A majority of Galt residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Sacramento County Public Health Office. The city has reached the milestone amid a continuing surge of cases and a rise in demand for testing.

Additionally, Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine has gotten FDA approval, and booster shots will soon be offered for all Americans.

Majority vaccinated, case rate high

Galt’s full-vaccination rate is 54%, the county coronavirus dashboard says, after the recent addition of city-specific figures. In the past, the dashboard has broken down the location-based immunization numbers only by ZIP code.

“We’re happy to see that,” City Manager Lorenzo Hines said when he announced the milestone during his coronavirus update at the Aug. 17 City Council meeting.

In the county overall, 51.7% of residents are fully vaccinated, compared to the goal of 70%.

The latest surge in coronavirus infections is still going strong with a case rate of 36.7 per 100,000 as of Aug. 26. While the average number of new cases each day has leveled off, it has remained higher than 500 per day for more than a month.

County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said the surge appears to have hit a “plateau,” but she added that hospitalizations from the virus have hospitals “at capacity.”

“We are concerned about the status and the availability of both the general beds as well as beds in the intensive care unit,” Kasirye said in an Aug. 26 briefing with reporters. She urged residents to reserve emergency room visits for true emergencies.

Galt’s 95632 ZIP code saw 440 new infections in the 30 days ending Aug. 30, bringing its cumulative case total to 3,484.

According to health officials, the “highly contagious” delta variant of the coronavirus is a major factor driving infections. Kasirye has previously noted that all of the samples the county has had genetically sequenced came back positive for the variant. The vast majority of those infected or hospitalized with the disease have not been vaccinated.

Increased testing

More people are seeking COVID-19 tests, both in Galt and in the county overall. At the Aug. 17 City Council meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Armando Solis said the city’s testing center at the Parks and Rec office went from a low of six tests a week in July to nearly 170 tests in the second week of August.

Solis told the Herald later that the county has dispatched two nurses to Galt to help meet the demand.

The average number of county residents getting tested per day has nearly doubled in the past two months, from roughly 3,331 each day on July 7 to 6,099 on Aug. 21.

Liz Gomez, chief of staff at the public health office, said during the briefing that Sacramento County is working toward wait times for tests of less than 30 minutes. Gomez added that the county is developing testing capacity at shelters, community colleges, businesses and nonprofits.

FDA approval, booster shots

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 23 approved Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, upgrading it from an emergency use authorization (EUA). The vaccine will be marketed under the name Comirnaty.

The approval applies to people 16 years of age and older; the vaccine’s use on patients 12-15 years old is still governed by the EUA.

“Our hope is that this will instill confidence in those who were waiting to get vaccinated until we had this … really important moment, to have this FDA approval,” said Rachel Allen, the county’s immunization program manager.

Beginning Sept. 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to offer booster shots for those who received Pfizer’s or Moderna’s two-dose vaccine; this third shot would be administered eight months after a person’s second dose and would use the same formulation as the other shots.

The FDA approval for Pfizer applies only to the two initial doses.

In its announcement on Aug. 18, the HHS said available data showed a “very clear” decrease in vaccine protection over time, particularly against the delta variant. The department concluded that a booster is needed to “maximize” and “prolong” that defense.

Allen said the county is making early booster-distribution plans with health care providers. The county is in a very different position than it was when vaccines first became available, she said, with a “much more robust provider network” that includes pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

Allen also said that the number of people who would reach that eight-month mark on Sept. 20 is “manageable.”