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Meteoric rise in new cases seen across the region

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Any hope that the current and dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases would somehow skip Claremont vanished during the holiday break as the county reported 483 new infections in the city over the past 12 days.

Countywide there were nearly 45,000 new infections reported on Saturday and Sunday alone, while hospitalizations rose 20% to 1,628. On December 22, the last time the COURIER published a virus report, the positivity rate was 4.5% and now it is close to 20%, which means one in five people who test are positive.

“L.A. County continues to urge residents to curtail higher-risk activities as large numbers of residents are testing positive for COVID-19. Indoor activities where individuals are unmasked for long periods of time, as well as crowded outdoor events, increase the risk that infected individuals will transmit both Omicron and Delta variants to others,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement.

In response to the rise of new cases, the City of Claremont elected to go back to virtual public meetings. The Claremont City Council held its first and only hybrid meeting with residents participating in person and via the internet on Tuesday December 12, but now will return to Zoom only.

“Due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County, and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, the City will return to virtual public meetings until further notice,” the city said in a statement.

Courier reporter and columnist Mick Rhodes had a journalist’s-eye view of the recent Omicron surge. Rhodes started feeling symptoms on December 26, and attempted to get tested at Kaiser’s Fontana location, but the lines at the emergency room snaked out the door and into the parking lot.

“It was kind of apocalyptic,” Rhodes said. “We gave up and just went home and into quarantine.”

Rhodes, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive with a breakthrough case on December 28 at the same location, waiting more than four hours in a drive-through line of hundreds of cars.

The first five days were awful, he said.

“It was like the worst flu or cold you’ve ever had, but not to the point of needing to go to the hospital, thank goodness.”

After day five, the hacking cough, sore throat, aches, and periodic fevers abated. On day nine he reported almost all symptoms had abated, save the persistent cough and minor sore throat.

“I’m just so grateful to have been vaccinated and boosted. I’m 58, and I’ve had unvaccinated friends my age die from this,” he said.

For the time being the death rate remains steady at around 20 per day, however, mortality is a trailing indicator because it can take weeks to die from COVID-19.

The current surge in cases both locally and across the United States is being driven by a combination of holiday gatherings, cold weather sending people indoors and the highly contagious Omicron variant.

However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Omicron is less deadly than previous waves perhaps because of widespread vaccination and the natural immunity that develops in people who have been sick and recover.

The New York Times reports that Omicron is so contagious that it will infect a meaningful share of the population, increasing the amount of COVID immunity and helping defang the virus.

During the last 100 years pandemics have either been effectively eliminated with vaccines, like polio, or have become endemic, like the Spanish flu. With the current high number of vaccine holdouts in the country, and COVID’s frequent mutations, it’s unlikely that we will reach herd immunity anytime soon. So the likely scenario, according to multiple sources, is that a less deadly COVID will become part of everyday life.

The demand for testing has been on the rise and many are reporting difficulty finding home COVID-19 tests kits. On Tuesday, Hendricks Pharmacy in the Village had the home tests but they were selling quickly.

If you have COVID-related symptoms or have had close contact with someone who tested positive it’s crucial that you get tested. The closest L.A. County testing site is at Gate 17 at the Pomona Fairplex but appointments are required. To make an appointment visit the county’s testing portal.

 

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