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Health officials urge COVID-19 vaccination as hospital rates grow

Local health officials continue to push out the message to get vaccinated, wear a mask and keep social distancing as hospitals in the area report an increase of COVID-19 cases.

In addition to rising hospitalizations, the Merced County Department of Public Health reported the county's first pediatric death from COVID-19. The health department said the death was that of an infant with underlying health conditions. The death was announced on Aug. 25.

“While each life lost as a result of this virus is tragic, the loss of a child is felt across our entire community,” said Dr. Salvador Sandoval, Merced County’s health officer. “Our condolences go out to the family and to the many families that have suffered loss related to COVID-19. The best approach we can take to protect the children who cannot get vaccinated in our community is to get vaccinated ourselves."

Stanislaus County Public Health Officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan said the rate of hospitalizations from COVID-19 is mirroring the summer surge seen in 2020.

"The hospitals are very stretched right now," Dr. Vaishampayan told the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning. She added that in addition to rising COVID-19 cases, area hospitals have had to take patients from other hospitals impacted by the wildfires.

Stanislaus County has had a total of 67,474 positive cases and 1,142 deaths. Currently, there are 300 people hospitalized in Stanislaus with COVID-19 cases, of which 74 are in intensive care units, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency.

As of Aug. 25, schools in Stanislaus County have reported 215 active exposure events, 10 active clusters and six active outbreaks. Eighty-one staff and students are in isolation and 1,430 have been in quarantine.

Of the confirmed cases through the schools, staff makes up 31.58%, followed by 9th to 12 graders and Pre-K to 4th graders, with both groups accounting for 23.50% of the cases. Fifth to 8th graders make up 17.67% of the cases and other is at 3.76%.

Children 14 years and younger make up 1.6% of the hospitalizations. Those between 15 to 24 years account for 3.8% in Stanislaus.

Merced County has had 36,917 positive COVID-19 cases with 2,105 considered active currently. The county has had 509 deaths.

Vaccines are now available for individuals 12 years and older and are easily accessible at many provider sites throughout Stanislaus and Merced counties, including health care offices, community clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals. Those who would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine are strongly encouraged to visit: or call 1-833-422-4255.