COVID-19 Infections On The Rise In The Bay Area, Following National Trend

Coronavirus infections trended up in the Bay Area for the week ending Friday, with the average number of daily new cases at 475, up 8.7% from the prior week ending March 26.

The data could be an indicator that California is beginning to fall in line with the rest of the United States, where coronavirus infections have steadily increased due to more infectious variants.

This is the fourth straight week of rising cases nationwide, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know that these increases are due, in part, to more highly transmissible variants, which we are very closely monitoring,” Walensky said at a White House press briefing on Monday.

She said young people are driving the latest uptick in infections, as the increasing rate of vaccination in older Americans is preventing the most serious cases among seniors.

Walensky said the agency is watching several outbreaks tied to youth sports and extracurriculars, and urged caution in resuming high-risk activities too soon.

“I understand that people are tired and that they are ready for this pandemic to be over, as am I,” she said. “Please, continue to hang in there, and to continue to do things that we know prevent the spread of the virus.”

In the first week of this year, before a steady downturn began, an average of 4,500 cases was reported in the Bay Area each day. Weekly COVID-19 deaths averaged 78 for the week ending April 4, down from 113 reported the previous week.

But as the region has moved closer to another tragic milestone of 6,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, some public health experts worry that new cases could pause positive trends in hospitalizations and deaths. Again, the high numbers of older people who now are vaccinated conceivably could keep those numbers from rising as steeply as in pre-vaccine times.

The average number of virus-related deaths reported across California fell from 200 per day on March 28 to 120 on Sunday. And hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at their lowest level in more than a year: about 2,000 COVID-19 patients and 500 in intensive care, a huge drop from early January when those numbers were approaching 22,000 and 4,900, respectively.

As of Monday midday, the death toll in the Bay Area stood at 5,957, data reviewed by The Chronicle showed. Across California, the pandemic has taken 59,279 lives. Nationally the number of lives lost has reached 555,000, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University.

There is concern that variants could also have an impact on reversing the Bay Area’s progress.

On Sunday, the Stanford Clinical Virology Lab identified and confirmed one case of an emerging variant that originated in India, said Lisa Kim, a spokesperson for Stanford Health Care.

The variant is dubbed the “double mutant” because it carries two mutations in the virus that helps it latch itself onto cells. It could be responsible for the troubling new surge in cases in India, with the nation on Monday reporting its biggest single-day spike, more than 103,000 confirmed cases, since the pandemic began, That topped the previous daily peak of nearly 98,000 cases recorded in late September. India’s death toll is 165,101.

Kim said it is not yet known if the variant is more infectious or resistant to vaccine antibodies than the initial coronavirus. Stanford is screening seven other presumptive cases; the location of the confirmed variant-infected person was not disclosed.

The latest discovery adds to the list of worrisome variants that have made their way to the U.S., including the widely spreading B.1.1.7. variant, which is 50% more infectious. The P.1 strain that originated in Brazil and a variant from South Africa have both been found in the Bay Area, and both are believed to be somewhat resistant to vaccines.


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