and hospitalization remain vastly higher among the unvaccinated. So what’s going on? Experts point to two things: the extraordinary ease with which the virus’ now-dominant delta strain spreads, and the fact that no vaccine offers impenetrable protection.

“I am not so surprised that transmission rates are not neatly tracking immunization rates,” said Dr. Stephen Luby, a medical professor specializing in infectious diseases at Stanford University.

“There are a number of issues that contribute to transmission,” Luby said. “In high density urban settings, for example, even with a higher level of vaccine coverage, there can still be a lot of exposure to unvaccinated folks and potentially to folks who are vaccinated but are asymptomatically shedding the delta variant.”

The soaring case rates spurred action and pleas this past week from public health officials in the Bay Area and politicians in some of the most vaccine-resistant parts of the country. Health officials in Santa Clara, San Francisco and Contra Costa counties urged employers to require vaccinations for all workers. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell implored the unvaccinated to get their shots and ignore “demonstrably bad advice,” while the Republican governor of Alabama — the least-vaccinated state in the country — said “it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the virus’s continued surge.

The delta variant, which devastated India in the spring, is highly contagious and has since spread globally and throughout the U.S. and California where it accounted for 82.8% of sequenced viral specimens as of Wednesday, up from 48.8% a month earlier.

There have been mixed reports about the vaccines’ effectiveness against the variant, most of which indicate they still offer broad protection, and case rates show the fully vaccinated remain well protected.

The California Department of Public Health reported Friday that between January 1 and July 14, 99% of the state’s cumulative cases have been among unvaccinated people. For the week of July 7-14, the average daily case rate per 100,000 among unvaccinated Californians was 13 while the rate for the vaccinated was 2, the CDPH said.

A similar picture emerges locally. In Contra Costa County, which reports case rates by vaccination status, the average rate per 100,000 among the unvaccinated was 27.8 on July 16 — six times the 4.5 rate reported in the vaccinated population. In Sonoma County, the rate was 15.1 among the unvaccinated, and 3.7 for the vaccinated.

But although the vaccines do a good job bolstering the body’s ability to fight infection, they aren’t impenetrable shields. Because vaccinated people are being exposed to higher levels of a more contagious variant circulating in densely populated urban areas, their chances for contracting one of the few vaccine “breakthrough” infections are greater.

“The best, most waterproof raincoat is protective, but not when it’s storming outside or you’re in the middle of a hurricane,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a professor of epidemiology at UC San Francisco.

She and Luby added that some vaccinated people may be spreading the virus without knowing they have it while their bodies fight it off.

And since California’s June 15 reopening, when the state retired its face mask mandate and color-coded system of pandemic restrictions based on case rates, people have been venturing out more without masks to stores, restaurants and events that no longer have pandemic crowd limits. Although many people still use masks in places like the Bay Area, that can only do so much.

“It’s definitely depressing to see how quickly things turned,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “But the threat of the virus has always been there. Delta is a highly transmissible variant, something we have to respect. Even with some of the masking, we’re moving around a lot, we’re going along with our usual patterns of behavior. Put those together and you can quickly see, even though we’re wearing masks, we have vaccination, there’s no margin for error any more.”

While vaccination levels are relatively high in California and the big cities where the virus is spreading, there still are many who haven’t had or can’t get the shots.

According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California’s 61.1% vaccination rate of those 12 and older compares favorably to the 55.3% in Florida and 53% in Texas, and isn’t far behind New York’s 65.4%. But many, including kids under 12 and people with medical issues, can’t get the shots. Just over half California’s nearly 40 million people — 52.1% — are fully immunized.

“Once you put in the full population denominator, it’s not as high as we think,” Bibbins-Domingo said.

The rapidly worsening pandemic picture — coming at a time when many hoped the virus would be a fading memory — has led many health experts to call on federal and state authorities to reverse course and impose more face mask requirements and restrictions.

Both the CDC and California Department of Public Health have maintained that the answer remains simply getting more people vaccinated. But resistance among some people will be hard to overcome.

