COVID-19 cases are surging in California and the trends tend to hit metropolitan areas before reaching the Central Coast, according to Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County Health Officer.
“It's statewide. We are seeing a 25% increase week over week for the last two weeks at least,” she said.
Local case rates do not capture the full picture here on the Central Coast.
“We're really looking to wastewater as more of a metric for us because so much of the testing is being done at home and not reported at this time," Dr. Borenstein said. "But we are following our wastewater treatment sites and we are seeing some increases in those sites over recent weeks.”
Dr. Pat Fidopiastis, a professor of Microbiology at Cal Poly, runs wastewater analysis for the County of San Luis Obispo.
“We don't have to wait for people to show up to the hospital, for example, or to show up somewhere to get tested because the virus is going to be pooped out no matter what," he said.
Dr. Borenstein attributes part of the surge to the slowdown in vaccinations.
In SLO County, 63.2% of people completed the primary series of vaccines and are boosted, according to the CDC. For Santa Barbara County, it is 69.7%.
The percentage of people who received the bivalent booster is 23.9% in SLO County and 18.5% in Santa Barbara County as of December 1.
“We are, unfortunately, seeing lower numbers getting this latest booster than we saw in some of the... in the primary series for certain and earlier boosters. So I think people are just tired of getting shots, but they certainly should get this bivalent booster,” Dr. Borenstein said.
Dr. Fidopiastis analyzed wastewater before the interview.
“Right after the Thanksgiving break, there was a spike and it was going like this. And then today, thankfully, it did this," he gestured downward.
Local schools are gearing up for the surge after this winter break.
“Lucia Mar has test kits available for families to pick up the week before Christmas break. It's recommended for students to test before returning to school and two to three days after returning to school," said Anna-Liza Pacaoan, Lead District Nurse at Lucia Mar Unified School District.
At the district, they currently have 12 cases of COVID-19 among the student body and 16 among the staff.
“We are starting to see a little bit of a surge related to COVID, but also other respiratory illnesses like RSV and the flu. So, yes, I mean, I'm concerned about it, but this is a typical thing we would see at this time of year,” Pacaoan said,