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Shasta County Has Highest COVID-19 Case Rate In The State

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Robyn Beck
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Getty Images
A vial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Shasta County now has the highest COVID-19 case rate out of all the counties in California. The county's current case rate is 785.76 per 100,000 people, according to the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency.

On Wednesday morning the agency also reported 203 new cases, with more than 1000 cases currently active. In addition, there are 89 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 24 in the ICU.

Eight more deaths were confirmed due to the virus Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths in the county to 274. Among them was the second county resident to have died while being fully vaccinated.

Health officials said the increase in deaths and cases is due to the highly infectious delta variant.

The county's vaccination rate is also one of the lowest in the state, with 46.8% of people 12 and up fully vaccinated.

The vaccines are at no cost to recipients and have been widely available to the public for months, suggesting that many people remain unvaccinated by choice. Shasta County Public Health Branch Director Robin Schurig expressed disappointment Wednesday that the county's vaccination rate remains low.

"I had a little bit of a hard time trying to figure out what to say today, it's hard to know what will influence people to take action. We're in a really, really bad place," she said. "Our case counts are super high and these deaths are so sad. Families losing loved ones unnecessarily, our healthcare facilities are just tapped out."

COVID-19 Spreads In Shasta County Schools"

The surge in COVID-19 cases is also affecting local schools.

According to Judy Flores, the superintendent of schools for Shasta County, cases are growing daily amongst students and faculty. She said there has been a total of 176 reported cases across 51 K-12 schools in the county. That includes:

  • 46 cases from children ages five to 13
  • 54 cases from children ages 14 to 18 year 
  • 59 cases from staff members at school

"As you can imagine, contact tracing within schools is a tremendous amount of work because all of the places students and staff go," Flores explained. "And so it's really important to encourage families to have students stay at home if they are showing any symptoms and to provide testing if they are sick."
As of Wednesday morning, a total of 380 students were in modified quarantine and 1,588 students were quarantined at home.

Flores said that Montgomery Creek Elementary had to close this week due to the number of positive COVID-19 cases and staff members needing to quarantine.

Local Hospitals Struggle With The Increase In Cases

Hospitals are having difficulty keeping up with the increase in cases as well.

Robert Folden, chief operating officer at Mercy Medical Center, said the increase in COVID-19 patients is impacting treatment for those with other conditions.

“We have many routine surgeries that we're having to postpone,” Folden said. “So part of the challenge as we go through this are for those people that have another medical condition that are having to postpone their care.”

Governor Gavin Newsom announced at the beginning of August that state healthcare workers would be required to be fully vaccinated by September 30. According to Folden, many employees at the center have requested exemptions.

"We're in the process of working through those exemptions now," he said. "But I'm concerned that it's, you know, September 15. And we haven't answered many of those exemptions. So on an individualized basis, we're going to have to discern what we are going to do with these employees that have made a legitimate request, but we haven't answered it yet.”

Folden added that some employees opposed the mandate and had no intention of being vaccinated. It’s unclear at this time how that will affect staffing.

“There's a genuine shortage in health care. It's not just nurses, it's lab scientists, it's techs, it's physicians,” he said. “There are folks who have said that they do not want to be vaccinated and we'll continue to work (with them) right up to that point where we can't work with them any longer. It behooves us to continue to work with people...there are some people who have said they're not going to request an exemption and they have no intention of getting the vaccine.”

Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.