Tulare County has seen 1,500th COVID-19-related deaths in Tulare County since the pandemic began in March 2020. One of those deaths was Tulare County Sheriff's Deputy Frank G. Holguin, III, who died from COVID-19 complications at 56 in January 2021.

As Tulare County saw its 1,500th COVID-19-related death on June 30, disease metrics remain stubbornly high across the region, with new case and positivity rates near or exceeding other surges since the pandemic started in March 2020. 

And as new highly contagious variants of the coronavirus sweep the nation — the CDC reported in late June that new variants BA.4 and BA.5 comprised 52% of the new COVID-19 cases in the United States in late June — local health officials say Tulare County residents should still be on guard against COVID-19. 

As of July 1, Tulare County’s new case rate is 25.6 per 100,000 and 15.7 positivity rate. The CDC says Tulare County is currently in an area designated to have “high” community COVID levels. The agency assigns the levels based on new cases and hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, plus the percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. The CDC urges anyone living in an area classified as having “high” levels to wear masks in public spaces and take other measures to avoid the virus.

The difference between this current summer surge and past increases in disease metrics? Local hospitals haven’t been overwhelmed with sick and dying patients. 

It is believed that the decline in hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are likely attributed to individuals having an immunity to the virus as a result of vaccinations, boosters and prior infections. Symptoms from the recent variants have also been less severe, said Karen Elliott, Tulare County Public Health Director. 

“Hospitalizations and death can be lagging indicators, though it should be noted that hospitalizations have been increasing the last month, both locally and statewide,” Elliott said. 

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