Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, March 11, 2022 @ 12:52 p.m. / COVID-19

Del Norte COVID Update: Cases Decreased by 27 Percent During First Week of March, Public Health Officer Says

Del Norte showed roughly a 27 percent decrease in new COVID-19 cases between Feb. 28 and March 6 compared to the previous week, the county public health officer told supervisors on Tuesday.

Dr. Aaron Stutz also had more information about the three individuals who died from the coronavirus last week: One person who died Feb. 23 was a 79-year-old unvaccinated male; the second individual, who died on Feb. 26, was 71 and had received his first two vaccine doses but hadn’t received a booster and the third was a 59-year-old unvaccinated individual and died on March 1, Stutz said.

In response to a question from Smith River resident Branden Bieber, Stutz acknowledged that the definition of being fully vaccinated against COVID is misleading.

“It demonstrates the importance of getting a booster, of getting your yearly influenza vaccine; things like that,” Stutz said. “Viruses change, immunity wanes and if you want to maintain protection you have to get booster shots.”

As of Thursday, 29 new COVID-19 cases were reported to the Del Norte Public Health Branch, including one case among the county’s incarcerated population. There are currently 77 active cases in the community and six people in the hospital, according to the Public Health Branch.

There have 46 deaths in Del Norte County from COVID since the pandemic began in March 2020.

On Tuesday, 37 new cases were reported to the Public Health Branch, including two incarcerated cases. There were a total of 49 active cases in Del Norte County on Tuesday, according to the county’s information hub.

The Public Health Branch began reporting COVID-19 statistics twice a week as of March 3, stating it was transitioning from a “pandemic response” to an endemic response.

Also on March 3, Stutz announced that statewide indoor mask mandates for unvaccinated individuals are no longer in effect.
Starting March 14, mask requirements in public schools will be lifted, though they will still be strongly recommended.

On Tuesday, Stutz said he expects to see a change in definition in the coming months and years of what it means to be fully vaccinated. He said the terminology will likely be “closer to currently vaccinated if you had vaccines in the last 3-6 months.”

Stutz also showed a slide from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing the percentage of “all caused deaths” in the United States since 2014, and spoke to claims that COVID fatalities were being “over-counted.”

In the graph, which had lines representing overdoses, heart attacks, car accidents and influenza-like illnesses, Stutz noted that the small spikes between 2014 and 2019 represented the annual flu season.

This graph from the US Centers for Disease Control compares deaths from influenza-like illnesses to other causes of mortality between 2014 and 2022, according to Dr. Aaron Stutz. Stutz compared the spike from winter 2020-21 to 2017-18.

In winter 2020-21 respiratory illnesses accounted for nearly 50 percent of all caused deaths in the U.S., according to the information Stutz obtained from the CDC, while the influenza spike in 2017-18 — the worst flu death year in a decade, according to Stutz — accounted for less than 20 percent of all caused deaths.

“There are accusations that we over counted COVID and we weren’t looking for influenza,” he said. “I can tell you in my practice, and all over the United States, everybody was still looking for pneumonia; we were still looking for influenza. I would say we weren’t undercounting those diseases. That graph for me speaks volumes about how many people died of this respiratory illness.”

About 55.5 percent of Del Norte’s population has received the COVID-19 vaccine, while about 14 percent of Del Norte kids ages 5-11 are vaccinated, according to Stutz.


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