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COVID-19 hospitalizations rising, county reports

Emergency room personnel check in a patient who was transported by ambulance to Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista in January.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

UCSD study exploring vaccine’s benefit to baby in pregnant women

San Diego County hospitals saw a sudden increase in coronavirus-related admissions Wednesday, according to the region’s latest weekly COVID-19 report.

Total confirmed and suspected cases admitted to all non-military hospitals across the region jumped from 234 Tuesday to 280 Wednesday.

The nearly 20 percent increase in a single day is sharper than has been observed since the winter Omicron surge, though the overall number concurrently in hospital beds with COVID-19 remains about 1,000 fewer than the January peak.

Dr. Jess Mandel, chief of pulmonary and critical care at UC San Diego Health, said the sudden spike got the attention of number watchers at the university, but at the moment, there does not appear to be a particular cause for alarm.

“I think it is just a function of the sheer number of infections that have been going on,” Mandel said. "(There is) no evidence so far that it represents a new variant or other fundamental shift in the environment.”

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Local wastewater data updated one week ago indicates that the amount of coronavirus circulating in the community had plateaued and has even begun to drop slightly, though that reality has not yet shown up in the daily new-case totals published by the county health department.

Thursday’s update listed totals greater than 1,600 on Tuesday and Wednesday, nearly as high as were reported one week ago, though tallies over the weekend ranged from 1,202 to 864. Daily totals can be deceptive, as they are listed by the day the local health department received notification of positive test results rather than the day that each person testing positive began experiencing symptoms.

The prevalence of home testing also means that public health totals are increasingly incomplete because results obtained at home generally go unreported.

Though kids younger than age 5, but older than 6 months, began getting their shots this week, totals are not yet broken out in the county’s weekly vaccination tallies.

Babies younger than 6 months may still have some protection as they generally receive some immune system protection if their mothers are vaccinated before they are born.

Exactly how much protection is conferred, based on factors such as the trimester of vaccination, is among the questions being explored by an ongoing study led by UC San Diego researchers.

Already operating a nationwide “MotherToBaby” program that studies myriad factors of early child development, the university found itself recruiting mothers who were vaccinated during pregnancy, identifying and following up with 900 mothers since vaccines were first approved in late 2020.

The university announced Thursday that the program has received an additional $10 million in funding from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology to increase the number of participants to 1,800.

Christina Chambers, a public health epidemiologist and the program’s principal investigator, said that preliminary findings so far have shown no difference, in terms of complications or benefits, between those in the study and the general vaccinated population.

“So far, I don’t think there is a signal, but this is something that we are going to continue to look into,” Chambers said.

Potential participants can contact the research program at mothertobaby.org/pregnancy-studiesor call (877) 311-8972.


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