COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Surge Amid Holiday Season

Kamari Esquerra

Covid-19 is on the rise again. 

“It will get worse before it gets better so we think January will be a more challenging month,” said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, Public Health Officer for Riverside County.

Lines for COVID-19 tests wrap around buildings and parking lots with people waiting hours to get their results, and at-home tests are selling out everywhere as cases and hospitalizations surge in the Coachella Valley and across the country.

“Many people were predicting an increase with the holidays and, in particular, with the weather getting colder that drives people indoors where it’s easier to spread infection,” said Dr. Leung. “And then with people gathering for things like Thanksgiving and holiday get-togethers, we know there’s a much higher chance of spread as well. On top of that, the new Omicron variant looks like it may be more contagious or transmissible.”

Cases in Riverside County have not been this high since August with the county averaging thousands of new cases each day.

“During the past few weeks we have seen a doubling in the number of new cases and even hospitalizations,” said Dr. Leung. “It is concerning.”

Despite that, health officials say this uptick is nowhere near the numbers of last winter.

“Although we are seeing an increase in numbers right now, we do believe we are in a much better position than we were this time last year,” said Dr. Leung. “Last year, we had four or five times as many cases and hospitalizations. We also did not have the majority of the population vaccinated… so we’re in a much better place now.”

Still, that’s no reason to let our guard down. 

“As we tighten up some of our safety measures, continue to get vaccinated and boosted, and move out of the holiday season gathering season, things will start to get better,” said Dr. Leung. 

Ahead of the new year, health officials continue to caution those planning to celebrate, reminding everyone that COVID-19 is still here and that precautions are still important.  

“We do encourage people to continue with preventive measures, especially as we move into the new year,” said Dr. Leung. “We hope that people will celebrate safely. Especially when (gathering together), if you can have a smaller gathering for a shorter amount of time and… do it outdoors, that will significantly decrease the risk of any spread.”

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