It's hoped the worst of at least the latest surge when it comes to COVID-19 in Tulare County is over.
That's the message Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz gave during his bi-weekly report on the status of COVID-19 in the county at Tuesday's Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting. “Our weekly cases are starting to trickle down slowly,” Lutz said.
And there are a number of statistics indicating the trend is heading in the right direction.
Lutz said the highest percentage of cases remains in the 0-17 age group. Over the last 30 days, 26.6 percent of the cases were in that age group.
And Lutz reported another sad development on Tuesday, reporting there was a second death of a youth under the age of 18 due to COVID-19. Tulare County has now had three deaths of those ages 26 and under due to COVID-19.
Lutz also reported according to county health department data there has been 899 deaths in the county due to COVID-19. That's an increase of 10 over the 899 reported by the county last Wednesday.
State data has fluctuated when it comes to the number of deaths due to COVID in Tulare County. The state reported on Monday there were 906 deaths in Tulare County due to COVID-19. But the state reported on Tuesday morning there have been 904 deaths in the county due to COVID-19.
On Monday Sierra View Medical Center reported it had 191 deaths due to COVID-19, an increase of three over the last week.
The percentage of cases over the last 30 days with ages 26-40 has been 25.5 percent and 26.4 percent for ages 41-64.
Another positive sign is Tulare County's positive test rate has been coming down. The state reported on Tuesday the county's positive test rate was 8.2 percent. That's up from 7.7 percent on Monday but the overall trend has been a decline since the positive test rate reached 10.7 percent.
Another positive sign is there has been a significant decline in active cases in the county. On Tuesday morning the health department reported there were 3,380 active cases. One week ago, the health department reported there were 4,005 active cases in the county.
Another really positive sign is there has been a considerable drop in Tulare County's R number which measures the rate of spread of the virus. The number who had been well over 1 at one time has now fallen to .64 which now puts the county in the “likely decreasing category,” meaning the virus is expected to increase at a lower level than its current rate of increase. The number .64 represents the average number of people who would be infected by one infected person.
On Tuesday morning the state reported since March 11, 2020 there has been 61,708 cases in Tulare County.
On Tuesday morning the county reported there has been 61,634 cases in the county. That represents 12.6 percent of the county's population.
The number of hospitalizations has also fluctuated but again the overall trend has been a gradual decline. The state reported on Tuesday morning there were 169 hospitalizations in Tulare County due to COVID-19. That was an increase of 12 from the day before, but still below the 186 hospitalizations reported over Labor Day weekend.
The number of available ICU beds in Tulare County has also remained steady over the past several days. On Tuesday the state reported there were 10 ICU beds available in the county. That number has stayed between 9 and 11 over the last several days, far better than when the number of available ICU beds in the county dropped all the way down to 1.
The situation as far as available ICU beds has improved at Sierra View. On Monday Sierra View reported seven of its 10 ICU beds were in use.
Sierra View had reported recently all 10 of its ICU beds were being used. Sierra View reported five of the ICU cases were COVID patients.
But as far as overall COVID patients, Sierra View still hasn't seen much of a decline. On Monday Sierra View reported it had 29 COVID-19 patients and nine patients suspected of having COVID-19.
There has been a slight decrease in school-related COVID-19 cases in the county over the last 30 days. Lutz reported there have been 906 COVID cases with students over the last 30 days.
He also reported there has been a four percent decrease of all cases involves those under the age of 18 over the last 30 days. Most of the cases involving youth are still community related as there have been 2,776 cases over the last 30 days.
But Lutz expressed concern about the vaccination rate, stating there was a 21 percent decline in vaccinations over the last week. “That's unfortunate,” he said.
Since his last report, only a little more than 6,500 county residents have received one dose of a vaccine. Lutz reported on Tuesday there have been 229,990 county residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which is 58.4 percent of those eligible and 47.7 percent of the total county population. The percentage of those in the county who are eligible who are fully vaccinated remains the same at about 50 percent.
Lutz said there's something else to worry about now – the flu. Last winter the county experienced a “next to nothing flu season.” But that was with schools not being in session. With schools being back in session “we fully expect to see a normal flu-type season,” Lutz said.
He added it's important all those 6 months and older receive a flu shot and it's OK for those to have both a flu shot and a COVID vaccine. Lutz added the county is working on making it possible for those to receive a flu shot and a COVID vaccine at the same time.
Lutz also clarified a state order in which vaccine providers must ask people for their mobile phone number and email address. But those receiving the vaccine don't have to provide that information.
He added he expects emergency authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5-11 sometime this late fall or early winter.