More Californians working while sick with COVID-19, fooled by mild symptoms

Experts warn employees may show up for work while sick with COVID-19, with symptoms so mild that even healthcare workers are being fooled.

It has long been known that people with mild or no symptoms can transmit the coronavirus to others. But health experts are now finding that more people with very mild illness are working anyway – increasing the risk of transmission.

dr Ralph Gonzales, associate dean of UC San Francisco, recently said at a campus town hall that the newest dominant Omicron subvariant, BA.5, can result in symptoms so mild that healthcare workers are still working despite the disease. Some people only test positive four or five days after showing symptoms of COVID-19.

“We are seeing more staff who have been on site with symptoms for several days. So please try not to work with symptoms – even if they are mild – because with BA.5 we see quite a lot of mild symptoms and often people don’t even realize they are sick,” Gonzales said.

While the number of cases has decreased significantly from the heights of the last wave, the risk of exposure remains high. Almost every California county has a high rate of transmission of the coronavirus, defined as 100 or more cases per week per 100,000 people.

When case numbers are at these levels, “it is still recommended to put in place precautions that we have all become comfortable with during the pandemic, including covering indoors, staying home and testing when sick, making good use of the outdoors and maximizing indoor ventilation and getting tested before congregating where people with compromised health may be present to protect them,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County Health Officer, on Thursday.

LA County workplaces reporting clusters of coronavirus cases continue to decline; It was 144 last week, up from 152 the week before.

In places where outbreaks do occur, Davis said, factors that typically increase the spread of disease are people at work who are unaware they have coronavirus infection and a lack of masking.

Because of this, “it’s really important for people to make sure they test themselves if they’re feeling sick, even with mild symptoms, and make sure they don’t have COVID,” he said. “There have been some studies that have shown in the past that even up to 56% of people didn’t know they had an infection.”

This is especially important now that the Omicron variant and its family of substrains have proven particularly difficult to avoid – even for those who have long avoided coronavirus infection.

A review of infections by UC San Francisco’s Office of Population Health found that as of early 2022, fewer than 10% of campus staff and students had a prior history of COVID-19, Gonzales said. But the different waves of the ultra-contagious Omicron variants radically changed the cumulative rate of infection.

By early spring, 20% of the university’s staff and students had coronavirus infection, according to Gonzales. And by mid-summer, 45% were infected, Gonzales said.

A recent Axios/Ipsos survey found that about half of US adults have had a coronavirus infection at some point.

The most recent estimate of seroprevalence for California — the proportion of residents thought to have had the coronavirus at some point — was 55.5% in February, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was a significant increase from an estimated 25.3% last November before the widespread adoption of Omicron.

Given the steady stream of newly reported infections, the proportion of Californians infected at some point has almost certainly continued to rise this year.

Meanwhile, the impact of the pandemic on hospitals has diminished as the summer omicron surge has subsided.

As of Thursday, there were only seven California counties with high COVID-19 community levels as defined by the CDC, generally indicating both a high case rate and elevated levels of new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations.

The counties still at the high level of the COVID-19 community as of Thursday — Kern, Ventura, Monterey, Merced, Imperial, Madera and Kings — are home to about 2.9 million Californians, which is about 8% of the state’s population is equivalent to. In contrast, two weeks ago, 14.4 million Californians were living in the 21 counties in the high COVID-19 community level.

Counties that exited high COVID-19 community levels this week were Fresno, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Humboldt, Sutter, Yuba, San Benito, and Tuolumne. Those who left the level in the previous week were Orange, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Solano, San Luis Obispo, Napa and Mendocino.

Southern California mid-level COVID-19 community counties include Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, and Santa Barbara. Riverside County is in the low COVID-19 community level.

As of Friday, Los Angeles County was recording about 3,000 coronavirus cases a day for the previous seven days — less than half the summer high of nearly 6,900 cases a day, but still well above the spring low of about 600 cases a day.

On a per capita basis, LA County is reporting 206 coronavirus cases per week per 100,000 residents.

Coronavirus-positive hospitalizations are trending downwards. As of Thursday, LA County’s 92 hospitals had 827 hospitalized coronavirus-positive patients, down 12% in the previous seven days. State Models are forecasting further declines over the next month.

LA County reported 96 COVID-19 deaths for the seven-day period ended Friday, up 16% from the previous week’s tally of 83. The weekly peak for the summer was between July 31 and August 6 , as LA County reported 122 Covid19 deaths.

More than 33,000 total COVID-19 deaths have been reported in LA County since the pandemic began, including about 1,500 in the past five months. Before the pandemic, around 1,500 Angelenos typically died from the flu over the course of a year.

Some experts are expecting a fall-winter COVID-19 wave like the one that has occurred over the past two years, but it’s unclear how bad it could be. Officials are also concerned about the possible return of a significant flu season for the first time in the pandemic era.

The White House has signaled that it expects a new Omicron-specific booster vaccine to be available in September. Health officials are urging people to get the flu shot ahead of winter and be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. More Californians working while sick with COVID-19, fooled by mild symptoms

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