‘Things are going to get worse’: COVID-19 positivity in California keeps rising as case rates flatten

The BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants are now the dominant strains of coronavirus in the state.|

California’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to climb, surpassing anything the state has seen this year.

The California Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported the statewide positivity rate at 13.2%, up from 11.4% the previous week. The rate has increased tenfold since early April as new, more transmissible variants grow throughout the state.

The state has simultaneously seen a drop in its case rate, which now sits at 34.5, down 3.6% from last week. But that can, in part, be attributed to low testing levels across the state, according to health officials. Testing rates have been plummeting since the beginning of June, and are now down by over 30%, as Californians decline to test or opt to use at-home rapid tests, which are not reported to the state.

Following statewide trends, Sacramento County’s positivity rate has swelled to 13.5% in the past week, up from 12.4%.

Placer, El Dorado and Yolo counties have also seen positivity rates grow this week — they now stand at 13%, 15.2% and 7.7%, respectively.

Statewide hospitalizations also continue to rise, up 13% from June 18 to June 25. The state says 3,177 people are currently hospitalized with the virus. The uptick, however, has not been accompanied by a rising death rate; fatalities have remained steady in the state since April.

BA.4, BA.5 variants dominate

The BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants are now the dominant strains of coronavirus in California and across the country, new data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

The new strains have been labeled “variants of concern” by the CDC and various European agencies, and are widely believed to be slightly more transmissible than other omicron strains. According to Yolo County health officer Dr. Aimee Sisson, the new variants also pose a concern because they can easily reinfect people who recently had other versions of omicron.

This week, CDC data showed that the newer variants now make up more than 50% of cases nationwide.

In the CDC reporting region that includes California and much of the West, BA.4 and BA.5 combined to make up 53.2% of all new cases in the week ending June 25. BA.2.12.1 and BA.2, meanwhile, made up 46.8% of new cases.

The most recent numbers out of Yolo County — the only Sacramento-area county that sequences for BA.4 and BA.5 — showed that the new strains made up 37.4% of cases in the week ending June 18. Sisson said last week that she expects BA.4 and BA.5 to become dominant in the county this week.

“I do think that things are going to get worse before they get better in terms of case rates as well as community transmission,” Sisson said in an interview last week, attributing her concern to the growth of BA.4 and BA.5.

Bay Area county drops mask mandate

Twenty-five of California’s 58 counties — including Sacramento and Yolo — are categorized in the CDC’s “high” community level of spread and are recommended by the agency to have an indoor mask mandate in place.

Yet in the last month, only Alameda County had instituted such a mask mandate — and on Friday health officials dropped it entirely.

The county announced the end of its indoor mask mandate after falling to the CDC’s “medium” community spread level.

In a news release, county health officials cited declining case numbers and stabilizing daily hospital intakes as reasons for lifting the mandate. Indoor masking still remains “strongly recommended,” the release said.

Alameda County was the last major California jurisdiction with an indoor mask mandate.

Sacramento-area case rates, hospitalizations fluctuate

Sacramento County’s latest case rate — reflecting the week ending June 20 — is 34.5 per 100,000 residents, state health officials said in Tuesday’s update. This marks a 6.3% decrease from the case rate one week ago, and a .6% decrease from the most recent metric released Friday.

Hospitals in Sacramento County were treating 198 COVID-19 patients on Monday, state data shows, up 3.1% from 192 one week earlier. The intensive care unit total was 25, up four from last week.

Placer County’s latest case rate is 21.9 per 100,000 residents, a 17.3% decrease from one week earlier.

Hospitals in Placer County were treating 85 virus patients Monday, up from 76 one week earlier. The ICU total dropped to six from seven.

Yolo County’s latest case rate is 40.8 per 100,000 residents, a 12.6% increase from one week earlier. It has the seventh-largest case rate of any California county.

Hospitals in Yolo County were treating nine virus patients Monday, up from three a week earlier. The ICU total dropped to one from two.

El Dorado County’s latest case rate is 23.9 per 100,000 residents, a 2.1% increase from one week earlier.

Hospitals in El Dorado County were treating six virus patients Monday, the same as a week earlier. The ICU total remained at one.

Sutter County’s latest case rate is 26.5 per 100,000 residents, up 1.1% from last week, and Yuba County’s is 25.9 per 100,000, down 16.7%, state health officials reported Tuesday.

The single hospital serving both Yuba and Sutter counties was treating 12 virus patients Monday, down from 18 a week earlier. The ICU total dropped to two from five.

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