COVID-19 Deaths Reach 4,500 as San Diego County Urges Testing Only When Necessary

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Due to a massive influx in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, San Diego County public health officials, Friday urged residents to not only get all vaccinations and the booster but to only seek testing for the illness if necessary.

According to county data, in the past month, confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped from around 4,700 per week to more than 45,000 cases reported in the seven days between Dec. 29, 2021, through Tuesday. That is nearly a tenfold increase in just 30 days.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have also more than doubled in the past 30 days, from 303 to 837, putting a strain on local hospitals that are contending with hundreds of employees unable to work after contracting the virus.

"We're now seeing the highest local case counts of the pandemic. COVID-19 is everywhere," said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer. "The best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to have as much immunity as possible and to take other precautions that we know work."

The county Health and Human Services Agency reported 5,922 new infections and five deaths on Friday, increasing the cumulative totals to 477,211 cases and 4,500 deaths.

Hospitalizations increased to 837 from 774, according to the latest state figures, up from 510 last Friday.

Of those patients, 156 were in intensive care, up to nine from the previous day. The number of available ICU beds increased by 15 to 195.

Some COVID-positive patients may have been hospitalized for other reasons and had their COVID status discovered by hospital-mandated tests.

A total of 23,043 tests were reported Friday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 25.8%, up from 25.4% on Thursday.

Dozens of city workers began receiving advanced termination notices on Thursday for failure to comply with the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees.

City officials reported 86 employees were sent the notifications, far fewer than the more than 900 sent letters providing some options in December.

A city spokesman reported this week that 85% of its around 11,300 employees were fully vaccinated, 9,695 in total with 1,095 requesting a religious or medical exemption.

City employees had until Monday to get the vaccine or select from a list of other options such as requesting a religious or medical exemption, taking leave without pay, resigning, or retiring.

The number of people who got notices is far fewer than the 900-plus who got letters in December outlining their options, reports NBC 7's Melissa Adan.

Those who chose none of the above options were sent termination notices and could face a hearing with "all due process rights and rights to representation."

However, those employees who become fully vaccinated before they receive the final termination notice will not be fired, city officials said.

UC San Diego announced Thursday that its remote instruction period would be expanded through January due to a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

In a statement, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said the spread of the omicron variant has led to staffing shortages and impacts to student attendance, prompting the university to delay the return to in-person instruction until Jan. 31.

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