Carlsbad, CA –January 13, 2022 According to a presentation by the county’s Public Health Officer Tuesday, new modeling shows we are approaching the peak of Omicron infections in San Diego County, but health care resources may be stretched thin for several more weeks. Sharing more COVID-19 updates today and the following city news:
- Homeless services contract shows results
- City Council urges collaborative approach to sand replenishment
- Water, wastewater rates going up, but still among the lowest
- Carlsbad Marathon this Sunday, some roads closed
- Upcoming public meetings
- Holiday hours for Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Some fun recognition for the flower fields
COVID-19 update Our Fire Chief Michael Calderwood updated the City Council Tuesday on the latest COVID-19 data and what health experts at the state and regional level are predicting.
- As I mentioned last week, case numbers are becoming less relevant as a COVID pandemic indicator now that vaccines are widely available, and the Omicron variant has taken over.
- Both of these factors mean that symptoms of COVID-19 infections are less severe and less likely to lead to hospitalization and death.
- Even so, because of the sheer number of cases (more than twice as many as our previous high), hospital capacity is a concern.
- Many health providers have said they are rescheduling some surgeries and wait times at emergency rooms are long.
- A high number of cases among health care workers is another reason why the health care system is stretched thin.
This just in …Just today the federal government announced it will provide high quality masks free to all Americans as well as make more tests available. This comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that private insurers will be required to cover up to eight at home tests a month to each member of the household on the insurance plan. More details about all of these changes are expected soon.
Icepicks and flash floods Because Omicron spreads so quickly, the shape of this latest surge is expected to look more like an icepick than a curve, according to health experts. (Or, as a CDC official said yesterday, a flash flood, not a wave). The county shared a UCSD model at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting predicting San Diego County could see the peak of new cases Jan. 19. Hospitalizations tend to follow a couple of weeks behind new cases, so we will be feeling the effects for a while longer.
Although deaths are thankfully less common now than during previous surges, people are still dying as a result of contracting COVID-19. That’s why taking precautions is still the prudent thing to do.
The county hosted a discussion with independent physicians this week to address common questions and misinformation about COVID-19. They shared some really interesting charts and graphs, more details that I can fit here. But if you’re interested in understanding more about the Omicron variant, new treatments and how boosters work differently with different variants, among other things, you can watch the session on the county’s website.
Test availabilityThe best bet for getting tests right now is to check with your health care provider or try the county’s website. PCR and rapid tests are available at local drug stores intermittently as they get restocked.
You may remember that Carlsbad recently celebrated the opening of Quidel’s new rapid test manufacturing facility. Some have asked if we could get first dibs on tests being produced here in Carlsbad. Unfortunately, that’s not really how test distribution works, but I can say that I am very proud of the city staff who processed the permits for this new facility in record time so it could start production of tests as quickly as possible.
Latest COVID data So, I already mentioned that case data is becoming less meaningful as a measure. I guess that is a good thing because we are continuing to see record high cases. Here are some highlights from numbers released Wednesday:
|The county’s medical director said during the physicians’ panel that one in every 20 people countywide has COVID-19. Here is what the overall case rate chart looks like, from the beginning of the pandemic to now:|
Looking at hospitalizations, the county is approaching its trigger of 80%, but because so many health care workers are out sick, that doesn’t really tell the whole story of health care capacity. ICU capacity is currently at the trigger point. As the physicians’ panel explained, Omicron is resulting in fewer hospitalizations compared to previous variants, but because so many more people have it, hospitals are still at or near capacity.
Carlsbad is still doing better than most. Here is the latest North County dashboard (you might want to bookmark that link. It’s a little hard to find among all the county’s data):
All the latest data is in the weekly COVID Watch report.
What to do?What does all this mean in terms of our everyday lives here in Carlsbad? We are doing our very best to keep all city facilities and services up and running. So far, so good, but we are closely monitoring staffing levels and taking precautions to protect the public and our workforce.
The best advice I have to share will sound familiar – health officials are asking everyone to continue to take actions to limit COVID-19 spread:
- Get fully vaccinated, including recommended boosters
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid indoor gatherings
- Wear a mask indoors when around people you don’t live with and in all workplaces and public places
- Upgrade your mask to a surgical or double mask
- Stay home if you could be contagious; check with your doctor for guidance
- Be patient just a little longer
Okay, that last one was from me. Look, I get that we are all tired of COVID. I am too. It has affected our lives in big and small ways almost two years now. I am very proud of how our community and our city workforce have responded. As a result of our actions, Carlsbad has fared much better than most cities in our region.
This latest surge will end soon enough. Health experts say COVID-19 eventually will be something we live with in the background. More and better treatments are becoming available, vaccines are plentiful and, given the high number of cases, many people will have the added advantage of natural immunity. Thanks for hanging in there, and thanks for doing everything you can to care for our community of Carlsbad.
Homeless services contract shows results
The City Council approved a new contract Tuesday with the Community Resource Center to provide rapid re-housing assistance and case management services to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
This contract is a continuation of a program we already had up and running using funding from the state. Over the past 18 months of that contract, the Community Resource Center made measurable progress, including moving 28 households into permanent housing.
- The City Council has identified homelessness as a top priority, dedicating more than $5 million in new spending in the current city budget to make measurable progress by addressing address gaps in county and state programs.
- The city’s homeless response plan includes strategies to find long term solutions for people experiencing homelessness as well as addressing immediate quality of life impacts homelessness has on the community.
- City staff are planning to provide the second quarterly update on the program’s progress in February.
