By Jo Erlinda Maufit
SACRAMENTO – New corona virus (COVID-19) cases in California has soared to 5,191,438 as infections rise with the average daily count of new cases reaching 15,806 during the last seven days.
The state Department of Health reported that deaths from the virus infection has reached 75,847 since the start of the pandemic as COVID-19 claims the lives of 45 Californians each day over the last seven days.
Earlier, Governor Gavin Newsom announced new booster requirements and testing measures to better protect all Californians as the Omicron variant becomes the dominant COVID-19 strain in the nation.
The COVID-19 booster requirement for health care workers will mitigate potential staffing shortages while helping to safeguard the state’s hospital capacity and protect the health and safety of Californians, he said.
Combined with the new federal policies, the actions will help ensure everyone in California has access to testing throughout the holiday season and that K-12 public school students can return to school safely., the governor said.
“As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country and circulates in all regions of the state, we’re taking immediate, proactive steps to protect Californians with boosters and expanded access to testing,” said Governor Newsom in a statement sent to Philippine News Today.
“The state is also redoubling our efforts to keep kids safe and keep schools open. We will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities by making at-home testing kits available to every K-12 public school student as they head back to the classroom from winter break,” Newsom said.
Newsom said by February 1, 2022, health care workers and all employees in high-risk congregate settings, including nursing homes, will be required to get their booster. In the interim, all health care staff that have not received their booster must test for COVID-19 twice weekly until they are up to date on their vaccines.
To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools, the state is also increasing the availability of at-home COVID-19 tests across California so K-12 public-school students can be tested as they return to school from winter break.
In early December, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) distributed approximately 2 million tests to schools for this purpose. CDPH will expand those efforts by providing 1-2 rapid tests for every student. CDPH will work with local education and health partners to distribute those test kits as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“As we fight Omicron, there is nothing more important for our kids than keeping schools safely open — that means deploying rapid tests,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “Over the holiday break, CDE will be working closely with the Governor and California’s public health and emergency management personnel to get testing supplies to families, districts and schools.”
To ensure every Californian has access to testing, the state will also be expanding antigen test availability and expanding hours of operation at state-sponsored OptumServe sites that are already at capacity.
At present, 90% of the population lives within a 30-minute driving distance of a site. Over the course of the pandemic, the state has established 6,288 testing sites statewide, comprising 31% of the nation’s testing sites. In support of this effort, since August, the state has purchased over 12 million over-the-counter tests. CDPH is distributing an additional 6 million tests to community partners serving disproportionately impacted Californians and 4 million to local health jurisdictions.
California has led the nation’s fight against COVID-19, implementing the most robust vaccination and testing programs in the country. To date, California has administered over 64 million vaccination doses and over 116 million tests, with an average turn around of just 48 hours.
In recent months, Governor Newsom implemented a series of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including first-in-the-nation vaccine and masking measures requiring that workers in health care settings be fully vaccinated, announcing plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person when fully approved, requiring masking in schools and implementing a standard that all school staff and all state workers either show proof of full vaccination or be tested.
“California’s determination to use every available tool to keep our children safe during this pandemic has allowed us to keep schools open and case rates low — a key to their physical and mental health as well as learning,” said Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, State Board of Education President. “Ensuring boosters and testing in the new year will continue this commitment to keeping our children’s welfare front and center.”
The Department of Public Health reported that overall, clinical and wastewater data show that Omicron cases are present in most regions of the state, indicating that there is likely community transmission.
“Mutations consistent with Omicron variant have been detected at increasing proportions in wastewater in multiple regions throughout California where this surveillance is conducted,” the department said in a statement sent to Philippine News Today.
“Data from several sources, including genetic sequencing from COVID-19 patients, wastewater surveillance, and reports from health care partners, indicate that the proportion of cases due to the Omicron variant is increasing rapidly. Additionally, genetic sequencing does not represent real-time data, as sequencing generally occurs several days or more after initial tests are positive for COVID-19,” the department added.
The emergence of the Omicron variant emphasizes the importance of taking prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19, including getting a vaccine or booster, the department stressed.
State officials have been urging Californians to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as the risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection continues as a number of Californians remain unvaccinated.
“ Real-world evidence continues to show that the vaccine is preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death,” the department of public health stated.
“With the combination of colder weather keeping people indoors, the waning of vaccine and natural immunity, and more mingling among non-household members, public health officials urge Californians to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible to help prevent a possible winter surge in COVID-19 cases,” the department stated.
The department recommended that every vaccinated adult 18 years or older should get a booster as long as they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago or they received their Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.