Nearly one year after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in San Joaquin County, the number of deaths has surpassed 1,000.
San Joaquin County Public Health Services updated its COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday afternoon, reporting 1,018 deaths from the virus.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on March 10 of last year, and the first death was reported eight days later.
The number of COVID-19 deaths in San Joaquin County is the eighth highest in the state behind Alameda County’s 1,121.
“It is a grim milestone for our county and we are still not out of the woods yet,” Dr. Maggie Park, the county’s Public Health Official, said in an email to the News-Sentinel.
“This number would have been reached much sooner last year had we not taken all the steps available to us to flatten the curve as best we could,” she said. “This includes the stay-at-home orders, gatherings restrictions, masking requirements, and temporary closures and modifications of schools and businesses to help limit the community spread of this disease. By implementing these safety measures, we have helped limit the impacts to our healthcare system.”
The county’s first case was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship, and the county’s first death was a resident older than 65 with underlying health conditions. At the time of the first death, the county reported 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Since the pandemic began, there have been 65,359 confirmed cases — including 61,405 reported recoveries as of Tuesday — in the county, equaling 8.3% of its 785,890 population. That total is the 11th highest in the state behind Alameda County’s 78,735 cases.
The California Department of Public Health reported more than 3.4 million cases and 47,107 deaths across the state Tuesday.
There have been 27.8 million cases across the United States and 487,000 deaths from the virus.
Lodi resident Sharleen Leal said she never thought COVID-19 numbers would have reached the unfortunate milestones they have. Her daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Jeff Baumbach, were two of the first county residents to contract the virus last February.
Jeff Baumbach passed away from COVID-19 on March 31.
“We keep going back over the last year,” Leal said. “And the closer it gets (to his death), it just seems like a dream, or a horrible nightmare. It just doesn’t seem real.”
Karen Baumbach, a nurse at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, has stayed strong, Leal said, keeping busy at the hospital. She no longer cares for COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital, but she does prepare them for admission while being cared for in the emergency room.
She also takes on case manager duties, helping them find additional care services once they are discharged.
Leal said now that the vaccine has been made available, she thinks the number of cases, as well as deaths will start to decline more rapidly.
“In my heart, (getting the vaccine) is what we have to do right now,” she said. “I’ve heard so many people say they don’t want to get it, or they have no plans to get it. But if we think about each other and not just ourselves, we’re helping everyone stay safe by getting this vaccine.”
According to county public health, 70,504 vaccine doses have been administered, of which 6,543 have been in Lodi. There were still 2,936 active COVID-19 cases in the county as of Tuesday, public health reported, while 61,405 have recovered.
“The vaccines now available are a light at the end of this long tunnel to end the pandemic and return to a new sense of normalcy,” Park said. “However, we have to remain vigilant until we have reached a level of herd immunity that allows us to remove these protective measures.”
County public health reported that there have been 4,466 cases and 120 deaths in Lodi’s 95240 ZIP Code, as well as 1,837 cases and 22 deaths in its 95242 ZIP Code.
San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Services Agency on Tuesday reported that there were 143 COVID positive patients being treated at its seven hospitals, down from the 174 being treated a week ago. In addition, there were 53 COVID patients being treated in an intensive care unit, down from 62 last Tuesday.
Adventist Health Lodi Memorial was treating 13 COVID-19 patients, of which two were in the ICU.
San Joaquin County remains in the purple tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, with a new COVID-19 case rate of 25.1 cases per 100,000 residents and a testing positivity rate of 7.8%.
The county’s health equity rate, which focuses on stopping the spread of COVID-19 among its disadvantaged population, was at 10.3% Tuesday.
In order to move into the red, less restrictive tier, the county’s new case rate must be less than 7 per 100,000 residents, and its testing positivity rate must be less than 8%. The health equity rate must also be less than 8%.
As of Tuesday, San Joaquin County was one of 52 in the purple tier. Del Norte, Mariposa and Plumas counties were reported in the red tier, while Alpine, Sierra and Trinity counties were in the orange tier. There are no counties in the yellow, least restrictive tier yet, according to state data.