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Year in Review: Top Public Health Issues of 2022, Preparing Californians for 2023

December 28, 2022

SACRAMENTO – As 2022 comes to a close, the California Department of Health (CDPH) is looking back at some of the top public health issues Californians faced throughout the year and providing a few remedies to help Californians start the new year off healthy.

COVID-19 continued to lead the news. At the start of the year, the Omicron variant surge led to a dramatic rise in cases and strain on the state’s hospitals and health care facilities. As we moved into summer, the state saw cases of mpox, a disease rarely seen in the United States, spread throughout California and much of the nation. Extreme heat followed, as did an early onset of respiratory viruses, the latter of which particularly impacted our youngest and oldest Californians.

Throughout all of this, Californians remained resilient. Our local communities, community-based partners, local health jurisdictions, and CDPH worked together to educate, prevent, and protect as many individuals as possible against these public health challenges.


COVID-19 played a major role in public health over the course of 2022 and will continue to do so as we begin 2023. The year started with the Omicron variant surge contributing to rising cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the state and country. While all three fell during the spring and summer months, they are once again on the rise as the calendar turns to 2023.

In response to this ongoing threat, in 2022 California announced a nation-leading response to the pandemic: the SMARTER Plan. Built on our lessons learned over two years of responding to COVID-19, with a continued focus on the state’s commitment to equity, the SMARTER Plan has ensured our readiness, awareness, and flexibility in California’s pandemic response. 

  • More than 70 percent (72.5 percent) of Californians have received their primary COVID-19 vaccine series.
  • Total Cases are nearing 11 million (10,790,192).
  • California passed 90,000 COVID-19-related (total) deaths in 2022 and will likely, tragically, eclipse 100,000 in 2023.

As always, the latest data is available on CDPH’s COVID-19 Tracker.

CDPH’s Prescription for 2023

To continue protecting yourself and your loved ones as we head into the new year, CDPH continues to urge Californians to consider the following tips. 

  • All individuals six months of age and older receive their primary COVID-19 vaccine series and updated booster dose, if eligible.
  • Vaccines and booster can be scheduled by visiting a local pharmacy, searching the MyTurn website, or calling 1-833-422-4255.
  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested immediately. If any individual tests positive, CDPH urges them to speak to a health care provider to discuss treatment options.
  • Treatments for COVID-19 positive individuals are widely available and Californians are encouraged to monitor their communities for transmission levels and risk factors.
  • Masking remains one of the best tools at limiting the spread of COVID-19. Remember the state’s “Good, Better, Best” tips when selecting a mask. 

An Early Respiratory Virus Season 

Both Flu and Respiratory Syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) Virus (RSV) spread earlier and faster this year than normal, beginning in late September. RSV is particularly dangerous for infants and seniors.

  • Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can cause severe infection in infants and older adults.
  • To date during the 2022–2023 influenza season, 51 RSV-coded deaths have been identified
  • CDPH has reported two RSV deaths in a child under the age of 5 years old. One child tested positive for both RSV and flu

CDPH’s Prescription for 2023

There are no vaccines or treatment for RSV, but you can still protect yourself and others from severe illness and hospitalization. The best defense against all viruses, including COVID-19, is good prevention. Here are our top 5 tips: 

  1. Get Vaccinated, Boosted (and Treated) (For Flu and COVID-19)
  2. Stay Home if You're Sick and Test for COVID
  3. Wear a Mask
  4. Wash Your Hands
  5. Cover Your Cough or Sneeze

For details on how the five tips can protect you and your family, see State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director Dr. Tomás Aragón’s full five tips for prevention in the "CDPH Urges Californians to Take Preventative Measures to Stay Healthy this Winter" news release.

The latest data on Respiratory Diseases is available from CDPH.

Fentanyl and Opioids

Fentanyl and opioids are increasingly impacting public health and safety. CDPH and the Overdose Prevention Initiative continue to work on the complex and changing nature of the drug overdose epidemic through prevention and research activities.

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
  • Opioid-related overdose deaths in California’s youth ages 10-19 years increased from 2018 (54 total) to 2020 (274 total), marking a 407 percent increase over two years, largely driven by fentanyl.
  • Fentanyl-related overdose deaths in California’s youth ages 10-19 years increased from 2018 (36 total) to 2020 (261 total), a 625 percent increase.

CDPH’s Prescription for 2023

To respond to this statewide and nationwide crisis threatening the health and safety of Californians, CDPH is taking steps to educate, protect, and prevent overdose cases across the state.

  • The state’s Campus Opioid Safety Act is providing life-saving education, information, and federally approved opioid reversal medication on college campuses.
  • Anyone who encounters fentanyl in any form should not handle it and should call 911 immediately.
  • Recognizing the signs of opioid overdose can save a life. Here are some things to look for.
  • In addition, it may be hard to tell if a person is high or experiencing an overdose. If you aren't sure, treat it like an overdose. These steps could help save a life.

Californians are encouraged to learn more about the impact of fentanyl on the state’s communities and the growing threat opioids represent. More information is available on the state’s Overdose Surveillance Dashboard.

In addition to education and awareness, California is taking these dangerous drugs off the street – preventing harm to families, communities, and loved ones in the first place.


Mpox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the mpox virus. Mpox often starts with symptoms like the flu, fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches. Within one to three days (sometimes longer) after the onset of fever, most infected people develop a rash or sores. Not commonly seen in the United States, mpox began spreading in May.

  • As of December 16, 2022, there are a total of 5,640 cases and 237 hospitalizations in California
  • There are two known deaths related to mpox.
  • As of December 16, 2022, a total of 284,955 vaccine doses have been administered.
  • While it's good to stay alert about any emerging public health outbreaks, the current risk of mpox for the general public is very low.

CDPH’s Prescription for 2023

While the risk of mpox remains very low for the general public, there are simple steps individuals can take to ensure future protection and health.

  • Get vaccinated. Vaccination helps protect against mpox when given before or shortly after an exposure. You can get your safe and effective mpox vaccine at a provider near you by visiting the MyTurn website.
  • Avoid close contact, including sexual contact, with people who are sick or have a rash that resembles mpox.
  • Avoid sharing bedding, towels, clothing, cups, and utensils with people who have symptoms. Items should be cleaned and disinfected before used by others.

All of these tips and more can be found on CDPH’s mpox webpage, as well as an informative mpox fact sheet.

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