COVID-19 cases are spiking across the Bay Area amid holiday gatherings, prompting San Mateo County health officials to encourage the public to “get smart” about the virus and reconsider any large New Year’s plans. 

“It’s more important than ever for people to understand the virus and for everybody to take it seriously,” Dr. Curtis Chan, the county’s deputy health officer, said. 

While officials had anticipated a winter surge, Chan said the omicron variant, a far more contagious strain of COVID-19 first spotted in South Africa, has amplified the spread of the virus “remarkably.” 

In the matter of weeks, it’s been identified across the Bay Area including in San Mateo County and traces of the variant in communities are now 10 to 20 times higher than they were a month ago, Chan said. 

In past weeks, the county reported experiencing fewer than 200 new cases a week. Now, infections are pouring in by the hundreds per day with nearly 4,000 in the last 30 days. In total, more than 58,400 residents have tested positive for the virus.  

“That’s a huge number of people,” Chan said. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Hospitalizations have also slightly increased. As of Tuesday, 22 people were receiving treatment for COVID with seven patients in the ICU, up from the 10 to 15 patients being treated regularly in previous months. 

But Chan said hospital capacity is not the most urgent concern at the moment, instead pointing to the risk of vaccinated people experiencing breakthrough cases and transmitting the virus to the unvaccinated or people with underlying health conditions. 

Rather than attending large office parties or New Year’s gatherings, Chan suggested people celebrate with close loved ones. And testing, masking and hand washing are imperative. 

And officials are still imploring those who are still unvaccianted to seek out a shot from one of the many clinics sponsored by the county, offered through private care providers or accessible at pharmacies and for the vaccinated to avoid large gatherings or close contacts. 

“We are concerned and we are recommending that people enhance their prevention strategies in every sector,” Chan said, noting little has changed around the best ways to prevent widespread of the virus over the last two years.

What has changed is the severity of the surges on the greater community. As COVID-19 infections surpass a summer spike caused by the delta strain, hospitalizations have yet to do the same. Officials had warned even a small spike in cases could overwhelm hospitals and Chan said time will tell how severe conditions become in medical settings. 

Chan credited low hospitalizations to the county’s high vaccination rate, at more than 94% for those ages 12 and older. Unlike last winter, when very few were vaccinated and hundreds of residents died, many of the most vulnerable people in local communities are vaccinated including 95% of people ages 65 and older who account for most of COVID-related deaths.

And some of the county’s most underserved are also largely vaccinated, including about 65% of Latinos who account for more than half of infections, 61% of Black residents and nearly 60% of Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders. 

Vaccination rates among children who became eligible for vaccines just months ago have also progressed quickly with more than 50% of children ages 5 to 11 and 90% of those ages 12 to 15 having received at least one dose. 

Still, Chan said now is the time to practice an abundance of caution for at least the next four to six weeks to ensure a few infections are spread especially among the most vulnerable, during this winter period. 

“People should not be concerned at a level where it’s harmful to themselves,” Chan said. “But they should be concerned about their overall community and their extended family members and their own health.” 

Visit smchealth.org/covid-19-vaccination-program-overview to learn more about county-sponsored vaccination clinics. 

sierra@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

Recommended for you

(7) comments

LittleFoot

Speak to anybody who has lived through a communist regime and you may get some insight to our future - my Bulgarian friends all see exactly where we are headed. When you lose freedoms and personal autonomy for "the greater good" or the "community" - you no longer live in a constitutional republic nor a free society. Unelected officials and bureaucrats cannot make laws.

Tafhdyd

LittleFoot,

A couple of questions. Have you personally spoken to persons dying of Covid or to families of those that have had members die or have family members that have been hospitalized for weeks with Covid? On vaccinations. Are you vaccinated or unvaccinated?

Dirk van Ulden

Come on Taffy - read the article. It does not seem to make a lick of difference whether one is vaccinated or not. This has become a political/control issue and we are now governed by unelected bureaucrats. I am vaccinated but sick and tired of confusing and conflicting instructions from our so-called health experts. It appears that they know about as much as you and I and just throw remedies at the wall and hope some will stick. Our loser president has now been responsible for, or presided over, more deaths than his predecessor and Biden was even given a vaccine to distribute. Clearly the vaccine is not working or is not anywhere as effective as promised. We should hold our absentee elected representatives accountable and have them once again take the lead while benignly ignoring the 'health' experts.

Terence Y

Happy New Year, Mr. van Ulden! Speaking of not making a lick of difference, maybe commenters can explain why US sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, and NHL are experiencing volumes of outbreaks even though their players are 95+% jabbed. And why states such as NY and CA are experiencing so many breakthrough infections, even though mask idiocy and business closures were in effect. Your body, your choice.

Tafhdyd

Terence,

Happy New Year! How are you doing with your bamboo fibers?

Tafhdyd

Come on Dirk, I did read the article and my comment was to LittleFoot, not the article.

There is a difference between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Almost all of the deaths and serious complications are among the unvaccinated. When the vaccinated contract the virus they usually are not hospitalized, or if they are, they spend less time with less complications.

The political/control issue was started by the golden idol. I won’t list the chronological listing of his phony statements about the virus, it would take too many pages. You know, the ones like it’s under control, just one person and it will be gone in a couple of weeks, just like a common flu. All of his lies to make him look good. One of the few good things he did was Project Warp Speed to develop the vaccine and then he complained that they purposely delayed releasing it until after the election just to make him look bad. He is still playing the political game. Everyone knows that the only reason he recently told his gullible followers to get vaccinated (and then was booed) was because someone pulled him aside and told him that most of the people dying were his gullible base.

As to your cheap shot comment that Biden has had more people die, even while having a vaccine to distribute, you should talk to those that feel their freedom and personal autonomy is more important than “the greater good” or the “community” as LittleFoot says. You know the saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

Terence Y

Taffy, my friend – will you continue begging for help with your panda diet study in the new year? Meanwhile, during our family holiday gathering and open house this past week, we channeled our so-called Dem leaders and we didn’t require masks or proof of a jab, or two, or three. We did ensure anyone a bit tipsy was given a ride home (for the greater good and for the community). Happy New Year! I hope you can turn the page in a few hours and begin living in the present.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for visiting the Daily Journal.

Please purchase an Enhanced Subscription to continue reading. To continue, please log in, or sign up for a new account.

We offer one free story view per month. If you register for an account, you will get two additional story views. After those three total views, we ask that you support us with a subscription.

A subscription to our digital content is so much more than just access to our valuable content. It means you’re helping to support a local community institution that has, from its very start, supported the betterment of our society. Thank you very much!