Last year's holiday season ushered in one of the worst COVID-19 surges we've seen to date, with cases peaking for the Central Coast in mid-January 2021. But this year, with the advent of vaccines and the uncertainty of the Omicron variant, it's unclear what the next big surge will look like.
- File Photo Courtesy Of Ryan Hopkins
- HOLIDAY SURGE? SLO County didn't see the same surging cases post-Thanksgiving this year compared to last, but we don't know yet the effect other winter holidays may have.
Comparing this year's COVID-19 data to 2020, it's clear that Thanksgiving didn't take the same toll on SLO County's case count in 2021.
Before anyone was vaccinated, cases began rapidly increasing right after last year's Thanksgiving holiday. Between Nov. 24 and Dec. 14, 2020, SLO County's case rate doubled. By Jan. 11, 2021, once Christmas had come and gone, it had more than quadrupled.
This year, SLO County's case rate stayed steady between Thanksgiving and mid-December, and even decreased a bit, indicating that Thanksgiving didn't do the same damage this year.
But that doesn't mean the Central Coast is in the clear from a possible winter surge. The most recent data released on Dec. 28 showed an uptick in new cases over the last week.
"This year, we have a more vaccinated population but also two newer and more transmissible strains of the virus [Delta and Omicron] and fewer restrictions to travel and gathering," SLO County Public Health Department spokesperson Michelle Shoresman told New Times. "It is estimated from the experiences in South Africa that Omicron has a doubling rate of only two days."
SLO County had eight confirmed Omicron cases as of Dec. 28.
But unlike last year, this holiday season we were equipped with vaccines. While they greatly reduce the severity of COVID-19, breakthrough cases are still prevalent.
"To stay as safe as possible during this confusing time, consider testing before gathering, and three to five days after a gathering, stay home if you feel sick, practice social distancing, and gather outside as weather permits, and get vaccinated or boosted if you are able and haven't already," Shoresman said.
While testing is more widely available this year than last, thanks in part to at-home tests available for purchase at the drugstore, the scramble to get tested for the holidays was evident in recent weeks. At-home tests were flying off the shelves, and the county-run testing site at the Vets' Hall saw long lines even on cold, rainy days.
SLO County bolstered its community testing sites from three last year to four this year, adding one in Morro Bay, plus the existing sites in Paso Robles, SLO, and Grover Beach. While walk-ins are usually available, Shoresman recommended that people make appointments. As of Dec. 27, the Vets' Hall testing site had to stop taking walk-ins in order to accommodate for everyone who made an appointment. Δ