COVID numbers improving; flu season lurking

EL CENTRO — As COVID-19 case rates continue to decline in the county, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning were told about the upcoming flu season and how it will be handled.

The state data numbers as of late Tuesday morning, show the number of cases per 100,000 residents decreasing from 14.5 to 8.7. The county must lower that number to seven cases per 100,000 for two weeks in order to move into the next (red) tier.

The percentage of cases per 100,000 has dropped from 14.9 percent to 5.8 percent, according to the state’s website. The county must maintain 8 percent or lower for two weeks to move to the next tier.

Before the latest numbers were announced Tuesday morning, Imperial County Public Health Director Janette Angulo said she was anxiously awaiting the figures that come out every two weeks, as she was optimistic the rates would continue to decrease.

After two weeks of maintaining the numbers in the next tier, students can return for in-person school instruction.

Local data available Tuesday placed the average number of positive cases at 10.14 per 100,000 people and the percentage of positive tests per 100,000 at 5.12 percent.

Imperial County has a higher number of COVID-19 cases than those directly reported to the state. This is due to limitations in Imperial County’s Electronic Health Records infrastructure.

County figures differ from the state in part due to differences in when data is reported and inclusion of inmate populations.

Angulo told the supervisors that moving from the purple to red tier would allow retail stores to operate at 50 percent capacity, indoor dining at 25 percent and indoor fitness centers at 10 percent capacity.

County Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday said there are three potential vaccines of the 150 or so ongoing trials, but he does not think there will be one before the first week of November that some have predicted.

Instead, he thinks the federal government will get the supplies first before doling them out to states, which will provide them to counties. So the preparation on how to distribute a vaccine once it is approved is what is being set up, he said.

Regarding the flu season, Munday said that, while it’s a small sample size, people in the Southern Hemisphere who had recovered from COVID-19 and then were vaccinated for the flu became less sick than others who caught influenza virus.

“As you know the flu season (for us) is around the corner,” he said.

Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar asked about the worst-case scenario for hospitals.

Munday said the county health department and the hospitals go through this every season.

“What’s different this year is we will have coronavirus on top of this,” he said. “We are doing more of the same and being aware. We go through this every year, and we prepare for it.”

The most opportune times to catch the flu in this area are in January and February, he said.

Angulo said the county health department has emergency medical services working closely with the hospitals to determine what the season could mean.

Staff Writer Michael Maresh can be reached at mmaresh@ivpressonline.com.

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