3 signs COVID-19 is spreading in San Diego

By The Health News Team | June 2, 2022
Illustration of person with umbrella avoiding germs

We hate to hear it but must acknowledge that COVID-19 is spreading in San Diego — again. News outlets are reporting a possible surge. But what signs do public health experts look for to confirm if COVID is on the rise?

Officials rely on a variety of data points to track the spread of COVID-19 in the community. These include the numbers of new cases, community outbreaks, deaths due to COVID-19, and hospital ICU beds available in the county.

While these statistics remain important, experts have three additional tools that can indicate increased COVID-19 spread:

  1. Watching wastewater
    Health departments across the country monitor coronavirus concentration in wastewater, commonly known as sewage. Fragments of the virus are shed in the urine and stool of people with COVID-19. Greater amounts of the virus in wastewater can be an early sign of an increase in COVID-19 cases in the community.
    Recently, the rate of COVID-19 in San Diego’s wastewater has risen, dominated by the omicron variant and its subvariants. The two newest subvariants of omicron together account for approximately 95% of all cases in the U.S.

  2. Reviewing the R-effective
    The effective reproduction number — known as R-effective or R-eff — is the average number of people each person with COVID-19 will transmit the coronavirus to and represents the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading in a community. If the R-eff is over 1.0, the number of people infected from one contagious person will increase.
    In San Diego, the R-eff has remained at or over 1.0 since mid-April. As of June 1, it is approximately 1.25, an indication that the spread of COVID-19 is likely increasing.

  3. Considering levels of community transmission
    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is using a new tool to help communities decide what preventive steps to take based on the latest information. Levels of community transmission of COVID-19 can be low, medium or high. They are determined by looking at two measurements over the prior seven days:
    The number of new cases per 100,000 people
    The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests recorded in the county
    San Diego currently joins more than half of the counties across the U.S. in the “high” community transmission level. The CDC advises “significant measures are needed to limit contact between persons” while prioritizing the continuation of essential community activities and services. These include health care, education, transportation, and food and agriculture.
    At this level, it is also recommended people:
    Stay current with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
    Get tested if they have symptoms.
    Wear a face mask if they have symptoms, received a positive test result, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
    Wear a face mask in public as an additional precaution to protect themselves and others.

Get COVID-19 vaccine information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp.

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