COVID-19 testing

Amid Omicron, San Diego County Sets Pandemic Record for COVID Cases

Health officials on Thursday said that there had been a record-setting 5,976 COVID-19 cases reported Dec. 29

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Positive-coronavirus cases in San Diego have set a disturbing new benchmark, but other figures released by the county later in the day may tell more of a story.

County officials on Thursday said that there had a record-setting 5,976 COVID-19 cases reported Dec. 29, dwarfing the previous one-day tally set in Jan. 7 of this year, when 4,550 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

On Wednesday, officials said that there had 3,653 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the second-most recorded in a single day in San Diego County. The testing positivity rate on Tuesday was 12.8%.

Concerns about the spike in cases, largely believed to be connected to the spread of the omicron variant, were tempered, however, later in the day on Thursday when county officials released information regarding COVID hospitalizations.

As San Diego County sees COVID-19 positivity rates triple over the last few weeks, the demand for testing has also increased dramatically. NBC 7's Priya Sridhar reports.

When the latest figures were released Thursday, officials said the number of COVID patients being treated in intensive care units remained flat, after officials said Wednesday that 454 people were hospitalized in the country for treatment for the coronavirus, a 6.3% increase since the day before. A look at Tuesday's number of ICU patients being treated for COVID showed that those figures remained relatively stable for the past two weeks, only increasing by 10 patients, while cases have spiked nearly nine-fold since that time, up to 5,976 on Wednesday from 646 on Dec. 14.

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Despite the huge rise in cases of COVID detected on Wednesday, only five additional people required hospitalization for their care, according to the county.

Another metric that rose Thursday was the case positivity rate, which swelled to 17.5% on Wednesday, up from 12.8% the day before. Health-care workers performed 34,142 tests on Wednesday, officials said.

The high case county on Wednesday could also be due, at least in part, to increased testing: More tests can mean more positive results. In fact, many people around the county are finding that there are multi-hour waits for tests at county and hospital sites, and home test kits are difficult to find around San Diego as well.

The San Diego Library gave away more than 20,000 free COVID-19 test kits to the community in just a few days. The library system is completely out of the testing kits.

The county recommends that people worried about COVID-19 infection and others seeking COVID-19 testing only go to a hospital to be tested if they have severe symptoms. Those with mild COVID-19 symptoms should contact their health care provider via phone or telehealth for guidance.

Also on Thursday, health officials urged local residents to avoid large celebrations on New Year's Eve.

"People are tired of the pandemic, but given the record number of cases, the brisk emergence of omicron and the increased risks that come with gatherings, San Diegans must continue to make decisions to protect themselves and others,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer, said in a news release on Thursday. “If you have New Year’s celebrations, limit them to people who live with you and make sure everyone present uses the strategies we know work.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

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