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Sonoma County reports three new COVID-19 deaths, all unvaccinated residents

For information about how to schedule a vaccine in Sonoma County, go here.

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world, go here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Sonoma County health officials on Thursday reported three new COVID-19 deaths and issued a sober warning that the pandemic is still sickening people and claiming lives — particularly those who have yet to be inoculated against the coronavirus.

The three people newly added to the local pandemic death toll were not vaccinated, health officials said.

In just the first two weeks of July, Sonoma County has reported seven COVID-19 deaths amid a recent spike pandemic-related hospitalizations, mostly among the unvaccinated.

“Our hearts go out to anyone who has this tragic outcome and their families,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer. “We urge everyone out there to go get vaccinated. The vaccines are fully available and you can probably get an appointment the same day. Protect yourself, protect your family, protect your community.”

The three latest deaths included a woman older than 75 who died at a local hospital on July 9. Two men, one between the ages of 50 and 60 and the other aged 60 to 70, died at local hospitals on July 10 and July 13, respectively.

All three had underlying health conditions and were not vaccinated, officials said.

Mase said the current uptick in hospitalizations and deaths is directly linked to a sharp increase in the local transmission and test positivity rates since about mid-May. The transmission rate is currently 6.3 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, while the overall test positivity, the share of COVID-19 tests that result positive, is nearly 4%.

Mase said she suspects COVID-19 variants, possibly the more transmissible delta strain, are fueling the latest surge in cases.

With few exceptions, the surge is fueled by infections among the quarter of the eligible population that remains unvaccinated, Mase said.

That puts at risk even those who are vaccinated but are elderly and have underlying health conditions, she said.

“You may also be at risk if you’re vaccinated, so take care if you have any risk factors,” she said. “Most importantly, everybody in the community can do their part by getting vaccinated because we wouldn’t have the kind of spread of COVID we're seeing right now if it wasn't for groups of unvaccinated people who are together and basically congregating together.”

Lucinda Gardner, an epidemiologist with the disease control team, said all but two of the COVID-19 deaths that have occurred since the beginning of the year — when the vaccine rollout began — have been among unvaccinated residents. Those two deaths, one in May and another this month, were residents who were older than 90, Gardner said.

The county’s pandemic death toll now sits at 326 people. Monthly COVID-19 deaths have risen sharply since May, when there was only one virus-related fatality. June saw four pandemic deaths, and July is on pace to more than double that number.

The trend mirrors a similar increase at the beginning of last summer, though back then there was no vaccine.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

For information about how to schedule a vaccine in Sonoma County, go here.

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world, go here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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