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Weekly Roundup for September 24, 2021

Published:  September 24, 2021

COVID-19 booster shots are starting to roll out now that federal regulators have approved Pfizer vaccine boosters for people 65 and older as well as certain high-risk populations.

In Sonoma County, new cases have continued to drop since the first week of August and hospitalizations are also declining. Our overall case rate is 12.5 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, which represents 25.6 new cases per day in the unvaccinated population and 5.5 new cases per day in the vaccinated population.

Twelve COVID-related deaths have been reported so far in September, following 33 in August and 16 in July. The county reported one COVID death in May and four in June. In Sonoma County, 1,028 cases of the Delta variant have been identified.

Our main priority continues to be getting vaccine doses to eligible residents. More than 331,000 residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, and another 31,000 are partially vaccinated. This means 83 percent of our 12 and older population is fully or partially vaccinated.

Visit the County of Sonoma’s COVID-19 Data and Statistics hub for more information:
https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/1edbb41952a8417385652279305e878d/page/home/

This week’s digest provides helpful and important updates on the following:  

  1. Latest on booster shots
  2. Vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds
  3. Update on the status of in-person school
  4. Upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinics and expanded testing
  5. COVID-19 community resources & support
  6. Other county news items
  7. Emergency preparedness tips & resources

Latest on Booster Shots

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA this week approve booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for ages 65 and older, and people 16 and over who are at high risk of getting severe COVID-19 or who work in settings that make them more likely to get infected. Those eligible for booster shots must have completed their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.

The FDA’s expert panel concluded that boosters are not necessary for most younger, healthier Americans, unless their jobs put them at special risk. Jobs in that category include health care workers, emergency responders and teachers.

Sonoma County recommends that eligible residents use the Myturn.ca.gov site to find an appointment. The county’s top priority will continue to be getting first and second doses of the vaccine administered to those who are unvaccinated. For those who have health care coverage through one of our larger local medical providers, such as Kaiser, Sutter Health or Providence, the county is encouraging them to contact their primary care physician to determine whether they are eligible for a booster and to make an appointment.

Meanwhile, a second dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine substantially increased its protection against COVID-19, the company announced Tuesday. In a clinical trial, researchers found that two doses delivered 94 percent efficacy against mild to severe COVID-19, up from 74 percent conferred with a single shot. The data has been submitted to the FDA. Since February, 14.6 million people in the United States have received the one-shot J&J vaccine, including 21,600 people in Sonoma County.

Vaccines for 5- to 11-Year-Olds

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be safe and highly effective in young children aged 5 to 11 years, the companies said Monday. County health officials expect the vaccine to be authorized by the FDA for ages 5 to 11 by the end of October or early November.

Pfizer tested a much lower dose for ages 5 to 11 — a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. After their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults getting the regular-strength shots, Pfizer said.

The dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, Pfizer said. While children are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children now account for more than one in five new cases.

Trial results for children younger than 5 are not expected until the fourth quarter of this year at the earliest, according to Pfizer.

Sonoma County Office of Education and health officials are planning a series of educational events and vaccine clinics for later in the fall when pediatric vaccines are approved.  

Update on the Status of In-Person School

The County of Sonoma, in collaboration with the Sonoma County Office of Education, is implementing measures to keep our schools as safe as possible with the resumption of in-person instruction.

There have been 385 COVID-19 cases in county schools since classes started in August. Of these cases, 350 are students and 35 are staff members. 

That represents:

  • 224 cases in elementary schools
  • 67 cases in middle schools
  • 92 cases in high schools  

How COVID-19 cases at schools are handled is determined by the number of cases involved and exposure. Clusters of three or more cases at a school are an indication that spread may be happening on campus. When cases arise, exposure will be tracked through contact tracing and testing as necessary. 

Universal masking means that classrooms and schools will not be closed for a few cases through the use of a modified quarantine protocol and reporting when students or staff test positive for COVID-19. If parents do not feel comfortable with in-person instruction for their child, they can opt for an independent study program, which will vary be district.

Please visit the Sonoma County Office of Education for more information:  https://www.scoe.org/pub/htdocs/coronavirus.html   

COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics & Expanded Testing

The County’s vaccine clinics page is continually updated including a pop-up calendar to make it easier to see what clinics are operating each day, where they are located and how to make an appointment. 

Getting the vaccine remains our best defense against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death. 

View the vaccine clinics page here:   https://socoemergency.org/emergency/novel-coronavirus/vaccine-information/clinics/

In response to a surging demand in testing, the County Department of Health Services has boosted capacity to 17,000 tests per week. Appointments are strongly recommended as walk-ins are limited.

For details or appointments at COVID-19 testing clinics, including a pop-up testing calendar, please visit:
https://socoemergency.org/emergency/novel-coronavirus/testing-and-tracing/

Residents who need help making a vaccination or testing appointment can call the Sonoma County Testing and Vaccine hotline at 707-565-4667 ( 4701 in Spanish).

If you have symptoms or have had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should be tested regardless of your vaccination status. 

Quarantine if you have been in close contact (within 6 feet of someone for a total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period) with someone who has COVID-19, unless fully vaccinated.

People who are fully vaccinated do NOT need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. 

COVID-19 Community Resources and Support

  • Free COVID-19 testing is available for tribal communities at Sonoma County Indian Health Project. Call 707-521-4500 for details.
  • Listos California offers disaster preparedness information in indigenous languages at its Farmworkers Initiative webpage. 
  • Information for businesses: SoCoLaunch.org.  

Other County of Sonoma News

Emergency Preparedness Tips and Resources

  • As we continue into fire season, make sure you know your official evacuation zone. Click on the link for County of Sonoma here:
    https://socoemergency.org/get-ready/evacuation-map/
  • Reminder to prevent equipment sparked fires due to lawn mowing, trailer chains, or driving on dry grass or brush, or with low tire pressure. For additional CAL FIRE information on equipment safety, please visit: https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prevent-wildfire/equipment-use/.
  • Hot weather is here and everyone is at risk for heat-related illness. Stay hydrated, limit your time outdoors, and check in on those who are susceptible to heat-related illness. Here are some tips to stay cool and preparing for a heatwave:
    https://socoemergency.org/get-ready/local-hazards/heat-advisories/
  • Defensible space is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. It’s the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. Learn how to build defensible space around your home: https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/get-ready/defensible-space/
  • The County of Sonoma strongly recommends subscribing to the following alert and warning systems:
        • SoCoAlert – Upon signing up for SoCoAlert, select to receive alerts through landline calls, cell phone text messages or pre-recorded verbal messages and email. The system also works with telephone devices for the deaf.
        • Nixle – Receive email and text messages from local fire and law enforcement agencies that include public safety messages as well as emergency information. Text your zip code to 888777 to opt-in or sign up online to receive email, text or voice messages with alerts and advisories.
        • Stay informed, sign up for alerts at https://socoemergency.org/receive-alerts/.

      Contact Information

      Paul Gullixson
      Communications Manager
      County Administrator's Office
      County of Sonoma
      Address
      575 Administration Drive
      Suite 104A
      Santa Rosa, CA 95403
      38.464665, -122.725235