Bay Area COVID Cases Level Off With ‘A Significant Amount Of Virus Circulating’

After a precipitous drop over the past two months, California’s COVID-19 trends have hit a plateau. The state reported an average of 3,336 cases a day as of Thursday, only a 5% decrease from the previous week’s numbers, according to health department data.

California is tracking about 8.3 daily cases per 100,000 residents, compared to 9 per 100,000 the week before. The statewide test-positive rate has also steadied after a sharp decline, inching down just one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.7%, as the number of COVID-19 diagnostic tests performed in the state reach record lows.

“The reported cases really no longer reflect the actual level of SARS-CoV-2 virus that’s circulating in our community — rather cases reflect the level of testing,” Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, pointing to a large disparity between the number of reported cases and the concentration of virus detected through wastewater surveillance.

“If you look just at the reported case counts, you would conclude, ‘Aha! We’re in the clear! We’re almost safe again,’” she said. “But if you look at the wastewater, that’s not really the case. There’s still a significant amount of virus circulating and therefore our risk of exposure still remains elevated.”

There are 1,870 hospitalized patients statewide with COVID-19, a 1.4% decrease from the previous week, and about 22 people are dying each day in California due to the virus.

Cody added that in Santa Clara County, “hospitals are managing and in pretty good shape, but I wouldn’t say that they’re totally out of the woods as far as needing to provide care for COVID patients.”

With the arrival of the fall and winter seasons, experts are keeping a close eye on emerging coronavirus variants and their potential to cause a new COVID-19 surge.

Two of the pandemic’s worst surges to date — in January 2021 from the delta variant and January this year from the original omicron variant — occurred as the weather cooled and many people traveled and gathered indoors for the holidays.

“I can’t tell you exactly what’s around the corner,” Cody said. “But I can tell you about what we know now and what we can continue to do to keep each other safe, even as we return to something that feels, at this point, pretty normal.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, agreed this week that COVID-19 trends are moving “in the right direction” but it’s too early to dismiss the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

“I think it would be a bit cavalier to all of a sudden say we’re completely through with it, because remember, we were going in the right direction in the summer of 2021, and along came delta,” Fauci said Tuesday during a forum hosted by the University of Southern California’s Center for Health Journalism. “Then in the winter… along came omicron. Since then, we’ve had multiple sub-lineages of omicron.”

The omicron BA.5 sublineage, which made up 81.3% of the sequenced cases nationally, continues to lose ground to growing sublineages such as BA.4.6 (12.8%), BF.7 (3.4%), BA.2.75 (1.4%) and BA.4 (1.1%).

The seven-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. fell to 47,112 last week, down 13.1% compared to the previous seven-day average of 54,202, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospital admissions declined by 7.4% over the same period, with an average number of 3,773 daily patients, compared to 4,029 the previous week. Deaths also are down by 6.7%, with an average of 344 Americans dying daily due to COVID-19.

Fauci said that while virus-related deaths nationally have fallen “much lower” than highs of 3,000 to 4,000 deaths per day recorded during the worst surges, they have leveled off at an unacceptable rate.

“I have been very public about saying that I’m not comfortable with having 300 to 400 deaths per day,” he said.

There was a less than 0.1 percentage point change in the number of people receiving their primary vaccination series from the previous week and a mere 1.1% increase in people receiving the updated bivalent booster doses.

To defang a potential winter surge, Fauci said people should stay up to date on their vaccinations, including getting the updated bivalent booster shots (which he himself did in a very visible stunt on “ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert ”) and continuing to follow pandemic best practices.

“Although we can feel good that we’re going in the right direction, we can’t let our guard down,” he said.



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