The days of Riverside County adding 1,000-plus COVID-19 cases each day are no longer the trend.
Between Tuesday and Friday, the county reported 1,818 new COVID-19 cases, according to county data. While Wednesday did have 1,065 new cases reported, Thursday saw 459 and Friday had 294. Data was not released Monday due to the holiday.
By comparison, there were more than 2,500 cases between Aug. 13 and 16.
There have been just under 5,000 reported COVID-19 cases so far in October, which surpassed case totals for the months of April (3,989), May (2,251) and June (1,005). There were more than 11,500 cases by mid-August and more than 10,000 cases by mid-September.
The county’s case and positivity rates have continued on the downward trend this week. On Friday, the case rate was 13.3 per 100,000, and the positivity rate was 5%. One month ago, those numbers were 25.3 per 100,000 and 7.9%.
Though many indicators are decreasing, Riverside County still has a “high” community transmission rate, which is defined as more than 100 cumulative cases per 100,000 residents in a week, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker. Other surrounding counties, such as Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego, have a “substantial” transmission rate, or 50 to 99 cumulative cases per 100,000 in the past seven days.
The Palm Springs Unified School District reported 19 students and one staff member across 27 schools have tested positive for COVID-19. Desert Hot Springs High School has four confirmed active student cases, the most of any school in the district as of Friday.
The Desert Sands Unified School District reported 39 students and 10 staff members across 36 schools have tested positive for COVID-19. Palm Desert High School had reported five active cases among students and one among staff as of Friday.
The Coachella Valley Unified School District on Monday reported a total of eight active COVID-19 cases among students and two among staff on Friday. At Valley View Elementary School, there were five cases among students and staff, according to the district.
Hospitalization numbers continue to fall. The week started out with 288 hospitalizations on Tuesday and ended with 278 on Friday. That includes 70 individuals in intensive care, which also decreased by seven since Tuesday.
There were 29 reported deaths this week, bringing the total to 5,092 since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Riverside County, 59.2% of residents ages 12 and older are fully vaccinated, while another 7% are partially vaccinated. The county reports 66,576 third/booster doses have been administered.
Booster doses for Johnson & Johnson, Moderna vaccines
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its support for booster doses for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted Thursday to support booster shots of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and up, as well as younger adults with certain medical problems or jobs that put them at increased risk for infection. The booster shot will be a half-dose of the same vaccine already given. Company data suggested that the lower dose was as effective but had potentially fewer side effects.
The same committee decided Friday that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine should be considered a two-dose vaccine rather than the one-and-done shot that had received initial authorization. It voted unanimously to support what Johnson & Johnson describes as a booster at least two months after the initial shot.
Data from Johnson & Johnson and real-world experience show that the single shot provides less protection against COVID-19 than the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Company studies suggest Johnson & Johnson’s protection continues over time, while effectiveness against less severe disease appears to fade with the other two.
Adding a second dose two- to six-months after the initial J&J shot would provide the same effectiveness as the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) without their fading protection, Dr. Penny Heaton, head of the vaccines global therapeutic area for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, told the committee Friday.
Last month, Pfizer booster shots became available for certain adults six months after they received their initial series. Moderate to severely immunocompromised individuals were eligible to receive a third vaccine dose in August.
The discussion of booster shots does not change the definition of “fully vaccinated,” which remains two shots for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and one for J&J. Anyone required to be fully vaccinated for work or an activity will not need an extra shot.
USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub contributed to this report.
Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ema_sasic.