Californians work while sick with COVID-19, fooled by mild symptoms

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Experts warn that workers may show up sick at work with COVID-19, with symptoms so mild that even health professionals are being fooled.

It has long been known that people with mild or no symptoms can transmit the coronavirus to others. But health experts are now noting that more people with very mild illness are still working — exacerbating transmission risk.

dr. Ralph Gonzales, a UC San Francisco associate dean, said in a recent campus town hall that the newest dominant Omicron subvariant, BA.5, can result in symptoms so mild that health professionals are still at work despite the illness. Some people don’t test positive until four or five days after they start showing symptoms of COVID-19.

“We see that more employees have been on site for several days with symptoms. So please don’t try to work with symptoms — even if they’re mild — because we see quite a few mild symptoms with BA.5, and people often don’t even realize they’re sick,” Gonzales said.

While the number of cases has fallen significantly from the heights of the last wave, the risk of exposure remains high. Nearly every county in California has a high rate of coronavirus transmission, defined as 100 or more cases per week for every 100,000 residents.

When the number of cases is at this level, “it is still recommended to take precautions that we have all become familiar with during the pandemic, including masking indoors, staying home and getting tested when sick, making good use of the outdoors and maximizing health. indoor ventilation and are tested before congregating where people in vulnerable health may be present to protect them,” Los Angeles County health officer Dr. Muntu Davis said Thursday.

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The number of LA County workplaces reporting clusters of coronavirus cases continues to fall; there were 144 in the most recent week, down from the previous week’s number of 152.

In locations where there are outbreaks, Davis said, factors that typically increase the spread of disease are people at work who are unaware they have a coronavirus infection and a lack of masking.

That’s “why it’s very important for people to make sure that if they’re feeling sick, even with mild symptoms, they test themselves and make sure they don’t have COVID,” he said. “There have been some studies that have shown in the past that even up to about 56% of people didn’t know they had an infection.”

That’s especially vital now, as the Omicron variant and its family of sub-strains have proven particularly difficult to avoid, even for those who have long dodged a coronavirus infection.

A review of infections from UC San Francisco’s Office of Population Health found that through early 2022, fewer than 10% of campus staff and students had a prior COVID-19 illness, Gonzales said. But the different waves of the ultra-infectious Omicron variants have radically changed the cumulative infection rate.

By early spring, 20% of the university’s staff and students had had a coronavirus infection, according to data shared by Gonzales. And by midsummer, 45% had been infected, Gonzales said.

An ETN/Ipsos poll recently said that about half of American adults have ever had a coronavirus infection.

The most recent estimate of seroprevalence for California — the proportion of residents believed to be infected with the coronavirus at any given time — was 55.5% in February, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was significantly higher than the estimated 25.3% in November last year, before the widespread arrival of Omicron.

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The proportion of Californians ever infected has almost certainly continued to rise this year, given the steady stream of newly reported infections.

Meanwhile, the impact of the pandemic on hospitals has diminished as the summer Omicron peak has faded.

As of Thursday, there were only seven counties in California with high COVID-19 community levels as defined by the CDC, generally indicating both a high number of cases and an increased level of new weekly coronavirus-positive hospital admissions.

The counties still in high COVID-19 community levels on Thursday — Kern, Ventura, Monterey, Merced, Imperial, Madera and Kings — are home to about 2.9 million Californians, representing about 8% of the state’s population. . In contrast, two weeks ago, 14.4 million Californians in the 21 counties were living in the high COVID-19 community level.

Counties that exited the high COVID-19 community level this week included Fresno, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Humboldt, Sutter, Yuba, San Benito and Tuolumne. Those who left the level last week were Orange, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Solano, San Luis Obispo, Napa and Mendocino.

Southern California counties at the average COVID-19 community level include Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, and Santa Barbara. Riverside County is at the low COVID-19 community level.

On Friday, Los Angeles County recorded about 3,000 cases of coronavirus per day over the previous seven-day period — less than half of its summer peak of nearly 6,900 cases per day, though still well above its spring low of about 600 cases per day. .

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Per capita, LA County reports 206 cases of coronavirus per week for every 100,000 residents.

The number of hospital admissions positive for the coronavirus is falling. On Thursday, there were 827 coronavirus-positive hospital patients in LA County’s 92 hospitals, a 12% drop from the previous seven days. State models project continued declines in the coming month.

LA County reported 96 COVID-19 deaths for the seven-day period ending Friday, 16% higher than the previous week’s tally of 83. The peak week for the summer was between July 31 and August 6, when LA County reported 122 reported Covid19 deaths.

More than 33,000 cumulative COVID-19 deaths have been reported in LA County since the start of the pandemic, including about 1,500 in the past five months. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 1,500 Angelenos typically died from the flu over the course of an entire year.

Some experts are expecting a fall-and-winter COVID-19 wave, as has happened for the past two years, but it’s unclear how bad it could be. Officials are also concerned about the possible return of a significant flu season for the first time in the pandemic era.

The White House has said it expects a new Omicron-specific booster shot to be available in September. Health officials are urging people to get their flu shot before winter and be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.

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