SAN DIEGO (CNS) — San Diego County is seeing a decrease in positive COVID-19 tests, but a rising death toll had public health officials Thursday remind residents vaccines can save lives as the county reported 3,209 new infections and 22 deaths.
Hospitalizations and deaths are considered a lagging factor, so the above-average deaths due to the virus may be a result of the Omicron spike in December and January. Additionally, actual case counts may be higher due to the increasing popularity and availability of home antigen tests, results of which are not reported to the county.
In the past week, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency, a total of 29,508 lab-confirmed cases were reported in the region, around half of the COVID-19 cases the week prior -- 60,548.
"It's important to note that lab-confirmed cases currently only make up a portion of the actual cases in the region, as more and more people rely on home antigen tests," said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer. "Virus activity in the region is likely a lot higher than confirmed cases reflect, so people should continue to take precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones."
New hospitalizations in the region have started to decrease in the past week, indicating that the peak of infections from the Omicron variant wave may have occurred.
According to the latest state data, the county's hospitalizations from the virus decreased by 24 to 1,105. The total number of people in intensive care beds declined by 11 to 206 on Thursday. ICU beds available increased by 10 to 171.
Meanwhile, the county reported an additional 113 deaths since its last weekly update on Jan. 26. Since the beginning of the year, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 225 San Diegans.
"There is a common misconception that the Omicron variant is not as deadly as prior strains of COVID-19," Wooten said. "The latest data show that since the Omicron variant was first identified, COVID-19 deaths are on the rise, both here in San Diego and across the country.
"While you can still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated and boosted, the vaccine keeps most people out of the hospital and reduces the risk of virus-related deaths," she said.
There were 35,675 new tests reported Tuesday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 19.8%, down from 25.2% on Friday. The county reports this figure on Tuesdays and Fridays.
A total of 1,072,823 (51.8%) of San Diego County residents who are fully vaccinated have received a booster shot, according to the HHSA. Boosters are currently available for everyone 12 years and older.
The county has more than 400 vaccination sites including pharmacies, medical providers, clinics and county locations. Appointments can be made and sites can be found by calling 833-422-4255 or visiting the MyTurn or coronavirus-sd.com websites.
Nearly 2.88 million, or 91.4%, of San Diego County residents age 5 and older are at least partially vaccinated and more than 2.53 million, or 80.4%, are fully vaccinated.