Daily total of COVID-19 cases jumps; local transit removes mask requirements

Trains and buses in San Diego County will no longer require masks following a federal court ruling on Monday. The announcement comes the same day the county reported that the daily number of COVID-19 cases had doubled overnight.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System announcement Wednesday that face coverings are now optional on board its many people-carrying vehicles. The North County Transit District, which provides bus service and operates the Sprinter and Coaster commuter rail lines, said it “will no longer require the wearing of face coverings on board vehicles or at stations, with immediate effect”.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner made a similar announcement on Tuesday as did San Diego International Airport.

All stressed that masks remain optional.

And it’s clear that while some are certainly celebrating, others have no intention of entering crowded, confined spaces with unmasked strangers.

Kristian Andersen, an influential immunologist and molecular biologist at Scripps Research in San Diego, said he has no plans to change his masking habits.

“I always wear a snug-fitting N95 whenever I’m in public spaces because, why not?” Andersen said.

Although fatigue caused many to abandon pandemic measures, the expert, who has made a career out of tracking viruses around the world, said caution was still in order.

“The pandemic is unfortunately far from over, and while we’ve made it more manageable with vaccines, drugs and other interventions, the virus is no less dangerous for that,” Andersen said in an email. -mail.

The San Diego County Health Department announced 405 new cases in its weekly COVID-19 report on Wednesday, nearly double the 220 published a day earlier. Admittedly, that’s far from the kind of spike seen in late December when the Omicron variant arrived, crushing local emergencies and pushing the lines into test center parking lots.

Local hospitalizations, however, have yet to show an upward trend with 113 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases in local hospital beds on Tuesday, about the same number as last week. Hospitalization, however, tends to delay infection for several weeks, although the newly dominant BA.2 variant, like its Omicron parent, showed less ability to fill hospitals than did Delta. last summer and for the original variants first detected in Wuhan, China.

The local death rate continued to be slower than it was over the winter, with four additional deaths announced over the past week. Two were fully vaccinated and two were not; all had other underlying health conditions, including three in their 80s and one in their 50s.

An increase in positive tests likely underestimates the overall increase in local COVID-19 activity, which has already been felt most strongly on the East Coast. The results of many home antigen tests are not reported to public health services and therefore do not appear in public counts. The amount of viral material detected in local wastewater has recently shown a slight increase, although it remains relatively stable.

It’s best, he said, to catch up with booster shots now, as further increases in infection are likely as spring turns into summer.

“I’m still a little confident saying we’ll see increasing numbers in May and June,” Andersen said. “It is impossible to say exactly how many; however, I think (it will be) quite substantial, although less than the wave (Omicron).

Melvin Z. Madore