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Health officials encourage upcoming COVID booster as cases steadily rise in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO — COVID-19 cases are rising steadily across San Diego County as several states report a new variant.

The latest case numbers for the last two weeks show nearly 1,900 people in the county tested positive for the virus, but with at-home testing, that number may be even higher. Hospitalizations remain relatively low.

Health officials say while case numbers are still lower than this time last year, any increase is cause for some concern.

“It’s still a problem. We can expect that it’s going to be around for the indefinite future. The good thing is we have a lot of tools, much better tools to fight it,” said Dr. Abisola Olulade, Family Medicine and Chief Impact Officer at Sharp Rees-Stealy.

A subvariant referred to as “Eris” remains the dominant strain nationwide and in San Diego. The newer BA.2.86 variant has been detected in four states so far. The newest variant hasn’t been detected locally yet, but officials are constantly checking.

“We are working with our community partners to do the wastewater testing and the whole genome sequencing,” said Dr. Wooten, public health officer for the County of San Diego.

The community may also be wondering how effective the updated booster shot will be on the new variants, which is expected to be available in September.

“We do expect that it would be effective against the outcome of ending up in the hospital or dying from it, so that is what the vaccines are meant to do. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get an infection, but it should protect you from ending up in the hospital,” Dr. Olulade said.

The highly mutated BA.2.86 variant has been detected in multiple countries around the world and scientists say it has 36 mutations, which makes it easier for it to dodge our body’s immune defenses even if you were vaccinated.

As we head into the fall season, health officials also expect cases of the flu and RSV to increase.

“The same strategies that we utilized over the last three years to prevent the spread of COVID and other respiratory viruses still stand true,” Dr. Wooten said.

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