Yesterday, August 6, 2021, Mendocino County Public Health Officer Doctor Andy Coren hosted the bi-monthly COVID-19 update for residents and local media. During the press conference, Dr. Coren provided the data that underpinned his decision to reinstate universal masking in Mendocino County, went into detail regarding post-vaccination infections amongst residents, and discussed the conditions that could result in school, recreation, and business closures.
Dr. Coren compared Mendocino County’s current COVID-19 case rate to last winter’s surge. To illustrate the recent rise in cases, Dr. Coren said Mendocino County’s average daily case rate per 100,000 residents throughout the month of April increased from 2 to 14.6. Last week, that number was 21.4/day and Dr. Coren suspected this week will be 30 cases/day.
The overwhelming majority of these recent cases are occurring with unvaccinated members of the community, Dr. Coren explained. The incidence of disease, hospitalization, and death when comparing the vaccinated and unvaccinated is significant. Dr. Coren provided data that showed there is an eight-fold difference in disease incidence in cases between the people that have been vaccinated vs. unvaccinated, a 25-fold increase in the people who are vaccinated vs. unvaccinated, and suggested in cases of COVID-19 fatalities, there is probably more that a 25 fold increase between the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.
Dr. Coren confirmed that the Delta Variant has been detected amongst Mendocino County’s COVID-19 cases but did not provide a specific number of occurrences of Delta amongst residents. He added that it has taken “a long time” to get information from out-of-county laboratories regarding whole-genome sequencing.
Regarding “breakthrough cases,” Dr. Coren provided both data specific to Mendocino County and an update regarding terminology when referring to what is more accurately dubbed “post-vaccine infections.”
Addressing the language used to describe these post-vaccine infections Dr. Coren stated medical professionals are “trying to get away from the breakthrough concept” because it could suggest vaccines are not working. In fact, even those that have experienced these circumstances that require hospitalization are less prone to develop symptoms or succumb to the virus. The language he offered to replace the “breakthrough” terminology was “post-vaccination infections.”
Dr. Coren did reveal that one of Mendocino County’s recent COVID-19 fatalities was one of these post-vaccination infections. Providing further details, he said that individuals had been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and had significant comorbidities that more than likely contributed to their vulnerability to the virus.
On Tuesday, August 3, Dr. Coren presented to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors data demonstrating the county’s recent surge and in light of rising cases proposed universal indoor masking return to Mendocino County. The Board of Supervisors approved the request.
At that presentation, Dr. Coren said, “The true consequence of our failing this is the possibility of again having to close schools, recreation, and business as well as seeing increased illness and death.”
When asked to clarify what sort of information will be informing Public Health’s decision to potentially close schools once again, Dr. Coren began by saying he will depend on the California Department of Public Health and Center for Disease Control when making that sort of decision.
Regarding school closures, Dr. Coren said last year taught public health officials that closing schools is “much worse” than having them open.” Public health officials found, “There was not as much transmission within schools or illness as a result of that in the past and hopefully that will not be changed as we do it this year.”
Factors that are optimizing the safety of school sites include teachers being generally vaccinated, the institution of universal indoor masking at these school sites, and regular testing of both students and staff.
Dr. Coren said school closures could be considered if there are significant outbreaks across multiple school sites or classes.
In his final words to the Mendocino County public, Dr. Coren emphasized that the best prevention for further infections is vaccination. He said, “We don’t want to be heavy-handed in ways to control this infection” adding “I’m hoping we will get through this without major shutdowns of the commercial sector, recreation, or school. We’ll move forward together.”