California officials seek end of COVID surge as schools, first responders are affected

As COVID cases rise across California and lead to school closures and other staff shortages, officials expect a lack of serious omicron cases could mean the wave is comparable to previous outbreaks. will decrease rapidly.

“My hope is that, you know, by February, we’re on the downside of seeing that massive community transmission,” Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s director of public health, said Thursday, according to the Associated Press. ,

Health officials said close contact between family members, especially those who are unrelated, likely contributed to the spread of the variant first detected in the state in November.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michelle Moore, who said more than 800 officers and firefighters were unavailable due to a positive test or contact with someone who tested positive, was one of several officers who reiterated the state’s hope that vaccines would be available. And the boosters will help soften the ripple effect. ,

“We see this as a surge, this is our hope and belief, short-term,” Moore said on Thursday.

According to county health officials, less than half of the current COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles are directly attributable to the virus, as many in the county were seeking medical treatment for a non-COVID issue. Officials attributed the lack of serious cases to vaccines and boosters, emphasizing their ability to protect against serious disease in most people.

Health officials in California said this week they are optimistic that vaccines and boosters could help slow the omicron wave by next month. Above, a sign for COVID-19 testing is seen at a public school in Los Angeles on January 5, 2022.
Robin Beck / AFP via Getty Images

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in California has increased five-fold in two weeks and the number of hospitalizations has doubled. Los Angeles County, the state’s largest with 10 million residents, reported more than 37,000 new cases on Thursday, the highest level since the pandemic began.

Moore said it was taking an average of three weeks for officers affected by COVID-19 to return to work.

San Francisco reported Tuesday that 167 officers had been released due to COVID-19 and that 135 firefighters—both representing about 8 percent of its military—were absent. There were about 200 officers and other personnel in San Diego on Tuesday, reflecting the same percentage as the department.

The surge has also led to hours of waiting for COVID tests as parents gear up to send their children back to school after the winter break. While millions of test kits have been distributed to counties, Governor Gavin Newsom and state health officials have been criticized for the backlog.

Hundreds of people lined up Thursday morning at a testing site in Long Beach, some coughing and sneezing.

“I think it’s getting very out of control,” Salvador Barragan said after self-administering his nasal swab. “I hope it calms down.”

Not only are lab tests difficult amid record demand, officials say they are taking longer to process as COVID-19 has depleted the ranks of technicians as well.

Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, told Bay Area Newsgroup, a processing lab used by Santa Clara County is sending samples to Texas due to staff shortages.

Off-the-shelf home tests are also in short supply.

The virus surge is affecting the school system. District officials said all 54 schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, east of San Francisco, will be closed on Friday and Monday.

Spokesman Ryan Phillips said more than 5,000 students have been absent each day this week, or about a quarter of those enrolled in the district of 28,000 students and the district believes the coronavirus is to blame.

One in six of San Francisco’s 3,600 teachers were out on Thursday. Superintendent Vince Matthews said that even with administrators, substitutes and others coming in, there weren’t enough teachers for every class.

“This is the most challenging time in my 36 years as a teacher,” Matthews said during a break from filling in as a sixth-grade science teacher. “We are trying to educate students in the middle of a pandemic, while the sand around us is constantly shaking.”

Nearly 900 teachers and aides in San Francisco called for the sick on Thursday. A group of teachers had called for the sick, arguing that the school district had not done enough to protect them during the boom. They are asking for more testing and for all students to wear medical-grade masks.

It was not clear how many teachers who attended were sick or had the virus or were caring for family members.

Jazmine Keel, a student at Mission High School, said more than 70 teachers joined the protest.

“There were hardly enough subscribers to take attendance,” she told KTVU-TV, although district officials said classes were not disrupted.

A similar illness was planned for Friday in the Oakland Unified School District. In an online post cited by San Francisco Chronicle, organizers said Oakland schools “are facing the biggest crisis in living memory.”

“Staff and students sit in half-timbered classes and fear they will be the next to be infected and bring the disease home to their loved ones,” the press release said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.