The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests has risen to 13.3% in Fresno County over the past seven days, a nearly 1% increase over the prior week and nearly 10 percentage points higher than in late June when the numbers started to rise.
Fresno County is not alone — the test positivity rate is growing in the state of California, which reported a rate of 13.2% as of Aug. 13.
And it’s likely to continue increasing, Dr. Trinidad Solis, Fresno County’s deputy health director, told GV Wire on Monday.
“We do anticipate seeing an increase in COVID positivity rates in the next few weeks, particularly as the weather gets cooler,” she said. “We see more gatherings happening indoors and that increases the risk of becoming infected with COVID.
“And I also want to remind the public that in addition to seeing the uptick of COVID, we’re also going to be entering flu season coming up this winter. And so it’s also important to get your flu booster.”
Several Factors Used to Detect COVID Spread
Local health officials have to depend on a variety of factors to determine whether COVID cases are increasing, since at-home tests are typically not reported and some people never test at all because they have no symptoms.
After the public health emergency was ended earlier this year, health officials stopped counting cases and started relying on positive test rates to evaluate the virus’ progress in their community, Solis said.
Those factors, including positive tests and wastewater surveillance, indicate that COVID has become more prevalent this summer, Solis said.
“We also monitor in our emergency rooms, we receive alerts,” she said. “So any time it’s influenza-like illness or individuals who come in with respiratory symptoms, it could be COVID or it could be other viruses, we get alerts. So we have been recently getting more alerts from the emergency room.”
Unlike last summer, there has not been a big spike in hospitalizations thus far, Solis said. But hospitals are still busy, and she advised COVID patients whose symptoms are mild to remain at home and call their health provider for treatment advice.
Fresno County is averaging about one death daily due to COVID-19, with a total of 3,057 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Why is the upswing happening now? Solis said there could be a variety of reasons, including the resumption of classes in schools and colleges that bring people closer together, the waning of immunity for some individuals, and the arrival of a new subvariant.
New Booster Available Soon
The new monovalent COVID booster has been designed specifically for XBB, the most dominant COVID variant, but it’s still awaiting approval by the FDA and CDC, Solis said.
Health officials are expecting that approval to come in mid to late September, she said.
It’s not entirely clear at this point who will be eligible to get the booster, Solis said.
What can residents do to slow the virus’s spread? Parents of school-aged children should keep them home if they have sniffles, a cough, runny nose, or fever, she said. As it’s been a while, some parents might think that the symptoms are due to allergies or a cold, but they should test their child for COVID to be sure.
It’s also a good idea to reinforce with children good hygiene habits, including washing their hands and coughing into the crook of their elbow, Solis said.
Until the new booster is available, health officials are recommending face masks for people age 50 or older and for those with chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart and lung diseases, obesity, and other issues who could develop complications that require hospitalization, she said.
And masks are a good idea for anyone who is traveling and may be in a crowded airport, airplane, train, or bus, Solis said.
Unlike at the start of the pandemic, there are now a number of resources available, from booster shots, face masks, and medications such as Paxlovid for treatment, she said.