March 5, 2024

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Pfizer vaccine nears approval, but COVID-19 surging in CA

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which has already been approved and implemented in Britain, passed a major hurdle Thursday toward use in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel voted in favor of emergency authorization of the vaccine, a move that all but guarantees approval is imminent.

The New York Times reported that the FDA is expected to formally grant authorization for the vaccine on Saturday, meaning that doses of the vaccine could be shipped out starting this weekend.

In a Friday statement, the U.S. agency said it will “rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization” and has notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution.”

Despite being months away from general vaccinations for the public, California has secured 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine which could be used to inoculate health care workers as early as next Tuesday.

Yet the key step in getting the coronavirus under control came as a record-high number of Californians died of COVID-19.

On Thursday, the California Department of Public Health reported 220 deaths from the virus, the highest single-day toll since the pandemic began earlier this year.

The last daily death toll to come close to that figure occurred on July 31, when the state was in the grip of the summer surge. On that day, the CDPH reported 219 people died of COVID-19. In the months that followed, average deaths began to decline, but viral activity is once again surging in the state.

As of Friday, 1.45 million Californians have tested positive for coronavirus and 20,463 have died of COVID-19. There are nearly 11,500 people across the state hospitalized with a case of coronavirus, 2,621 of whom are in ICUs.

The state’s daily infection reports continue to break records, with 30,851 new confirmed cases of coronavirus reported on Tuesday. On Wednesday, 29,677 more infections were confirmed. Over summer, the daily infections were minuscule in comparison. The highest daily infection report was a mere 12,807 on July 21, the single most infectious day of the summer.

In response, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest and most restrictive stay-at-home orders have been triggered in much of the state. Three of California’s five regions have intensive care unit capacities below 15%, meaning even greater economic restrictions have been rolled out for millions of Californians, including those in the Greater Sacramento area.

As of late Thursday evening, outdoor dining and barbershops are shut down, along with a few other sectors considered nonessential, and retail capacity is severely limited.

CDPH data indicates that California’s overall ICU capacity is 9.9%, and the overall test positivity rate is 8.4%. Greater Sacramento passed the necessary threshold for more restrictions on Wednesday, and now has 13.3% ICU capacity.

The San Joaquin Valley region was the first to adopt Newsom’s new orders, and now has an average ICU capacity of just 1.9%. Southern California followed shortly after, and it now has 7.7% ICU capacity. Although many counties in the Bay Area have voluntarily agreed to the new restrictions, the region is still above the threshold with 17.8% ICU capacity. The Northern California region currently has the highest ICU capacity, with just over 30% of its ICU beds available.

Infections rising in Sacramento-area counties

Sacramento County has reported a total of 46,479 infections since the onset of the pandemic, and 659 people have died of COVID-19. As in the rest of the state, the infection rate has been rapidly rising as winter approaches.

County health officials reported another single-day infection record, adding 1,262 new cases on Tuesday. An additional 648 infections were reported Wednesday and 1,143 on Thursday. Over summer, the county never surpassed triple digits in a single day. The highest daily infection increase then was a mere 403 on July 20. Availability of local ICU beds has been on a slow, but steady downward spiral.

Sacramento County has 55 ICU beds available, down from an average closer to 100 earlier in the fall and in late summer and down from 65 last week. Across the county, 398 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday, up from 378 last week, 79 of whom are being treated in ICUs. The county’s most recent weekly average test positivity rate is 10.4%, up from 8.4% from the county’s last batch of data.

Local health officials say at least 109 people died in Sacramento County in the month of November, making it the second-deadliest month after September, which saw 116 deaths. Tabulations for November are still being made, however, so more deaths could still be added to that estimate.

Yolo County has reported a total of 5,774 infections, 140 of which were reported on Thursday, and 88 deaths. Four new deaths were reported over the last week, along with more than 400 new infections. The county’s most recent weekly test positivity rate is nearly 11.6%, which has risen from less than 4% at the start of October. As of Friday, Yolo County has just 2 ICU beds available, with 13 patients already being treated for the virus in ICUs. In all, 24 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.

Placer County health officials have reported a total of 8,860 infections and 89 deaths, adding a daily record of 371 infections on Wednesday. Last week, there were just shy of 7,000 cases in the county. Over summer, the highest daily infection record was just 68 on July 27. Health officials say more than 6,600 of the people with reported infections are likely recovered, which means there are over 2,000 people in Placer County currently sick with coronavirus.

Recent data indicates a weekly positivity rate of 11.7%. Since late September, the average per capita infection rate has soared. For every 100,000 county residents, just over three had coronavirus as of Sept. 25. As of Dec. 1, the most recent data point available, that number is more than 36. Currently, 166 people are in Placer County hospitals with COVID-19 and 20 are in ICUs. The county has 18 ICU beds available.

El Dorado County has reported 3,628 positive test results and eight deaths. In the last week, more than 800 new cases have been confirmed. The current test positivity rate is 12.4% and the county is also averaging 702 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people. Health officials say 25 people are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of them in ICUs. State data shows four ICU beds available in El Dorado County.

In Sutter County, 4,574 people have been infected and 31 have died. Of those, 73 were confirmed infected Thursday and one was reported dead. In the past week, 11 deaths have been reported. County health officials reported a daily record for infections with 204 new cases on Tuesday. Currently 45 people are hospitalized.

Neighboring Yuba County has reported 2,780 infections and 10 dead, with 81 new infections on Thursday. Its daily infection record was matched on Sunday, when 87 people were confirmed to have coronavirus. On Dec. 2, the same number were confirmed infected. Twelve people are currently in the hospital.

The test positivity rate in Sutter County is 21.1%, and it has reported nearly 71 coronavirus patients for every 100,000 people. Yuba County’s test positivity rate is 17.7% and it has 46.3 coronavirus-positive residents for every 100,000 residents.

Profile Image of Vincent Moleski

Vincent Moleski covers business and breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and previously wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.