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September 22, 2021

Covid-19 cases rising again in Monterey County

Health officer attributes Delta variant, unvaccinated residents for increase

MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County is seeing another increase in Covid-19 cases, announced County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno during last week’s media briefing.

According to Moreno, specimens sent for gene sequencing have determined a statewide average of 40 to 50% of Covid-19 cases are due to the more infectious Delta variant, with 14 cases known to be from the Delta variant within Monterey County.

“For several weeks, we were looking at stable, low case rates in Monterey County and much of California, but in recent weeks, the State Department of Public Health is reporting that there’s an increase statewide in the case rate and hospitalizations due to Covid, and we’re certainly seeing that here in Monterey County, as well,” Moreno said at the July 21 briefing.

He explained the current case rate is 3.1 per 100,000 residents, meaning an average daily total of 15 new cases per day. In previous months, the county had an average of five new cases per day. Positivity rates are 2.4% currently, up from less than 1% in prior months.

“In addition to that, we’re also seeing an increase in hospitalizations to when we had a handful of people hospitalized in May and June,” Moreno said.

An average of 11 residents are hospitalized in the county’s four hospitals due to Covid-19, but the county has not seen an increase in fatalities, Moreno said.

He explained that the increases are due to three factors, one of them being the Delta variant, which is much more infectious. The other two factors are increased contact between people after restrictions on businesses were lifted, and lower resistance to Covid-19, which he said could be due to 30% of county residents not being vaccinated.

“The state on June 15 released the restrictions on businesses and that allows for people to have more opportunities to engage with people that aren’t from their households, so that could be contributing to risk of exposure outside of their homes,” Moreno said. “In addition, we still have about 30% of the population that has not received the vaccine here in Monterey County, so we still have a fair amount of people who are maybe susceptible to Covid because they don’t have any antibodies or immune response.”

Monterey County has a small number of cases sequenced, but Moreno explained the county’s numbers are likely in alignment with the state’s average of 40 to 50% of Covid-19 cases being caused by the Delta variant.

Nearly all the current new infections are unvaccinated individuals, which Moreno said supports the CDC’s claims that the Covid-19 vaccines provide protection. He added that the mission of the health department is to prevent severe illness during the pandemic and reduce the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed, but the vaccinated are not fully immune either.

“Given the fact that we do have increased case rates, increased spread, increased hospitalizations, and we are seeing some people who were previously vaccinated who got Covid-19, there’s still some uncertainty as to where this is headed, how high the case rates go and how many people will be hospitalized,” Moreno said.

Monterey County is taking precautions, having issued guidance for all individuals to wear face coverings, no matter their vaccination status, while indoors with groups. That guidance is only a recommendation and not a requirement for the time being.

Alternate Housing remains

The county announced on July 22 that the Alternate Housing Site program remains in place for those who test positive for Covid-19 but have no place to safely isolate.

The program currently has 10 trailers available at San Lorenzo Park in King City. The park itself is open to the public, but the housing site is off limits and has security.

The program is staffed to assist and serve guests as they recover. All residents isolating in the program are provided meals and medical visits during their stay until they are released. The site also accommodates pets and service animals under certain restrictions.

Acceptance into the Alternate Housing Site program is by referral only. Call 831-356-3136 for more information.

Testing sites change

State-supported community Covid-19 testing sites will undergo schedule changes, as the demand for testing has decreased due to more of the population of Monterey County receiving Covid-19 vaccinations.

County officials said there continues to be a need for testing as new Covid-19 cases are on the rise. The new schedule ensures there is a free testing site open somewhere in the county on every day of the week, and if the need for testing increases, the hours of operation can be increased to meet the demand.

Due to the decrease in usage, beginning the week of July 26, the following changes have taken effect: The Castroville site will close; the Seaside testing site will move to the Salvation Army building and operate Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; the Salinas site at Cesar Chavez Library will be open Thursday through Monday, 12 to 8 p.m.; and the Soledad testing site at the Soledad Library will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Walk-ins will be accepted 4 to 6 p.m. in Soledad and Seaside and 5 to 7:30 p.m. in Salinas.

Free Covid-19 testing appointments can be made by calling 1-888-634-1123 or visiting https://lhi.care/covidtesting.

Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.

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