City Council urges collaborative approach to sand replenishment The City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday opposing devices that could interfere with the natural flow of beach sand into Carlsbad. This is a general policy statement, but it was prompted by a City of Oceanside study currently underway.
- Beaches are shrinking all along San Diego County’s shoreline because of a combination of factors, including sea-level rise, coastal development and structures like jetties and harbors that keep sand from flowing south.
- Addressing the problem and keeping beaches healthy is a high priority for all coastal cities, including Carlsbad.
- Oceanside is considering putting groins on its beach (groins are like jetties but jetties are at water inlets and groins can be anywhere along the beach).
- Groins, jetties and similar structures can be controversial because they may interrupt the natural flow of sand and could accelerate the erosion of beaches further down the coastline.
In approving the resolution, the City Council said it wants to work with Oceanside and other coastal cities on a collaborative approach to sand replenishment that would benefit the entire region. Oceanside’s study is in the very early stages and would need Coastal Commission approval to move forward.
Water, wastewater rates going up, but still among the lowestAlso on Tuesday, new water, wastewater and recycled water rates were approved for customers of the Carlsbad Municipal Water District, based on an updated report on what it costs to provide those services. Even though rates will be going up, they’re still among the lowest in the region.
One way we were able to keep water rate increases as low as possible was by applying a $1.7 million refund from a legal settlement related to the region’s cost to buy water. This money will be used to offset costs over the next five years. Water rates will actually go down slightly this year, followed by increases the next two years.
In approving the water increases, the City Council was acting in its role as the Carlsbad Municipal Water District board of directors. The district is a separate legal entity that serves most of Carlsbad, though some southern parts of the city are served by other water districts. (Here’s the map.)
Wastewater rates are going up more than water rates in terms of percentages, but because wastewater rates have been the lowest in the region and held steady for several years, the new rates will still be relatively low when compared to other local agencies.
P.S. Some residents have asked how the Carlsbad Desalination Plant affects water rates. The desal plant is in Carlsbad but we don’t own it. It is a public-private partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority, which distributes the water to water agencies throughout the county. It makes up about 10% of the region’s supply. Desalting seawater is expensive, but as the cost of water from other sources continues to increase, it will eventually be on par or less than the cost of these other sources.
Carlsbad Marathon this Sunday, some roads closed If you’re planning to be out and about in the city this weekend, keep in mind that the Carlsbad Marathon, Half Marathon and Surf Sun 5K are all happening Sunday, Jan. 16. Several roads will be closed in north Carlsbad from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. on race day:
- Marron Road between Monroe Street and Jefferson Street
- Monroe Street between Marron Road and Carlsbad Village Drive
- Jefferson Street between Marron Road and Grand Avenue
- Laguna Drive between Jefferson Street and State Street
- State Street between Laguna Drive and Carlsbad Boulevard
- Carlsbad Boulevard all lanes between the Buena Vista Lagoon and La Costa Avenue
- Palomar Airport Road between Carlsbad Boulevard and Avenida Encinas
- Poinsettia Lane between Avenida Encinas and Carlsbad Boulevard
- Note: Jefferson Street between Laguna Drive and Arbuckle Place will reopen at 8 a.m.
Get involved: Upcoming meetings City Council meetings will continue to be virtual through mid-February, at which time the City Council will consider when to return to in-person meetings. The next City Council meeting will be Jan. 18 at 3 p.m. Here are the topics scheduled to be discussed:
- Using a $1.3 million refund from the county Water Authority to offset the need for future water rate increases
- An agreement for water and sewer improvements along Carlsbad Boulevard near Cannon Road
- The plan for allocating more than $500,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to local organizations that provide services to our community
- An update from Visit Carlsbad on the Carlsbad is Calling marketing campaign to provide COVID relief to our tourism economy
- A joint regional marketing partnership among the cities along the State Route 78 corridor
- Annual work plans for the Library Board of Trustees, Arts Commission and Historic Preservation Commission
- An update on the Clean Energy Alliance, North County’s community choice energy program
- A discussion of whether or not to go on record opposing proposed changes in the state program that gives bill credits to people who generate their own electricity
- Two appointments to the city’s Planning Commission
The meeting starts at 3 p.m. The agenda and staff reports will be posted on the city’s website by Friday at 3 p.m. and include instructions on how to participate by phone or via Zoom. Other public meetings
- Tonight, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. the city’s Independent Redistricting Commission will hold its third public hearing on the creation of new boundaries for City Council districts. See proposed maps and learn more on the project’s website.
- There are no city commission or committee meetings scheduled next week.
What’s open, what’s closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, city offices in Carlsbad will be closed on Monday, Jan. 17. A full holiday schedule for city services is listed below:
- City offices: Closed
- Emergency services: Regular service
- Trash pickup: Regular service, no delay
- City pools: Alga Norte, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. (regular hours); Monroe Street, 3 to 7 p.m. (temporarily reduced hours.)
- Libraries: Closed
- Community centers: Closed
- Senior Center: Regular hours; no meal service
- Leo Carrillo Ranch: Regular hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ending today with yet another reason why Carlsbad is such an amazing place – our world famous flower fields have been named the most “Instagrammable” travel spot this spring by none other than Travel & Leisure Magazine. Spring might seem far off, but it will be here before we know it. Here’s hoping we will be well on our way back to normal by then.
That’s a wrap for this week’s news. I hope everyone has a wonderful end to the week and relaxing weekend. I’ll be back next week with more updates.