SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego County public health officials reported 14,437 new COVID-19 infections and 11 deaths Thursday as the case rate and hospitalizations continue to surge.

COVID-related hospitalizations in San Diego County increased by 69 to 1,135 on Thursday. Of the hospitalized patients reported, 177 were in intensive care, up 10 from the previous day. The number of available ICU beds declined by four to 173.

According to state data, COVID-19 hospitalizations more than tripled in the past 30 days, from 330 to 1,135.

Some COVID-positive patients may have been hospitalized for other reasons and had their COVID status discovered by hospital-mandated tests.

Thursday’s data from the county Health and Human Services Agency increased the county’s cumulative totals to 558,356 cases and 4,540 deaths since the pandemic began.

To date, 906,615 San Diegans have received booster shots. The CDC recommends a Pfizer or Moderna booster shot five months after the second dose. A Johnson & Johnson booster is recommended two months after the second dose. Pfizer boosters have been approved for everyone 12 years and older. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters are only available for adults 18 years and older.

“COVID-19 vaccinations are the best tool we have against the coronavirus and we need more San Diegans to be boosted,” said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer. “The vaccines help to prevent people from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.”

More than 2.81 million San Diegans — around 89.4% of those eligible — have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 2.49 million — or 79% – – are fully vaccinated.

To help alleviate the strain on local hospitals and prepare them for the expected surge in admissions, the HHSA recommends that only people needing emergency care should go to a hospital emergency department.

“Local hospitals and their emergency departments are under extreme stress due to COVID-19 patients, other seasonal viruses and diseases and employees calling out sick,” Wooten said.

COVID-19 testing should be reserved for those at higher risk of serious illness and people who need it the most. People should not go to an emergency department for testing with no or mild COVID symptoms, she said.

There were 54,809 new tests reported Thursday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 28.8%.

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