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Monday, April 15, 2024

Yolo County recommends wearing masks in crowded indoor areas, getting vaccinated this winter

As the rates of COVID-19 and RSV increase across the county, Yolo officials recommend residents protect themselves against these viruses

 

BY EMMA CONDIT city@theaggie.org

 

Yolo County officials are encouraging residents to wear masks in crowded indoor areas and vaccinate to protect against the spread of respiratory viruses, according to a recent press release. The county made this recommendation after monitoring wastewater which has detected the highest levels of COVID-19 and RSV since the surge of these viruses last winter.

“Our wastewater monitoring program is currently detecting high COVID-19 and RSV levels,” Dr. Aimee Sisson, Yolo County public health officer, said in the press release. “I recommend that everybody in the community take steps to protect themselves from infection, including wearing a high-quality mask when indoors around others. In addition, if you have not yet gotten the updated COVID-19 vaccine, annual flu vaccine, and RSV vaccine, I strongly encourage you to do so — it is not too late.”

Wastewater monitoring is currently the most effective tool for detecting cases of COVID-19 and RSV. This method is efficient, accurate and fills in the gaps created by a lack of personally reported cases. Through this monitoring, Yolo County can obtain accurate amounts of each virus present in wastewater, rather than a specific number of cases. 

According to Colleen Naughton, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at UC Merced and a lead researcher at the primary wastewater testing program for Yolo County, this system reveals the amount of each virus present in Yolo’s sewage rather than the exact number of cases. She also noted the benefits of wastewater testing. 

“Many more people are taking at-home rapid tests and not always reporting their cases,” Naughton said. “Tests have become more inaccessible, so testing wastewater is a good alternative and has grown in the last couple of years.”

Current wastewater data shows that the recent peak of SARS-CoV-2, or the COVID-19 virus, was from Dec. 22 to 27. Across the county, the highest amount of the virus was found in Davis, followed by Woodland and then Esparto. Fewer RSV rates than COVID-19 rates have been detected, with its peak also from Dec. 22 to 27. The highest levels were found in Esparto, followed by Winters and then Davis. 

“As the New Year approaches, Yolo County is closely tracking a rise in respiratory virus activity in the community through wastewater monitoring,” the press release reads. “Recent wastewater data indicate high levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, along with high levels of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). For both these viruses, the current Yolo County average is in the top third of levels seen nationally over the last year, indicating high activity.”

The recommendation applies to all Yolo residents, including UC Davis students who have recently arrived back in town. Gray Engstrom, a second-year theater and dance major, feels that this is a necessary recommendation to protect the university community. 

“I feel like [masking and vaccination] are good ideas since a lot of people get sick during winter quarter,” Engstrom said. “It’s also one of the more stressful times for students academically, so it’s really hard to miss class. It’s also not just about protecting yourself, it’s about being considerate of other people. You should try to not spread anything and not go to class sick.”

Yolo County residents are encouraged to monitor themselves for symptoms, stay out of public spaces if infected, receive their COVID-19, RSV and influenza vaccines and practice good hygiene. The county provides access to masks and free COVID-19 antigen tests at specific sites in Davis, Esparto and West Sacramento that are listed on the county website.

Written by: Emma Condit city@theaggie.org

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