For now, many local health officials have been stepping in, urging people to resume wearing masks indoors, where the virus spreads more easily, regardless of vaccination, and employers to require that their workers get the shots. Some businesses, including San Francisco bar owners, are considering requiring their customers provide proof of vaccination, fearing a return of the pandemic restrictions that closed them down entirely.

Health experts like Bibbins-Domingo support all of that, and sympathize with the messaging dilemma facing public health officials.

“The challenge in public health communication is we ultimately do want more people to be vaccinated,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “And the concern is communicating that we also need to wear a mask right now will then dilute the message that we need to be vaccinated. The challenge is that both things are true.”

Solano holdout: only Bay Area county with no mask recommendation despite surge in numbers

[BenIndy editor: Solano County Public Health officer Dr. Bela Matyas needs to wake up.  We are in another surge, and the consequences are plain.  Everyone please return to wearing masks in stores, restaurants, churches, and any crowded indoors areas.  Before shaking hands or sharing hugs, don’t be afraid to ask: “Are you vaccinated?”  Encourage anyone you know who is not vaccinated, to get the shot.  – R.S.]

Despite increase in COVID-19 cases, Solano County not changing stance

Health officials strongly urge getting vaccinated

Capital City Pharmacist Arthur Metu prepares to give Marc Doyg his first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine inside the former Artizen building in March in downtown Vallejo. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald)
Vallejo Times-Herald, by Thomas Gase, July 21, 2021

When many people think of the Fourth of July, they think of the colors red, white and blue. Thankfully, they won’t also be seeing purple.

Despite the number of COVID-19 cases doubling since July 4, the Solano County Health Department said no rules are being changed yet on whether or not one should wear a mask for indoor events. This comes as a relief to some, as the county would be in the least restrictive purple tier if it was still following the old tier system used before the state reopened in early June.

As of Wednesday afternoon the county has had 34,761 cases, and its death toll has remained at 245 for about two weeks. However, the 7-day positivity rate has climbed to 11.9 this week. It was at 10.2 a week ago and 13.2 two weeks ago.

While some nearby counties like Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Santa Clara have recommended wearing masks more indoors due to the Delta Variant, Solano County Health officials like Jayleen Richards said the cause for the spike in cases doesn’t come from the variant, but instead the recent July 4th holiday.

“Solano Public Health will continue to follow the guidance of the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Richards said. “At this time, both agencies are not recommending a tier system or asking vaccinated people to wear masks indoors. We will continue to follow the guidance provided by these agencies.”

Solano was seeing 15 tp 20 cases per day prior to the July 4th holiday, according to Richards. Between July 7 and July 20, the average daily cases increased to 46 per day. Most of these cases are attributed to the holiday.

“The number of cases in Solano County and across the state and country is disproportionately impacting those who are not vaccinated,” Richards said. “In Solano County, the unvaccinated tends to be a younger population. In Solano County, more than 85 percent of residents 65-74 years of age are vaccinated and nearly 84 percent of residents older than 75 years of age are vaccinated. Older populations are the most at risk for hospitalizations and death due to COVID-19. We are concerned that the number of cases is increasing in Solano County, and we are pleased that the hospital systems are not being stretched thin, due to the increases in the number of cases, as we saw earlier this year.”

With these stats, Solano isn’t recommending yet that it should wear masks inside, but it strongly is recommending for people to get the vaccination.

“Public Health officials and providers urge everyone eligible to get a vaccine,” Richards said. “A person who receives a vaccine is protecting themselves and their loved ones from the disease. Among people who are vaccinated about 10 percent remain susceptible to the virus because they haven’t formed immunity. These people are as susceptible as those who are unvaccinated. Both of these groups being impacted by the Delta Variant of the virus in increasing numbers. The virus has many variants among which the Delta Variant is most easily transmitted. If people continue to wear masks and socially distance their chance of getting COVID is significantly reduced. The likelihood of severe illness seems to be similar for all of the variants.”

California lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions in June as part of a grand reopening in which the state ended physical distancing, capacity limits and mask requirements for those who are vaccinated. Many people at stores like Costco in Gateway Plaza chose to wear masks as they shopped. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald)

The California Department of Public Health developed a variant tracking page that explains how, which, and why variants are tracked. At the bottom of the webpage, the state provides information on known variants and what proportion of variants have changed over time. The link to the site is www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/COVID-Variants.aspx.

A table on that site says the numbers of specimens that Solano County is aware of. Of the people in Solano County that have the virus, 78 percent of them have the Alpha version, according to that table’s study. Another 14.29 come from the Delta Variant, while 5.84 percent comes from the Gamma and 1.30 percent comes from the Beta.

While Richards and the Solano County Public Health Department are closely monitoring what California Gov. Gavin Newsom says, Solano Public Health has worked closely with the state to provide 16 vaccine clinics at McDonald’s restaurant locations across the county. Two hundred and five people have been vaccinated at these clinics, according to Richards. Solano held the most events at the McDonald’s locations than any other county in the state.

Nationally, many health experts have called on the federal government to change its guidance that the vaccinated don’t need to wear masks again indoors.

But talk of vaccine passports has all but vanished in the months since vaccinations became widely available and infection rates began to plummet as a result. And with Newsom facing a recall election in September driven largely by critics of his handling of the pandemic, there is little appetite for renewed statewide restrictions on businesses and schools.

“We’re very mindful of the Delta Variant,” Newsom said Wednesday, calling a statewide mask order or vaccine passport unnecessary. “The most important thing we can do to get this pandemic behind us is to get vaccinated.”

Last week Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell urged people to continue wearing masks and asked citizens why they would want to take a chance.

“What’s reality with the statistics is that you’re not likely to contact the variant if vaccinated, but there is still a chance you can,” McConnell said. “If you get it, then possible long-term effects could have an impact on your bodies and your breathing. You don’t want to be that one person. Why increase the chance of being that person? It’s a losing bet.”

— Bay Area News Group reporters John Wolfolk and Rachel Oh contributed to this report.

NPR analysis of newest COVID hot spots includes Contra Costa and Sacramento counties

By Roger Straw, July 12, 2021

If you can wade through the rather “old news” introduction, this article gets REALLY interesting…  For the list of California counties, scroll down to the chart, “COVID-19 Hot Spot Counties Often Have Lower Vaccination Rates” – click on STATE and then SHOW MORE.  There’s more: don’t miss at end of article, “A fall surge is predicted“.

Where Are The Newest COVID Hot Spots? Mostly Places With Low Vaccination Rates

Health News from NPR, Updated July 9, 20212:05 PM ET
Heard on Morning Edition

As the weather warmed up this year, coronavirus case numbers plummeted, and life in the U.S. started to feel almost normal. But in recent weeks, that progress has stalled.

The vaccination campaign has slowed, and the delta variant is spreading rapidly. And new infections, which had started to plateau about a month ago, are going up slightly nationally.

New, localized hot spots are emerging, especially in stretches of the South, the Midwest and the West. And, according to an analysis NPR conducted with Johns Hopkins University, those surges are likely driven by pockets of dangerously low vaccination rates.

“I think we should brace ourselves to see case increases, particularly in unvaccinated populations,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Cases are rising in many states

The number of people catching the virus has risen in more than half of the states over the past two weeks. And 18 states have greater numbers of new infections now compared with four weeks ago, including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma, where new daily cases have doubled.

“It’s an early trend,” Nuzzo says. “Unfortunately looking at what’s happening in individual states, I do worry we will continue to see national numbers increase.”

The number of people getting hospitalized for COVID-19 has also started rising again in nine states, according to Johns Hopkins: Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin and Mississippi.

“I expect that more states would join that list in a few weeks as they continue to see case increases,” Nuzzo cautions.

Localized outbreaks at the county level

To understand what’s driving the small rise in cases at the state and national level, researchers are keeping an eye on county-level trends.

A federal team including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does a daily ranking of counties’ level of COVID-19 risk and identifies those it considers hot spots. These are places where COVID-19 presents a “high burden” to the community, measured in part by a significant rise in cases as well as increases in case positivity rates.

