Merced County Times Newspaper
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Virus surge continues while vaccine roll out is slow

Some workers refusing to take the shot


New cases of COVID-19 have continued to surge for the past month at a rate of 200 to 230 per day in Merced County (on Jan. 5, there were 372 more than the day before), and a further cause for concern is virus resistance among Tier 1A health care workers as well as a slower than anticipated vaccine roll out.

“Many Phase 1A workers are refusing the vaccine,” according to Amalia Madrigal-Hernandez, MPH, division manager of the Prevention, Policy and Planning Division at the Merced County Public Health Department. “Vaccine resistance is a nationwide issue.”

Describing concerns with the way the vaccine is being allocated, she said, “Usually, a vaccine allocation is done through a federal program roll out. There has been no federal program roll out, nor has there been funding allocated to the states for vaccine distribution. This has significantly hampered the ability to vaccinate across the country.

“The federal goal was 20,000,000 doses distributed nationally by the end of 2020, and the actual number distributed has been closer to 2,000,000.”

In California, the 454,000 doses of vaccine that have been administered represent only one-third of the approximately 1.3 million received in the state thus far.

Madrigal-Hernandez told the Times, “Merced County has distributed 1,845 doses of vaccine to date. Groups from Tier 1 who are being vaccinated include health care workers in hospitals and clinics, medical first responders, and Skilled Nursing Facility staff members and residents.”

The Public Health Department continues to encourage community members to follow the current state order, which is in place since the ICU capacity of the San Joaquin Valley Region (consisting of the counties of Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Tuolumne) is less than 15 percent.

The current order prohibits all gatherings with members of other households in the region, and requires all individuals living in the region to stay home except as necessary to conduct activities associated with the operation, maintenance or usage of critical infrastructure as required by law or as specifically permitted in the order.

Unfortunately, according the Merced County Department of Public Health, “Gatherings continue to occur due to COVID-19 fatigue.  People tend to gather with family and friends during the holidays. We expect to see a Christmas and New Year’s surge in the upcoming weeks.  We are no longer receiving cases from Thanksgiving, but the surge is ongoing.”


Merced County COVID statistics

The number of ICU beds available at Mercy Merced was five as of Jan. 5.  The number of ICU beds at Memorial Hospital in Los Banos was one.

As of Jan. 8, 55 people were hospitalized due to COVID within the county.

The number hospitalized with COVID outside the county is no longer being reported.

As of Jan. 8, the number of fatalities from COVID was 275.

The positivity rate was 13.2 percent.

The Health Equity Quartile was 15.2 percent

The number of cases per 100,000 residents per day was 62.

There were 64 outbreaks, as of Jan. 5.

The outbreaks added to the list between Dec. 30 and Jan. 4  were: Transition to Hope Home; Kagome, Inc.; Probation Adult Office; and Juvenile Hall.

The outbreak sites removed from the list between Dec. 30 and Jan. 4 were: Pacheco High School; MCOE, Cooper; Central California Irrigation; Buhach Colony High School; Merced County Department of Public Health; N & S Tractor, Inc.; Dr. Baba, Optometrist; Sierra Cascade Nursery, Inc.; and Classic Yam, Inc.

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