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Hospitalizations projected to peak in late July

Coronavirus hospitalizations in California and the Bay Area have reached their highest point since February, a time when the region was emerging from the omicron surge. The newest omicron strain, known as BA.2.75, has already shown up in the Bay Area. In the weeks since coronavirus vaccines became available to babies and toddlers, more than 12% of children under 5 in San Francisco have gotten their first shot.

California COVID hospitalizations projected to peak in late July

COVID hospitalizations statewide, which have been gradually increasing the last several weeks, appear poised to peak toward the end of July at roughly 4,000 to 4,500 people, California state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said Tuesday, citing state modeling projections. Those are considered “manageable levels of COVID hospitalizations” and are considerably lower than hospitalization levels during previous surges, Pan said during a virtual update on COVID and monkeypox. “I’m really glad a lot of our tools, especially vaccines, are working,” she said. About half of hospitalizations may be incidental, meaning people were hospitalized with COVID, not for COVID — they went in for something else and tested positive while there. Such cases still require hospital infection control measures. Statewide, deaths continue to trend downward. “We have seen very low levels of deaths so vaccination and immunity is holding up in California,” Pan said.

Judge: California must grant all pending applications for rent relief while its denials are under review

Since last spring, California has passed along federal aid to hundreds of thousands of low-income renters who faced debt and possible eviction because of the pandemic. But the state has also denied funds to nearly one-third of the applicants, sometimes with little explanation, and a judge has now ordered housing officials to grant all rental-assistance applications while the legality of their actions is under review. Read more about the ruling here.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in California up 63% in a month

There were 4,227 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in California as of Tuesday, according to state data, marking more than a 63% increase in the past month. Bay Area hospitals reported 796 patients, according to data from the California Department of Public Health, also a substantial uptick from June. About half the hospitalizations may be incidental, according to state officials, meaning patients were hospitalized for another reason but tested positive while there. California’s coronavirus test positive rate has increased to 16.1%, compared to 8.7% on June 10. The state is averaging 21 deaths per day due to COVID-19, having now surpassed 92,000 total pandemic deaths. COVID-19 cases remain stubbornly high, with California reporting 43 daily cases per 100,000 residents — a figure that has fluctuated little since early June. The highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of omicron make up about 4 out of 5 sequenced cases in the Northern California region, according to CDC data.

San Mateo County warns of increased COVID risk in region

Health officials in San Mateo Couny are asking residents to stay up to date on their vaccinations and wear masks in high-risk settings as COVID-19 cases continue to rise due to the prevalance of the BA.5 omicron sub-variant. “As the variants outcompete their predecessors, we see that they are even more transmissible and able to evade the immune response of both vaccination and prior infection, prolonging this period of high community transmission,” Louise Rogers, the county’s health officer, said in a briefing on Tuesday. All Bay Area counties are currently classified as having high COVID-19 levels, based on metrics used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rogers said individuals should wear masks indoors, increase ventilation, and test frequently. “As we have needed to accept the many aspects of COVID-19 risk mitigation that are part of our daily lives, we want to keep you and the public informed about the changing context that underlies our current situation so that everyone can protect themselves and the community as much as possible,” Rogers said.

BA.2.75 subvariant has been in the Bay Area since last month

Seven cases of the BA.2.75 subvariant of omicron were detected in the United States in June, according to data from GISAID, a global genomic sequencing database. COVID-19 cases tied to the subvariant have been identified in at least 12 countries, including India, where it is driving a new surge. Nationally, two cases were found in California and one each in Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. The California cases were picked up in Bay Area wastewater samples from mid-June. The World Health Organization has categorized BA.2.75 as a “variant of concern — lineage under monitoring,” which means the agency is closely observing the omicron offshoot. “There are still limited sequences to analyze but this subvariant seems to have a few mutations on the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein, so obviously that’s a key part of the virus that attaches itself to the human receptor,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, in an update. “So we have to watch that.”

COVID-19 pandemic “nowhere near over,” says WHO head

Evolved versions of the coronavirus are driving another wave of COVID-19 infections globally and “putting further pressure on stretched health systems and health workers,” according to the head of the World Health Organization. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday that while the world is better prepared to handle new surges, people should not let their guard down. “As the virus pushes at us, we must push back,” he said. Hospitalizations are on the rise due to more transmissible subvariants of omicron, and deaths are also increasing in some regions as mitigation measures have largely been discarded, allowing for “new, fitter variants emerging, with different degrees of virulence, transmissibility, and immune escape potential.” Ghebreyesus concluded, “New waves of the virus demonstrate again that the COVID-19 is nowhere near over.”

Waiting for variant-specific boosters is “not a good plan,” says CDC

With highly contagious omicron variants rising concerns for another virus surge, White House officials on Tuesday stressed the importance of getting booster doses, even if you were recently infected. All Americans ages 5 and over should get a booster five months after their initial primary series, according to the CDC, and those aged 50 and over — or who are immunocompromised — should get second booster four months after their first. Tens of millions of eligible Americans haven’t received their first booster, and of those over 50 who got their first booster, only 28% received their second. “If you’re over 50 and you haven’t gotten the shot this year, you should go get a shot,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. “It’s going to save your life.” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the agency, added that those who are eligible for a booster but haven’t received one shouldn’t wait for forthcoming vaccines targeted at the omicron strain. The U.S. has ordered 105 million of those updated shots that studies show should provide better protection against omicron variants, but they won’t be available until the fall. “There are many people who are at high risk right now. And waiting until October, November for their boost… is not a good plan,” she said. “We really do want to say now get your boost. We have every anticipation that the data will suggest that you will be eligible for a boost in the fall.”

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