Nevada County case, test positivity rates slowing

For the first time in over two months, data used to determine Nevada County’s tier assignment and COVID-19 risk level has been on a positive trend.

According to state data updated Tuesday, the county’s latest case rate dropped to 35 new cases per day from a high of 54 last week. The county’s test positivity rate also went down, from 11% last week to 8.8%.

The state data uses a seven day average and two week delay, meaning the latest figures are for the week starting Dec. 6.

Prior to this week, the county’s case and positivity rate had been on the rise since its Oct. 5 tier designation, which used data from late September. Over that period the county saw steady increases, with significant jumps in both indicators in the weeks after Halloween and Thanksgiving.

The local trend aligns with dropping case rates at the state level, though hospitalizations and cases remain at an all-time high.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged a slight slow down in growth trends may have stemmed from this month’s stay-at-home order, but said the restrictions would likely be extended past the original Dec. 30 expiration for most areas.

With holiday travel known to be a transmission driver in the past, the county’s progress could be temporary as early indicators suggest Christmas travel is outpacing that of Thanksgiving.

As of Tuesday, intensive care unit availability in the Sacramento region, which includes Nevada County, was at 15.7%, with 20 of 240 beds at ARCO/Sleep Train Arena active.

Seventeen of the 20 beds are in use. The remaining 220 beds are being prepared for use.

The potential of yet another spike after the holidays, along with the possibility of a newer, more contagious COVID-19 strain entering California, has North San Juan resident David Moser itching for a vaccine.

“I’d be one of the first in line if I could,” Moser said, adding he is not likely to be included in one of the first tiers of people to receive the dose. “I can wait so it goes to those who need it most.”

As of Monday, the county distributed close to 1,000 doses to frontline healthcare workers in the county’s two hospitals, though not enough to cover them all. The county expects to receive small shipments of the vaccine weekly.

The state plan for vaccine prioritization includes people exposed to the coronavirus in direct health care or long-term care workplaces, residents of skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care facilities in the highest tier.

When doses become widely available, they will be distributed by the local health department and health care providers, using its local vaccine plan as a guide, which it expects the state to approve in mid-January.

While in the past, Nevada County has been to known to be among the lowest in school vaccination rates, Moser said he believes the death toll of the pandemic will lead people to lose their skepticism.

“I think even people who maybe wouldn’t have gotten a flu shot in the past will be looking to get the vaccine, if not for themselves then for their loved ones,” Moser said. “I think everyone by now knows someone who’s been seriously affected.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email [email protected] or call 530-477-4229.

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