NPR and Johns Hopkins analyzed the current hot spots from the week of July 1 to July 7 to see how many of them have been in bad shape over a longer period. The analysis found that the vast majority of the CDC’s hot spot counties from the last seven days have seen increases in new cases compared with one month ago — 104 out of the 136 counties.

This shows that for many of these hot spot counties, the rise in cases “isn’t a blip,” Nuzzo says. “That means that they’re headed in the wrong direction” in those places.

Many of the places with dramatic rises in cases are rural areas or small towns.

For example, Newton County, Mo., has seen a 182% increase in new infections; Nacogdoches County, Texas, has seen a 632% increase. Ottawa County, Okla., has seen infections soar 828%.

Nuzzo points out that for some of the rural hot spots, the increases may be small in terms of total numbers, but that these communities typically have fewer health care resources to treat even a slight rise in COVID-19 cases.

“The ability to save lives is dependent on there being enough resources to offer lifesaving medical care,” she notes. “We could see people die from their infection that otherwise could have been saved.”

NPR analyzed counties included in a federal COVID-19 hospitalization dataset and found that COVID-19 hospital admissions rose modestly in one-quarter of these counties last week compared with two weeks ago. Nearly half of the places where hospitalization increased were in Southern states, with Texas, North Carolina and Georgia leading. Another quarter of counties that increased were in the Midwest.

Nuzzo says she’s worried about a continued trend of “localized surges” around the country.

“Most of the [hot spot] counties are in states that are also reporting state-level increases, but not all are. In fact, we are seeing counties in states that we haven’t really been worrying about — California and Washington state, for instance,” Nuzzo says.

Some of the hot spot counties are also in suburban and even urban areas. For instance, Salt Lake City has had new infections rise over the last month, as has Clark County, Nev., home to Las Vegas, and Contra Costa County, Calif., home to some San Francisco Bay Area suburbs.

The link with low vaccination rates

NPR’s analysis with Johns Hopkins illustrates dramatically the impact of vaccination rates on risk for localized outbreaks. Most — 9 in 10 — of the CDC hot spot counties that have seen increasing cases over the last month had lower vaccination rates than the average U.S. county.

Nationally, 47.6% of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated as of July 7. Rates in many of the hot spot counties with sustained outbreaks were drastically lower. For instance, Ottawa County in Oklahoma has only vaccinated about 24% of its population. Utah County, Utah, the second-most populous in the state, has about a 32% vaccination rate. The lowest rate in the list of hot spots was Newton County, Mo., at nearly 17%.

While urban and suburban counties tend to have higher vaccination rates than rural ones overall, NPR’s analysis found that hot spot counties, even in more urban areas, tend to have lagging vaccination rates. And across all geographic types, hot spot counties had lower vaccination rates. For instance, among all U.S. counties designated as “small urban” areas, the average vaccination rate was 41% nationally, whereas among the hot spots, it was 33%.

Researchers had long feared places with low vaccination rates would end up being at risk for outbreaks, says Dr. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has been tracking the pandemic in the United States. And now that pattern is proving true, he says.

You can see this play out vividly in the different parts of Missouri, he notes. For example, St. Louis County in the metro St. Louis area has a vaccination rate of 47% of the total population and is seeing a small increase in new infections of 17% over the last 30 days. In Greene County, home to Springfield, Mo., the vaccination rate is more than 10 points lower and has seen a 275% increase in new cases.

“The emergence of the delta variant is going to mean for those areas with low rates of vaccination that they’re very much at risk to see significant increases in transmission, with potentially even exponential growth,” he says.

Some regions may fall prey to a scattering of new outbreaks, while others may stay relatively unscathed, Rubin says. For instance, he points to New York and Massachusetts, which have high vaccination rates, and so far, few new infections. “It’s like a wall has formed in the upper Northeast with regards to transmission,” he says.

But, as Nuzzo notes, localized flare-ups in unvaccinated areas could spread regionally.

“One of the things that we keep forgetting about this pandemic is that something that happens in one state is not isolated from something that will happen in another state,” Nuzzo says. “So as long as we keep seeing case increases in any part of the country, it remains a national crisis.”

