Drive-up testing for COVID
Drive-up testing for COVID-19. Courtesy CDC

San Diego County public health officials reported the highest number of new COVID cases in 11 months Thursday, as the number of positive tests jumped to 2,336.

That’s the largest daily case load since Jan. 22-23, when officials announced 2,847 and 2,980 new positives over the two-day period.

Officials also reported eight deaths Thursday as the pandemic death toll rose to 4,442. The total number of local cases since the pandemic began reached 405,705.

With the Omicron variant surging, the county recorded more tests as well – 31,504, which returned positive at a 7.4% rate over the past seven days.

Meanwhile, the county announced Thursday that it was awaiting its first doses of two medications for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency-use authorizations.

Supplies of the new oral antiviral medications “will initially be very limited,” officials from the county Health and Human Services Agency said in a statement, while urging San Diegans to continue “to mask up this holiday season to prevent infection.”

The county expects its first shipment of Pfizer’s Paxlovid in the next few days. A second oral antiviral, Merck’s molnupiravir, is expected to start arriving soon after, according to the HHSA.

Prescriptions will be required for either drug, with each needing to be taken over several days in pill form. The medications will be available to patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms who are at risk of progressing to severe coronavirus disease.

“The FDA’s emergency-use authorization of these new oral antivirals comes at a critical point in the pandemic as we see an increase in cases and a rapid spread of the Omicron variant,” said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer.

Once the new drugs arrive, they will initially be distributed through about two dozen pharmacies, pre-selected by the California Department of Public Health. The amount each pharmacy will receive is “based on community impact from the pandemic.”

The state and county will expand distribution to more pharmacy locations as supplies increase.

– City News Service contributed to this report