SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- Amid a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases due to the spread of the more contagious delta variant of the virus, San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency began recommending all San Diegans wear facial coverings in indoor public settings Thursday.
While vaccinated people are no longer required to wear a face covering in most settings, the California Department of Public Health updated its guidance for those who are fully vaccinated to strongly encourage the continued use of face coverings indoors.
"Indoor masking, regardless of vaccination status, adds an additional layer of protection and reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "If you are not fully vaccinated yet, I urge you to get your shot now, so we can slow the spread of this more contagious strain of COVID-19."
The guidance recommends that all Californians, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public settings. People who are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19 should be particularly cautious, as well as people who share a household with someone who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease, not fully vaccinated, or not yet eligible for vaccination.
Indoor masking for vaccinated people is also supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notes that individual and community- level prevention measures, in addition to vaccination, have been shown to help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
The new guidance is in addition to CDPH mandates requiring masks on public transit, in transportation hubs like airports, indoors in K-12 schools and childcare centers, emergency shelters, cooling centers, healthcare settings, state and local correctional facilities and detention centers, homeless shelters, long term care settings and adult and senior care facilities.
Additionally, masks are required for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses, retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers and state and local government offices serving the public.
The HHSA reported 1,327 new COVID-19 infections and eight deaths Wednesday, increasing the county's cumulative totals to 327,166 cases and 3,859 deaths.
A total of 25 new deaths were reported since the last weekly report on Aug. 18, with 10 women and 15 men dying between Aug. 11 and Aug. 22. Six were 80 years of age or older, one was in their 70s, six were in their 60s, nine were in their 50s and three were in their 40s. Of those, 20 had underlying medical conditions, two did not and three had medical history pending.
Additionally, the county reported 32 additional hospitalizations, increasing the total currently hospitalized in the region to 686, with 179 COVID-19 positive patients in intensive care units. One month ago, there were 260 people in local hospitals with the virus, 52 of which were in ICU beds.
Including Wednesday's data, San Diego County's case rate per 100,000 residents was 35.2, compared to last week's 28.7. That number can be further parsed to 9.3 for fully vaccinated people and 66.9 for those not fully vaccinated. Both of those numbers have increased from last week -- from six and 55.7 respectively -- but the rate of not fully vaccinated people is seven times higher than those fully vaccinated.
Perhaps more tellingly, the hospitalization rate for the unvaccinated is 32 times higher than those fully vaccinated.
The average daily case rate July 20 was 4.2 per 100,000, according to county data.
More than 4.5 million vaccine doses have been administered in the county, with 2.38 million -- or around 85% of San Diego County residents -- having received at least one dose. Fully vaccinated county residents now number close to 2.09 million, or around 74.4% of the county's eligible population.
No-cost COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in the region. They can be found at medical providers, retail pharmacies, community clinics and County public health centers for people who do not have a medical provider. For a list of locations and more information, go to coronavirus-sd.com/vaccine.
A total of 16,915 tests were reported Wednesday, and the percentage of new positive cases over the past week was 8.2%.
Additionally, 41 new community outbreaks were confirmed in the past seven days: 12 in business settings, six in restaurant/bar settings, five in government settings, five in TK-12 school settings, four in daycare/preschool/childcare settings, two in healthcare settings, one in a community-based organization setting, one in an emergency services setting, one in a faith-based setting, one in a hotel/resort/spa setting, one in a restaurant setting, one in a retail setting and one in a social club setting.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for people age 16 and older on Monday.
Approval is still pending for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna coronavirus vaccines. Both remain available under and FDA emergency use authorization. The Pfizer vaccine also remains available under the emergency use order for people aged 12-15.