Home Health News California’s highest COVID infection rates shift to rural counties – Times-Standard

California’s highest COVID infection rates shift to rural counties – Times-Standard

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By Phillip Reese, California Healthline

Most of us are acquainted with the excellent news: In current weeks, rates of COVID-19 infection and dying have plummeted in California, falling to ranges not seen for the reason that early days of the pandemic. The common variety of new COVID-19 infections reported every day dropped by an astounding 98% from December to June, in accordance to figures from the California Department of Public Health.

And bolstering that pattern, practically 70% of Californians 12 and older are partially or totally vaccinated.

But state health officers are nonetheless reporting nearly 1,000 new COVID-19 cases and greater than two dozen COVID-related deaths per day. So, the place does COVID-19 proceed to simmer in California? And why?

An evaluation of state information reveals some clear patterns at this stage of the pandemic: As vaccination rates rose throughout the state, the general numbers of instances and deaths plunged. But inside that broader pattern are pronounced regional discrepancies. Counties with comparatively low rates of vaccination reported a lot larger rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths in May and June than counties with excessive vaccination rates.

There have been about 182 new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents from May 1 to June 18 in California counties the place fewer than half of residents age 12 and older had acquired at the very least one vaccine dose, CDPH information reveals. By comparability, there have been about 102 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents in counties the place greater than two-thirds of residents 12 and up had gotten at the very least one dose.

“If you live in an area that has low vaccination rates and you have a few people who start to develop a disease, it’s going to spread quickly among those who aren’t vaccinated,” mentioned Rita Burke, assistant professor of scientific preventive drugs on the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. Burke famous that the extremely contagious delta variant of the coronavirus now circulating in California amplifies the specter of severe outbreaks in areas with low vaccination rates.

The regional discrepancies in COVID-related deaths are additionally placing. There have been about 3.2 covid-related deaths per 100,000 residents from May 1 to June 18 in counties the place first-dose vaccination rates have been beneath 50%. That is nearly twice as excessive because the dying price in counties the place greater than two-thirds of residents had at the very least one dose.

While the sample is evident, there are exceptions. A few sparsely populated mountain counties with low vaccination rates — Trinity and Mariposa — additionally had comparatively low rates of latest infections in May and June. Likewise, just a few suburban counties with excessive vaccination rates — amongst them Sonoma and Contra Costa — had comparatively excessive rates of latest infections.

“There are three things that are going on,” mentioned Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics on the University of California-San Francisco. “One is the vaccine — very important, but not the whole story. One is naturally acquired immunity, which is huge in some places.” A 3rd, he mentioned, is individuals nonetheless managing to evade infection, whether or not by taking precautions or just by residing in areas with few infections.

As of June 18, about 67% of Californians age 12 and older had acquired at the very least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, in accordance to the state health division. But that masks a large variance among the many state’s 58 counties. In 14 counties, for instance, fewer than half of residents 12 and older had acquired a shot. In 19 counties, greater than two-thirds had.

The counties with low vaccination rates are largely rugged and rural. Nearly all are politically conservative. In January, about 6% of the state’s COVID-19 infections have been within the 23 counties the place a majority of voters forged ballots for President Donald Trump in November. By May and June, that determine had risen to 11%.

While surveys point out politics performs a task in vaccine hesitancy in lots of communities, entry additionally stays a difficulty in a lot of California’s rural outposts. It might be onerous, or at the very least inconvenient, for individuals who stay removed from the closest medical facility to get two photographs a month aside.

“If you have to drive 30 minutes out to the nearest vaccination site, you may not be as inclined to do that versus if it’s five minutes from your house,” Burke mentioned. “And so we, the public health community, recognize that and have really made a concerted effort in order to eliminate or alleviate that access issue.”

Many of the counties with low vaccination rates had comparatively low infection rates within the early months of the pandemic, largely thanks to their remoteness. But, as COVID-19 reaches these communities, that lack of prior publicity and purchased immunity magnifies their vulnerability, Rutherford mentioned. “We’re going to see cases where people are unvaccinated or where there’s not been a big background level of immunity already,” Rutherford mentioned.

As it turns into clearer that new infections will likely be disproportionately concentrated in areas with low vaccination rates, state officers are working to persuade hesitant Californians to get a vaccine, even introducing a vaccine lottery.

But most persuasive are family and friends members who may help counter the disinformation rampant in some communities, mentioned Lorena Garcia, an affiliate professor of epidemiology on the University of California-Davis. Belittling individuals for his or her hesitancy or getting right into a political argument doubtless received’t work.

When speaking to her personal skeptical kinfolk, Garcia averted politics: “I just explained any questions that they had.”

“Vaccines are a good part of our life,” she mentioned. “It’s something that we’ve done since we were babies. So, it’s just something we’re going to do again.”

Phillip Reese is a knowledge reporting specialist and an assistant professor of journalism at California State University-Sacramento.

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