Breanna Reeves |
Uncertainty regarding the spread of the Omicron variant and an uptick in COVID-19 cases have resulted in California reinstating an indoor mask mandate that will go into effect on Wednesday. The mask mandate is expected to last until January 15.
The California Department of Health has reported a 47 percent increase in COVID-19 case rates, despite over 80 percent of Californians who are vaccinated with at least one dose.
In a media briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services, clarified, “And it went specifically from about 9.3 cases per 100,000 Californians per day, up to above 14, and I think it’s at about 14.2 cases per 100,000 per day. So, a pretty significant rise that if we saw that happen again and again, over the next few weeks, we would see very significantly high case rates, or cases in certain areas.”
COVID-19 case rates are increasing in different regions of the state such as in Imperial County, in counties around the Central Valley and in areas near and around the Inland Empire.
As of Monday, Riverside County surpassed 5,500 COVID-19 related deaths, with 292 people hospitalized, including those currently in the Intensive Care Unit. San Bernardino County has reported nearly 6,000 COVID-19 related deaths (5,982) and 3,666 “Non-Surge Beds” occupied.
The Availability of Monoclonal Antibody Treatments
Riverside County health officials continue to urge the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but have also introduced other options for some patients. In September, the county opened a state-supported Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Center in order to provide treatments to residents and keep them out of the hospital. The treatment center was launched through a partnership between Riverside University Health System (RUHS) Medical Center and the California’s Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA).
Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Chevinsky explained in an email that the county is unable to share county data on monoclonal antibody treatments at this time, but is currently working on collecting and verifying data.
Monoclonal antibody treatments were first authorized by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in November 2020 for patients who tested positive with COVID-19 and exhibited “mild to moderate COVID-19.” The treatments, casirivimab and imdevimab, are preventative measures for patients who have COVID-19 but who have not been hospitalized due to Covid.
“Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses. Casirivimab and imdevimab are monoclonal antibodies that are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells,” according to the FDA.
In order to receive the treatment, patients must meet specific criteria including a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result, symptoms that began within 10 days and a risk factor for severe disease such as chronic kidney disease, immunosuppressive disease or pregnancy.
A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in May found that monoclonal antibody treatment of bamlanivimab lessened the risk of Covid-19 hospitalizations by 60 percent in those who were most likely to experience severe complications, as observed by UPMC patients who received the treatment compared to patients who did not.
“The strongest effect was seen in older patients. Those ages 65 and older who received monoclonal antibodies from UPMC were nearly three times less likely to be hospitalized or die in the following month, compared to their untreated counterparts,” according to UPMC.
Vaccines remain the best option
While monoclonal antibody therapy has become more available, those who have access are still limited by what hospitals have sufficient treatments and by how severe their cases are.
Health officials urge residents to get vaccinated and booster shots, if eligible, as the best way to protect themselves against COVID-19 and subsequent variants. In San Bernardino County, approximately 62 percent of eligible residents are vaccinated (partially and fully). In Riverside County, an estimated 64 percent of residents have any vaccination.
“Although, vaccines are almost never 100 percent — actually, I don’t know a vaccine, even the childhood vaccines, that are 100 percent effective,” said Dr. Ghaly. “The vaccines we have for Covid are very, very effective, even in the face of changing variants that throw us curve balls constantly. And so the level of protection is significant.”
As Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of when the first vaccine dose was administered in California, Dr. Ghaly encouraged Californians to get vaccinated, get booster shots and get tested if traveling during the holiday season.
“Bottom line is boosters are effective. They really do what they say they’re going to do; they boost up your immunity,” he remarked. “The first two doses give quite a bit of protection, but then that third dose is like a super dose, it really jumps up your level of immunity.”