Hospitalizations remain high while COVID cases drop

COVID-19 hospitalizations have kept the county’s hospitals over 100% capacity for almost two months

VISALIA – COVID-19 cases are trending down in Tulare County, unfortunately that has meant little for the county’s three hospitals. As of Friday, Oct. 22 there were 167 COVID-19 hospitalizations, and with other patients in hospitals all three are operating at 100% capacity or higher.

“Hospitalizations are the really frustrating piece…We’ve seen a plateau but it’s really a plateau at a much higher admission rate than we saw last summer for instance,” Tulare County Health and Human Services director, Tim Lutz said.

The peak of the summer surge last year was 114 hospitalizations on Aug. 14, 2020. The summer surge this year has been far more steep and sustaining. There were 164 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sept. 1 this year, and while the number has ebbed and flowed, it has largely stayed between 155 and 170 for almost two months now, “And it continues to put a lot of strain on our hospital system,” Lutz said.

The age of those hospitalized has mostly been older adults who are 41 to 64 years old, and then adults 65 and older. But Lutz added that hospitalizations for children under 18 is rising. “about 3.7% are 0- to 17-year-olds. So, we are seeing some youth being hospitalized.”

Predictably, the vast majority of hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated population. Out of the 675 hospitalizations over the last 30 days, only 92 were vaccinated. Among the vaccinated people who were hospitalized, they were in the older age category.

“That just stresses the importance of why the FDA approved the boosters, and why we are continuing to push boosters for older adults and those who are immune compromised,” Lutz said.

According to Lutz 60.4% of the eligible population to receive a vaccine have gotten at least one dose. However that number is expected to dramatically drop as the eligible age to receive the vaccine will go down to 5 years old. District 2 board supervisor, Pete Vander Poel asked how the state is planning on going about vaccinations for students.

Lutz told Vander Poel that the state is waiting for full Food and Drug Administration approval for students as opposed to authorizing it on the emergency use authorization (UAE). “But at some point it’s expected that we’ll get that full authorization. At which point that will impact next school year.” He added that the state’s plan is to enforce students receive this vaccine the same they would others before coming to school.

Governor Gavin Newsom stated that he plans to put the vaccine mandate in place starting in January, but Lutz was skeptical over whether full authorization would be handed down by then. The typical religious and medical exemptions are also nondescript at this point. “It’s confusing for the speed at which things are being rolled out on this,” Lutz said.

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