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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Jan 07, 2024  1 month, 2 weeks, 3 days, 18 hours, 40 minutes ago

COVID-19 News United States: COVID-19 Positivity Rates In California Now At 12.3 Percent And Flu At 16.8 Percent But the Worse Is Yet To Come!

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COVID-19 News United States: COVID-19 Positivity Rates In California Now At 12.3 Percent And Flu At 16.8 Percent But the Worse Is Yet To Come!
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Jan 07, 2024  1 month, 2 weeks, 3 days, 18 hours, 40 minutes ago
COVID-19 News United States: As we step into the winter of 2024, California finds itself in the midst of an escalating health crisis, grappling with a triumvirate of respiratory viruses - COVID-19, influenza (Flu), and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). The Californian Department of Public Health's latest update, as of January 5, 2024, reveals alarming statistics, with COVID-19 and Flu positivity rates soaring to 12.3% and 16.8%, respectively.

Healthcare experts warn that the worst is yet to come, raising concerns about the strain on healthcare systems, delayed test results, and the rise of a more contagious subvariant. This COVID-19 News United States report explores the multifaceted dimensions of the current health crisis, delving into the rising positivity rates, the impact on hospitals, the resurgence of influenza, delayed test results, concerns surrounding a contagious subvariant, and the importance of vaccination campaigns.
Rising Positivity Rates and Hospitalizations
The surge in positivity rates for both COVID-19 and Flu is a cause for significant concern, reflecting an imminent health crisis in California. Los Angeles County, a densely populated region, witnessed a notable increase in positivity rates over the past month. By the end of December, the positivity rate for Flu reached a staggering 18%, while the COVID-19 positivity rate rose to 13.5%. These figures underscore the severity of the situation, signaling an impending strain on healthcare resources.
LA County’s wastewater concentration this week was 49% of last year’s winter COVID-19 surge, a substantial peak from the 36-39% reported over the past three weeks.
LA County had an average of 783 people admitted to hospitals with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis this week, up from 690 per day the week prior.
LA County hit the medium tier in late December after its COVID-19-related hospital admissions topped 10 per 100,000 people daily.
As a result, all health care personnel working in licensed facilities providing inpatient care are now required to wear a mask when in contact with patients or in patient-care areas, according to DPH.
Orange County’s hospitalization levels also recently passed into the medium tier, according to Dec. 30 data, which showed that 320 people were admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 during the most recent reporting period - a 19% jump from the week prior.
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Hospitalizations across America is also on the rise, with the national count of new COVID-19-positive hospital admissions experiencing a 20.4% surge in the week ending December 30.
While the number of critically ill patients remains lower than the previous year's tripledemic, the overall impact on healthcare facilities is substantial. Dr Elizabeth Hudson, regional chief of infectious diseases at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, predicts a potential surge to 2 million daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. by mid-January, based on wastewater data. The healthcare system must brace itself for the challenges posed by this anticipated influx of cases.
The Flu Factor
Adding to the complexity of the current health crisis is the dramatic resurgence of influenza. Dr Caroline Goldzweig, chief medical officer of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Network, emphasizes a significant rise in influenza cases, impacting both outpatient and inpatient care. Dr Chris Hiromura from Adventist Health White Memorial hospital reports a spike in outpatient COVID numbers and a modest increase in severe respiratory illnesses requiring hospitalization.
Comparative Analysis with Previous Waves
Contrasting the present situation with the 2021–22 Omicron wave, Dr Hudson points out that the peak of the previous wave reached approximately 5 million daily cases. However, the current surge is characterized by a lower number of critically ill COVID-19 patients, showcasing a shift in the impact towards adults, especially those over 65, as compared to the previous wave that heavily affected pediatric facilities.
A Trio of Viruses Grips California
California is currently grappling with a trio of respiratory viruses - COVID-19, Flu, and RSV. Dr Suman Radhakrishna, an infectious disease specialist, notes an increase in respiratory illnesses before Christmas, attributing it to colder temperatures, holiday gatherings, and vaccine fatigue. The combined impact of these viruses is evident in rising emergency room visits, increased hospitalizations, and strain on healthcare professionals.
Delayed Test Results and Variant Concerns
A concerning trend observed by Dr Hudson is the delay in obtaining accurate COVID-19 test results. The prolonged testing window is attributed to accumulated immunity from vaccination or previous infection. Additionally, a more contagious subvariant, JN.1, is estimated to account for 62% of coronavirus specimens, raising concerns about its role in accelerating the spread of COVID-19.
Vaccine Fatigue and Recommendations
As hospitals face challenges with staff shortages due to illness and increased patient loads, vaccination rates for all three viruses are reported to be lower than expected. Health officials emphasize the importance of updated vaccinations, particularly against COVID-19 and Flu. Dr Kimberly Shriner from Huntington Hospital underscores the need for continued vaccination, dispelling the misconception that initial shots provide lifetime immunity.
Navigating the Winter Health Crisis in California
As California finds itself at the epicenter of this winter health crisis, it is crucial to delve into the intricacies of managing the surge of respiratory viruses. The strain on hospitals is not only a result of the sheer number of cases but also the impact on healthcare professionals. So many nurses have fallen sick, and many are working extra shifts, making it tougher for the healthcare system to cope.

The delayed test results pose a significant challenge in effectively managing and containing the spread of the viruses. People may be under a false sense of security if they receive a negative result, leading to potential transmission. Dr Hudson's observation that the delay in accurate test results may be linked to accumulated immunity raises questions about the evolving dynamics of the pandemic.
The resurgence of influenza, though not unexpected during the winter season, is proving to be a major contributor to the current health crisis. Dr Thomas Yadegar, the medical director of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana’s intensive care unit, notes that this year, the flu and RSV are causing more severe symptoms, further burdening healthcare facilities.
Challenges and Impact on Healthcare Personnel
As healthcare facilities grapple with increased patient loads and staff shortages, the impact on healthcare personnel cannot be understated. Many nurses have fallen ill, and the additional workload is taking a toll on the healthcare workforce. Dr Yadegar emphasizes the challenges faced by healthcare professionals, stating that nurses are working extra shifts to meet the rising demand.
Long-Term Health Impacts and Future Preparedness
The persistence of long COVID and the increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, even in younger individuals, emphasize the need for a nuanced understanding of the long-term health impacts of the virus. Dr Goldzweig's cautionary note that COVID-19, despite being less deadly than the earlier phases, is not a mere common cold virus underscores the importance of public awareness.

Looking ahead, strategies for future preparedness become paramount. Dr. Topol's emphasis on developing new oral and inhaled vaccines that can provide variant-proof immunity is a crucial step towards achieving long-term resilience against respiratory viruses. Urgent prioritization of these efforts is essential to navigate future waves and to pave the way for a return to normalcy.
In conclusion, California is facing a formidable winter health crisis with the convergence of COVID-19, Flu, and RSV. The challenges posed by rising positivity rates, strain on healthcare systems, delayed test results, and the emergence of a more contagious subvariant demand coordinated efforts from both healthcare authorities and the public. As the state braces for the worst, the importance of public awareness, vaccination, and adherence to preventive measures cannot be overstated. The winter of 2024 presents a critical juncture in the ongoing battle against respiratory viruses, demanding coordinated efforts and strategic planning from both healthcare authorities and the public.
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