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South Coast health expert says we may be just starting COVID-19 Christmas/New Year's surge

Mufid Majnun
Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties are seeing skyrocketing COVID-19 case numbers coming out of the holidays.

Thanksgiving may be powering the recent spike, with Christmas starting to kick in and New Year's yet to come.

Fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, the Central and South Coasts are experiencing the same type of COVID-19 surge that we’re seeing around the state.

"I think there's every possibility this surge will peak in a couple of weeks, it is going up so fast," said Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin.

Dr. Levin thinks the spike in cases could peak relatively rapidly and then decline, rather than being a sustained surge.

He believes we’re seeing the result of holiday get-togethers.

"I think the numbers we're seeing, and they are increased numbers, began with and are being contributed to by Thanksgiving," said Dr. Levin. "It's just about the time we might see something from Christmas, and it's a little early for New Year's."

The good news is that the numbers are lower than at the same time last year.

And, Dr. Levin says thanks to vaccinations, fewer people who get sick are ending up in hospitals. Still, even if a smaller percentage of people end up in hospitals, if the surge ends up larger than last years, it could create another care crisis.

The Ventura County Health official says if you’ve been around other people, getting tested is a good idea. But he admits it’s a bit frustrating right now, because lots of people want to get checked, and testing sites are swamped.

Annie Spratt
COVID-19 test sites on the Central and South Coasts are swamped, and home test kits are also in short supply.

And, here’s a sobering statistic. In Ventura County, more than 19% of people getting tested, which is about one in five, are testing positive. That number is for people going to official test sites, and doesn’t include home testing numbers.

Dr. Levin says there is a big push underway to make testing public school students a high priority, with the state sending hundreds of thousands of home test kits to county schools offices for distribution.

There are no announced plans for new lockdowns in the region. But, Dr. Levin says many people are taking it upon themselves to avoid crowds, and public places where the virus could be spread.

"I do think people are self-regulating," said Dr. Levin. "People are reluctant to go to big gatherings. People are reluctant to go to indoor settings where they're with people they don't see every day. This is a very transmissible virus."

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.