A Reserve Citizen Airman assigned to the 307th Medical Squadron prepares a syringe before administering a COVID-19 vaccination at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Nov. 7, 2022. The unit was administering the shots as part of on-going mitigation efforts. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Celeste Zuniga via Bay City News)

Contra Costa County’s COVID-19 case numbers continue to plunge as the county gets closer to removing masking orders in most public places, health officials told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

“Our average cases per day is 683 — this is 47 percent down from last week,” said Anna Roth, the county’s health services director. “We’ve also seen a 15 percent reduction in hospitalizations, so we’re now at 201.”

“Hospitalizations will come down slower than the case rate — that’s to be expected, because the hospitalizations lag behind the rate rise,” Roth said. “We are seeing what we expect to see. Our data is moving in the right direction, enough so that we actually lifted one of the county health orders last Friday.”

Roth referred to the order requiring gyms and restaurants to verify patrons were fully vaccinated before entering.

“Our county also reached the important milestone of 80 percent of the total population becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Roth said. “This is a major achievement and I want to acknowledge the community for really stepping forward. It really speaks to the community spirit in Contra Costa County.”

“Our focus now is really encouraging everyone to get boosted,” Roth said. “This really does save lives. We currently have vaccination walk-in ability at every site across the county.”

Contra Costa’s new county health officer, Dr. Ori Tzvieli, said the county was able to lift the health order for gyms and restaurants because of its success with vaccinations.

“We were able to achieve a better rate of community immunity through ongoing vaccination,” said Tzvieli. “We had 80.1 percent fully vaccinated and more residents are also showing some resistance to future infection due to natural infection and the immunity that confers on them.”

The order was imposed last summer, before the omicron variant struck, when fully vaccinated meant having two shots. That definition has changed.

“‘Fully vaccinated’ is no longer the best possible protection,” Tzvieli said. “Boosting gives you a whole lot more protection, both against (infection) but also against becoming hospitalized or even dying.

“We’re less than 50 percent boosted rate, so we have some work to do there,” Tzvieli said.

Along with the rest of the state, Contra Costa will likely drop most indoor masking rules for vaccinated people on Feb. 15. Unvaccinated people, those in health care settings and on public transit will still have to wear masks.