Interview: Yolo County Public Health Officer Dr. Amy Sisson on the latest spike in COVID-19

The rate of positive tests for COVID-19 in California is hovering around 16%, and that’s just the people being tested in a lab. Nowadays, many people take tests at home, so the actual number is likely to be greatly underestimated.

The increase in cases is due to new, highly contagious variants such as BA.5 and the even newer BA.2.75. Hospitalizations in California are on the rise, but deaths remain low thanks to vaccines, treatments and therapeutics. So while COVID-19 fatigue is real, the reality is that it’s still here.

Insight’s Vicki Gonzalez spoke with Yolo County Public Health Officer Dr. Amy Sisson about how the latest spike is affecting the local level.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Highlights from the interview

About what we know about the new variants

BA.5 is what’s here now. BA.2.75 is a variant that may appear. It was discovered in India and is leading to an increase in cases there. It was discovered in the United States. I think there are a total of ten identified cases in the United States. So that’s not what’s causing the current wave of cases here in the United States, in California and in Yolo County. This is the unfortunate operation of the BA.5 omicron subvariant.

How long should someone wait after reinfection to get the second booster

I used to encourage people to wait about 90 days after an infection before getting a booster because the infection itself can serve as a booster dose. But I think now with the options we have that evade immunity, any extra boost you can get from a vaccine on top of the booster you get from an infection is important. So I no longer advise people to wait 90 days post-infection before getting their booster.

You are eligible for a booster as soon as you recover from the infection. So that would be, you know, at least ten days have passed and you don’t have a fever and you’re feeling better. You can then log in and collect your booster. And that’s what I would advise at this stage, don’t wait three months. But once you have recovered from your infection, if you are not up to date on your vaccination to get this booster because it will give you extra protection against future infection.

About how vaccine rollout for children under 5 works in Yolo County

It’s a little slow to start, but I think we have over 700 children between the ages of six months and five years who have been vaccinated in the week and a half since we’ve been offering the vaccine in Yolo County to the youngest children. That’s about 6.5% of our population… And that’s a higher percentage than that population that gets vaccinated nationwide, which was about two-something percent. I’m sorry, I don’t have the exact numbers in mind, but we’d like to see more parents bringing their children… I will say that, you know, COVID-19 can make children seriously ill. It can cause serious illness in children who do not have underlying illnesses. So this misconception that many people have that COVID is always a mild illness in children is not true. COVID is the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in children in the United States. And we have a safe and effective vaccine that can keep children out of the hospital.

On whether people are heeding public health advice two and a half years into the pandemic

Pandemic fatigue is real. And the past few years have been challenging with the pandemic. I think you know, a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, aren’t listening as closely to public health as they used to. But there are some people who still tune in very carefully. And so I think we need something of a mixed-message strategy. We don’t want to overburden people, but we also want a way when things are changing as they are now, when the cases are growing, when the sewage level is rising, a way to alert the community to say, look, we know you’re already over the COVID, but you really have to pay attention right now because things are different. The risk is higher than ever.


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