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Pasadena Health Dept. ‘Watching Closely’ As Community Transmission of COVID Ticks Up

Published on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 | 4:53 am
Dr. Ying-Ying Goh

As businesses reopen, and in the aftermath of recent public demonstrations, health officials expressed concerns that an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus could follow. Monday, data appeared to bear out those concerns, including in Pasadena.

“In Pasadena, as expected with the reopening of our economy, we have seen an increase in the number of daily cases over just the past four or five days,’’ Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, the city’s director of public health, told the City Council during her weekly update on the COVID-19 pandemic’s local implications.

“I wouldn’t call it a trend quite yet, but we are watching it very closely.

“This increase has been driven by community transmission,’’ she added. “We have seen the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases increase from seven to 10 per day during the first two weeks of June to about nine to 17 this past week.’’

And, Goh added, “We have seen a drop in the median age of cases from 69 years about a month ago to 58 years currently.’’

Monday, the Pasadena Health Department reported 15 new cases in the city, but no new deaths. Those numbers brought the city’s combined toll to 1,177 cases and 88 deaths since the pandemic began.

According to city spokesperson Lisa Derderian, those totals include an uptick of younger people. Health Department data released Monday show that 77 of the city’s total cases, or about 6.5 percent, now affect people 20 and under, with another 133 cases (about 11.3 percent) hitting people between the ages of 21 and 30.

Those numbers came out on a day when, countywide, 2,571 new cases were reported. That was a new single-day high, according to county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer — who also reported that Monday marked the third time in the past week that the number of new cases topped 2,000 on a single day countywide.

Those 2,571 new cases lifted the county’s total number to 85,942. Ferrer also announced another 18 deaths from the virus on Monday, although one of those fatalities was announced Sunday in Pasadena.

“While some of this may be due to lags in reporting, the numbers do tell us that we’re seeing an increase in community transmission,’’ Ferrer said.

Goh, meanwhile, noted difficulties the Pasadena Health Department is experiencing in investigating COVID-19 cases among younger people.

“I think of note as we see the trends in cases among younger folks and with reopening, that it is important to note that for the age group of those between 19 to 24, up to a third of them do not respond to our calls, and so that makes a case investigation not possible,’’ she said.

“And so, part of the messaging that we really need to get out there … is that we need all members of our community to be responsive to the Health Department, so that we can do the work we need to do to protect everybody.’’

Overall in Pasadena, Goh reported, the testing positivity rate “is still within the target range – it’s at 5.6, so it has not increased.’’

That compares to the county’s overall positivity rate of 8.4 percent as of Monday, up from 5.8 percent on June 12, as reported by Ferrer.

As of Monday, there were 1,453 people hospitalized in the county for coronavirus, up slightly from Sunday.

In Pasadena, Goh reported “a slight uptick” in ICU bed utilization and ventilator utilization at Huntington Hospital – “but we still fall within the acceptable range on the state tracking list as far as percent of ICU beds and ventilators available.’’

She also said that city Health Department investigators are continuing outreach at restaurants, which have been allowed to reopen for in-house dining under strict social distancing and other protocols.

“We have … conducted outreach at approximately 300 restaurants and have been able to speak in person with 198 operators,’’ she said. “We will expect to complete our first round of outreach by the end of this week to all 600 restaurants.

“And at that point we plan to transition some of our staff to conduct outreach at public pools, and other staff will continue the outreach to restaurants in another round for those that we weren’t able to check with in the first round.’’

City News Service contributed to this report.

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