A fall surge is predicted

The troubling rises in cases and hospitalizations are stirring worries that the country may be on the cusp of yet another national surge that could continue into the fall.

Ali Mokdad, a researcher with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, says the delta variant is a “game changer” for the group’s forecasting models.

“The delta variant has changed all our projections,” he says. “It’s more likely to be transmitted, makes the vaccines less effective; previous infections are not protective. We will see a rise in cases.”

And that rise is likely to occur in the summer instead of the fall, as the group had previously projected. That’s in line with forecasts from a group of modelers organized by the CDC.

Deaths could start going up again too, by mid-August, Mokdad says. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that deaths could rise from their current rate of around 200 a day to up over 1,000 by fall.

And the burden of the pandemic, Mokdad predicts, will not be evenly shared.

“We’re going to see a divide in the country,” he says. Places that have high vaccination rates may still see small surges, he says, but “it will be much worse in these locations with low vaccination coverage.”

Things may worsen in the fall, in part because that’s when more people will be heading indoors as a result of cold weather.

No one is predicting things will get anywhere close to as bad as last winter. But researchers emphasize that any increase in deaths is a travesty, given that COVID-19 has essentially become a preventable disease.

Mokdad notes that among recent COVID-19 deaths, “the majority, 97[%] to 99% of the deaths, are among people who are not vaccinated.”

“It’s so sad for me on a daily basis to look at the number of deaths in the United States, knowing that these mortalities could have been prevented. No one — no one — should die from COVID19 while we have an effective vaccine.”

Researchers are hoping these early hot spots will be a wake-up call to communities with lower vaccination rates.

“They should be heeding the warning that’s coming out of Missouri and Arkansas and recognizing that they need to boost their vaccination rates,” says Rubin of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Nuzzo agrees. “There’s a lot more that we can do to stop the spread of this virus and to prevent people from being hospitalized or dying from it,” she says.

Alyson Hurt and Duy Nguyen of NPR and Emily Pond of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security contributed to this report.


To categorize hot spots, NPR analyzed daily updates of all counties’ rankings on the Area of Concern Continuum from July 1 to July 7, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sustained hot spots and hot spots were marked as such if they achieved that ranking at least once through the week.

Among these hot spots, Johns Hopkins compared 30-day averages of new COVID-19 cases to see where cases have seen sustained increases this month compared with the previous month.

Vaccination data comes from county-level counts of fully vaccinated people as of July 7 provided by the CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services. NPR excluded Georgia, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, because fewer than 80% of their vaccination records included a person’s county of residence. NPR used the National Center for Health Statistics 2013 Urban-Rural Classification Scheme to calculate average vaccination rates by county type, weighted by county population, both for all counties and for the hot spot counties.

NPR calculated per-capita county hospitalization rates using seven-day counts of confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions for the weeks ending June 26 and July 3. This data is provided in Community Profile Reports published by the White House COVID-19 team.

Solano County Public Health: Delta strain of Coronavirus ‘spreading in the county’

Delta strain of coronavirus has been found in Solano

Fairfield Daily Republic, by Todd R. Hansen, June 23, 2021

Dr. Bela Matyas, Solano County Public Health

FAIRFIELD — Dr. Bela Matyas announced Tuesday that six positive tests of the highly transmissible delta strain of the novel coronavirus have been found in Solano County.

None of the six individuals has become particularly ill, Matyas emphasized, but he also noted that those individuals felt the need to come in to be checked.

“Nonetheless, it is spreading in the county,” said Matyas, who added that the county is testing every positive coronavirus result for that particular stain.

The details of the individuals – gender, ages and areas of residency – were not available. Nor did Matyas know whether any of the individuals had been vaccinated.

Matyas is on record as saying the best defense against the delta strain or any other coronavirus strain is to be vaccinated, and that the higher number of residents who get vaccinated, the lower the risk the virus can be spread.

The last county report shows 53% of residents 12 or older are fully vaccinated, and 65% of that population has received at least one shot…..