Amid a rise in infections of the COVID-19 coronavirus in San Diego County, public health officials are urging residents to seek treatment to help prevent severe symptoms from the virus.
Antiviral medications require a doctor’s prescription and should be started within five days of developing symptoms of COVID-19, officials say. Monoclonal antibodies should be given no more than seven days after the onset of symptoms.
“If you’re already vaccinated, treatment gives you extra protection, and it can reduce your risk of hospitalization or worse even if you’re not,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer. “Treatment works best if it’s started as soon as possible after infection, so get tested as soon as symptoms develop.”
Treatment centers and medical offices in the region offer oral antiviral pills, such as Paxlovid, as well as monoclonal antibodies delivered intravenously. A provider will determine what treatment option is best for each patient based on symptoms, age and potential underlying conditions.
County sites prioritize treatment for people who have been at the highest risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, including adults 50 and older, people of color, people with underlying conditions, those of lower socioeconomic status and the unvaccinated.
“Treatment helps,” Kaiser said, “but the best approach is always prevention.”
The county Health & Human Services Agency on July 21 reported 2,007 new infections and 10 deaths, increasing the county’s cumulative totals to 870,079 cases and 5,387 deaths. The county reports such data only on Mondays and Thursdays.
The highly infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants continue to drive San Diego County’s case and hospitalization numbers, keeping the county in the “high” level of COVID-19 activity.
The number of people hospitalized with a coronavirus infection in San Diego County increased by two to 465 — the most since late February — according to the latest state data released July 23.
The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents 12 and older is 51.5 for people fully vaccinated and boosted, 30 for fully vaccinated people and 89.6 for people not fully vaccinated.
According to the Health & Human Services Agency, lab-confirmed coronavirus cases have remained near 10,000 per week, a number that does not include at-home tests. HHSA also reported that it has seen an increase in people who have tested positive for the virus multiple times. Previous infection does not necessarily prevent reinfection with some of the newer virus variants, according to national data.
The region’s latest wastewater numbers also indicate a big increase in coronavirus transmission driven by BA.5.
Updated last week by the SEARCH Coalition, a group of local research labs led by UC San Diego and Scripps Research in La Jolla, wastewater testing detected 15.5 million coronavirus copies per liter of wastewater sampled in Point Loma on July 20. That was 91 percent greater than the 8.1 million copies per liter detected in the same sampling location a week earlier.
More than 3 million, or 89.8 percent, of San Diegans 6 months and older are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19. Nearly 2.65 million, or 79.3 percent, are fully vaccinated. More than 1.4 million, or 58 percent, of about 2.42 million eligible San Diegans have received a booster.
— San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Paul Sisson contributed to this report. ◆