COVID-19 hospitalizations are close to the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 both across the state of California and in San Diego County, according to state health data. The data shows a massive decline in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in January of this year compared to the latest May numbers.
New state health data show COVID-19 hospital patients reported on May 4 is at 1,555 people, a number significantly lower than the peak during the winter surge. Across California, the state recorded almost 22,000 hospitalizations in January.
"As the cases started to plummet and really come down dramatically, then we're seeing again the aftermath of that, which translates into no or very few hospitalizations and then with better management of the patients in the hospital, of course, people are getting discharged and more people are surviving the infection," said Dr. Paul Schalch Lepe, an otolaryngologist.
This sense of optimism is a big turning point. Doctors and health leaders across San Diego county are starting to feel it.
Leaders at UC San Diego Health are feeling pleased as the hospital system reported zero new COVID-19 infections within 24 hours on Monday. This milestone is the first time UC San Diego Health reaches this since they launched testing last March in 2020.
"For the first time since we started COVID testing at UC San Diego last March we saw a 24 hour period where we made zero diagnoses and of course this didn't continue the following day but it was really a positive sign because we haven't seen it before," said Dr. Christopher Longhurs, Chief Information Officer at UC San Diego Health.
Lepe said these milestones are important because they signify how lower COVID-19 cases will lead to lower hospitalizations and death, and that vaccines work.
"There's a lot of concern about the variants, but our recent data shows that the vaccinations work very effectively against really all of the variants that we're seeing," said Lepe. "In addition, we know that the vaccines are working to prevent transmission, not just getting sick symptoms."
"San Diego County has really led the state in our vaccination efforts, I mean we were the first Super Station in the state at Petco Park in collaboration with the county and city of San Diego and so I think we're seeing the impact of so many adults now being vaccinated," said Lepe. "In addition, this disease probably has a seasonal kind of impact."
Lepe also explains how these low rates allows for the return on elective surgeries and procedures and also encourages the community to come back into hospitals for procedures or tests they may have been putting off.
"We are basically going back to a normal routine, we can take care of our patients, we can do elective procedures, we can do surgeries, we can really do what we were doing before and arguably better," said Lepe.