Carlsbad, CA –Yesterday the people behind the Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced their word of the year: pandemic. According to the announcement, words of the year are chosen based on a statistical analysis of words that are looked up in extremely high numbers in the company’s online dictionary while also showing a significant year-over-year increase in traffic.
Although the first spike in searches happened Feb. 3 (the same day the first known COVID-19 patient in the U.S. was released from the hospital), lookups had been increasing consistently starting on Jan. 20. The single largest spike occurred on March 11, when the World Health Organization officially declared that COVID-19 could be characterized as a pandemic. Unlike other popular words, searches for “pandemic” have remained at or near the top of the most-searched list for the past 10 months. Other COVID-19 related terms also made the top 10 list, including asymptomatic, quarantine and coronavirus.
So, what’s the official definition? “An outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population.”
If you’re a word nerd, you will enjoy reading more about this story on the Merriam-Webster website.
I share this not because it’s a particularly important story, but because it’s that time of year. Year in review articles are being written, top 10 lists are coming out, the holidays are upon us, and 2020 is coming to an end. I find this still a little hard to believe.
Thanksgiving follow up, part 1 Speaking of the holidays, I hope you were able to enjoy your Thanksgiving, as different as it may have been this year. Just the practice of setting aside time to be thankful is important to our overall sense of well-being, especially now. A recent study on the topic, found that grateful individuals may be inclined to see the good in people and situations, which could result in a more compassionate and less critical view of others and themselves.
That same study found that gratitude exercises really only help a little. It’s got to come from the heart and be part of your overall outlook on life.
Thanksgiving follow up, part 2
Now onto the reality of Thanksgiving 2020: If you gathered with people outside your household or traveled, the County of San Diego public health officer urges you to:
1. Get a COVID-19 test
2. Decrease unnecessary activities this week to avoid spreading the virus, in case you have contracted it and don’t know yet
The County operates more than 50 testing sites throughout the region, but the recommendation is to start with your own health care provider. All providers are required to provide diagnostic COVID-19 testing free of charge for patients. (Some clinics charge for specialized or quick-result tests.) For more information on testing, visit 211sandiego.org or call 2-1-1.
Hospitals and ICU statusYesterday the governor and the state’s top health official held a news conference to give an update on the recent surge in cases affecting most counties in the state (including San Diego). As cases increase, state officials will be looking at hospital capacity in general and ICU beds in particular as a key measure when deciding whether or not additional health restrictions are needed. They hinted that if things don’t improve, we could see a temporary return of the stay at home order.
Statewide, hospitalizations have increased by 89% in the last two weeks. And, hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, showing up two to three weeks after cases are reported. Because on average about 12% of cases require hospitalization, the state is expecting hospitalizations to increase more still, and that’s not counting any increase in cases as a result of holiday-related gatherings. Those cases will not likely show up as reported cases for another week or two.
Vaccine updateAs predicted the news is increasingly focused on vaccine availability and distribution plans. Since my last update on vaccines, the federal government has changed how vaccines will be allocated to states. At first, the recommendation was to distribute them based on risk, but now, in an effort to simplify plans, they will be distributed based on the adult population in each state.
A CDC advisory panel is meeting today to discuss how the scarce early supplies should be allocated among groups. Everyone seems to agree that health care workers go first. After that, other high priority groups could include to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older. There also seems to be wide agreement that those who do not fall into a high-risk category will not likely have a vaccine available until at least the spring or summer.
Two of the three vaccines announced to date are on track to receive emergency approval and, if they do, be available within weeks. The third, AstraZeneca’s, announced irregularities in some of its data, which will slow down its approval process.
The CDC updated its Q&A about vaccines late last week, if you want more details.
More rental assistance available The county is accepting new applications for emergency rental assistance starting today and has allocated $27 million in new funding to the program. To qualify for up to $3,000 in relief, renters must demonstrate pandemic related financial hardship and meet income requirements (single person cannot make more than $48,540 and a household of four no more than $69,300). For the full list of eligibility requirements, visit the county’s website.
More help for businesses Last week the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the addition of $20 million in funding to the Small Business Stimulus Grant Program established in May.The funds will be available to businesses and nonprofit organizations in the following industries:
- Gyms and fitness centers, including yoga studios
- Movie theaters
- Zoos and aquariums
- Event planners (weddings, festivals, fairs, etc.)
Businesses in these industries have had to close or stop indoor operations to limit the spread of COVID-19. The financial relief will help them to reverse some of the disproportional impact on their operations and keep some from having to close permanently.
The county’s five supervisorial district offices each has $4 million to allocate. Applications are available at the Small Business Stimulus Grant Program website. Award recipients will also be posted on the site.
Businesses that submitted a previous application do not need to reapply.
Sales tax deferral for businesses The state announced yesterday it will allow businesses to defer making sales tax payments for up to three months. Although they will eventually have to pay, the goal is to free up the money to be used for other things to help keep businesses afloat during the restrictions and closures. More information is available on the state’s website.
Case numbers Carlsbad’s case numbers are still among the lowest in the region, but they are nonetheless going up. Of particular note is the number of active cases, a new reported high of 201. Keep in mind, this only includes those cases confirmed by testing. As Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of California’s Department of Public Health, said yesterday, at this point, COVID-19 is becoming so widespread you should assume that every time you enter a building, a store, someone else’s house, etc., you could be coming into contact with someone who is contagious.
The chart below shows changes in case data since my last update, on Tuesday, Nov. 24.
- COVID-19 rate by sex, ethnicity and age
- Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths
The county also tracks:
National and state case history: CORRECTION On Tuesday I shared two charts, side by side, showing daily case numbers for the United States and California. Eagle eyed readers (of which there are many!) pointed out that I had the labels swapped. Below are the latest charts, with the correct labels. The editor (that’s me) regrets the error.
You can see this data as it is updated daily on The New York Times’ COVID data-tracking web page.
Creative celebrations The news is full of inspiring and heartwarming examples of people finding new ways to connect during the pandemic. A recent example involved a wedding celebration right here in Carlsbad. Joan Jeske, an 88 year old resident of the GlenBrook Health Center skilled nursing facility, was treated to a pre-reception celebration for her granddaughter just before Thanksgiving. The family, decked out in their wedding finery, gathered in front of GlenBrook to enjoy a champagne toast and wedding cake while chatting about plans for the day. Not only did Joan get to see her granddaughter Tamara in her gown, but the family and the staff at GlenBrook made her feel a part of this special life moment.
Tamara said, “My grandma, I love her, she’s great and she’s been a huge, huge influence. Her and my grandpa were married for 60 years, so she’s an inspiration and she’s always so positive. I couldn’t miss seeing her today.”
You can read the full story and see photos on The San Diego Union-Tribune website.
Even though all signs point to a tough next few weeks, we can still make a difference. Now more than ever we need to turn the corner on this recent surge. We know what to do. Let’s not get complacent or, even worse, give up. The so called non-pharmaceutical interventions work, and we can all do our part:
- Stay home as much as you can
- Limit gatherings to no more than three households, keep them short and only meet outdoors
- Always maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from people not in your household
- Cover your face when you leave home
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Stay home if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or believe you could have been exposed
Vaccines are coming. Hope is on the horizon.
Thank you for continuing to #Care4Carlsbad. I’ll be back Thursday with more updates.
Scott Chadwick, City Manager
City of Carlsbad | 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008