Low vaccine rates cause a reckoning in rural counties

At least seven rural California counties have broken their all-time records for coronavirus cases and hospitalizations amid the spread of the highly infectious delta variant. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is now higher than it’s ever been in Del Norte, Humboldt, Tuolumne, Nevada, Mendocino, Lake and Amador counties, according to the Sacramento Bee

Per-capita rates among the seven ranged from 39 daily new infections per 100,000 in Mendocino County to 91 per 100,000 in Del Norte County. The statewide rate was 26 per 100,000, according to California Department of Public Health data updated Monday.

Transmission levels that severe in the seven rural counties mean the number of patients who will need hospital care, already at a record high, is likely to keep climbing at least the rest of August and likely into September, since hospitalizations tend to lag lab-confirmed cases by roughly two weeks.

The hospital crunch could have a spillover effect for neighboring counties as patients are sent elsewhere for treatment. Health facilities are already lacking in these smaller, rural areas. In Del Norte, just one hospital provides general acute care. That hospital is already out of ICU beds.

There is no mistaking the cause of this latest hospital surge. The aforementioned counties have low vaccination rates. All of them are below the state average of 55%. In Del Norte, that number is just 35%.


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