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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases continued Thursday, with a record-high 5,976 new infections reported and county public health officials urging residents to keep New Year’s celebrations small.

County health officials urged limiting gatherings to family and close friends who are vaccinated and boosted, if eligible, to prevent the surge of COVID-19 cases that occurred last winter.

“We get it. People are tired of the pandemic, but given the record number of cases, the brisk emergence of omicron and the increased risks that come with gatherings, San Diegans must continue to make decisions to protect themselves and others,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county deputy public health officer. “If you have New Year’s celebrations, limit them to people who live with you and make sure everyone present uses the strategies we know work.”

Such strategies include wearing the correct type of mask, limiting group indoor activities and staying home if presenting symptoms or testing positive.

“We all have the power to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Let’s use it,” Kaiser said.

For many, the celebrations have been planned, reservations made, perhaps even tickets purchased, but now the message is for everyone to proceed with caution this New Year’s holiday. Venues like those run by the RMD Group are doing everything they can to keep the environment safe.

Their events at Lumi, Rustic Root, and Hard Rock Hotel all have the outdoor advantage.

“Last year, we had shut down completely so outdoor wasn’t even a factor, unfortunately,” said Christopher Roache, director of restaurants at RMD Group. “But we’re really excited. We’ve been planning these two events for at least two years.”

The county recommends that people worried about COVID-19 infection and others seeking COVID-19 testing only go to a hospital to be tested if they have severe symptoms.

Those with mild COVID-19 symptoms should contact their health care provider via phone or telehealth for guidance.

The San Diego Library gave away more than 20,000 free COVID-19 test kits to the community in just a few days. The library system is completely out of the testing kits.

Antigen testing kits are available at retail stores, but have become more difficult to find as demand continues to grow.

San Diego County reported 11 deaths on Wednesday. The most recent data increased the county’s cumulative totals to 420,089 cases and 4,461 deaths.

The COVID-19 case rate is three times higher for those San Diegans who are unvaccinated compared to those who have received vaccines — 36 daily cases per 100,000 population compared to 11.4 per 100,000 for the vaccinated. Additionally, the hospitalization rate is four times higher for the unvaccinated and death rate is seven times higher.

Delta remains the most common variant in San Diego County, with more than 17,000 cases reported since mid-April. Omicron has just 91 confirmed cases in the county, but the time period measured began on Dec. 3. There have been no deaths from omicron reported in the county and one hospitalization, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported.

The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 increased from Wednesday’s numbers by 48 to 475 and the number of ICU patients increased by nine to 111, according to state data.

A total of 28,472 tests were reported in San Diego County Wednesday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 14.5%, up from 12.4% on Tuesday.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

FOX 5’s Kasia Gregorczyk contributed to this story.