COVID-19 cases on the rise in Tulare County

Tulare County Health and Human Services report slight uptick in COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations to board of supervisors

VISALIA – While COVID-19 cases decreased in March, Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Karen Elliot told the board of supervisors that cases doubled from March until the end of May.

Health and Human Services had not given an update since the start of the year. March appeared to be the month when the county saw some of its lowest numbers, but since then they have slightly risen.

“We experienced some very nice low numbers for quite a while,” Karen Elliot, Tulare County public health director said. “We are seeing that some of the cases and positivity are ticking up so we thought it would be a great opportunity just to give you the status of what Tulare County is experiencing.”

According to Elliot, last week the county experienced 603 cases compared to almost half of that in March, one week reporting a low of 336 cases total. Elliot said the county hit its lowest case rate at 1.5 cases per 100,000 residents at the end of March. The current case rate in Tulare County is 17.5 with a positive test rate of 8.6 tests per 100,000 residents. The county has a better overall case rate than the state, 34.6 per 100,000 residents, but has a better positivity rate than the county at 8.3 per 100,000 residents.

Carrie Monteiro, the public information officer for Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA), said that in comparison to the highest and lowest case rates recorded to date, the county is still recording on the lower end. 

“The lowest we had in the pandemic, recently was two cases per 100,000, the highest we had was over 200 cases per 100,000 per day,” Monteiro said. “So we’re still relatively low…but it’s going up slightly.” Monteiro said that these cases are individuals who have not been previously infected or they have not had their test recorded yet, so there are not any reinfections included in these numbers. 

Hospitalizations are also currently stabilized in the county, according to Elliot. She said once again they saw low numbers in March with 10 individuals hospitalized, but that number quickly rose to 26. There are currently 24 individuals battling COVID-19 between the three hospitals in the county. 

The county has decided to streamline some of their operations, and will close down the weekly testing facility at the Tulare Fairgrounds on June 28. Elliot said fewer residents are coming through the fairground location because a nearby Family HealthCare Network facility offers the same services. HHSA will still utilize a mobile testing unit to serve several other communities in the county.

Montiero suspects that the availability of drug store and at-home tests have led to the lower utilization of the county’s testing centers. Elliot said schools began to see an uptick toward the end of the year. The California Department of Public Health will, “likely be putting up a K to 12 testing framework for schools for the next school year,” according to Elliot.

Elliot said they saw a slight increase in vaccinations in early April, but that number has slowed down, and remained steady in May. 57.3% of Tulare County is fully vaccinated and 64% has at least one dose. 44.8% are boosted and 9.8% have the second booster. The FDA is expected to make a decision on the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations for children six months to four years old on June 15 according to Elliot.

“The Public Health Department, we really want to urge individuals to continue to have their guard up and know that COVID continues to circulate in our county and in our communities,” Monteiro said. “So take those measures to prevent infection.”

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