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Could COVID-19 surge be easing in Tri-Counties? Expert thinks it's peaking in Ventura County

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Mika Baumeister
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Ventura County's Public Health Officer thinks we may be on the track for masking in most cases to end by the end of the year.

Ventura County's Public Health Officer thinks most people could safely be maskless by end of year.

Could the COVID-19 surge on the South Coast be peaking? One of the region’s public health experts thinks so. In fact, he thinks we could even see an end to masking requirements later this year.

"The case rate is down a little bit over what it was a few days ago. I'm hoping that we've peaked, and are headed down," said Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin.

He says the statistics show the spread is decreasing.

The new COVID-19 case numbers since the first of the year have been stunning, with Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties seeing their largest single day totals of the pandemic. In Ventura County, more than 17,000 cases were reported in the last week. And, Santa Barbara County had 5,931 new cases since last Friday.

Dr. Levin believes while Ventura County is seeing its peak, the decline won’t be overnight.

"There were an extremely high number of cases," said Dr. Levin. "So, just because it's going down doesn't mean it's not around us anymore. It's going to be a high number of cases as we head down for days to come."

While relief may be coming, the region’s hospitals aren’t seeing it yet. Santa Barbara County is reporting that 82% of its beds are in use, and that adult ICU beds are at 96% capacity, although they have overflow ability.

Dr. Levin says Ventura County’s hospitalization numbers appear to have stabilized, but all of the county’s hospitals are packed.

"We are really strained at all of the hospitals throughout the county. I don't know what to say other than we're shy of the breaking point right now," said Dr. Levin.

The Ventura County Public Health Officer says there are some game changing new COVID-19 therapies on the horizon.

But, Dr. Levin cautions that the new therapies are in extremely short supply. He says drug makers are just gearing up. He says unless you are in critical need, you’re not going to be able to get them.

In some cases, the county is getting 40 to 80 does a week for a population of around 850,000 people.

He says this emphasizes the need to be fully vaccinated, and get a booster.

The numbers make the case once again for vaccination. The rate of hospitalization for those fully vaccinated in Ventura County is less than one percent.

And, here’s another big set of numbers. Again using Ventura County as the example, there have been 1,245 COVID-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic. 62 of those people were fully vaccinated. That’s just 5% of the total deaths.

But, on an optimistic note, the Ventura County Public Health Officer thinks its possible that most people may not need to mask up by the end of this year.

"If the COVID virus continues in the direction of the Omicron, where it is more contagious but less threatening, I think that we will be in a position where probably most of us will not asked to wear masks late in the year," said Dr. Levin.

"That would include students. I think the strategy may change where only the highest risk people are going to be asked to wear masks."