California's COVID-19 test positivity rate is hovering around 16%, and that's just the people who get tested through a lab. Nowadays, many people are taking at-home tests, so the real number is likely to be severely undercounted.
The surge in cases is thanks to new, highly contagious variants like BA.5 and the even newer BA.2.75. Hospitalizations in California are rising, but deaths remain low thanks to vaccines, treatments and therapeutics. So while COVID-19 fatigue is real, the reality is it's still here.
Insight’s Vicki Gonzalez spoke with Dr. Aimee Sisson, the public health officer for Yolo County, about how the latest surge is playing out locally.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
On what we know about the new variants
BA.5 is what’s here now. BA.2.75 is a variant that may be coming. It's been detected in India and it's causing increased case rates there. It has been found in the United States. I think there's been a total of ten cases identified in the United States. So it is not causing the current wave of cases here in the United States, in California and in Yolo County. That is the unfortunate work of the BA.5 omicron subvariant.
On how long should someone wait after reinfection to get the second booster
I used to encourage people to wait about 90 days after an infection before getting boosted, because the infection itself can serve as a booster dose. But I think, you know, now with the variants that we have that are escaping immunity, any additional boost that you can get from a vaccine in addition to the booster that you get from infection is important. So I no longer advise people to wait after an infection for 90 days before getting their booster.
You're eligible for a booster as soon as you've recovered from your infection. So that would be, you know, at least ten days have passed and you don't have a fever and you're feeling better. You can then go in and get your booster. And that's what I would advise at this point, is not waiting three months. But once you've recovered from your infection, if you aren't up to date with vaccination to get that booster, because it will give you additional protection against future infection.
On how the vaccine rollout for children younger than 5 is working in Yolo County
It's a little bit of a slow start, but I think we've had over 700 children between the ages of six months and five years who have gotten vaccinated in the week and a half since we've been offering the vaccine in Yolo County to the youngest kids. It's about 6.5% of our population … And that's a higher rate than that population is getting vaccinated statewide, which was around two something percent. Sorry, I don't have the exact numbers off the top of my head, but we would like to see more parents bringing their kids in … I will say that, you know, COVID-19 can cause serious illness in children. It can cause serious illness in children who don't have underlying conditions. So this false impression that many people have, that COVID is always a mild illness in children is not true. COVID is the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in children in the United States. And we have a safe and effective vaccine that can keep kids out of the hospital.
On if people are listening to public health advice after two and a half years of the pandemic
Pandemic fatigue is real. And it has been a challenging last few years with the pandemic. I think, you know, a lot of people for multiple reasons are not listening as closely as they were to public health. But there are some people who are still tuning in very closely. And so I think we need a sort of a mixed messaging strategy. We don't want to overwhelm people, but we also want a way when things change like they are now, when the case rates are going up, when the wastewater level is going up, a way to get an alert out to the community to say, look, we know you're mostly over COVID, but you really should pay attention right now because things are things are different. The risk is higher than it's ever been.
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